Outdoor spaces should go beyond simple green lawns and predictable floral borders. Landscaping has a tremendous effect on the overall ambiance of an area and gives visitors an impression of how to approach it, perhaps inviting childish play or instilling a sense of relaxation.
Interactive landscape design is a style of landscaping that achieves this goal. There are no rules when it comes to interactive landscaping and it encourages designer creativity to transform otherwise mundane areas in parks, around private residences or retail spaces, and more.
Here are six ideas for bringing interactive designs into your own landscaping project.
1. Promote Creativity with Simplistic Structures
(Vestvolden Playground, by VEGA Landskab)
More often than not, the simpler a structure is, the more use visitors can get out of it. The featured play structure is an excellent example of using vertical space (building upwards rather than outwards) and how a fairly basic design can be multifaceted.
The various levels and heights are immediately enticing for children and allow them to use their imagination while playing. However, the same type of structure would be welcomed by an older audience, as the varying levels offer plenty of seating and lounging space.
2. Unique Furniture Designs are Inviting and Versatile
(Furniture for Waterfront, by Goose Foot & Freshwest Design)
Traditional bench seats are effective, but very predictable and uninteresting. Instead, this designer chose to take advantage of some very unique bench designs to enhance the plain landscape.
The varying configurations of these benches come off as artistic and modern, but they're much more inviting and versatile than typical seating. These benches give visitors the option of how they'd like to enjoy the landscape. Perhaps by laying down and soaking up the sun or by sitting back and facing the waterfront. If they'd rather sit and face the wooded background, the double-facing benches would be ideal.
Even if the immediate landscape is forced to be fairly bare, such as this pavement pier, it doesn't mean it has to be boring. The furniture you choose will always make a big impact.
3. Create a Sense of Connection to Nature with Water
(At the Water's Edge, by Blue Forest)
There are few things that add a sense of relaxation and connection to nature as much as water features. The above tree-house village getaway is an impressive example. The water features add far more dimension and beauty than what could have been achieved with lush green grass alone.
The bridge connecting the surrounding landscape to the middle island is a very unique feature that, again, makes the space more usable and interactive than if it was just one large body of water. The water's edge is very clean, giving it a more finished appearance than a vegetated edge.
4. Winding Pathways Encourage Play for All Ages
(Wonder Wood Playground, by VEGA Landskab)
Taking another idea from a children's playground, these winding pathways would beckon both the young and the young at heart. Winding pathways give a landscape charm and whimsy. You can take it a step further by elevating the paths and even overlapping them.
Elevated pathways are visually appealing and encourage more activity in kids as well as adults. Structurally, they largely eliminate wood to ground contact, which ensures a longer lasting wood path. This is a great tip for very wet climates.
5. Bring in Unexpected Textures to Delight Visitors
Landscaping a rooftop space in an urban setting can be a rewarding challenge. Rather than just going with simple outdoor flooring or decking, the designer incorporated a sand pit to complete the beach theme of this restaurant/lounge. The addition of two fire pits adds a bit of a beach bonfire to the mix.
Using different terrain textures in a landscape can be done with sand, gravel, smooth pebbles, bark, and more. Varying terrain can be used to help visually designate certain spaces from one another or to enhance a theme, as shown here.
6. Construct Features Off Pathways to Invite Exploration
(Vestvolden Playground, by VEGA Landskab)
A significant benefit of interactive landscaping is getting people to spend more time in green spaces, thereby improving overall health and wellness. Groomed pathways are enjoyable for strolling along, but consider constructing certain features off paths and set back within the trees.
This swing set is located right in a grassy opening alongside trees and bushes. Rather than having a path going to it, visitors will need to walk out and find it themselves. Doing this with play structures, as well as bench seating, invites visitors to do a little exploring, step into nature, and maybe even kick their shoes off and relax.
Interactive landscape design will only continue to evolve, with more landscapers and builders striving to create outdoor spaces that are beautiful as well as functional. This balance between both is important in not just improving the aesthetics of green spaces, but also encouraging more human interaction with the outdoor environment.