In my profession as a landscape architect, I have two main goals. The first is to capture a beautiful view. My second task is to create a view out of the natural elements where there is none. Taking inspiration from the beautiful views I witness and study, my secondary mission challenges me to create a surrogate nature that will be able to nourish and nurture the beings that inhabit the space. At times, a design-build project can be a long challenging process filled with client meetings, permit processing and construction cacophony. Still, it is all worth it once my clients get to sit down and enjoy their little piece of paradise.
The Growing Desire For Green Spaces
Regardless of scale, I’ve observed that spending time in private green spaces tends to leave people with an undeniable good feeling. This concept is something that early human civilizations noted and tried to capture in their landscaping and gardens. The good news is that modern science has started to study that feel-good sensation in the presence of nature.
The growing field of biophilia proposes that the positive effects we experience in nature originate as a biological bond between humans and nature. This field has found evidence that we can reduce stress and increase well-being in a space by incorporating biophilic design features. This can include plants and greenery but can also include materials and colors affiliated with the natural world.
How much of a difference can a nice landscape view actually make? An early biophilic study by Roger S. Ulrich explored the possibility that a natural view might influence a hospital patient’s emotional state enough to influence their recovery. When other variables were controlled and the patient’s window views were the only difference, Ulrich was able to see that those with views of landscape did experience a faster recovery. Studies that followed this heavily cited piece found that images of nature matter. Mundane views of nature, such as that of leafless trees and brown scapes, had less restorative effects; and images of vibrant nature could provide restorative feelings in places or seasons that lacked lustrous outdoor landscapes.
Social media trends popularized during the pandemic also showed huge growth in indoor gardening hobbyists, and houseplant collections serve as additional support to some of the biophilic research findings. Although these trends are not for everyone, I’d argue that they back up the idea that private green spaces, whether inside or outside the physical home or office, are critical to the health of the human psyche.
How To Build A Paradise For Clients
Now that it is clear that they are vital and in demand, how can better private green spaces be created? As a design expert, I have seen that there are multiple factors that must be considered when designing private green spaces. Below, I will lay out some of the most important things to keep in mind.
The first consideration needed is the space-to-people ratio. For single-family residential green spaces, you can account for this by surveying the client about the size of their family and the activities they would use the space for. Outdoor dinner parties and soccer practice, for example, are activities that require a different amount of space per individual.
For those working with private green spaces that are in hybrid commercial residential developments where the people-to-outdoor-space ratio is small, it is important to design for different kinds of users. This means that within a small space, you must include a space for an individual to enjoy some quiet reading as well as for a group to enjoy a meal together. To account for these distinct groups, it is best to create activity clusters and nooks. Clusters can be formed by placing elements related to certain activities next to each other. Nooks are private areas for one or two people that provide privacy and comfort. In my designs, I often create nooks by using planter boxes as boundary markers. Tall plants like bamboo can be further used to create a natural shaded canopy.
While it is clear that not all apartment residents will be using their private communal space at the same time, a good green space fairly accommodates the possibility of multiple users and activities. In Los Angeles, there is a law mandating a certain amount of open common space for six or more residential units, but this is not standard for all cities. With this in mind, it is critical that when settling on a design for a commercial residential, you make sure it is a thoughtfully crafted area.
Another consideration for creating paradise-like spaces is to take special regard for the personality of the space. As an LA-based designer, many of the commercial residential projects I’ve gotten the privilege to work on have been in my local city. LA has a vibrant, young, diverse and creative energy and likewise so do many of the people who live and work in the area, often working in the creative industry. Given this information, when designing the outdoor green space for the new Crosby Apartments in LA, my team and I decided that having an artistic element would be fitting for this outdoor space. We commissioned artist Johnathan Calugi to paint a mural for the Crosby residents that would eloquently capture the movement and color of their home city. Adding this personal touch made an impact on both the users and the apartment complex itself. A personalized piece of art, whether it be a painting or sculpture, can elevate your private space design considerably.
While there are many things to consider when designing private green space, such as ecology and accessibility, the considerations provided above are foundational. Private green space itself is fundamental and needs to be regarded as such by designers and real estate investors alike.