OCA preloader logo
Department stories: Garden Design - The Open College of the Arts

To find out more details about the transfer to The Open University see A New Chapter for OCA.

Department stories: Garden Design thumb

Department stories: Garden Design

Many months ago, several Garden Design Students offered sketches they had completed for an assignment at the beginning of Unit 1.1 Garden Design 1: Past and Present which were included in one of the first garden design blogs. One of the earlier projects in the first unit involved completing exercises in observational drawing. I recently asked students who had completed Unit 1.1 to send me some of their more recent sketches to see how they have developed their sketching skills.  Having impressed on them how a sketch a day would really improve their drawing skills, it was very satisfying to see that all the students had improved their skills and developed greater confidence.

Garden designers need to be confident at sketching to gather primary information about their site and to demonstrate or illustrate ideas to clients, either prior to a client meeting or even during a meeting. This might help clarify to a client an idea, to illustrate what a view might look like, what effect a planting bed would have in a particular location or an idea for a structure to screen a neighbour’s house.  Sketching allows the garden designer an effective medium in which to think, test and develop their designs. 

Sketches don’t need to be masterpieces or be complete but used as a tool to record space, develop ideas and communicate.

Three books which I recommend to students designing gardens and landscapes are Drawing and Reinventing Landscape by Diana Balmori, Form and Fabric in Landscape Architecture – A visual Introduction by Catherine Dee and Drawing for Landscape Architecture – sketch to screen to site by Edward Hutchinson. All three books show how the author and others use sketches and drawings in their practice. Sketching naturally feeds creativity but it is also part of a longer process of observing and interpreting sites to develop a concept and visualising that concept. This of course can be done using digital methods but a sketch using a soft pencil in a notebook makes you ‘look’ and decide quickly what is an important quality or feature and immediately gives an understanding of the place. It allows you to record textures which appear flat on a photograph or tiny details you might have missed as you weren’t really looking.  One sketch may initiate a small idea or this small idea might develop into a whole site concept. You don’t need to show this sketch to anyone, indeed it might just be a scribble only you understand but it could be an indirect route to a final master plan drawing and a built garden or public space enjoyed by many!

Voiced by Amazon Polly

Posted by author: Gill German

One thought on “Department stories: Garden Design

  • What an inspiring article on the role of sketching in garden design! I couldn’t agree more with the importance of sketching as a creative tool. One additional tip I’d like to share is to experiment with different sketching materials – don’t limit yourself to just pencils. Try using watercolors or pastels for a more vibrant and expressive approach to your sketches.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to blog listings