How Has The Design “Landscape” Changed Over The Last Forty Years

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In the 80’s, we designed hundreds of acres of mono-use business parks. Accessible only by car, the buildings were islands in a sea of parking. Now we are creating integrated spaces with a multitude of uses by conjoining residential and retail aspects to business parks. Smart employers are linking their brand and office culture with the design of their exterior spaces; bocce, basketball courts, outdoor kitchens and large areas are part of the office environment.

Enclosed shopping malls are being replaced with “main streets” as on-line shopping forces Brick and Mortar retail to be a more enriching experience for the consumer. Fountains, outdoor gathering spaces and ornamental garden elements are classic features of new successful retail centers.

Unfortunately, as a baby boomer myself, I am personally keenly aware of how we are designing for our aging population. Forty years ago, we were working on care facilities with walking paths and healing gardens. Now, our award winning senior community in Half Moon Bay includes bicycle parking for every senior resident.  Likewise, the new Viamonte senior community project in Walnut Creek is a well-deserved amenity options for active adults seeking to give up the responsibility of the family home.

Park designs reflect the ever-changing multi-cultural demographics. The traditional baseball fields are overlaid with soccer fields and the growing demand for cricket amenities. With the emphasis on health and fitness, new recreational activities are emerging: paddle ball, pump tracks and disc golf. The demand for dog parks has steadily grown as well.

The density of development has increased as we have simultaneously been asked to dedicate land to treat storm water on site. Small and complicated challenges for ADA fire access, site planning is a jigsaw; thus, Landscape Architects are essential partners in the early stages of projects.

Of course, sustainability has had a tremendous impact on the “look” of today’s landscape. The acres of bermed lawns which dominated the landscape have now been replaced with low water use planting and ornamental grasses. The water usage and the demand for more columnar and compact trees and shrubs to fit in tight spaces has transformed the nursery industries.

All These changes are creating more opportunities to “get people outside”, enjoying with nature and with one another.

I look forward to what tomorrow will bring.

Written by Linda Gates, Co-Founder

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