As landscape architects, we work with contractors to achieve our design vision for our projects and how we collaborate can impact greatly on the project outcome. There are various approaches that we can use to achieve the best outcome.
Start Early When we work with contractors it can start at different stages of the project, it may be at the construction documentation phase, tendering phase, or the construction phase. It is best to set up a relationship (observing tendering and contract laws) with the contractor as soon as possible. Building a relationship and understanding allows contractors and landscape architects to be at ease when construction starts.
Tailoring your approach Contractors appointed for your project can be civil or building contractors, road contractors to landscape contractors. Their level of skill, knowledge and experience can differ greatly and once you have an understanding of their type and level of skill you need to tailor your approach and guide them through the design and your requirements such as emphasising the need to secure trees early or what they need to take special attention to in the documentation package.
Setting Expectations and Communication There are many hold points and decisions that occur during a project, and often there is a need to set expectations on your availability, response time, and reinforce your approach(as per the specification) to design changes and substitutions. You and the client may be very wedded to the vision, key ideas and or details and this needs to be expressed to the contractor.
Recently, I reviewed Overgrown by Julian Raxworthy, in which he calls on landscape architects to create a new form of practice that learns from gardening and “optimizes the exciting properties of plants through changing the way landscape architects work” which he is calling “the viridic”. Raxworthy provides a series of positions “for reformulation of landscape-architectural practice that combines the landscape architect and gardener” including:
breaking the split between human and plant
recognising that the nature of a plant is to grow and that the result of the design happens after planting over seasons, years, and decades.
landscape design should learn from maintenance techniques of gardening and tailor plans to suit.
the role of the garden is a learning environment and testing ground.
the nature of “the viridic” is iterative.
leaving the office and our plans & simulations to learn from gardening and gardeners.
Through reading Overgrown and Cleveland’s Landscape ArchitectureI began to consider whether a new form of landscape architectural practice can be achieved? Can we move beyond our prejudices to embrace and learn from gardening? Can we design without falling back onto plans and specifications or can they be reformulated into more flexible documents to achieve the design through site design?
There are numerous examples of garden designers and landscape architects such as Olmsted, Guilfoyle, Repton, Mueller, Brown, worked with plans and gardeners in the field to create, sculpt, position, and evolve their designs. Of course, we as contemporary landscape architects cannot spend hours, days, weeks, on-site to achieve the design outcome we desire; however, we can use some of the ideas and methods to enhance our design process from concept to ongoing maintenance.
Social media is currently in the same place webpages where in the mid-1990’s where businesses where putting up their business webpage and expecting people to come and start buying. It wasn’t until businesses realised they needed to promote their website and integrate it with their existing marketing that their webpages started generating emails, calls and sales. Social Media is at the same point with many companies starting to sign up because its the latest way to gain customers and generate sales, however they are treating like a webpage by waiting for the likes, followers, and contacts but they aren’t coming. Like all marketing and promotion of brands and products it takes time, planning and effort to engage with your customers and let them know that your there and create a company identity and message.
So like the businesses in the 1990’s that realised they could use their website to gain customers through news, deals and integrating e-commerce, its time businesses realised that engaging with customers through social media and using it as a tool can create an brand identity and generate interest and increase sales.
Many businesses spent tens of thousands of dollars creating webpages and e-commerce platforms back in the mid-1990’s, but this time there is a difference – social media is unbelievably cheap in comparison to other forms of marketing and advertising. Businesses can spend just few thousand dollars to get your brand or product out across the world. Of course, it depends on the size and number of products but when comparing social media with advertising in trade magazines or attending expos businesses could save thousands with a social media presence.
Think of your school, university or workplace unless you are someone fortunate enough to be in a interesting work or learning environment, I am guessing the walls in your office or school are white, the floor is a some hue of grey or dark colour and the furniture looks like it came from an industrial designer who lived in the gulag. These environments amaze me that not more thought went into where we learn and work, we head everyday to minimalist and/or cheapest alternative when creating learning or working environments. How do we expect cities, states, and countries to be full of class leading innovators when the places they have to learn and work are boring and uninspiring.
For me I often become inspired with ideas when I am travelling whether its locally or internationally. The new places, scenes, people, materials create new stimulus that sets off the innovator or thinker inside of us. So why not bring that to our work or school environments. It may be too costly for some but simple changes such as calenders, pictures and adding a few plants with coloured pots can make people feel more inspired. But you don’t have to wait for your school or workplace to do it, you can add a few things to your desk (of course within workplace regulations) that inspire you and change them often. Another way is taking a different way to work or a different mode of transport . The change will give you something to think about.
So, if your a boss or manager of a school, university or workplace reading this post why not think about how you could make a few small changes to inspire people. It maybe something simple as painting doors, putting up some art or hiring plants on seasonal rotation. Another way is taking people out to the park or the roof top of the building or starting a running/sport group. The more you break up the monotony the more people will wish to stay for the long term.
If your designing a new office or school think about how you can make small changes to improve people work/study life. Does the kitchen really have to look the same as the whole office? Can you make the desks different colours and interchangeable. Can the some of the break out/meeting areas just be a high table and stools to make meeting less formal. I sure you can think of different ways to make a difference – just put your mind to it.