Landscape Adds Value

On designing a great outdoor program and making sure it gets built

Rob Pressman
July 03, 2018

After 40 years in business, I’ve seen it too many times: Landscape design, perceived as a finishing touch, falls victim to tight budgets. But exceptional landscaping gives any project a distinct advantage. As densities increase, a smart landscape program unlocks even greater potential, transforming scarce open space into a rich asset.

Landscaping needs to be brought into the discussion early in the design process—as soon as there’s a preliminary floor plan and a general site plan developed by the architect. That’s because responsible landscape design will influence both of those. Landscape architects develop critical relationships between the interior and exterior, addressing issues that neither the homeowner nor architect consider because their focus is elsewhere. We are trained to examine those linkages and integrate them into the overall design.

Bel Aire landscaping by TGP, Burbank, Calif.

There’s a balance between respecting the architecture and honoring client wishes. I always present what I consider the best and most appropriate landscape design, taking into account budget and site constraints, client objectives, and the design elements of the house. But I remain flexible should the client—whether a homeowner or developer—disagree with our concept. There’s always an alternative solution, and as the design goes through its iterations and refinements, an acceptable answer can always be found. The first pass at a design is rarely the version that is ultimately constructed.

Coordination with the architect and the interior designer is key. These team members can interpret the client’s wishes, especially since they are typically involved before we enter the picture. We try to respond to or reflect the other designers’ intentions in the landscape, resulting in a fully integrated, comprehensive product. The other designers’ buy-in to the landscape plan is crucial.

Pasadean landscaping by TGP, Burbank, Calif.

Here are questions to ask in choosing a landscape architect:

Is she or he experienced in getting projects built? It’s essential for the landscape architect to see that constructability and budget affect the design. Brilliant concepts are worthless if they aren’t buildable.

Does the landscape architect have skill in hardscape and softscape? If not, you risk ending up with an unbalanced project.

Arcadia landscaping by TGP, Burbank, Calif.

Is the price reasonable? Find someone whose price is competitive but who isn’t the least expensive option—unless, of course, they meet all of the other criteria.

Finally, new products and technologies—permeable pavers, stabilized decomposed granite, and the use of commercial materials in residential applications—have changed the business of landscape architecture. Interest in drought-tolerant plants, smart irrigation systems, and hardscaping has transformed landscape design. Expectations for outdoor living are evolving. Find a landscape architect committed to creating beautiful environments that
accommodate evolving lifestyles.

Rob Pressman is president of TGP Inc., a full-service landscape architecture firm in Burbank, Calif.

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