Curvilinear Theme

A very common design theme is the curvilinear theme. The term curvilinear is some­times considered to be synonymous and occasionally used interchangeably with natural and freeform. However, it is strongly suggested that the words natural and freeform not be used to replace the term curvilinear. A curvilinear theme is not natu­ral. The theme is a structured system even though the soft curves inherent to this

scheme resemble the flowing lines seen in nature. Another reason for not using the term natural is to try to diminish the preconception that “everything in the landscape should be naturally arranged.” Also, calling one theme natural implies that others are unnatural, which reflects a negative attitude. In reading this book, it is hoped that one will come to appreciate that outdoor spaces need not always be “naturally arranged” in order to be functionally and aesthetically successful. Likewise, freeform seems to denote something of little or no structure, like a free spirit. Geometric struc­ture, although very subtle, still exists in a curvilinear theme.

The curvilinear theme uses portions of different circles’ and ellipses’ circumfer­ences for its overall form. Unlike the overlapping and concentric circle themes, the curvilinear theme relies primarily on “the soft touch,” in which portions of circles and ellipses connect with each other in smooth, continuous transitions (Figure 10—39).

One guideline of the curvilinear theme is to have all intersecting curved lines meet each other at right angles (90 degrees; Figure 10—40). This approach will eliminate acute angles as discussed previously. For many designers, this suggestion may seem hard to accept because there usually is a tendency to have curves taper out into other lines (Figure 10—41). Although this creates an apparently smooth

Figure 10-41

Intersecting lines should not create acute angles in a curvi­linear theme.

and gradual transition between lines, it also creates acute angles, and thus imple­mentation problems.

It is also important to establish bold and generous curves in curvilinear compo­sitions in combination with smaller curves to give the design variety and interest (right side of Figure 10—42). Although variety is important, it is recommended that the size and sharpness of the curves be carefully considered in relation to scale, mate­rial, and function of the composition. Too many curves with small radii will make a design look busy and sometimes erratic (left side of Figure 10—42). This type of de­sign is also difficult to maintain.

The curvilinear theme has a passive, relaxing, and contemplative character. Such a design theme is suggested when there is a desire to create a composition with a serene, pastoral feeling. The flowing, sweeping lines of a curvilinear design also pro­vide a great deal of movement for the eye. Curving edges between areas are apt to cap­tivate the eye and lead it to another portion of the composition in a smooth fashion. There are times when curved forms are difficult to manipulate in confined areas and sometimes result in insufficient use of space for outdoor rooms (Figure 10—43).

The landform may be rolling in profile in a curvilinear theme or have an out­cropping of stone as contrasting accent. Landform that is very flat can also accept a curvilinear design, but must rely extensively on using other vertical elements to accen­tuate a flowing character.

Figure 10-42

Curves should be strong and bold in a curvilinear theme.