ICONIC LIFE is all about highlighting innovators and influencers in the design world. From modern interior design to sustainable architecture, we love everything that goes into living beautifully. But as we’re spending more and more time indoors during these unusual times, it’s important to nurture our connections with nature.
People are really wanting to make sure that the garden is totally integrated with their living environment because they're at home, and I don't see that going away.
Our publisher talked with Roderick Wyllie of the San Francisco-based landscape architecture and urban design firm Surfacedesign, on her podcast ICONIC HOUR with Renee Dee to learn more about bringing the outside world into our new daily lives,
The award-winning practice focuses on creating dynamic parks, plazas, waterfronts, civic landscapes and private garden design ideas that cultivate a sense of connection to the built and natural world and push people to engage with the landscape in new ways.
“This whole concept of bringing the outside in is a trend that’s been with us for a while. Biophilic design and having plant walls and bringing more greenery into our spaces has really started to move to the forefront of the conversation,” Wylie said.
Creating small garden design concepts for certain clients has informed spaces in the firm’s larger projects. As a result, Surfacedesign approaches projects, regardless of size, with a scale of intimacy. Wylie explained that the fatal flaw of large-scale designs—for example, a campus-wide project—is losing the true feeling of intimacy that nature provides.
Aligning with Surfacedesign’s approach to quality design that evokes positive emotion, rather than simply creating larger-than-life displays, the United States Department of Agriculture determined that “the quality of the green space—measured in terms of variety of plants, maintenance, orderly arrangement, absence of litter, and general impression—mattered more than the quantity of green space in promoting social cohesion in the neighborhood.”
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With working from home becoming more a norm than a trial period, people are looking for ways to surround themselves with nature elements without having to leave home. The good news—a beautiful garden design makes it so that you don’t have to leave your property.
“People are really wanting to make sure that the garden is totally integrated with their living environment because they’re at home, and I don’t see that going away. It feels like the work environment might morph a little bit to allow people to be at home more, which then means that things really need to be maximized,” Wyllie said. “Let’s say people are working two or three days a week at home. Well, those two or three days, being able to get out or have a phone conversation outside during that day is pretty important.”
In the words of Frank Lloyd Wright: “Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you."
According to Positive Psychology, a strong connection to the natural environment—in this case, your stunning garden design—enhances emotional well-being and alleviates feelings of social isolation. Additional studies have found that time spent in nature provides a wealth of mental benefits, from increased cognitive performance and well-being to alleviation of mental health illnesses.
“There are pretty significant studies about the impact of being in nature on people’s cognitive abilities. I have observed that, over and over again, people find themselves in the garden that we’ve designed and intuitively know the benefits that they’re going to receive from it,” Wyllie said.
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“A devious scheme on my part is to get them into their gardens and interact with them. A little bit of weeding here and there, or harvesting your tomatoes, and then, all of a sudden, the connection to nature becomes a lot deeper.”
As we develop a deeper desire to spend time with stunning, natural elements, it begs the question of why it took stay-at-home orders to encourage new landscaping endeavors such as garden design ideas. Wyllie inferred that people are afraid of embarking on landscape projects, whether big or small, because they’re worried about the maintenance and not knowing everything.
However, he explained that these ideas have been around for years, illustrated in cities like Tuscany, which has climactic analogues on the west coast of the United States. There is a precedent for how we think about gardens and materials, both plant-specific and otherwise.
Regardless of previous reservations, we strongly believe that people should look outside in order to reap the internal benefits. There are plenty of sources of inspiration for taking a leap into the realm of garden design. Why not start now?
In the words of Frank Lloyd Wright: “Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.”