Landscape for Architects

Landscape for Architects: Landscape, Park, Building, Qualities, Use
Gabriele G. Kiefer, Anika Neubauer
Birkhäuser, August 2020

Paperback (5 volumes) | 4-1/4 x 6 inches | 1,072 pages | 500 illustrations | English, German, Spanish | ISBN: 978-3035616767 | $57.99


Designing landscapes requires a holistic approach. It also requires extensive specialist knowledge. In courses and manuals the generalist or in-depth levels are frequently under-represented, or the attempted comprehensive view becomes too complex. Landscape for Architects now offers a fundamental reference work which is as comprehensive as it is practical and as holistic as it is detailed.

Created in cooperation with the Architecture Department of Braunschweig Technical University, Landscape for Architects addresses the aspects of landscape architecture: "questions" are raised with abstract schematic drawings, and possible "answers" are illustrated with analytical drawings of case studies from the 20th and 21st centuries in order to inspire the reader’s own creativity and to support the design process.

The entire field of landscape design is dealt with in individual thematic volumes. The numbers of pages in the volumes differ, adding up to a total of more than 1,000 pages in five volumes, published with clear color marking as the "green block".

Each volume fully covers the respective subject and can be used on its own — compact and user-friendly. The illustrations are uniformly structured, with the guiding idea on the left-hand side and the associated drawing on the right-hand side. The drawings demonstrate how design concepts can be illustrated, and the three-language format provides an international vocabulary of design.

Prof. Gabriele G. Kiefer, Anika Neubauer, Architecture Department, Technical University Braunschweig.


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In "Building," the largest of the five volumes of Landscape for Architects, the authors describe their ambitious whole as "a manual for interactive design." As such, considering that all design briefs start with questions (What is the program? Who will the user be? What is the budget? Where is the site? ...), the five volumes are structured as a series of questions, with three of the volumes providing "possible answers" in the form of built precedents. Each question is accompanied by an illustration and a list of projects, some of the latter keyed to answers/projects in the same volume. Working the other way around, each answer lists the questions that refer to them. So cross referencing is in abundance, except from volume to volume: Building, Landscape, Park, Qualities, and Use stand alone from each other, even though they are bound together through subject, format, and even a wraparound cover.

So how would an architect, landscape architect, or urban designer use Landscape for Architects? If the project they are working on is clearly a building, rather than a park or some other kind of landscape, they could jump into that volume and peruse the questions. There are many questions in "Building," but thankfully they are broken down into ten categories, such as "Context," "Courtyard," and "Indoor green," all of them tailored to the natural landscapes that interact with buildings. Although each question gets just two pages, many precedents are listed, occasionally keyed directly to the illustration, as in 4.7 shown below. The combinations of question, list, and illustration are provocations for the designer to think about their own project but also explore the many projects that answered just those questions. Sure, there is overlap in the lists of precedents, particularly within the same category, but if a designer followed each precedent they would be busy for hours and hours on end — not necessarily a bad thing.

Another way of using the book is for readers to flip to the answers, the built precedents explored in six pages of illustrations and references, and find projects that strike their fancy. For example, the last of the 24 projects in the "Building" volume is Office KGDVS's Solo House, which is a circular building with four habitable sides facing the forest beyond as well as the open space at its center. It's an amazing project I was shocked I didn't know about before confronting it here. The line drawings capture some of the unique qualities of the building and its landscape, an opposite them are eight questions, such as "How can a courtyard contribute to a building's identity?" Readers can follow that question and then see a list of 14 more projects, three of them in the book; the rest requires an internet connection or a decent library. Whatever the case, the book is, like I said before, an invitation to explore.

Given how the questions range from very broad ("What characterizes space in landscape architecture?" in "Qualities") to less broad, but not necessarily specific, ("Does the landscape have a memorable image?" in "Parks"), the book is ideally suited for students and young designers. The book is clearly about landscape architecture, but I think it applies just as much to architects, though maybe not throughout all five volumes. The questions raised are important for considering how designed landscapes are used, but also in terms of their climate impact and resource use: important considerations for all designers of the built environment. Seasoned designers might find the questions/answers and illustrations too basic, but they might also be intrigued by the mix of important projects spanning centuries that comprise the lists. I, for one, was pleased to find so many projects of which I had no familiarity. Like Solo House, I'm looking forward to further explorations sparked by Landscape for Architects.