David Hill is the Program Chair and Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture at Auburn and runs his own landscape architecture firm, HILLWORKS. David is both an architect and a landscape architect, bringing his expertise to teach students about landscapes design in their projects. David’s own work is very much grounded in the Deep South, focusing on plant performance and inventive reuse in landscape design.
Auburn professor Emily Knox is a newcomer to Rural Studio, co-teaching the Context and Landscaping workshop with David Hill. Her advice and encouragement to students was a great asset to the workshop. Emily’s research interests are related to how people make decisions about the landscape of a place where both ecological and social systems are deeply entwined.
The Context and Landscape workshop, taught by David Hill and Emily Knox, served as an introduction to landscape architecture. Although the knowledge from the workshop could be applied on any project, it specifically focused on the Hale County Courtyard Project and the Client Home. The aim of the workshop was to get students to be more interdisciplinary in their design process, where the landscape surrounding a project is considered in concert with and as an extension of the building—as opposed to sprinkling plants around it as an afterthought.
The workshop highlighted the importance of properly surveying a sight, to gain an understanding of the existing conditions under which students design, like microclimates, drainage, and soil conditions. The outside environment is its own space, and each site will have advantages and disadvantages that inform design. With good design, the outside spaces can enhance the experience of a project.
Instead of learning in-depth information about various plants, the David and Emily taught about plants in a more architectural sense: as spatial elements. This would allow students to be able to place plants within the landscape in a deliberate architectural way. Another key aspect in landscape design conveyed through the workshop is to consider the how the plantings will look and change across time, both cyclically throughout the seasons and linearly as the plants grow and develop. The long-term maintenance of the plantings will also affect how they will look in the future.
With the skills that the Context and Landscape workshop afforded students, they are far better equipped to incorporate a more holistic design in which the exterior spaces work in tandem with the building to become something that is immersive and mesmerizing.