Date of Award

2013

Degree Type

Creative Project

Degree Name

Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA)

Department

Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning

First Advisor

Caroline Lavoie

Abstract

It has been proposed that the aesthetic quality of landscapes, designed or natural, provides a critical linkage between humans, and ecological processes and function. Ecological function is not always compatible with cultural expectations of the landscape aesthetics or is considered desirable. This thesis argues that landscapes that demonstrate desirable environmental characteristics can also possess aesthetic qualities. If they are well-utilized by the general population and more valuable ecologically, they will be more successful. This thesis examines the use of principles of landscape design to incorporate meaningful ecological function within a constructed landscape with desirable aesthetics for the mutual benefit of human and non-human inhabitants.

One approach to achieving harmony between ecological function and culturally accepted aesthetic character is through the use of regionally appropriate, native plant community-based garden designs. This approach has potential applications in many urban and suburban settings, including remnant natural areas, urban and suburban parks, commercial campus developments, school grounds, and residential areas. The concept of creating native landscapes within urban and suburban areas is explored as an alternative to turf and non-native shade tree landscapes that dominate urbanized areas in the Intermountain West as they do elsewhere. The work of prominent landscape designers from various periods in history is reviewed to describe their influences on landscape perceptions and cultural values as expressed in their writings and designs.

The thesis presents three different designs that explore, compare, and critique different design approaches for a parcel of land that is being developed as part of the Utah Botanical Center (UBC) in Kaysville, Utah. Two of these approaches reference or seek to recreate the shrub-steppe grassland habitat that is characteristic of the Intermountain West within the confines of the particular design approach paradigm.

The site was selected, in part, because the location is characteristic of the highly developed valley floors that interface with grassland shrub-steppe-dominated foothills bordering the Wasatch Range. The formal English-style design approach has a long history and continues to reflect cultural ideals that are commonly held and expressed in urban and suburban landscapes in the study area. The second naturalistic or informal restoration design applies landscape restoration principles and current restoration science for grassland shrub-steppe plant communities in the Intermountain West with minimal concern for cultural linkages. Finally, the third design expression, the artistic restoration design, integrates restoration science with design elements and principles. This final design expression is founded on ecological principles and an understanding of the natural history of the site within a framework of culturally accepted classic or formal design structure. Each design approach was evaluated and rated using the Society for Ecological Restoration (SER) assessment protocol, and the assessments were used to compare the three designs. This thesis argues that the approach that combines ecological principles with classical and naturalistic elements can create a more meaningful experience for users while integrating ecological value within a built environment that incorporates a native plant community structure as a guiding template for design decisions.

1-15-2014