3 Ways Landscape Design Is Like Science Fiction

I was a voracious reader when I was a little kid. If I was still for more than a few seconds, I had to have something to read. Hm… I guess I wasn’t unlike most grownups today and their smart phones. Regardless, I was a bookworm. For whatever reason I didn’t read as much during high school and college, but recently I’ve returned to the printed word with a vengeance. Whether it’s an audiobook or and actual book, I’m rediscovering my love for science fiction. It occurred to me recently that scifi isn’t that far removed from what I do. Confused? It’s simple:

Landscape design is a mix of optimism and planning for the worst case scenario

Source: ShinyNewMachine.com

Ray Bradbury famously said “I don’t try to describe the future. I try to prevent it.” Landscape design is all about thinking ahead to what the finished project will look like. Now, my drawings don’t depict a dystopian future where the human race is enslaved by overgrown sentient hollies, but I do select and place my plants and built elements so that this doesn’t happen. That’s also why I focus so much on space planning. If my clients’ needs might change in the future, I want the space to be able to change with them, with minimal expense. For me, an unused patio is as awful as the world depicted in a post-apocaylptic novel.

If what I need to advance the plot doesn’t exist, I’ll make it up


Hyper drives, faster than light speed travel, attractive hairstyles that look like cinnamon buns glued to your head – none of these exist, and yet they’re found in science fiction. Sometimes I have a vision of the perfect feature for a project, but that trellis or fountain or sculpture doesn’t exist. No matter! Where a writer can weave words into a picture of something not yet real, I have fabricators. I can make it real.

The story is everything

Have you ever read a scifi story where the author is clearly in love with the worlds and technology she’s inventing but isn’t actually going anywhere with it? Have you ever watched a movie that was shot entirely against a green screen and had no plot or soul? The reason the great scifi writers can suck you into their books and keep you reading till 2 am, even though you have to get a crew started at 7, is they write a great story. Strip away the space fighters and mutants and it would still be good. Landscape design is that way too except in this case the story is you, and how you’ll live in the space. If I don’t nail that story, the rest of it is just gratuitous special effects.

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