Personalization of Space | Self Expression in the Landscape

Personalization of Space | Self Expression in the Landscape

By Luke Wallenbeck

As landscape architecture students we spend a lot of time designing at the master plan level. These large scale systems of connectivity and hydrology for example, seem to be the most complex to manage. Although we are taught to consider all scales, and needs, from large to small in the design process, I can’t help but feel like the large scale issues generally take precedent. I wonder if there are negative side effects on people who live and work in master-planned environments. How does a standardized landscape transform into something rich and personal? Is it the designer, the resident’s or both?

So here’s the NEW question that keeps me up at night. At what point is it the resident’s responsibility to get moving on personalizing their homes/businesses/public spaces? Why is self expression in the landscape so suppressed in most of the communities that I have visited in the world? Are we satisfied with standardization of design and materials because we lack the money, time, and skills to uniquely express ourselves? Or does the design/construction/policy community somehow hamper our individual ability to personalize our outdoor space? Or are we dealing with something far worse; few people even go outside anymore and therefore don’t care if their personalities are reflected or not.

Driving around Raleigh one can fall asleep from the absolute mundane quality of our landscape (I realize the piedmont is a subtle beauty but I’m talking about the built landscape). If you look really carefully, past the standard palate of building and landscape materials, you can find evidence that interesting people live here. People who have something to say and confidence to be different by playing with patterns, colors, and artwork on their homes, and in their trees and yards. In my opinion these personal expressions give that final layer of meaning necessary to have a “place” that designers try so hard to create on their own, and that people say they want.

A Few Basic Examples of Stepping Out of the Norm to Express Something Unique in Raleigh

So I repeat the question. How does a standardized landscape transform into something rich and personal, and whose responsibility is it to make that happen? Is it the designer, the resident’s or both? What do you think, and is space personalization of the landscape even an important subject at all?