Help! Looking for theoretical info about using a “Big Idea” to start the design process and LA’s that use it.

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums GENERAL DISCUSSION Help! Looking for theoretical info about using a “Big Idea” to start the design process and LA’s that use it.

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    I’m busy doing a research through design paper as part of my last semester of my BLA. I’m comparing design processes/methodology and their application to a site. I have done one design based off community vision and how that shapes the process of design and now I am attempting to use one “big idea” to shape and influence a new design process for the site. A similar technique to what Ken Smith uses. One big overarching concept that influences how the design develops e.g. using a leaf form, or site history. However I’m stuck finding articles, books, theory about using this type of idea. I’m pretty sure I’m not using the right terminology. Can anybody recommend anything? Any ideas on a different way to phrase this method of design? Any other practitioners who rely on this method to generate a design? Thanks in advance for any advice I might receive!

                                                 Grace Warne

    ernie garcia

    There is a book called “From Concept to Form in Landscape Design” by Grant W. Reid  that may help a bit.  The first 10 pages or so discuss methods of the design process and essentially how a concept is evolved into something that you can take to design documents.  The rest of the book discusses pretty basic stuff like formal geometric versus naturalistic design styles as well as case studies.  See if anyone has a copy you can borrow.

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    I don’t know that you can search by a general subject, but think of all of the projects that are dominated by one aspect and they are endless.

    9-11 memorials – any of them, any memorial at all, historic restorations, any type of restoration project (including wetland or habitat), any theme based design (what about that MAC/Apple project that was recently discussed – it had a theme that was separate from the building which might make it all that more a good isolation of the “big idea”?).

    Leslie B Wagle

    This comes to mind and maybe you can research it further. Also I think there is a butterfly one somewhere.


    Tosh K

    Maybe go through design competition entries (highline, freshkills -see praxis issue- and downsview -see monograph- have been critically reviewed so you may find it easier to go through those)- often the design concept revolves around a central idea that’s obvious in their brief. I’m not sure what you mean by “big ideas,” but common conceptual beginnings in comp entries include: shift, blur, stitch, emergence, succession, erosion, accretion, adaptability, resilience, synergy; well, you get the idea.

    I’ve known a few designers that break down a particular piece of art and use the concepts present in the art to a landscape – it seems odd at first but works well if done with care (artists included Stella, Picasso, Mangold, LeWitt, etc).


    Process driven design? Conceptual design? Different ways of putting it implies a different emphasis.

    good luck


    A thesis done by a student at Virginia Polytechnic Institute might have some valuable insights, or at the very least a bibliography worth raiding: A Study of Landscape Architecture Design Methods by Christopher James Lidy


    Thanks everybody so far! Very helpful.

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