Commercial Landscaping of Public Spaces provides quality open green and accessible places for the community. From walkable shady streets to the commercial landscaping around libraries, museums and community centres, these landscaped areas form the heart of local communities. It is through these areas that many people in local communities connect, play, walk or cycle. In these ways, the commercial landscaping supports the health and well being of local communities as well as providing essential environmental habitats for indigenous species. The design of the commercial building landscape has a significant impact on the success of these public spaces.
The History of Public Spaces
Many of the public spaces we see in cities today are reflections of ancient public spaces. Public spaces for democratic political discussion have their roots in the ancient Greek Agora of the Polis and were extended to ancient Roman Fora. The Romans also were instrumental in spreading the Greek peristyle courtyard garden, which later evolved into the cloistered abbey garden and courtyard, throughout Europe.
Ancient public spaces were primarily functional market places, thoroughfares and meeting places and as such were social spaces.
The Persians, Babylonians and Assyrians
Going back even further, Persian gardens are described in the old testament as pleasure gardens. The gardens were designed to enable cool water and shade to be enjoyed in private. The landscaping also included man made hills with terraces planted with shrubs and trees.
Greek Gardens of the Classical Period
Sport and public places were both big parts of Greek culture. Sports grounds developed into the academy and the lyceum and people gathered in these places. The public spaces in Greek life included groves of shade trees which is essential in a Mediterranean garden. Also included were some porticoes, spectator seating and the exercise ground itself. It was around this time that a courtyard garden design with rows of columns supporting roofs over covered walkway became part of the urban lifestyle. This garden design became known as “peristyle” from the Greek word “peri” meaning around (as in perimeter) and “style” which means column. It is thought that this style of architecture originated in temples like the Temple of Hera at Samos and was then adopted for domestic buildings.
Greek Gardens of the Hellenistic Period
The death of Alexander the great was the start of a new age in Greece where the country was less Athens centric. New luxurious gardens or pleasure grounds had sprung in the Greek colonies. Notable amongst these were the gardens at Syracuse and Alexandria. These gardens were more influenced by gardens in the east. Under Alexander the great Macedonia had formed a huge empire stretching from Macedonia to parts of India. Within the empire the spread of people brought architecture and landscaping to different cities. After the death of Alexander, the empire was divided, and the various kings spent money on gardens and architecture to impress their guests.
According to historian John Plumb, the 1700s in London was an age of commercialised leisure. This was largely due to rising incomes and the growth of the middle class in Britain. New ideas emerged about how people could converse and socialise with each other one of these being the pleasure garden. On the rural outskirts of eighteen century London, pleasure gardens sprang up in places like Hampstead, Ranelagh and Vauxhall.
The Cremorne Gardens on the banks of the Yarra
The Cremorne gardens on the banks of the Yarra near Richmond was Melbourne’s first Amusement park. The concept of the gardens was based on the Cremorne Gardens in Chelsea London.
Botanical Gardens such as the Royal Melbourne Botanical Gardens, have formed important public spaces for communities for hundreds of years.
The Commercial Landscaping Goals in Public spaces
The aim of the commercial landscaping design of public spaces should be to make the public space a welcoming and inclusive place for the enjoyment of people of all ages and abilities. This will necessitate the landscape architect designing in wheelchair access, bridges and ramps. The designers and urban planners need to consider the users as the primary focus of the landscape design.
Commercial Landscaping Design
Well designed commercial landscaping should also enhance the opportunities for socialising, recreation and relaxation and along with the aesthetic goals, contribute to the local character of the neighbourhood.
To these ends, the commercial landscaping and the facilities should where possible include a diversity of activities. Some examples of these include tennis courts, barbeques, scooter tracks, outdoor gyms as well as tranquil areas like urban wetlands. It is essential that these are community facilities that are often available for a wide range of users at different times of the day.
Commercial Landscape Installation. Durable outdoor furniture for parks and public spaces
The provision of comfortable and durable seating is also an essential part of the commercial landscaping design. People in the public space need areas for relaxing and recovering as well as just having a chat with friends.
(Design by Angelo Carrafa Landscape Architects (ACLA) Commercial Landscape Architects )
Seating is particularly important for elderly members of the local community. Where possible curved seating will enable people to chat and hear and see each other better. This curved furniture design will benefit the hearing impaired when chatting with friends.
Much of the cost of commercial landscaping of public spaces is in the hardscaping infrastructure. This includes structures such as flowing insitu concrete retaining walls, agricultural drainage, irrigation systems and concrete paths.
Commuter thoroughfares and Size, Location and Important Interfaces
Some other important factors for the success of the commercial landscaping of public space include size, location and interfaces with adjoining properties. Ideally, pathways will provide a commuting thoroughfare for walking or cycling as well as a pleasant stroll for exercise.
The sustainability of Commercial Landscaping Designs
Modern commercial landscaping makes extensive use of drought tolerant Australian Native plants and drip irrigation systems. Attractive Australian native grasses are used in both mass planting and individual planting schemes. Where planted as individual plants, it is expected that they will naturally spread to fill an area. Much more use of rainwater harvesting is happening in commercial landscaping as well as the use of rain gardens, permeable concrete and permeable paving to filter and retain storm water in commercial landscapes as well as apartment blocks. There is also a trend in commercial landscaping towards much greater use of recycled materials for construction of asphalt roads and paths as well as the use of eco-concrete.
Commercial Landscaping for Active Living
The university of South Australia conducted a study in 2009 on the relationship between active living and the provision of public open space. Amongst the key findings of the study were that attractive commercial landscaping lead to a higher likelihood of people being physically active. This is just one more way that the aesthetic design of commercial landscaping contributes to the health and wellbeing of the community. Another key finding was that “High quality open space design and amenities are crucial.”
Commercial Landscaping to attract visitors
Well designed and constructed commercial landscaping will serve to attract visitors to the public space by providing important street appeal. When attractive vistas are available from the interfacing properties and thoroughfares, the public space becomes a people magnet. Commercial landscaping through the provision of trees, shrubs and other greenery will create an aesthetic that people will want to visit. One important factor in Melbourne commercial landscaping is the provision of shade trees over seating areas and car parks. As with residential landscaping, kerb appeal of a public space is important.
What makes a great public space?
To quote from the Project for Public Spaces; “Great public spaces are those places where celebrations are held, social and economic exchanges occur, friends run into each other, and cultures mix. They are the “front porches” of our public institutions – libraries, field houses, schools – where we interact with each other and government. When theses spaces work well, they serve as the stage for our public lives.” – Project for Public Spaces
Related Commercial Landscaping information from Red’s Landscaping Melbourne
More information on Public Spaces and Commercial Landscaping
Landscape Design Credit ACLA