March 23, 2009
Originally published in Before & After

Though large projects often garner the greatest attention, Michael Van Valkenburgh agrees that residential projects are also worthwhile:

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Landscape garden design by Michael van Valkenburgh

“Although it may not be for everybody, [residential] design is by no means less important than the bigger commissions. Small projects, be they residential or not, are an important way for designers to explore new ideas, whether you are a newcomer or an experienced designer. Also, big projects sometimes take over a decade to design and complete. When you love the art of construction and planting as much as we do, you need some side projects that keep you in that atmosphere even while you are pursuing more long-term projects.” It is likely that over time these distinctions will change; the quality and sophistication of some landscape designers’ projects will rival those of a landscape architect, while the architect’s skills will be needed to right many of our environmental wrongs. Van Valkenburgh, who teaches at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, explains that “one of the crucial elements I would like to see our program address better is the intersection between environmental science and design. How can landscape architects benefit from the most current research being done, and how can we push or lead research in ways that will help us to build landscapes that are both experientially rich and environmentally sound?” The benefit of hiring a landscape architect is that he 
or she will likely be well informed in sustainable practices.

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