Design Principles (1)

Whispering Crane Institute chopHere’s a video from Dr. Ann Marie VanDerZanden of Iowa State University discussing “principles of landscape design”. In my mind this is more controversy concerning design principles.

Going back to my earlier posting on just what in the hell are design principle, beginning design principles, and the biggie . . . what are advanced design principles ???

What do you think?

Where are those in the list of design principles?

Was that a good explanation of the 5 principles she described?

I plan on going much further into this discussion, I am more convinced by the more I read that there is no real consensus, no real agreement on starting point.

I’m sure the usual suspects will e-mail me, I also welcome comments left below.

Oh, I almost forgot there was a link I had found tucked away with this video. The page is a collection of links to extension sites.

By Rick Anderson

The Whispering Crane Institute was originally formed to act as the umbrella organization for the Philosophy of Design Symposium, and other seminars and workshops given by Rick Anderson and Richard L. Dube’. In the year 2000 WCI became a sole proprietorship owned by Rick Anderson. Today the WCI provides design and consultation services for Landscape Contractors, acts as a Green Industry think tank, and provides training for others in the form of workshops, seminars, and individual consulting. The WCI also provides written material, opinions, case-studies and how-to articles for industry trade magazines.


  1. What a goober.
    Hope this an old video
    I love softening, curvilinear lines, but, certainly NOT to be utilized exclusively in every design.
    Will admit that it was a ‘design principle’ with which I had dealt for 30+ years, until I finally realized EVERYthing did NOT have to be that ‘limp-wristed’ form
    Had always ‘Sold’ this ‘design principle’ on the basis of ‘ease of maintenance’ – then realized that a major percentage of our clients did not even recall what a lawn mower looked like.
    Ease of maintenance was NOT their primary concern.

    Am I one of the ‘usual suspects’ emailing you, Ricky? No, I’m not.

    Keep up the good work, RA.

    Awww, calling that nice lady a “goober” expect angry Women’s groups to attack you any day. Yes to experienced designers this video should be confusing because it’s silly.

    I love that comment on ‘ease of maintenance’ . . . those words are gold and I hope young designers who read here understand how important that is when you reach a certain level of design.

    ‘Soft lines’ . . . actually those line look weak and flaccid-like left over spaghetti. Not robust, strong, well-rounded and sexy . . . now those are strong curvilinear lines!!!

    uh, “usual suspect” . . . . well, ah, . . . ahem, ah, never mind.

  2. “…a principle is never applied the same way twice” so said Dr. Ann Marie. If so, how can a principle actually be a principle and what is a principal anyway?

    Nice catch, I don’t agree either. You would certainly not agree in Pergola design work.

    I’m telling you, the more I investigate the more mumbo-jumbo I come across . . . ph D speak if you ask me.

    I am going to keep digging and come up with something that we can use as a design guide. Especially something that non-academic professionals can use in real-life.

  3. Hello Rick;
    I started this reply a few days ago but a giant storm came through and in minutes filled the satellite dish with sleet and snow. I’ll try again.

    I am not a landscape architect and my credentials are growing up poor and learning to love the green world. When I was about 12 I began working for one of the few female landscape architects and I learned a sense of review and practicality that is less frequent now.

    The design included in this piece is older but it is not uncommon in many respects. Up until recently there were many out of state folks buying properties or building homes and their designs came from out of state designers. When I see a plan with some of these elements, it is clear that a couple things were missing from the person’s original training. One is consideration for the local climate, and second is the ease of maintenance.

    Housing itself needs to account for the geography in which it is placed. In a state like Vermont where snow fall and snow load are important, you also have to factor in wind when you figure roof pitch in the design. Wind has a habit of coming over the top of a house and depositing piles of snow on the roof and adjacent land/lawn/drive/walks/gardens. That translates to heavy snow build up on any roof— asphalt. standing seam, metal shingle, modern day composite slate reproductions, cedar, copper, and accounts for obvious water infiltration problems over time.

    The plant material used around the house must account for how deep the snow piles under the eaves, how long it lasts, and how far the pile extends away from the building. To plant trees and shrubs close to buildings in this part of Vermont is to spend lots of money replanting. Today as I write the piles under the eaves are 5 feet deep and spread out 12-15 feet.

    The borders of gardens need to account for ease of maintenance so untrained maintenance workers and rushed, out-of-time home owners can mow the lawns and trim the borders without a mess of places the mower has to repeat and trees that are debarked and shrubs mangled. To me, these two points are more important to remember before you start the design.

    Vermont and Maine remain the two states with the highest incidence of second homes. Until recently, architects have had fun building some absurd places in these two states. Now that money is a challenge, my guess is the thinking will have to go to smaller landscapes that still have some zing. We’ll see.

    Keep up the great work! I don’t get back often enough because I’m still moving my little nursery. Sharing new ideas as you do is something I appreciate.

    Be well!

    George Africa
    The Vermont Gardener

    1. George;

      It has been awhile, so long in fact my spam catcher put you in the spam pile for some reason.

      1st I must say with much humility . . . that when a reader shows enough interest to reply in the length and detail in which you have, it does have an effect on me, my thinking, and my devotion and inspiration to continue writing-thank you.

      Now . . . climate has a design principle. this is a new concept. Yes all designers( I hope most do anyway) consider the climatic zone, water, sun, shade, soil, etc . . but your story takes that to another level of understanding and thought. Practicality and Mother Nature at an entirely different level.

      The time spent considering snow and it’s aftermath is way beyond anything we deal with in this part of Ohio. Here we must always be mindful of where to put snow, as in snow plowing, side walks, stuff like that. I do not hear much discussion on snow load, and the issues surrounding this difficulty. Very interesting stuff.

      But where you got me was on practicality and review. Those two words keep buzzing around, and where it’s leading me is to thinking that maybe there are advanced design principles. Beyond simple design principles in a land where real people live, work, upgrade, maintain, repair, rebuild and find a level of enjoyment in their outdoor surroundings.

      George you have left me with a lot of food for thought, and I appreciate your time, energy, and interest in your reply. Review. practicality, special climate issues, maintenance(issues).

      Thanks again!

  4. Hmmm…if I were a prospective student of landscape design and I saw that video, I would be wondering why I should bother going to school at all. Just search You Tube for an hour, then hang out your shingle.

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