With landscapes as their bedrock, architects talk about kinetic trends, and what works best for you.
With environmental concerns looming, and spaces becoming scarce, landscape architecture is increasingly becoming an integral part of construction. According to Aditi Pai Heranjal of Bengaluru-based 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.
LAWYER-turned-landscape consultant Maanas Vibhu started operations last year and is getting popular for his vertical gardens. Though he studied law at the National University of Law in Delhi, the 24-year-old always had an interest in landscape design, thanks to his father Vibhu Natesan’s expertise in the field. His outfit, Xtascape, focusses on solutions for high-end residences and apartment complexes in the city. “I am seeing a growing trend where people are spending a lot of money not just on landscape designs but on plants,’’ he says, adding, “Clients expect to be informed about new varieties because they want the latest ones in their homes.”
Big is best
“Palms and other large trees are a growing trend. Customers want something that has a well-formed canopy,” Vibhu observes. He also sees an increasing demand for cacti, succulents and moss walls. “Earlier, people believed cacti bring bad luck; now there is a high demand for it. They are easy to maintain, with low-water requirements and are easy to transport,’’ he adds. As for moss walls, he admits it has only recently caught on, two years after the trend took off abroad. ‘‘The wall looks and feels like a carpet, but it is made of living moss. Not more than two to three centimeters, they are available in different shades of green so one can play around with the pattern,” he says.
Vertical gardens are a common request, too. The Scindapsus and Philodendron are reliable for indoor vertical gardens as they don’t require soil, he shares. For outdoor use, the best plants would be “the Tasmanian flax-lily, spider plant and a few species of ferns like the Sword ferns.” These gardens come with an irrigation system and timer. Sculptures representing the state’s history and temples are also being seen now in landscaped gardens, he concludes.
—Mayuri J Ravi
Landscape architecture isn’t just about plants and pretty things,” begins Bengaluru-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.
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).
Aditi Pai Heranjal
The Purple Ink Studio
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.
Maanas Vibhu brings us up to speed on popular plants for smaller spaces
♦ For small balconies: People who are up to daily maintenance can opt for container gardens with succulents like Echeveria that come in rose, blue and purple shades.
♦ Splash of colour: Add colour through shrubs (Musanda), creepers like Bleeding Glory bower, Rangoon creepers, Buddha belly plant
♦ Rock advantage: Do not combine water bodies with rock gardens. Try keeping them separate as rock gardens have plants that require little or no water. Use plants that add some amount of height to your rock gardens. Try the Saguaro cactus, Ponytail palm and Catesbaea spinosa. The Jamaican rain tree (yellow) will add height and colour.
♦ Inverted pots: A relatively new design element, inverted pots can be used indoors with orchids as long as the root-area is aerated. Allow a filter light to come in if there isn’t sunlight.
Aakanksha Devi & Nikita Puri