In a landscape of any scale, the experience of moving through it is as important as the experience of resting within it. Imagine a destination point – a tranquil gathering space surrounded by garden some distance from the house – and imagine if the path that led there also transformed your mindset as you walked. As Landscape Architects, we design with this in mind, so every pathway we design is intended to create a unique experience.
While pathways usually also have a set beginning and end-point, the line of travel is an option for design. It could be direct, taking you quickly to the destination, or it could take you on a short detour, on a contemplative stroll past a focal point or beautiful view, before taking you to your final point. As every landscape begins as a study in geometry, even the most natural of garden paths is likely to have geometric curves that create an innate sense of stability. In a more modern context, or in a landscape where architectural angles predominate, a path may take on an angular shape. Even in your backyard, you should always travel in style!
A winding gravel path offers mystery as it leads you through this landscape
Pavers create a modern pathway that defines the space and is easy on bare feet (and paws!)
The joy of travel is often in the sights and scenery. On a designed path, these elements make the experience what it is. Starting out, you might pass through a gate or a structural planting, something telling you that there has been a change of space. As you continue, you might walk past beautiful flowers and grasses that nod towards your path, or you might see at a distance the form of a mountain. At a turn in the path, you might walk past a spilling fountain where goldfish swim. A nearby bench might remind you that you’re not in a hurry and could rest here awhile. On turning again, you might pass under the branches of many trees – an alee reminding you of a park. Finally, you might scale a series of stairs to your destination point, feeling as though you had come miles from where you started (even with your house only 40 feet away!)
When creating the experience of traveling, designers harness every sense, even in ways you might not expect. The surface we walk on has an impact on our experience, as anyone who has ever crunched on Autumn leaves would agree. Different surfaces on a pathway can slow you down or cause a moment of pause- uneven or bumpy flagstones, for example, might have the same effect as the boulder path to a traditional Japanese Tea Room – meditative focus is mandatory when walking here. For an informal path through a garden, pea gravel might give a relaxed vibe with each step crunching underfoot. If it were a path often-traveled, however, or one you might frequent at night, a smooth concrete surface brushed to prevent slipping would be the ideal choice.
Varied Flagstones and fragrant Thyme make for a unique textural experience and a gorgeous lush look.
The pathways we design, from traditional casual to modern, are an important element within every landscape. We love the ability to create experience through designed space, and we love bringing that experience to our clients with every project we create. Contact our studio for complimentary consultation and design within the East Bay, we would love to hear from you!