Those who deal with the design and development of residential landscapes are concerned with three important and unique aspects of each project: (1) the client, (2) the site, and (3) the home. No two clients, no two sites, and no two homes are the same. Each client has his or her own set of attributes, desires, wishes, lifestyles, and so on, that makes each client special. Likewise, each site is distinctive from the next because of topography, views, vegetation, surrounding site conditions, and so on. In addition, each home is characteristically different because of such details as its architectural character, floor plans, decorations, furniture, and accessories.
The site surrounding a residence is a most important environment. It serves numerous utilitarian, aesthetic, and psychological functions for the residents as well as for visitors, neighbors, and passersby. As a setting for the house, the residential site is the context or surroundings within which one views the architecture of the house. As the location for outdoor living, the residential site can be thought of as an exterior extension of the functions that occur inside the home. Socializing, eating, cooking, reading, sunbathing, recreating, gardening, or simply relaxing are all activities that can take place on the residential site. In addition, the site can be considered an expression of the lifestyle and values of the residents. It can reflect their personality and attitude toward their own environment, and it can offer a refuge from the routine and pressures of daily events. The sound of birds in the trees, the fragrance of a flowering plant, or the sight of a picturesque tree can provide the mind and emotions with pleasurable thoughts and feelings.
Consequently, it is critical that the residential site be designed with the utmost care and sensitivity so that it fulfills its vital role in the overall residential environment. But, does the typical residential site actually meet this standard? Does it really provide a proper setting for the house, furnish pleasant outdoor spaces for living, or simply function in a desirable manner? Does the average site look attractive and provide a sense of pleasure for the eye and mind? And, does the residential site serve as a haven from daily rigors?
This chapter addresses these questions as they relate to the typical single-family residential site in the United States. The first section of the chapter provides an overview of what a common residential site looks like. The second section analyzes the
visual and functional qualities of front yards, backyards, and side yards of the typical residential site. The third section deals with some typical architectural styles of houses, the importance of architectural character, and the need for the landscape designer to develop landscape designs that blend the house and site together. This is done to provide the foundation for making suggestions on improving the process and quality of residential site design in subsequent chapters.