The site pictured above began as a sad, interstitial space on the campus of a large, land-grant university in North Carolina. The university commissioned its landscape architecture students to redesign the area and to construct their new design.
A little bit of earth-work was involved, but the primary considerations were aesthetic, and apart from pedestrian circulation, there were no wider infrastructure considerations. The work was interdisciplinary and involved collaboration with the university’s horticulture department, university housing, student affairs, university architects, and grounds management.
I wore many hats on this “design-build.” I ran meetings and lead teams, created schematic designs and construction documents, mixed concrete and helped install boulders — but my primary role was designing, procuring, and installing an exceptional woodland under-story “plant community,” which incorporated an intermittent stream and “rain garden.” The work resulted in exceptional place making — a node of engagement, activity, and community that became known as “The Artists’ Backyard.” The project won North Carolina’s Sir Walter Raleigh Award for Community Appearance.
Design Builds and
“Landscape gardening” is primarily concerned with aesthetics and may be more akin to “highly sophisticated landscaping” than to “landscape architecture.” Landscape gardening does not typically involve hydrology, earth-work, elevations, or networks (sanitary sewer, storm water, domestic water, etc.), and it does not typically involve complex infrastructure.
“Design Builds” are generally comparatively small-scale design projects, which may or may not involve the elements specified above. The defining attribute of “design builds” is that they are designs that are installed by the team or the company that designs them. There is considerable overlap between “design-builds,” “landscape architecture,” “landscape gardening.” The labels are imprecise and they’re used loosely.