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Design Under Sky discusses landscape architecture, the utilitarian but leaning towards the conceptual, thinking on modern occurrences and peripheral boundaries.  

DUS is the blog and personal design studio of Adam E. Anderson, a designer based out of the East Coast, currently a Critic at the Rhode Island School of Design, and a designer at Landworks Studio.

For design inquires, feel free to contact me below.

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What is Landscape Architecture?

As a landscape architect, I often find myself explaining what it is I do exactly.  Generally confused with a landscaper, gardener, or arborist, it seems that many outside of the design profession have yet to discover the true meaning and purpose of a landscape architect, and the special training that they go through that differs from associated professions, and the benefits that their services can provide.

This article aims at defining Landscape Architecture, which has long been a topic for debate amongst the profession.  Though constantly evolving, I feel the description below generally well defines where it stands today.


Landscape architecture is the art, planning, design, management, preservation and rehabilitation of the land and the design of human-made constructs. The scope of the profession includes architectural design, site planning, housing estate development, environmental restoration, town or urban planning, urban design, parks and recreation planning, regional planning, and historic preservation. A practitioner in the field of landscape architecture is called a landscape architect. 



Landscape architecture is a multi-disciplinary field, including within its fold geography, mathematics, science, engineering, art, horticulture, technology, social sciences, politics, history, philosophy. The activities of a landscape architect can range from the creation of public parks and parkways to site planning for corporate office buildings, from the design of residential estates to the design of civil infrastructure and the management of large wilderness areas or reclamation of degraded landscapes such as mines or landfills. Landscape architects work on all types of structures and external space - large or small, urban or rural, and with "hard"/"soft" materials, hydrology and ecological issues.
The breadth of the professional task that landscape architects collaborate on is very broad, but some examples of project types include:

-The planning, form, scale and siting of new developments
- Civil design and public infrastructure

- Stormwater management including rain gardens, green roofs and treatment wetlands
- Campus and site design for institutions
- Parks, botanical gardens, arboretums, greenways, and nature preserves
- Recreation facilities like golf courses, theme parks and sports facilities
- Housing areas, industrial parks and commercial developments
- Highways, transportation structures, bridges, and transit corridors
- Urban design, town and city squares, waterfronts, pedestrian schemes, and parking lots
- Large or small urban regeneration schemes
- Forest, tourist or historic landscapes, and historic garden appraisal and conservation studies
- Reservoirs, dams, power stations, reclamation of extractive industry applications or major industrial projects
- Environmental assessment and landscape assessment, planning advice and land management proposals.
- Coastal and offshore developments

The most valuable contribution is often made at the earliest stage of a project in generating ideas and bringing flair and creativity to the use of space. The landscape architect can contribute to the overall concept and prepare an initial master plan, from which detailed designs can subsequently be prepared. He or she can also let and supervise contracts for construction work, prepare design impact assessments, conduct environmental assessments or audits and act as an expert witness at inquiries on land use. He or she can also support or prepare applications for capital or revenue funding grants.
For the period before 1800 (see section on History, below) the history of landscape architecture is largely that of master planning. The first person to write of "making" a landscape was Joseph Addison in 1712. The term "landscape gardener" was invented by William Shenstone in 1754 but the first professional designer to use this term was Humphry Repton in 1794. The term "landscape architecture" was invented by Gilbert Laing Meason in 1828 and was first used as a professional title by Frederick Law Olmsted in 1863. Lancelot Brown, (also known as "Capability" Brown), who remains one of the best known "landscape gardeners" actually called himself a "place maker". During the nineteenth century, the term "landscape gardener" became applied to people who build (and sometimes design) landscapes and the term "landscape architect" became reserved for people who design (and sometimes build) landscapes. This use of "landscape architect" became established after the American Society of Landscape Architects was founded in 1899 and the International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA) in 1948.


Cultivating Appreciation

Enjoy this essay, and my hope is that it encourages you as you pass through often forgotten green spaces to take a moment to enjoy the intrinsic value and positive psychology of our fading green spaces. 

If a honorable landscape in your neighbordhood is in danger of reckless development, please contact the Cultural Landscape Foundation


Dwell  September 2007

Story by Charles A. Birnbaum 


Sixty years ago it was Mies, Alvar, and, Lou.  Today it's Zaha, Rem, and Renzo.

I've spent most of my adult life in a state of low-grade irritation over the tendency to call our leading architects by their first names, as if they were movie stars, while landscape architects go unnoticed.

I can't resist dropping reference to Dan (Kiley) or Larry (Halprin) at cocktail parties.  What do I get in response?  Nada.

Thomas Church, the California landscape architect, once said that he and his peers were often dismissed as "parsley around the roast."  Over the past 25 years I have visited no fewer than 1,600 locations that collectively represent the story of landscape architecure in America.  It's not parsley.

I founded the Cultural Landscape Foundation nine years ago to teach Americans how to see landscape architecture, and to value it as they do art and architecture.  I've been called a crusader of forgotten places and the Johnny Appleseed of landscape preservation.

For someone who has devoted his life to saving endangered landscapes, I grew up in an unlikely plance: the postwar suburb of Bayside, Queens.

My earliest exposure to gardens and grounds came on weekend trips to my grandparents' home in New London, Connecticut, where I helped them garden among prodigious beds of black-eyed susans and hydrangeas.  While planting tomatoes there when I was about eight years old I uncovered a Moxie pop bottle that had been tilled under some 40 years earlier.  It was my first brush with landscape archaeology, the field of rememberence and conservation.  I still have that bottle tucked away in my kitchen.

I could scarcely ignore the residue of history even if I'd wanted to.  At every turn, my parents dragged my sister and me to Colonial Williamsburg, and virtually every other restoration village on the East Coast.  I took my seat in the family's Chevy Impala under protest.  "I don't need to see yet another lady in period garb making a candle," I told them.

Like it or not, I absorbed the history lessons, and I retained them with a memory so exceptional it qualified me as something of an oddity.  Even as a five-year-old, I could beat grown-ups at elaborate memory games.

These powers of retention serve me well in the field, where I work to raise awareness of a community's landscape heritage.  I visit cities with endangered landscapes 80 or so times a year, and it always astonishes me how much of the history is lost.  As the bulldozers rev, I engage in a flurry of emergency meetings with local landmark officials (who are most accustomed to dealing with buildings) and city officials (who inevitably see landscapes as voids to be filled).  All the while I'm rallying residents, feeding quotes to the press, and taking hundreds of photographs for the foundation's archive.

I'm part scholar, part grassroots agitator.  Unfortunately, it often falls to me to play the heavy, so the local preservationists can stay on good terms with elected officials.  I can intimidate if i have to.  The days of capitulation are over; if we care about a place, we have to step up.

Naturally, these encounters can be emotional, and I try not to add to the heat.  On the contrary, I do my best to convey my love for these places--parks and plazas, gardens and cemeteries--and i hope it proves infectious.

As a culture, we've learned to "see" architecture and form opinions about it.  Landscapes are subtler.  The artist Sol LeWitt once said that "successful ideas generally have the appearance of simplicity." So it is with the best landscapes: When trees and lawn, forest and field are manipulated successfully, the hand of the landscape architect is all but invisible.  My challenge is to educate a community about a place so that it can be judged on its history, not just its appearance.

Of course, I've suffered my share of setbacks and disappointments.  I wept in 1994 when the 150-year-old hemlocks at the Springside estate in Poughkeepsie, New York, the only surviving work by Andrew Jackson Downing, died after years of disease, neglect, and encroaching development.  And I was badly shaken by the demolition last year of Lawrence Halprin's sculpture garden at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond and by the loss of the grid of palms and crape myrtles designed by Dan Kiley at NationsBank Plaza in Tampa, Florida.  Ironically, museum expansions destroyed both.  They were not places loved or understood by most people, but I would have fallen on my sword to save them.

You'd think that prominent architects would show their support, but that's often not the case.  The proposed renovation by Daniel Libeskind of Civic Center Park in Denver, Colorado, would destroy one of the great public spaces produced by the City Beautiful in the early part of the 20th century.

Fortunately, for every NationsBank Plaza there is a gem still to be found.  A few years ago I drove around Woodside, California, with Marc Treib, an architectural historian, looking for some of the surviving gardens by Thomas Church.  One of the highlights of the day was an impromptu stop at a home designed in 1950 by William Wurster with a garden by Church.  For years I'd admired a photograph of the garden in Church's 1955 book, Gardens Are for People.  I had to see for myself what was left of it.

We arrived unannounced and rang the doorbell.  The owner invited us in, and to my surprise he unrolled blueprints of the garden.  He knew nothing in Church, but was delighted to learn about him.  When we stepped into the backyard, I did what my friends call my happy dance--a soft-shoe version of Riverdance.

Miraculously, the garden was intact and had matured to fulfill Church's intentions.  The two original oaks, now majestic, crowned the central lawn and the sweeping pedestrian path, with its neatly clipped hedge border, was still razor crisp.  Church's signature pavilion--a steel framed structure with a wood slat roof--cast dappled light on cascading begonias and campanulas that called to mind players in a Busby Berkeley musical.  Fifty years later it was still beautiful, simple, and functional.

I can never linger to long in places like that.  There are thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of significant landscapes threatened by development.  So I move on quickly, in hopes that I can save them from and ignoble death.




Increase the Value of Your Home by Landscape

Increase the value of your home by Landscaping
Don’t Curb Your Home’s Appeal – Invest in Landscaping to Raise the Resale Value

Don’t Curb Your Home’s Appeal – Invest in Landscaping to Raise the Resale Value

(ARA) – While trying to sell your home, you may find prospective buyers aren’t getting past the front door to appreciate your exceptional interior design. The problem? Your home may lack “curb appeal”.

Curb appeal is the allure or attraction to a home from the exterior. Many factors contribute to a winning curb appeal, such as fresh paint, manicured shrubs and trees, and the lack of clutter. However, one of the most effective ways to enhance your home’s curb appeal and increase the resale value is through landscaping.

In fact, a recent “SmartMoney” article stated that landscaping could add up to 15 percent to a home’s value. National Association of Realtors President-Elect, Walt McDonald of Riverside, Calif., was quoted in the article as saying, “When people ask me how they can get strong interest in their property, I always tell them to fix up their landscaping.”

Dave Middleton, of Coldwell Banker Burnett in Stillwater, Minn., agrees. “First impressions go a long way and landscaping is part of the first impression,” Middleton said. “Average returns can be upward of 100 to 200 percent -- if you invest $1,000 in landscaping, you can get double back.” Choosing to do nothing or allowing shrubs to become overgrown, which blocks out natural sunlight and obstructs the exterior of the home, can negatively affect the price of a home.

Take the example of Minneapolis resident Rich Goldsmith, who bought his home two years ago. After spending about $2,000 on landscaping projects, he added approximately $10,000 to his home’s value, according to his appraiser. This means Goldsmith will get back about five times more than his investment.

"I really wanted to do some landscaping that would update the look and appeal of my house," Goldsmith said. "It didn't take a lot of work, it looks great and now I have the added benefit of an increased resale value."

Robert Allan Gravier, landscape expert and president of Allan Block Corporation, a national manufacturer of stackable garden and landscape blocks, said, “Over the last few years we’ve recognized an increased demand for our landscaping products because of the value they add to the home.” Gravier offered a few landscaping ideas to upgrade a home’s curb appeal:

* Attractive entryways – A stairway leading from the driveway or street to your front door will welcome visitors to your home in style. A staggered or curved stairway edged by a short garden wall adds character to your yard. Accomplish this look by replacing worn-out stairways with concrete block such as Allan Block, which features a variety of styles and colors.

* Raised planting beds – Border the front of your home with planting beds along the foundation. These beds can enhance drainage and add an architectural element to the landscape.

* Terraces – Tame steep slopes and hard-to-maintain areas with terraced walls.

Allan Block has more advice to offer homeowners considering enhancing their outdoor living experience. For additional information, send an email to, leave a message at (952) 346-6696, write to ATTN: Allan Block Info Center, 5300 Edina Industrial Blvd., Suite 100, Edina, MN 55439 or visit the Web site at

Courtesy of ARA Content and Homedeco Direct.


Gardening and Landscaping with Native Plants

Why Use Native Plants?
North American native plants are disappearing at an alarming rate due to human activity, such as urban development, agribusiness and chemical application. Over the past decades loss of native plant communities across the country has led to the loss of wildlife habitat, erosion, reduced genetic diversity necessary for a balanced ecosystem, and a disconnection of people to the land.

These problems are compounded when native plants are replaced with nonnative species in landscape plantings. The continual use of a limited palette of nonnative plants readily available across the U.S. had produced a homogenized landscape susceptible to pests and diseases. Nonnative species often require large amounts of water, fertilizer, and herbicides for their maintenance, and those that escape cultivation and become aggressive weeds often out-compete native plants for resources.

While preserving natural stands of native plants is important, you can help reestablish native plant communities in your yard and community by choosing to landscape with native plants. Regardless of the scale of the project, you can help conserve water and other natural resources while restoring and celebrating your own regional character.

Benefits of Native Plants
A native landscape provides so much more than just waterconserving features. Native landscapes provide habitats for wildlife and encourage the presence of native insects and microorganisms that benefit plants by keeping them healthy without the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Your native landscape will be an economical, ecological, and beautiful entity that can serve to reconnect you to the natural world.

Site Assessment, Planning, and Design

You can incorporate native plants into an existing landscape or start completely from scratch. First, you'll want to assess your property's environmental conditions (shady or sunny, adequate or poor drainage, soil types, irrigation, etc.), inventory existing native plants, and establish your own landscape needs based on how you use your yard. The results are well worth the time you spend analyzing and matching species to site conditions and personal preference.

Work toward a naturalistic landscape design by imitating associations found in your specific regional plant communities (a prairie area, wetland, or woodland edge). Visit local natural areas so you can determine which species might grow well on your property. By observing native plants in their natural environments you can learn more about their cultural requirements and growth habits. If you duplicate at home what you see in nature, you'll properly place native plants in your yard. Note the plant's maximum size and bloom sequence, and where it occurs, such as at the edge of a forest or in an open meadow. Take time to learn about the dominant native plants of your area.

Your plan doesn't have to be elaborate and it can be installed in phases as money and time permit. If you should need assistance, a professional landscape designer or landscape architect with native plant experience could be employed.

Soil Preparation
First you will want to assess your weed population and determine a control method. Disturbing the soil, in fact, can create more problems than it solves because weed seeds, roots and rhizomes lay dormant underground, ready to sprout after tilling. If the site isn't too weedy, has an appropriate amount of sun, and you're going to interseed wildflowers into the existing vegetation, the process is relatively easy. Mow the herbaceous vegetation to a height of 6-8 inches and rake up the thatch, opening up some bare areas to allow the seeds to make soil contact.

If you have some weeds but prefer not to till or hand-weed, you can kill them by watering them and covering them with clear plastic for several months-a process known as solarization. This process works best in full sun, and often creates temperatures high enough to kill the bank of weed seeds if done for a long enough period of time. Be sure to use clear plastic, as black plastic only causes the unwanted plants to go dormant, ready to spring back to life.

If you choose to till first, be sure to go no deeper than one to two inches to prevent the surfacing and germination of weed seeds. Or, you could apply two or more applications of a non-residual, post-emergent herbicide to remove existing vegetation. Before you apply the herbicide, water the site for a week or two to promote weed germination. Let the seedlings grow one or two weeks and apply the herbicide. Repeat this process once more to ensure a fairly clean seed bed. Be sure to handle all herbicides with caution, read labels carefully, and if you are near surface water choose an appropriate one. You can plant your wildflower and native grass seeds as soon as you are sure competing vegetation is under control.

If you have a lot of persistent weeds (Johnsongrass, Bermudagrass, Nutgrass, etc.), you may need a year or more to kill them all, although total eradication may not be practical if the site is extremely degraded or very large. You may want to use a modified solarization process where you use an herbicide in place of watering and then cover with clear plastic. Eliminating weeds as much as possible before planting is easier and less expensive than trying to control them in a newly planted site.

When plants are truly well selected for a site no soil amendment should be needed. If your site has had the original topsoil removed, some soil amendments can help. Imported soil can create new conditions when combined with native soils. Garden soils prepared and available at garden centers and dirt yards are often too rich in organic matter for native plants. If you are able to specify your own soil mix, ask to have less manure and organic matter added. Better yet-have them help you simulate as best as possible your native soil. Be aware that some builders lay down "sandy loam"- often referred to by native plant gardeners as "Red Death"- which is actually dug from deep pits and has no nutrient value or organic life. If this is the case, you may need to remove the sandy loam and start from scratch. Properly prepared soil helps conserve water because it absorbs and holds water more efficiently and drains better. Healthy soils support healthy plants that can better resist pests and diseases.

When possible, prepare your beds two to three months before planting so the soil can settle. Many wildflowers require well-drained soil, so you may need to supplement the prepared soil with sand, gravel, or other material that loosens it and permits good drainage. Some wildflower species require moist soil; add water and large amounts of rotted leaves or compost to accommodate those needs.

Plant Selection and Planting
Choose species based on the soil, light and water conditions of your site; and the size, shape, texture, and color you desire. For a more natural, successful and easily maintained landscape, you'll need species that grow together naturally. The commercial availability of native plant species in local nurseries ultimately will determine which plants you use in your landscape. As demand for native plants increases, the nursery industry will respond and begin offering more native species in larger quantities. Keep asking your local nurseries to stock native plants!

It is often preferable to work with plants instead of seeds to achieve your landscape goals more quickly. Native plants come in a variety of sizes from set plant packs to large containers. Choose plants that have good branching structure and look healthy. Don't let plants wilt in your car, but get them home as soon as possible and into the shade until you are able to plant them. The soil and roots of plants in pots can easily dry out so be watchful and water accordingly. When you are ready to plant, dig the holes larger than the root ball of the plant. To achieve a natural look, avoid planting in rows. Remove plants from their pots by manipulating the sides of the pots to loosen the soil from the roots. Never pull on the stems of plants to remove them as this might cause injury to the plant. If the plant is pot bound, you may want to cut and spread out some of the roots. Backfill the hole with some of the loose dirt, then position the plant so that the soil line from the pot is level with that of the ground. Use the remaining soil to fill the hole.

Maintaining Your Landscaping
All landscapes need several years to be come well established. The critical period for watering and weeding is two to three weeks after planting - longer if you are planting in warm, dry seasons - when nursery-grown plants are making the transition to living in a landscape. Your landscape will need minimal maintenance once it is established. Many maintenance practices used for traditional cultivated plants also work for native plants.

Native plants usually do not require fertilizer. Many thrive in poor soil, and applying fertilizer could chemically burn them, or stimulate either lush or spindly, weak foliage growth with few flowers.


Top 15 Home Improvements

Check out the link below to see HGTV's ranking of the top 15 home updates.  Pretty interesting, landscape improvements come in 2nd.  Enjoy!

Top 15 Home Improvements