“My work in landscape is an outgrowth of several lifelong loves. My reverence for nature and my love for ecology, horticulture, design, and architecture converge in this work.
I aim for clarity, simplicity, utility, and beauty in everything I make and aspire to create things that are, in the end, more than the sum of their parts — to achieve a certain synergy and, when I’m very lucky, poetry. This is as true of my work in landscape as it is of my work in music.”
— Paul Sayre, Landscape Architect
My work in landscape is characterized by strong contextual sensitivity, careful adherence to mission, curated transitions and viewsheds and, above all, deference to the example of nature. Although my work may evoke a signature style or aesthetic, I’m not a “landscape artist”; rather, I’m an artisan practitioner of landscape architecture. I take increasing “artistic license” when working on urban sites, but as a general rule, I do not regard landscape as a venue for personal expression. Ultimately, I view landscape as the provenance of nature — on benevolent advance loan to our species for precious, judicious human use. Subsequently, I view even heavily urbanized and severely denuded landscapes as sacred and approach every site and every program — from conservation of pristine ecological systems to design of perfunctory urban parking lots—with seriousness of purpose, artisanal craft, and humility.
I begin each project as a keen and careful observer of the conditions and characteristics that are unique to the site. I undertake formal, in-depth study of the site’s physical and ecological components and study the moves and cues that are particular to the site and context. I also strive to commune with “the spirit of the place” (some people call this genius loci ) and open myself to its sensorial and spiritual muse. In other words, I undertake thorough “site analysis” on every project to achieve both in-depth understanding and nuanced appreciation of the site before I contemplate altering it for prescribed human use.
Then, and only then, do I cast myself as a “designer”— a skilled conductor of a sophisticated, hierarchical interplay of robust and subtle existing and prescribed site, program, and design elements in formation of exceptional place making. In other words: I work with the elements that are particular to individual sites and contexts, I illuminate and celebrate the unique qualities of particular places, and I impose design to make them consonant with specific human need and use.
Contextual sensitivity, durability, beauty, and allegiance to regenerative design principles are the hallmarks of my work in landscape architecture. I strive for exceptional artisanal work on every project — beyond personal expression or ego and beyond “sustainable” toward “regenerative” — not as a superlative expression or an ideal manifestation but rather as a carefully wrought, elegant union of existing and prescribed forces.
My personal approach to the practice of landscape architecture has been shaped by my extensive experience living in both deeply rural environments and densely urban environments — and through my interests and pursuits in music, ecology, horticulture, teaching, scholarship, social equity, and making. My design language and aesthetics have evolved through lifelong interest in the underlying principles that are common to all creativity and constructive endeavor: material, proportion, context, contrast, proximity, movement, repose, and quiescence, for example.