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Landscape Architecture Think ArchitectsIf you’ve ever strolled through a well-designed city park or enjoyed an outdoor space in a multi-use retail center, the chances are that a landscape architect thoughtfully designed and organized the elements surrounding you.


From a personal garden for a custom residential home to large city centers, landscape architecture firms create pleasing environments that correspond with the surrounding landscape, assist with the transition from exterior to the interior, and provide a functional, safe place.


Many landscape architecture firms like Think Architecture provide comprehensive architectural design services for many projects. If you have questions about the various stages of a landscape architecture project, or you would like a bid for landscape design services, our team is ready to help. 


Here is your guide to landscape architecture and the stages of a landscape architecture project.


Landscape Design Vs. Landscape Architecture: What’s The Difference?


Landscape designers can be commercial landscape architects or residential landscape architects, but in many cases, a landscape designer doesn’t have the same formal education as a landscape architect. 


Architects must have a bachelor’s or master’s degree and be licensed by the state. A landscape designer may be certified, and they may even have a degree, but they won’t have the technical expertise to handle complex projects.  Landscape Designers typically focus on planting design.


Most landscape designers will handle smaller projects for residences, while landscape architects will manage large, complex designs that may require technical prowess in retaining walls, irrigation and drainage, wastewater management, elevation and slope designs, parking lot structures, and water features. In addition, landscape architects may be called upon to handle sensitive environments, such as wetlands or historical areas that need preservation.


Residential Landscape Architecture: What To Expect?


When building a custom home or a home on a challenging site, you may need the services of an experienced landscape architect. Many custom home builders employ the services of a landscape architect when they need to build retaining walls, build a home on or near a steep slope, design a custom swimming pool or other water features, and more.


A residential landscape architect can help increase the value of your home and improve your energy efficiency. In areas where water is in short supply, such as in Utah, a residential landscape architect can design water-wise features that still enhance the property. Finally, a landscape architect will take your lifestyle into account and customize a yard design that suits your recreational or privacy needs while adhering to neighborhood zoning laws and aesthetics. 


When you hire a residential landscape architect, there will be four stages:


  • Design
  • Plan Development
  • Construction
  • Final Inspection


During the design stage, you will meet with your landscape architect several times to discuss your needs, your budget, and your vision. Your architect will then draw up custom designs and review those with you. 


Once approved, the project will move into the construction phase, where your landscape architect will provide oversight to ensure that your contractors and subcontractors are developing the project according to the provided specs. 


Lastly, you and your architect will do a final walkthrough and approval to make sure that the project was developed according to your expectations and there are no outstanding elements that still need to be completed. 


Commercial Landscape Architecture: What To Expect?


While the stages of commercial landscape architecture are the same as residential landscape architecture, the complexity of most commercial projects means that there are multiple steps within each stage. 


Landscape Architecture Design Stage


During this phase, you and your commercial landscape architect will determine the project’s scope and contracts will be drafted and signed. At the end of this phase, you should have a detailed rendering of what your final project should look like with the various costs broken out, along with a comprehensive program that will show you when the stages of your project will be complete.


Step 1 – Initial meeting and consultation: During this stage, you may be interviewing several landscape architects to determine their suitability for the project. This is where both the architect and the client will interview each other and look at all of the elements of the project, including the principals involved, the budget, the scope, the timeline, and the vision.


Step 2 – The project brief: Following the initial consultation, your landscape architect will create a project brief or a proposal that will outline the “who, what, when, and where” of the project. Included will be a proposed cost estimate, an outline of requirements needed such as permits or studies, and the scope and deliverables of the project. 


Step 3 – The M.O.U.: Next, you will be asked to sign a M.O.U or memorandum of understanding. This comes after the client has accepted the proposal. Further research may be done at this point, and the architect may consult with engineers, building contractors, and other professionals to determine what may be needed to complete the project.


Step 4 – Onsite Visit: At this point, the architect will visit the site and take notes of the soil density, flora and fauna, any unusual geological features, existing structures, and environmental factors that may be important to landscape features such as plants and trees.


Step 5 – Concept Design: Think of the concept design like the rough draft of a novel. It is an outline or sketch based upon the landscape and includes various palettes, options, materials, and an overview of the project design.


Step 6 – Detailed Design: As the design is edited and revised, a more detailed picture of what the final project will look like should emerge. At this point, your landscape architect will do a complete, detailed investigation into every element of the design, including water run-off, color plans, specifications of built elements, and perhaps a list of the types of plants or trees that will be included. Water features will be outlined with electrical and plumbing schematics. 


This document will be highly detailed and will outline the amount and cost of the various materials along with the vendors and subcontractors who will execute or deliver each piece.


Landscape Architecture Plan Development 


During this phase, your architect or general contractor will work to determine what bids need to be placed and who will complete the various elements of the project. 


Step 1 – Construction or Program Design: This stage requires coordination between all the people involved in the project. Each sub-piece of the project will be meticulously planned and scheduled in the order it needs to be completed. 


Step 2 – Procurement or Tendering: The final construction documents will be sent to the subcontractors selected, and final bids will be selected and contracts signed with the various contractors. 


Landscape Architecture Construction


Now, work begins on the selected site. Construction may involve numerous phases depending on the site and what needs to be done. 


The area will be cleared of vegetation and graded. Any demolition that needs to be done will happen, and then the area will be cleaned up. Then the site will be graded. Services such as plumbing and electricity will be installed. Any hardscaping, such as roads, outbuildings, concrete structures, paving, or other elements will be installed. 


Next, plants and trees will be planted with organic mulches laid down. Fixtures and furnishings will be added to the area, and finally, you will be at the last stage of the landscape architecture firm’s process.


Inspecting Your Landscape Architecture Project


You and your landscape architect will do a final walkthrough of the project. Any defects will be noted and fixed. Once completed and you are ready to make your final payment, your landscape architect will give you your maintenance schedule, showing you how to care for and maintain your landscape to retain the functionality of any installed systems and keep any organic materials and plants, and trees alive. 


How To Hire A Landscape Architect


At Think Architecture, our experienced team provides comprehensive architectural services, including landscape design and architecture. We provide commercial, municipal, and custom residential landscape architecture in Utah


Our award-winning landscape architecture designs are notable for their energy efficiency and use of technology to best manage our Earth’s resources. To view an example of a landscape architecture project, see our portfolio of Wardle Fields Regional Park. To speak to our architects, contact us today


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