Street Vitality 2: Landscaping

Window boxA main part of the success of most inviting, comfortable streetscapes is intelligent landscaping. No matter how “urban” a place is, it can be softened, animated and made more inviting by various landscape treatments as a featured part of the design.  These landscape treatments include interesting and functional paving, light fixtures that illuminate without being excessive, furniture such as benches and outdoor tables, signage, and planting.  There are many “right” ways to select or design these various things, but they really must be considered all together to have a successful urban landscape.

Starting with the most obvious of the landscape elements, planting, we see in the photo on the previous page different possible scales of planting that contribute to the success of the streetscape.  First, larger trees, as mentioned in previous posts, can help form the enclosure, or “walls” of the “outdoor room” of the street or plaza.  Also, in addition to providing shade, they create a wonderful soft, organic counterpoint to the necessarily hard straight lines of the surrounding buildings.  Trees that line a street can help separate the auto traffic from the pedestrian traffic and stopping places such as outdoor cafes.  Smaller shrubbery can provide screening between uses, or a soft background to open space.  The small scale of window boxes and hanging planters is a way to introduce flowers and color to the street scene.  This kind of detail is very important because it also suggests care and ownership of the street–clearly it takes someone to water and care for the successful hanging plants shown in the adjoining photo.

Next: Urban Landscaping 2: Signage