Revelations From Nature: Shade and the Value of Integrated Landscape

Sometimes, an understanding about architecture hits when you're surrounded by pure nature.

Interlaken Integrated LandscapeHalfway up a hike with an elevation gain of 2,300 feet, my legs burning like kindling in a brush fire, the unbridled Swiss Alps sun beating its full radiance onto my back, I come to sudden clarity on a very obvious concept. That thus far, I had always known but never truly grasped: Shade Is Good.

Shade is good when the harsh solar elements make you feel like overheating. It's good when you require a reprieve from overbrightness and glare. It's good when you need a bit of cover from precipitation (barring a thunderstorm). It's good when you want a connection to nature.

So I'm thinking about this obvious conclusion as I'm standing on the side of a Swiss mountain overlooking the town of Interlaken, and I realize how therapeutic and communal the simple element of shade -- be it via vegetation or built structure -- can be. People naturally flock to shade. It provides relief in built environments. It offers physical and mental comfort. It's literally cool! I think of barren city streets and lifeless building yards around Los Angeles that I've seen -- and I rarely recall seeing people occupying them. But take the same elements and throw in some leafy vegetation or pedestrian-scaled elements of shelter (which seem to be more prominent here in Europe), and a lot more people are attracted.

What's the point of all of this? Well, at that moment on my hike, I suddenly and truly understood the priceless value that integrated landscape at LPA plays in architecture and the built environment. By simply providing basic and often taken-for-granted amenities, like shade, landscape brings a project to life, and thus life to a project.

By adding a sense of organic interaction with architecture, landscape turns what might be a static, non-engaging object into a contextual, dynamic setting. In an integrated manner, landscape truly works with architecture, rather than act as an added sidekick. Be it on a campus, a street, a courtyard, or anywhere else, landscape enhances the constructed space that architecture creates and is vital to its long term success. 

And wouldn't you know it, I think that happens to meet the definition of sustainability!