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Timeless Landscape Design: The Four-Part Master Plan    by Mary Palmer Dargan & Hugh Graham Dargan order for
Timeless Landscape Design
by Mary Palmer Dargan
Order:  USA  Can
Gibbs Smith, 2007 (2007)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In their coffee table sized book, Timeless Landscape Design, a husband and wife team of landscape architects based in Atlanta, bring us a 'personalized approach to garden design' in a four-step planning process that can be applied to a wide range of landscape sizes, 'to bring out a property's full potential'. They use a selection of historic and contemporary gardens as examples to inspire readers and educate on different approaches.

The last four sections of the book explain the planning process, while the first introduces principles and the history of landscape design. The objective? A 'landscape that pleases the eye, nourishes the soul and makes living easier.' The authors advise us to think of a property as 'a canvas with a design already started, which requires skillful editing', its 'environmental considerations and functional needs' already established. They suggest looking at four interconnected parts of a property - 'the approach and arrival sequence, the hub, the perimeter or passages to destinations.' They tell us to seek inspiration from harmonious examples, and to apply solid design principles and methodology.

The Dargans talk about use of line and color, form and texture, focalization, symmetry, repetition, reflection, light and shadow, proportion and scale. They explain the twelve steps in the design process and how to execute them, with valuable tips based on experience - like drawing quick sketches on photographs to test ideas. They share, via glorious color pictures, the gardens around the world that inspired them. And they emphasize the importance of understanding the genius loci (spirit of place) of a property, quoting Alexander Pope - 'In all, let Nature never be forgot'.

Moving on to the planning process, it begins with the Approach and Arrival Sequence, 'the welcome mat for visitors.' The landscape architects discuss three axioms in detail - apply harmony in materials, ensure a seamless flow, and modulate space - as well as the importance of creating memorable moments for visitors. The following section addresses what they consider the most challenging aspect of the plan, the Hub, requiring 'design treatments that forge connections between the house and its site.' They give case studies of houses designed as powerful hubs, and of different vista and captured views.

Next are the home's extensions, user-friendly spaces in the Perimeter, enjoyed for different purposes at different times of day - such as terraces (a variety of materials are suggested), outdoor dining areas, swimming pools, pavilions, and courtyards. The Dargans cover linking perimeter spaces, each 'a room without walls but seamlessly interconnected.' Finally they tell us about Passages and Destinations, 'design elements that invite exploration and enjoyment of garden environments set away from the house itself ... for recreation or relaxation.' The authors explain using them to intensify a property's 'spirit of place.'

Planning to landscape a new home or redesign the surroundings of an existing one? Then have a look at Timeless Landscape Design. In it, the Dargans offer a methodology, as well as many design tips, checklists, and inspiring examples to leaf through. This lovely book is an excellent resource to structure the planning process and fuel creativity.

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