A couple weeks ago, my coworker and coffee connoisseur Heejae and I discussed the process and craft that goes into making a good cup of coffee. As new coffee shops and coffee roasters pop up across the city, we wondered exactly what it is that sets each apart? We talked about where different beans are grown, various varieties of the coffee beans themselves, styles of roasts, and even the signature style of individual baristas preparing each cup. Of course, this discussion about craft eventually segued into parallels with our profession as landscape architects “crafting” landscapes through the process of design.
A misty morning in Frederick Law Olmsted’s Prospect Park in Brooklyn is evidence of crafting an experience for visitors with carefully placed elements, trees, boulders, benches, that meticulously frame a space. As silhouettes appear and elements disappear, Olmsted’s intentional and deep understanding of space directs the viewer to how he envisioned the landscape. Whether a pastoral or an urban project, landscape architects are perpetually crafting experiences this way.
Enrique Miralles is another amazing talent gifted in crafting the landscape experience. His drawings of Igualada Cemetery illustrate both the complexity and simplicity of the interconnected space, where cast concrete tombs and paving patterns work in intricate collaboration. Miralles utilized excavation and concrete work to provide a unique and enclosed experience of a landscape dedicated to the buried and their visitors.
Roberto Burle Marx and Le Corbusier both incorporated painting in their exploration of space and form. Whether an intentional plan or a painting, Burle Marx’s craft and style is incorporated into his landscape with bright colors partnered with amazing forms. His craft extended into the palette of plants – uniquely so – utilizing flora to create a distinct flavor. Similarly, Le Corbusier also used paintings to explore ideas of scale, color, form and theory, in the process putting forward his visions of design still appreciated and studied today.
Taking this idea of craft – whether in preparation of a cup of coffee or while designing a landscape – its practitioners strive to take the technical understanding of their work, perfect their style, and produce something memorable and amazing.