Understanding the Principles of Landscape Engineering

Learn about the principles of composition, proportion, order, repetition & unity used in landscape engineering & how they help create aesthetically pleasing & beautiful landscapes.

Understanding the Principles of Landscape Engineering

Landscape engineering is an art form that requires a deep understanding of the principles of composition, proportion, order, repetition and unity. These principles are essential for creating an aesthetically pleasing and beautiful landscape. Symmetrical balance is a common technique used in formal landscapes. This type of balance involves creating an image on one side of the landscape that is reflected on the opposite side.

This often involves using geometric patterns on walkways, flowerbeds and even in the way plants are pruned to give them shapes. Symmetrical balance tends to have a stiff appearance and is usually maintained with precision. Asymmetric balance, also known as informal balance, is different from one side to the other and appears to be more relaxed and fluid. Every good design should have a focal point, which is the place where the viewer's attention is first attracted.

This could be referred to as focusing of interest or simply a focal point. The focal point should be the strongest element of design in any given view. The focal point of a house is usually the front door, while the focal point of the landscape is usually something close to the front door to improve the entrance to the house. Simplicity is key when it comes to landscape design.

Keeping landscapes simple, not messy or fussy, is always a good practice. This doesn't mean that landscapes should be simplistic or boring; rather, it means avoiding too many colors, shapes, curves and textures. When something in the landscape is repeated with a standard interval, a rhythm is established. In landscape design, this interval is usually space.

Plants, groups of plants, light poles, benches or other structures can be repeated within the design to create this rhythm. The lines within a landscape are created by the shape and form of flowerbeds, sidewalks and other features of the hardscape. The design principle of rhythm and line gives the landscape a sense of movement and can attract people “to the landscape”. This is what makes landscapes calming and peaceful. Proportion refers to the size ratio of all landscape features, including vertical, horizontal and special relationships.

It's important to consider how short and tall people as well as children perceive space differently when designing landscapes. The proportion in landscape design extends to building size, lot size, plant size, plantation areas to open space areas as well as landscape use. Unity in design simply means that all the separate parts of the landscape work together to create a great total design. Colors, shapes, sizes, textures and other features should combine to create a unified space. Patterns and colors are often repeated while lighting, special features, bed shapes and hard surfaces such as trails should work together to create a pleasing look and unified landscape. Unity refers to how different elements of a work of design come together to create a sense of wholeness.

In terms of landscape design this means that elements such as lawns, shrubs, trees and more must complement each other to create a central theme. Unity in landscape design can be achieved in various ways such as organizing plants according to their shape or repeating objects in a repetitive way which can breathe life into your landscape. Common patterns include short-high-short, small-big-small and square-round-square. Symmetrical balance involves creating an image on one side of the landscape that is reflected on the opposite side while asymmetric balance allows for greater freedom by arranging objects in a more chaotic way but still balanced by their imaginary weights. Simplicity is about minimizing and refining a design while avoiding too many colors, shapes curves and textures but still allowing for complex functions such as water features or extensive lighting features. Proportion refers to size ratio between parts of the design while rhythm has to do with repetition and strategic location of elements that contribute to underlying structure of a landscape. Finally unity refers to how different elements come together to create sense of wholeness by complementing each other.

Donna Siaperas
Donna Siaperas

Infuriatingly humble sushi trailblazer. General sushi maven. Devoted bacon advocate. Evil zombie buff. Amateur internet scholar. Hardcore pop culture aficionado.