Landscape Design

New methods of designing, modelling, building and interacting have increased through the advancement of digital technologies across the built environment. This page highlights discussions and issues surrounding landscape design, and showcases some of the latest content published on digital tools in landscape architecture, garden design and environmental design. Written by leading experts, these articles are suitable for a global audience of practitioners, students, researchers and anyone interested in understanding landscape design.

Using Landscape Design to Improve Health and Well-Being

With the ever-growing costs of global health care, investigating ways to pre-empt and prevent illnesses (both physical and mental) has never been more important. In this fascinating article, Gayle Souter-Brown, author of Landscape and Urban Design for Health and Well-Being, explains how salutogenic landscape design, that is design for health and well-being as a health promotion tool, can be used to improve and enhance social, economic and environmental outcomes in communities.

If you’re keen to further your understanding on the topic, watch a recording of our webinar from 2015 where Gayle and two other experts in the field provide their thoughts.

What do we understand to be the potential of landscape design: moving healthcare upstream, to the enviro-social determinants of well-being.

Gayle Souter-Brown

Rapid urbanisation requires a new approach to offset and mitigate the impact. Communities in these fast-growing urban areas face 5 challenges of interest: stress, obesity, climate change, economic constraint and environmental degradation. Are these adversities linked? Overwhelming research supports the thought that yes, they are. If that is the case, what then is the potential of landscape design to alleviate the situation? Standard healthcare treats people when they are ill. Standard architecture treats people as if they are well. Standard economics assumes growth is the only way forward. Climate scientists assume people will understand the need for action in the face of the enormity of the challenge. While the focus attends to standard thinking, the interaction of inhabitants with and within the built environment, it misses the natural environment in which a city is set. Multi-disciplinary research now unequivocally shows what has been long suspected; a dose of nature is good for us. Salutogenic landscape design, that is design for health and well-being as a health promotion tool, can be used to improve and enhance social, economic and environmental outcomes. The new U.K Health and Horticulture Charter formally acknowledges the health-promoting potential of connecting with nature. The U.S Robert Woods Johnson Foundation supports research into landscape, design and child health outcomes. Asian academics and policy advisors are investigating landscape as a tool for healthy, active ageing. Scandinavia noted the link between nature / landscape and health / well-being at the turn of the century. However, the mainstream public health field still views the natural environment with ambivalence.

Nature connections + social connections = healthy resilience

1000 years ago, Europe’s monastic gardens provided the setting for education, welfare and community healthcare. Monks taught the importance of gardens and gardening. Some of this landscape design has endured as healing, sensory and therapeutic gardens, interpreted to suit local culture and conditions. Notable historic gardens remain, restored, such as at Fishbourne, England and Prieuré d’Orsan, France, showing modern day scholars the ability of a well-designed garden to feed mind, body and spirit. Modern healing gardens are seen in hospitals across five continents. Their use in wider settings is still limited by constrained thinking. Early Landscape Designers were highly educated and well-travelled. They understood the importance of ecological health for human health and well-being, that a kitchen garden could do more than simply provide food for the local inhabitants. They were early proponents of the triple bottom line: social, environmental and economic benefit, achieved through a landscape design intervention.

Early examples of inclusive and accessible gardens are seen in historic records. With no welfare provided by the State it was left to the Church to tend to the physical and spiritual needs of the people. This is significant in urban planning and social housing today as we strive to provide more with less. Landscape designers reference historic and cultural interfaces between public and private spaces to provide design solutions for modern lifestyle-related problems.

Social isolation, the silent killer of modern times, was banished through meaningful, co-operative activity. Lay priests worked in the gardens to be able to enjoy the welfare and protection of the church. An early form of ‘community garden’, a typical kitchen garden had raised beds to allow easy access for intensive cultivation by even the elderly and infirm monks and lay brothers. To reduce risk from pests the monks grew companion flowers between the vegetables. Appropriately designed and managed contemporary therapeutic horticulture programmes and community gardens use this idea to provide vulnerable people meaningful activity.

Stress and depression, and a lack of fresh healthy food was mitigated by plantings of orchards with varieties of fruits and nuts. Trees were positioned to provide fragrant, seasonal shade over walkways. Space-saving Espalier techniques, developed in France as a way of training trees along a flat surface such as a wall, were introduced into English monasteries. It meant that an orchard could be planted anywhere where the blossom and fruit could be appreciated. Hop vines for medicinal use (sleep, tension, digestion) as well as beer were also grown using the vertical plane, and provided welcome shade. “Thus, in the full enjoyment of peace and protection, the monks busied themselves very diligently with the gentle art of gardening, and so reaped calm happiness and the useful fruits of the earth” (Gothein, 1928).

The monastic physic garden was where medicinal herbs grew. As the plants tended to be invasive, and to aid monks with failing eyesight, the garden contained one bed for each herb. As then, in the contemporary setting, landscape designers specify planting the herbs in neat rows to allow weeds to be easily identified and removed by touch where sight impairment is profound.

The Abbey garden of Clairvaux, France, is described by a contemporary of St. Bernard in the early 12th Century "Behind the abbey, and within the wall of the cloister, there is a wide level ground: here there is an orchard, with a great many different fruit-trees… It is close to the infirmary, and is very comforting to the brothers, providing a wide promenade for those who want to walk, and a pleasant resting-place for those who prefer to rest. Where the orchard leaves off, the garden begins, divided into several beds, … cut up by little canals,.... The water fulfils the double purpose of nourishing the fish and watering the vegetables” (Hobhouse, 2004).

Resilience is a buzz word in these times of political and geophysical stress. Storms, water shortages, droughts, plant pests and pollution of our food supply by products destined originally for chemical warfare but redirected to agriculture all affect our communities. While salutogenic landscape design is not a panacea for all ills, it acknowledges that without ecological health there can be no human health and well-being. Historic abbey gardens could be used as a template for modern resilient communities. By moving healthcare upstream we focus on the people. Landscape design deals in the essentials of life. Healing gardens, designed to be accessible, equitable, practical and beautiful, could heal our towns and cities.

Christopher Coutts, Gayle Souter-Brown, and Catharine Ward Thompson discuss the prime importance of landscape design on health and the ways that you can change this dynamic through effective design and specific interventions.

Hear their thoughts as to why this key issue is still being largely ignored in mainstream public health research and practice. With rising costs, deleterious mental and physical health stats, and an ageing population, learn what you can do as a practical response.

Landscape Design Books

  • Landscape Theory in Design

    1st Edition

    By Susan Herrington

    Phenomenology, Materiality, Cybernetics, Palimpsest, Cyborgs, Landscape Urbanism, Typology, Semiotics, Deconstruction - the minefield of theoretical ideas that students must navigate today can be utterly confusing, and how do these theories translate to the design studio? Landscape Theory in…

    Paperback – 2016-12-12

  • Strategies for Landscape Representation

    Digital and Analogue Techniques, 1st Edition

    By Paul Cureton

    Strategies for Landscape Representation discusses a variety of digital and analogue production techniques for the representation of landscape at multiple scales. Careful consideration is required to represent time, and to ensure accuracy of representation and evaluation in the landscape. Written as…

    Paperback – 2016-12-12

  • Constructed Wetlands and Sustainable Development

    1st Edition

    By Gary Austin, Kongjian Yu

    This book explains how with careful planning and design, the functions and performance of constructed wetlands can provide a huge range of benefits to humans and the environment. It documents the current designs and specifications for free water surface wetlands, horizontal and vertical subsurface…

    Paperback – 2016-08-26

  • BIM for Landscape

    1st Edition

    By Landscape Institute

    BIM (Building Information Modelling) is transforming working practices across the built environment sector, as clients, professionals, contractors and manufacturers throughout the supply chain grasp the opportunities that BIM presents. The first book ever to focus on the implementation of BIM…

    Hardback – 2016-05-17

  • Green Infrastructure and Public Health

    1st Edition

    By Christopher Coutts

    There is a growing body of knowledge revealing a sweeping array of connections between public health and green infrastructure – but not until now have the links between them been brought together in one comprehensive book. Green Infrastructure and Public Health provides an overview of current…

    Paperback – 2016-02-19

  • Landscape Architecture and Digital Technologies

    Re-conceptualising design and making, 1st Edition

    By Jillian Walliss, Heike Rahmann

    Landscape Architecture and Digital Technologies explores how digital technologies are reshaping design and making in landscape architecture. While the potentials of digital technologies are well documented within landscape planning and visualisation, their application within design practice is far…

    Paperback – 2016-02-11

  • Responsive Landscapes

    Strategies for Responsive Technologies in Landscape Architecture, 1st Edition

    By Bradley E Cantrell, Justine Holzman

    The sensing, processing, and visualizing that are currently in development within the environment boldly change the ways design and maintenance of landscapes are perceived and conceptualised. This is the first book to rationalize interactive architecture and responsive technologies through the lens…

    Paperback – 2015-11-17

  • Representing Landscapes: Digital

    1st Edition

    Edited by Nadia Amoroso

    Most landscape architectural designs now include some form of digital representation - but there is much more scope for creativity beyond the standard Photoshop montages. In this new book on representing landscapes, Nadia Amoroso brings together contributions from some of the leading landscape…

    Paperback – 2015-03-25
    Representing Landscapes

  • Landscape and Urban Design for Health and Well-Being

    Using Healing, Sensory and Therapeutic Gardens, 1st Edition

    By Gayle Souter-Brown

    In this book Gayle Souter-Brown explores the social, economic and environmental benefits of developing greenspace for health and well-being. She examines the evidence behind the positive effects of designed landscapes, and explains effective methods and approaches which can be put into practice by…

    Paperback – 2014-08-05

  • Innovative Approaches to Researching Landscape and Health

    Open Space: People Space 2, 1st Edition

    Edited by Catharine Ward Thompson, Peter Aspinall, Simon Bell

    Our modern lifestyles often cause us to spend more time sitting behind a desk than being active outdoors. At the same time, our general health is deteriorating. The alarming rise in obesity, sedentary lifestyles and mental ill-health across the developed world has resulted in an urgent desire to…

    Paperback – 2014-03-24

Landscape Design FreeBook

Download our FreeBook

This FreeBook brings together a collection of chapters on using digital tools in landscape architecture. Written by leading experts, the chapters showcase key topics such as fabrication, 3Dmodelling, responsive technologies and digital tools for BIM.

Design Technologies in Landscape Architecture FreeBook