Valuing Exterior Design

Anybody can grab an A4 sheet of paper, draw a rectangle and then further divide that shape up into smaller spaces. That can be the grass, that can be the patio and whatever’s left over here, well, we’ll just call that the planting. A six year old child could do that. Design is so much more than the dividing up of space. Society should value good design, it should be encouraged.

In his book, Introduction to Landscape Design John L. Motloch talks about how easy it is for us to devalue design, almost unknowingly. “….many landscape designers are engaged in landscape construction in a role identified as design-build. Hands on experience in design-build can contribute to the ability to produce design solutions that can be reasonably and efficiently constructed. Such experience also connects the designer intimately with design detail and technical issues. This project type has not been universally accepted by design practitioners, partly due to the disservice provided by some design- build practitioners who have discounted or otherwise concealed billable design time in construction budgets. It is important that we value quality design and design is devalued if its cost is hidden within construction budgets.”

Good Design Should Be Valued

Room To Improve would not be much of a programme if there was no focus on Dermot and his design cogitations. If the starting point each week was Mr. Bannon doing a piece to camera which went something like ”I’ve met the homeowners, they’re grand, meself and the plumber have thrown together a few ideas for them, this heavy set lad over here is going to build it and we’re all going to have a few rows along the way , let’s go” – cut to shots of concrete foundations being poured. That doesn’t happen, Dermot’s process and deliberations are rightly accorded due time and attention. There is an understanding that when going to the trouble and stress of such work, it pays to enlist an expert and get it right.

We don’t seem to apply the same logic to the outside though.  We have talked before about how much we expect from the garden in the areas of rest, relaxation, diversion, immersion, therapy , play, entertainment. We expect so much but are happy to relegate it to the very bottom of the priority list when it comes to home improvement.

Naturally enough there is going to be a gulf in impact between the RIAI Member designed single storey extension and the garden by Podge Landscaping when five hundred quid was all that was left in the budget after the six en-suite bathrooms had been covered top to toe in travertine tiles. Being able to drive a mini digger and throw wheelbarrows of bark mulch around the place do not a garden designer make. Planning, meditation, reflection, deliberation and cogitation are needed. There is the application of design principles in the realm of user and use, aspect, movement, shape, colour, harmony, balance, contrast, texture and composition. There is a design sensibility required.

On Room to Improve the lad who swings the sledgehammer doesn’t do the design work, Dermot does. The chances are that leaving your garden design to the fella who installed your septic tank will not yield the best of outcomes. He’s good at what he’s qualified to do.

We probably don’t mean to devalue outside design but do it unconsciously. I regularly meet homeowners who want to take on crucial elements of a scheme themselves – have a crack at paving, a raised deck, a fence, a garden room, a planting scheme. The same lad wouldn’t dream of suggesting to an architect that he was going to try his hand at putting in the kitchen cabinetry or tiling the floor. But they feel empowered to suggest it outdoors.

There is a fundamental deficiency in the emphasis  we place on exterior, relative to interior, design.  Interior architecture is a relatively new concept wherein the designer attempts to view the inside and outside as one entity and devise means of mutual enhancement. There is no doubt that they do great work. But there’s still a long way to go.  

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