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How to choose a landscape architect.

First impressions are always lasting ones. What is the impression of your facility? How does it affect prospective and current residents, their families and friends, staff members, visiting health professionals and the community at large?

Whether you are considering a change to your facility's external environment or developing a new facility, you may find yourself in need of a landscape architect.

When do you know you need one? How do you find and choose the right one for you? Let's start at the beginning.

A Dictionary of Terms

Landscape architecture, defined by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), "is the profession which applies artistic and scientific principles to the research, planning, design and management of both natural and built environments."

Landscape architects allocate land and waterresources; design overall site plans and land construction programs, landscape grading and drainage plans; create irrigation and planting plans; and work in collaboration with engineering and architectural firms in designing roads, bridges and other structures.

Landscape architects apply creative and technical skills and knowledge to "the planned arrangement of natural and constructed elements on the land with concern for the stewardship and conservation of natural, constructed and human resources," according to the ASLA.

Working with "mixed media," landscape architects plan every facet of outdoor design, from plantings to water resources, paving and building materials, railings and fences, outdoor furnishings, lightning and more.

Landscape contractors install landscaping elements, including plants, paving surfaces, lighting, irrigation and the like. Landscape maintenance companies provide "health care" for the living landscaping elements on a routine and special basis. They apply herbicides and pesticides, mow lawns, prune and replace plants, and care for a plant when it is diseased.

Seven Steps To Choosing A

Landscape Architect

Choosing a consultant always calls for hard decisions - a little bit of knowledge, a lot of faith! Let's try to beef up the knowledge part.

1. First, choose a professional! Landscape architects, by definition, must have a degree in landscape architecture from an accredited college or university. Additionally,professional landscape architects must hold a state license. Most states recognize the licensure of other jurisdictions through a system of reciprocity.

2. From Day One, you should be able to have an open, honest and candid relationship with the landscape architect. He or she should be able to work within your budget and create a plan that gets the most impact for your dollar. Make sure you share expectations and understanding.

3.The landscape architect should be familiar with local and state codes and handicap accessibility ordinances.

4.Does the landscape architect have previous experience in designing plans for nursing homes, adult congregate living facilities, assisted living facilities, adjusted daily living facilities, hospitals or other healthcare facilities? Don't just ask for references check them! Ask previous customers: Did the landscape architect stay within a defined budget and get the job done in time?

5.Is the landscape architect easy to work with and flexible - or stubborn in his/her own concepts? You, as the health professional, often know from experience what works best. The landscape architect should listen first, apply design principles second.

6.Is the landscape architect willing to talk with your rehabilitation staff? Because of their day-to-day contact with patients, these staff members often have valuable information to contribute to the overall plan.

7. Is the landscape architect sensitive to the needs of your population? Experienced in designing for people with impaired mobility, sight or mentation? Is he/she accustomed to easily accommodating wheelchairs, walkers and other equipment?

Designing With A Purpose

Here are a few design tips we've learned along the way:

* Maximize the use of your outdoor environment design - a a social area for residents and their visitors; an outdoor "classroom," as well as respite, for staff; an evening entertainment area for group social gatherings.

* When selecting plant and nonliving materials, consider your realistic maintenance capabilities, and the level of care you are willing to give to the outdoor environment.

* Use "friendly" paving surfaces. For an elderly population, this means slightly abrasive surfaces or nonslip tiles. Especially for urban environments, you can avoid the look of dull asphalt with a variety of cheerful, nonslip paver materials available today.

* Everyone loves color, the elderly included. Choose colorful plant materials - flowers wherever possible. Many elderly individuals can't differentiate among the textural appearances of various plants, so keep the plantings simple. One word of caution: avoid flowers that attract bees or wasps. You don't want your residents to be startled or stung.

* In some climates, you can create an educational experience with, for example, a walking path lined by a variety of fruit or other specimen trees. Residents can even make "tree tags" in their activities sessions.

* In cold climates, even with limited space, you can create an outdoor "greenhouse" experience or an indoor garden atrium.

* Even the smallest outdoor spaces can be visually enhanced - climbing vines or lattice work on bordering walls to soften the boundaries, miniature trees in planter pots, flower boxes with evergreens under windows on upper levels.

* Screen objectionable views with plantings.

* Use water elements - fountains, waterfalls, running water - for soothing sight and sound.

With landscape architecture, it all comes down to a simple suggestion: Make your first impression the lasting impression.

For a list of qualified landscape architects in your area, contact your local chapter of ASLA, or call the ASLA national headquarters in Washington, D.C., (202) 686-ASLA.

Andrew Witkin, ASLA, is a principal of the award-winning landscape architecture/planning firm of Knight Witkin Associates, Coral Gables, FL. The firm has extensive experience in design work for health-care and elder-care facilities.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Medquest Communications, LLC
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Witkin, Andrew
Publication:Nursing Homes
Date:May 1, 1992
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