I have a passion for public green open space design but don't have much experience in this type of project. What would you recommend for someone like me to improve on this? 

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The best way to learn about designing public space is to do it. If you're not working yet or if you are and your firm doesn't do that kind of work, read about it and then read some more.

My current firm doesn't have much of this project. Will read more!

Pick up a pencil or pen and start moving some medium around.  See where it goes, and don't over think it.  I design open space (greenways, parks, trails, etc.) within master planned communities.  I start out with a shape that I think "looks good" and I change it over several sheets of trace until I get something that actually works.  Transfer your thoughts on to paper, and do it quickly.  It's okay to be wrong on the first few sketches as long as you are actually brainstorming.  If you can't advance beyond this stage, hunker down and repeat, repeat, repeat until something works.  Do it again on the next site, and repeat, repeat, repeat.  Too many portfolios today are heavy on polished projects and over-rendered details.  I don't see enough of the basic design process which can even be a solid design with a bunch of cross-outs.  

Landscapeplaner hit the nail on the head.

Insightful ! Thanks

Find successful spaces and diagram them, breaking them down to analyze why they work.

I like this. Will try that. Thanks Tosh K

I used to think that the best way to design was to start drawing (and I draw alot), but lately ive found myself thinking through concepts in my mind, writing, note taking, discussing, then finalliy diagramming the thought. The traditional design process comes much later for me after lots of thinking. Often times when i sit down to draw im just drawing whats already in my mind. I find that if i am doing too many overlays and redrawing its often time to step away as i havent given myself the opportunity to form the concept in my mind first. This is the key to be an efficient designer--you can think through design while writing emails, doing cad, getting coffee, etc.

As you (NCA) and I understand, the "design process" does not come easily for inexperienced LA's.  Whether you're a recent LA graduate OR a very young start-up LA firm.  And more often than not, it takes several years in the private practice world to "understand' the design process where you're generating very creative, bold and professionally designed projects. 

I started a discussion recently.....and have offered "mentoring" & "consulting" services to inexperienced LA's & young LA firms.  I have had a few positive responses, but, not nearly as many as I would have expected.  Maybe nobody believes they need help?

A student can learn just so much in a University Landscape Architecture program, then, you need to learn from Professional LAs.....preferably in a descent size LA firm (where there are experienced & talented LA's to mentor you).  Yeah, easier said than done.  Last night, I was reading on an INDEED LA discussion blog where a 2010 Landscape Architect graduate is STILL searching for her first job in Landscape Architecture (4-1/2 years, she said).

I have been mentoring a young LA on the East Coast for (39) months now.  He had approx. 3 yrs. experience at an LA firm, but was laid off.  He's been working on his own start-up firm and it's coming together nicely.

I have an equivalent of (39) years of experience in "private practice", if you include my (4) years of over-time.  I'm more than willing to assist young LA's and young LA firms get up to speed on the "design process".  Well, I won't do it for FREE, but, I will for very reasonable rates.

All you have to do is contact me and ask.  E-mail:  bobcalifornia61@aol.com

Best Regards,

J. Robert (Bob) Wainner - Plano, Texas

Thanks Robert. See my email. 

I usually start doing analysis/research, figuring out the big issues, analyzing the context (where people come from, who will use it, what they need, etc) doing a lot of diagrams, and making a structure. This process can also involve multiple designers and the client(s)/public through workshops, discussions, etc. It gets messy, but can make your life a lot easier when you start making shapes.

I would add two things: the design process should include discovering what the site really wants to be, as if you're uncovering a hidden treasure or peeling layers of an onion. Some designers call this, "letting the site tell you what it wants to be". This idea comes from Alexander Pope’s ‘Epistle  IV’, which introduces the concept of ‘genius loci’ or ‘genius of the place’ and very poetically points out the critical importance of adapting design to site context. Thus your (anyone’s) passion for green open space design should include this as the most important design determinant. Second, include end users in the design process as they sometimes have intimate knowledge of the ‘genius of the place’ that will make it successful.


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