Details matter

In a previous blog, I wrote about the joy of seeing spring bulbs after the dark days of winter. By chance, as I was planning this blog, the new catalogue from Avon Bulbs was delivered. Spring isn’t the usual time for bulb catalogues, but this was filled with bulbs for spring planting. Amongst these were a phenomenal number of snowdrop cultivars. These are usually planted in growth unlike most bulbs which are planted whilst dormant. Snowdrop collectors or Galanthophiles, to give them their fancy title (derived from the latin name for snowdrops, Galanthus, which, incidentally, comes from the Greek for ‘milk + flower’), will pay huge sums for rare bulbs. Some in the catalogue I received were priced at over £100 each and, to the untrained eye, the difference between them and the common snowdrop are slight. To the expert though ‘Gunther Waldorf’ is very different from ‘Ivy Cottage Corporal’!

Photo by congerdesign on Pixnio

When designing we are often called upon to make choices between not only one species of plant or another, but between types, colours and patterns of paving, railings, steps, benches and the arrangement of all these individual elements and how the site itself is divided. Subtle changes in layout and materials can produce very different effects and alter how the space is experienced and used.  When we are producing construction drawings for contractors we are looking at further details, investigating how individual elements fit together to ensure safe, robust and resilient spaces.

On a larger scale, landscapes themselves all compromise similar elements; trees, water, fields, hills, settlements and boundaries, and it is the differences between these elements and how they are arranged that creates an infinitive variety of individual landscapes. As well as the physical elements which comprise landscape we also investigate how they are perceived; looking at tranquility and cultural links.

Landscapes examined for Winchester City Council’s updated Landscape Character Assessment with very different characters
© The terra firma Consultancy Ltd
Landscapes examined for Winchester City Council’s updated Landscape Character Assessment with very different characters
© The terra firma Consultancy Ltd

England is divided into 159 distinct National Character Areas, which are then subdivided into smaller units at County, District, Borough, and sub-parish level; with ever increasing levels of detail. These subtle differences are the backbones of the Landscape Character Assessments and Landscape Sensitivity Studies which we at terra firma produce and which are used to underpin planning policy; assisting planners and landowners decide which areas need protection or repair and which might be best suited for development.

Extract from a landscape capacity study produced by terra firma for Chichester District Council

Whatever we are working on, at whatever scale, it is the detail that distinguishes – whether it is between Landscape Character Areas or snowdrops.

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