My Work In Landscape

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.


Selections from my work in music, landscape, design, and ecology

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Landscape Architecture Biography

Paul Sayre completed a master’s degree in landscape architecture with a graduate minor in horticultural science at North Carolina State University. He worked in several offices in the Raleigh-Durham area and practiced for several years at Cole Jenest & Stone — a strong, mid-tier landscape architecture and land-planning firm in North Carolina’s Piedmont. He has in-depth professional design experience with diverse sites and programs at a variety of scales including mixed-use developments, master planning, parks, healthcare, educational and commercial landscape architecture, and site planning.

Currently, Paul maintains a small private practice specializing in: 1.) landscape ecology, restoration and conservation, and 2.) healthcare and retirement design, healing gardens, and plant design.

In his own words, Paul says: “I design exterior spaces that promote human use in accord with native ecological processes, natural diversity, beauty, durability, and minimal maintenance. I have special love for plant design, which stems from my passion for ecology and horticulture and my admiration for the work of J. Philip Grime, Richard Hanson, and Friedrich Stahl.”

Paul’s primary research in landscape architecture focuses on: 1.) designed macro landscape ecology within a plurality of complex environmental crises, and 2.) regenerative design theory in application to all aspects of human habitation. Paul has secondary research interest in design and management of herbaceous vegetation and musical applications in architectural pedagogy for aesthetic, cultural, stylistic, and historical enhancement.