Monday, October 25, 2010

Landscape function

Demand more for less

In a world that now seeks lower costs and higher returns – from investment to real estate – the paradigm shift is from 'the yard' to engaging the land.  The good news for Landscape Architects is that the Industry is seeing a steady business, most interested in Renovations with highly-varied reasons, from simply ‘it needs to look good’ to ‘it needs to “compete.”’  On a smaller scale, the Real Estate Agent’s ‘list of amenities’ becomes a competitive benchmark, for those who have invested and look to gain, when the Market returns.  These savvy folks still seek guidance, easily deciphering a potential for a property’s highest-and-best use versus a simplified, one-dimensional planting of ‘Tossed Salad’ that, otherwise, may simply accommodate a budget request.  In a world where re-sales rule the day, amenities become the sought-after Holy Grail.  ‘Lessons’ of fortune now ‘trickle-down’ to the Individual whose Outdoor Kitchen, Entertainment Area, Multi-use Lawn, or Exterior Office will outsell a home with a menagerie of planting ‘drops’ that involve large expanses of unused ‘yard.’  The conversion now, from grass farming to amenity and usage, also bodes well for seekers of quality – Contractors who are highly-experienced now have a full command and attention to detail.  Quality through time outweighs the tendency to ‘move on to the next one,’ as was the production model, during the boom period.

On a larger scale, whole Communities are now coming together to ask more of their landscape.  Systemic problems in small turf areas, phase-out of problematic plantings, and, of course, upgrades to entry features, drives, and gatehouses.  Functionally, the improvements point to lower operating costs, (direct, financial benefit) and greater overall, value-added enhancement, critical during resales (indirect, long-term benefit).  Of course, last year’s record low temperatures, and the onset of a ‘true’ dry season, also impact the performance in the landscape context.  

Even on Public Projects, missed opportunities are being ‘captured,’ as more attention is being focused on procuring that work…Practioners, who largely-remain unchallenged, or, innovations, in the past ‘squashed,’ are now being competed against and opened up, respectively.  Shouldn’t we demand more in the same space, especially from our tax dollars?  One local example, a Community Park, is largely ‘disjointed,’ void of direct connection to adjacent uses, including an aggregate living facility (ALF).  To take a walk, in twilight of life, consisted of a stroll around a 100 degree-plus parking lot, versus, literally, a walk in the park… the potential for a direct connection was less than 600’ away!


As we continue to 'move on,' I am optimistic that, as users trend away from DIY shows & spray paint kits,  more practical, economically-feasible opportunities are designed, explored, and ‘pulled together’ to enhance the Character of a Community, and, indeed create value.

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