Minnesota Cities Magazine
More from Jul-Aug 2017 issue

The Value of Adding Landscape Architecture to Your Project

By Shannon Gapp

When thinking of landscape architecture, these words probably come to mind: landscape design, environmentally compatible, sustainable, and beautiful. These are accurate descriptions; however, the value of bringing a landscape architect into a planning, design, or construction project can be even more profound.

Turning a vision into reality
Two photos showing existing and concept for a street improvement project involving landscaping. One of the most rewarding aspects of working with landscape architects is their ability to turn an initial idea into a built reality. They work to enhance the quality of life in a community through applying artistic and scientific principles to the manmade and natural environment.

With the community’s vision to guide them, landscape architects can develop design concepts, sketches, renderings, and buildable plans to show what the vision could look like and then make it a meaningful and functional reality.

Providing sustainable solutions
In facing the growing urgency of environmental issues, landscape architects apply creative and technical skills to enhance life-sustaining processes and manage fragile ecosystems. They develop context-sensitive solutions that are not only feasible and functional, but also aesthetically pleasing.

Additionally, landscape architects are well-versed in the application of sustainable design approaches and best management practices. They can provide measurable, evidence-based results relating to stormwater management, species diversification, and landscape performance.

Developing a unique sense of place
Landscape architects are experts in the art of placemaking, and are committed to creating meaningful, memorable places. Through collaboration and innovation, landscape architects can create an environment that serves as a destination.

Whether it be a community park, an urban plaza, a historic monument, or a transportation corridor, incorporating landscape architecture can help make every project unique to that specific community. This can be achieved in a variety of ways, including through community branding, wayfinding signage, gateway monuments, historic preservation, and community artwork. Developing a unique sense of place, in turn, creates a strong sense of ownership, which motivates residents to actively maintain and take pride in their community.

Offering a fresh, engaging experience
Community engagement is a critical piece to all municipal projects. City leaders need to make sure they are committed to inclusive and meaningful public participation. This is key to the ultimate success of any project.

Be sure to focus on collaboration and communication by using unique and interactive public engagement strategies. This can include methods such as audience polling, visual preference studies, online surveys, special event booths, comment cards, dot voting activities, small group meetings, illustrations, and project boards.

Incorporating multiple strategies not only allows underrepresented populations to become engaged throughout the process, but also helps develop community buy-in and a sense of ownership in the project.

After you gather your community input and other data, it’s important to communicate those findings effectively. When analyzing large amounts of data, it can be difficult to convey key findings and concepts through mere text, charts, and technical plans. Presenting simple graphics and illustrations are a much more effective way of quickly communicating findings. Landscape architects are able to develop several types of graphics and maps that are easy to read, engage the community, and are publicly accessible.

Managing projects to completion and beyond
From initial concept sketches to the built product, landscape architects should remain involved throughout all project phases. This includes the creation of construction documents, construction administration, project implementation, and more. Once the project has been built, landscape architects can continue to ensure the project is meeting all of the community’s expectations.

Shannon Gapp is a landscape designer with Bolton & Menk, Inc. (www.bolton-menk.com). Bolton & Menk is a member of the League’s Business Leadership Council (www.lmc.org/sponsors).

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