As a landscape architect I approach a design, in much the same way as an artist approaches the commission of a portrait. Like the painter, I must get to know the subject intimately before the design process can begin. Much of the information needed will come from the client, and the rest from studying the site itself with all its unique features and opportunities. Like a portrait, a good landscape design will reflect the personality of the client through its layout and function while bringing to the forefront all of the exciting natural components of the site.
A tool I use to help maintain the proper perspective during the design process and to gauge how successful I have been with the design effort is to ask myself the following question: "When this design is completed, will it meet the needs of my client and provide an inspiration for their own creative endeavors?". This question is important because I believe that the true test of any art form lies in its ability to inspire, and landscape design as a three dimensional art form should be inspirational and spiritually uplifting to those experiencing it.
Of course, a landscape is much more complex than a two-dimensional painting because it is not static. It is three-dimensional and alive, constantly changing as plants grow and adapt to environmental conditions, providing experiences that are moment-to-moment, hour-to-hour, season to season, year after year. The myriad of textures, colors and spaces created by the dedicated layout of living components is unique to landscape design. Whereas a painting requires paint arranged on a canvas, a landscape design requires plants, stone, soil and wood arranged on a site. Ideally, the end result will be a functional and beautiful landscape design that captures the inner and outer essence of the site and the client.
A few years ago, I happened upon a quote from an address given to the graduates at Emory commencement exercises in 1957, I realized it reflects my own beliefs about professional services.
“In a very real sense (his) professional service cannot be separate from his personal being, he has no goods to sell, no land to till; his only asset is himself . . . . (Therefore) He need not be a miser, hoarding his talents and abilities and knowledge, either among himself or in his dealings with his clients. . . He need not keep a watchful eye lest he slip, and give away a little bit of what he might have sold. He should not censor his thoughts to gain a wider audience. Like love, talent is useful only in its expenditure, and it is never exhausted . . . (and) never confuse the performance which is great, with the compensation, be it money, power or fame, which is trivial . .”
Judge Elbert Tuttle