How Does Our Service Work?
An initial discussion can be undertaken over the telephone, SKYPE, or by email, however a site visit will be essential if we are to be commissioned. This site visit is most important because we need to assess the landscape and sense its genius loci. We need to see first hand the site advantages and limitations, and we need to discuss your requirements in context. We cannot provide a reliable fee estimate in the absence of this initial site consultation.
NB: Unlike many landscape practices our initial site visit and one to one consultation is free, we charge only pro-rata travel costs using economic means, and reasonable pro-rata subsistence.
Following the site consultation we will provide a fee estimate for our services and we will define what services best suit your site and brief. A deposit payment of the fee will be required to commission us formally and thereafter stage payments will be required according to the mutual contractual conditions we have both agreed upon in writing.
A land site survey is an essential part of our work, we cannot work without one. If one is not in existence this will need to be commissioned either by yourself directly or through us. The detail required on this land survey is something we can only determine from our initial site visit. Simple sites and a simple brief require a simple survey; compex sites and brief’s require a more complete survey.
Landscape and Garden Design
We work with what is called a design process. This is an incremental series of plans which moves from the general to the specific in defined stages, each of which are jointly approved by ourselves and you. This is how we guarantee a ‘client orientated design’. Not all stages of the design process are required by all sites and briefs. The simpler the site and brief, the simpler the design process; the more complex the site and brief the more stages are required in the design process. Unlike many practices we believe there is no one design process, but many and we utilise them all depending on the situation, selecting the best design process for the task at hand. The aim of the design process is to arrive at ‘best fit’, that is a good marriage between your client requirements, the site advantages and disadvantages and the underpinning principles and philosophy of aesthetic landscape design. Intrinsic to this ‘best fit’ is the creation of a strong ‘sense of place’ without which the landscape will be mediocre at best. The most famous landscape architect of our Century, the late Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe stated that: “The failure of modern landscape architecture is the failure to inject meaning into the design.” Meaning is the most esoteric and misunderstood component of the three that together create the ‘sense of place’.
Contract and Project Management
Once we have both agreed the final master plan and detailing we move to the realisation stage of your project. This is a minefield and in the absence of good management the project can be doomed to practical failure in the long term, while deadlines can be exceeded and costs can soar. It is highly recommended that we supervise the work on site to ensure that the correct quality standards are meet at the critical stages of the build phase. This is how we look after your interests. We have spent many years correcting good landscape designs by others that were poorly executed and thus this is something we try to protect clients from, not only because this if it is allowed to happen is an expensive mistake, but because it deprives the client of pleasure that should have been realised earlier. The problem in this arena is very simple: a contractor is a commercial beast and certain unscrupulous contractors short circuit quality standards and use untrained staff for commercial gain, our supervision prevents this. It also thus stands to reason that the selection of a contractor to build your project is of the utmost importance. In the absence of a known quantity it is best to use a tender process. The tender process allows us to select the most suitable contractor based on a level playing field, but we do have contractors that we know and trust.
The landscape is a living complex entity and the 4th dimension of time makes it the most unique and dynamic art form. A landscape has various components within it at a ‘arrested climax’, and because of this it cannot manage itself. An unmanaged landscape naturally moves through successive stages to arrive at climax forest. In order to maintain an equilibrium between various ‘arrested climaxes’ landscape management is essential.
There is a common illusion that landscape maintenance is all that is required or that landscape management equals landscape maintenance, but they are not the same. Landscape maintenance concerns the day to day and week to week specific craft level and labour and short-term maintenance operations. Moreover landscape maintenance does a great deal of damage to a landscape as well as good and this damage must be mitigated and prevented within an overall management plan. Landscape management concerns a much bigger picture and looks at the long-term holistic objectives emanating from the landscape design or restoration in relation to the ever changing environment, As landscapes grow which they invariably do the environment is altered and that alteration subsequently affects growth.
Where budget cuts are required in landscape maintenance some ‘managers’ resort to cutting quality practices because a short sighted view deems these as time consuming, but this is a counterproductive move leading to higher maintenance requirements and a gradual degradation of the landscape in the long-term.
It can be seen then that informed and skilled landscape management is a very critical process and small changes in landscape maintenance together with the progression of time can have dramatic results.
Working from the knowledge of the site which we acquire from the site visit we compile a landscape inventory and where necessary a skills and equipment inventory,. From these documents and your brief we compile the landscape management plan which leads to the preparation of an annual maintenance schedule and quality specifications. Where necessary we can train or arrange for training of staff to ensure that they have the right foundation to meet the requirements of the management plan.
“The details are not just the details, they make the design.” Charles Aemes.