Artificial rock work as a design medium (#9 of 10)

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums DETAILS & MATERIALS Artificial rock work as a design medium (#9 of 10)

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    Matthew E Wilson

    Design theory (continued) (article #9 of 10)

    The concept of scale is rather self explanatory. Make your rocks proportionate to the site to create the greatest drama. Do not sacrifice scale for budget. If budget shortages do exist than I would suggest selling a different design or limit the quantity of rocks around the project site so as to afford at least three very large statement boulders.

    Balance plays an important role here because any project that is heavily loaded with rockwork at one side of the project or tucked into one corner of the site looks contrived and out of place. Again, remember that your work is artificial without adding to that fact by poor design. Remember to think of these features as pre existing before you add your design elements.

    You should attempt to triangulate rock throughout the entire site giving importance to all locations and not just the main water feature. You might attempt to create at least three areas of rock throughout the available space regardless of scale to balance the site and lend credibility that the rock was pre-existing to the total project location. By separating these rock features you eliminate some of the heaviness of mass and create even more interest by adding planting areas to connect it all visually.

    When you really want to impress your clients you can add intrigue to your design. This can be achieved by adding a pivotal boulder(s) that appear to be sitting very precariously over a body of water or pathway. It appears that any ground movement or passer by could simply push it off. The fact is that it is doweled to the engineered rock outcropping that it rests on and cannot be moved.

    The last area is that of softening. This is created with the use of landscape plantings. No exhibit is complete without at least 30% – 40% of foliage added to the rock mass to soften the overall appearance and imply a sense of history to the feature. Landscape plantings are a major concern to good design and their importance cannot be underestimated. Take the time to incorporate planter areas throughout the exhibit space and rock outcroppings as a part of your design process and not to arbitrarily apply plant material at the end of the project as it fits.

    Be certain to intentionally design large self draining planter’s areas throughout the rock work for future plantings. You will be amazed a how your clients will respond with the addition of 30% – 40% plantings to rock ratio despite covering up their very expensive project with vegetation. Read that sentence again as it is very important.

    You can achieve a greater degree of believability by the addition of real rock pieces, rip-rap, placed and colored to match the main structures. Remember to pressure wash away any lichens or moss so that your coloring will adhere later. This will insure a proper match between your man-made rocks and the pieces of real rock you introduce to the exhibit.

    In order for the client to interpret your project as real it’s not a question of what you have put into your project but rather what you leave out that becomes important. All you have to do is fool the public for 10 seconds while they process in their minds what they are looking at before they become distracted to look at something else.

    Throughout time people recognize things for their shape, size, colors, and when one or all of those items are amiss do they begin to question what is wrong with the picture. Remember, nobody wants to find anything wrong, artificial, with your project. They simply want to recognize what they are seeing and then move on to another thought process. Don’t give them a reason to question what they are seeing.

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