While water elements are very good on paper, you should go for it only if you are committed towards maintaining it
From private residences to public parks, there’s little that Rohit Marol, founder of Terra Firma, hasn’t done. “Landscape architecture isn’t only about dressing up the land, but looking at it as a functional and integral part of any kind of development,” says the alumnus of School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi. Commenting on trends in the field, he talks of how landscaping has taken on a more universal aspect. “In a global scene today, you can probably import a certain material that isn’t available here, but everything else is universal. I’ve travelled widely and realised that if I am a person with a global outlook, there isn’t a trend you’d import from outside,” he shares.
Gardens, says Marol, are natural extensions of your house. “We look at how seamlessly we can connect the inside of the house to the outside. If you are someone who likes to barbecue, that itself becomes a people-centric activity to design the place around,” he says. He stresses on water as a versatile element when used aptly. “Water isn’t just about beauty, it should interact with you and awaken your senses. How the water body is placed also makes a big difference on the emotion it generates,” he elaborates.
Marol refers to garden sculptures as “space anchors’’ and conversation starters. “They activate a space and help in setting a tone for the gathering. While wood sculptures exude warmth, steel ones work better for a corporate set up and have an air of coolness. We enjoy working with stone, and brick too. Fibre is another option, and you can make it to look like a medium of your choice too. I am biased towards earthy and natural materials, and even though fibre isn’t all that environment friendly, it does offer the ease of execution,” says the architect.
Landscape architecture isn’t just about plants and pretty things,” begins city-based Vagish Naganur, architect and adjunct faculty at the School of Architecture, RV College of Engineering. “It is planning an environment that goes beyond a flower in a pot. Initially people used to paint picturesque rural landscapes and soon enough, these paintings began to define what a landscape should look like. So you really make a natural garden only to render it to something that you’ve seen in a painting,” he says. One ‘curse’ of landscape architecture, shares Naganur, is that more often than not, the change registers quite late, especially in terms of land planning and forest belts.
Frills minus fuss
Ideally, suggests Naganur, short-term and long-term bits should be balanced, “so that your client gets something in the while that he has to wait for his trees to grow and the land to take shape. Some want a gazebo to spend time in the evenings, others want a spot to sip tea as they watch the sunset. I’ve seen a lot of people opting for small jogging tracks or a fish pond. Everyone’s idea of personal space is different and has to be interpreted well,” he shares. “While water elements are very good on paper, you should go for it only if you are committed towards maintaining it. Creepers are very popular, especially if there’s a European-styled trellis involved,” he maintains. Rock gardens aren’t bad either, he says, but skilled labour is important when it comes to these. “They are such an imaginative use of waste, and have a certain air of strength and innocence, and have become quite popular. While fire sculptures are quite radical and not very popular, sculptures in metal, stone and wood are good. I don’t recommend cement. While figurative designs attract attention, abstract sculptures interact with space,” he says. Linear gardens are an effective use of space, says Naganur, as is a buffer of trees in an open area. “The best idea is to use what grows well naturally — jasmine hedges are sturdy, and European grass is quite popular,” he adds.
What’s trending now though, are vertical gardens. They look appealing, and soften the hard exteriors that buildings tend to have these days
Sameera Noaman has always loved nature and gardening. “Being from Bengaluru, I always have been surrounded by beautiful bungalows with well-kept gardens. My grandmother was a lady with many talents, and presenting perfectly manicured gardens was one of them,” she begins, adding that she probably imbibed the talent and passion for this from her. When the city slowly began to shed its tag of being the garden city, Noaman was taken aback. “As our city grew , I noticed that greenery was losing out. I felt very strongly about this, so I set up a plant nursery, which grew into a thriving business. Today, her company, Spring Green, has turned into a full-fledged landscape firm. Although the firm is city-based builders, Prestige Group’s initiative in floriculture and landscaping, Noaman also works on independent projects. “There is a marked difference between working on a city home and corporate projects. Individual projects require more attention to personal sensibilities and the aesthetics of those going to live in it,” she explains.
“The need of the day is for everyone to make the most of the small areas of greenery in this concrete jungle. Terraces can be converted into green zones with herb and vegetable gardens, she shares. “What’s trending now though, are vertical gardens. They look appealing, and soften the hard exteriors that buildings tend to have these days. But it has to be done in a way that the structure, and landscape design marries seamlessly,” says the artiste, who is inspired by landscape architect and theorist, James Corner, whose firm Field Operation has made a significant contribution to New York City famous for the High Line (a 1.45-mile-long linear park built in Manhattan).
With landscapes as their bedrock, city architects talk about kinetic trends, and what works best for you. By Aakanksha Devi & Nikita Puri
With environmental concerns looming, and spaces becoming scarce, landscape architecture is increasingly becoming an integral part of construction. According to Aditi Pai Heranjal of The Purple Ink Studio, the power the profession has in rebuilding disturbed ecosystems, maintaining biodiversities, and giving people the opportunity to look at nature closely in an urban jungle, is what truly stands out. “Landscape developments take time to mature and the wait is long to see it in its full glory,” she explains, adding that people tend to understand ‘landscape’ in a direct sense of the meaning. “The notion that the landscape architect gets involved in a project after the design development, and sometimes even after the building is constructed needs reconsideration. The process needs to be reversed for better site and resource management systems to be laid before the building development process begins,” she explains. If you are just about starting off on a new house, or want to jazz up your apartment, these top landscape artistes will tell you exactly how to do that, and prepare for the future of diminishing ground and lung space.
Being sustainable is not a part of a process but a way of life, and this creates a strong connect between architecture, landscape and sustainability
A keen observer of the ways people lead lives, especially how they connect with the environment and resources around them led Aditi Pai Heranjal to take up architecture and landscaping. She teamed up with Akshay Heranjal to form The Purple Ink Studio, a young architectural practice that believes in exploring the parameters of design and blurring the boundaries between architecture, landscape and sustainability. “We look at these three as one comprehensive entity, and they cannot (and should not) be treated individually. We believe that being sustainable is not a part of the process but a way of life, and this creates a very strong connect to blur the boundaries between the three,” shares the principle landscape architect.
Speaking about eco-cities, Aditi explains that it makes sense for the future with each building needing to be planned with a vision to be able to self sustain. “We are looking at Future Typologies, where if Building X is self-sufficient with water, and if Building Y has reached a stage of excess in Food Generation, then they should be able to share their resources to be able to achieve a stage of balance,” she says, a dream that will soon turn to reality in their studio. According to her, trends such as ‘Square Feet’ gardens and pocket balconies are mushrooming in city homes. “People are also looking at vertical gardens. The focus is also slowly shifting to hydroponics. We can see a growing interest in personal gardens, with most wanting them to be more productive than just aesthetic. This, seen in micro levels (individual home/apartments), is an interesting shift. It also encourages healthier lives,” she concludes.
Aditi lets us in on plants you can use to do up smaller spaces and utilise every square feet to the maximum
♦ Plants for small balconies: With space constraints, try going vertical with ‘living walls or bio-walls’ or have container gardens with productive greens like Spinach, Peppers, Chillies, Beans, variety of Lettuce, herbs etc. You can choose to grow in soil or experiment with hydroponics as well!
♦ Adding a splash of colour: Add colour through flowers from trees (like Jacaranda and Tabebuias), shrubs (Hibiscus, Neriums, Cape honeysuckle are examples), ground covers (Rain lilies, Peace lily, Anthuriums, and varieties of Lantana and Verbena) and creepers (Allamandas, Rangoon creeper and Orange trumpet are good examples) or also plants with coloured foliage like Acalypha and Purple heart work well
♦ Decorating a rock garden: A good combination would be with inclusion of a water feature and plants like ferns , grass-like plants and also some small flowering shrubs and ground covers. It could also be a dry one with cacti, succulents and sculptures