Connect the Dots to Achieve Unity in Your Landscape Design
This 6th principle of landscape architecture poses a question you need to ask early and often.
The Principle of Unity can seem terribly abstract, but it’s really one simple question: Did you connect all the dots in your design?
How does your design hang together?
This is the question you don’t want to start asking after everything is built, installed, and planted. It’s the question you and your designer have to ask and answer and ask again through every step of your plan.
Your mind senses Unity, seeks out environments that feel unified—an harmonious, well designed space where all the Elements of Design work together. You’ll know when your plan has achieved Unity. Your guests will feel the Unity, too, or sense its absence. People feel uncomfortable in a space where Unity is missing. They may not consciously see every design flaw, but they feel them.
Follow the principles
If you want the result to hang together, look for Unity as you follow each of the Principles of Design. You can learn more about the first five Principles in these articles:
- Balance: You can’t stand erect without balance, and you can’t stand an environment that’s off balance
- Contrast: Artful, lively contrast makes your outdoor environment more interesting and counters boredom of too much balance
- Emphasis: Draw attention, set the stage, provide focus, create a layered experience for people to move through your space
- Rhythm: Bring order, set the tempo, and harmonize everyone’s moment through your space
- Movement: Movement is flow, flow is life, and unity is a measure of how well your design brings feelings of positive flow and life together
Some design principles can sometimes work against Unity. For example, high Contrast or over-the-top Emphasis, if not handled with skill, can break unity. Done well, you can use high contrast to add excitement and drama. Place strong emphasis on a feature worthy of focus, and you’ll add applause-worthy interest to your space. Done without care and purpose, too much contrast, or the wrong emphasis, and the result feels disorganized, even chaotic.
Who needs Unity? Everyone in Every Space
Unity isn’t just a principle for large properties or big budgets. It applies equally to small and big spaces, large and small budgets. In fact, smaller spaces and smaller budgets often present special challenges where creative design makes a decisive difference in the results.
Amy Fedele is a Philadelphia area graphic designer, who turned her new (first) home into a DIY laboratory of landscape design, shares everything she learns on her blog. In her article, “5 ways to create unity and flow in your landscape,” she says one of the most common problems she sees, “is the lack of connection from one part of the garden to another.”
Whatever you budget, when you make the connections, you get more satisfaction from your investment and a lot more pleasure every time you enter your space. Whether it’s a simple garden around your hot tub, or a landscaped patio surrounding your new pool, your plan should unify your home and outdoor architecture. Start with paths from home to the things your yard holds. These are visual and physical paths—to patio, to pool, to spa, to fire pit, to garden, or to an especially important feature.
Unity in flow means designs that direct the movement of eyes and bodies through your space. Create those places to start. Points to slow down. Features that invite you to pause, to rest or play, exercise or meditate, read a book, or dine with friends and family. When you design for Unity, you get positive flow. Unity creates purposeful movement. It connects the dots and invites you and your guests to simply enjoy your outdoor space.