Designing the Environment Around Us

Landscape architects have the responsibility of designing the outdoor environment to be aesthetically pleasing, as well as functional. Many people are unware of what goes into creating the environments they live in. There’s an extensive planning process for the design of the outdoor spaces we inhabit. We evaluate layers and how the environment flows, taking into consideration people, soil, stormwater, flora and fauna, and climate to name a few. We accommodate these elements when designing landscapes, as well as designing more usable and enjoyable public open spaces, while incorporating the flow and functionality of nature in order to keep these designs thriving over time.

Planning from All Angles

When designing a new landscape or improving an existing site, I’m always thinking about what’s important to the client. Are there historic elements in the environment? Should the landscape blend in with its surroundings, or should it stand out? Should it be low maintenance? How will this look after it’s naturalized? Are there already design elements present that I should capitalize on? In a sense, landscape architects are both interpreters and mediators, addressing nature and culture, built and unbuilt projects, with many decisions to be made on the client’s behalf. It’s important to have digital models that visualize a walk-through experience of the landscape to identify site conflicts, viewsheds, and to visually portray how a facility will mesh with its surrounding environment.

Using Technology to Show Perspective

Recently, I have been using different forms of technologies to better convey our visions to the client. For example, I created a fly through 3-D animation using the program SketchUp with information from AutoCAD to depict how landscape screening would effectively help a facility blend into the existing urban fabric. This was beneficial to the client because there was concern that this new facility could affect residential homes in the area and disturb the historical setting. The animation brought a new perspective of the project and showed the community that the facility could be built without disrupting the existing environment. It also included simulations of the site after 10 years of naturalization, illustrating the landscape improving over time.

Church North Image

Efficient landscape design allows for a parking garage to blend into the existing environment.

Another project focused on the refurbishment of old power lines bisecting a park and community that is overlooked by a historic property. I created photorealistic renderings and simulations of the proposed construction to contrast with the existing conditions. The community was mainly concerned with the viewsheds and aesthetics associated with the historic property and parks after the upgrades. These realistic renderings helped the client communicate with the community to give them an actual representation of how they would be affected. I used 3-D AutoCAD designs for the towers, fields surveying, and SketchUp to create a landscape record of the site. This helped us to identify important and historic elements of the landscape and to recognize and resolve points of conflict for the community. The final products took existing images of the site and proposed design elements to create actual perspective views of the impact the towers and power lines would have.

Lindberg Image

This photorealistic rendering shows the existing site (left) and the proposed construction (right) of refurbished power lines.

Successful Realistic Visuals

Both of these techniques have proven to be an effective way to provide realistic visuals of how landscape architecture can make certain structures more appealing and effectively bring a new structure into an existing setting without disrupting the current flows of the environment. This technology brings our design perspective to the client and helps them see the visions we have for their communities.


A fly through 3-D animation gives a real-life perspective of how adding landscape screening can help a manmade structure blend into the environment.

  • Andrew Tull
    Andrew Tull
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