To serve the needs and desires of clients, the landscape designer must take an inventory of their characteristics and their attitudes toward the landscape site. Necessary information for a residential design might include the clients’

• composition of family; that, is number, gender, and ages

• hobbies and special interests

• frequency and style of outdoor entertainment

• attitudes toward outdoor living

• attitudes toward landscape maintenance

• attitudes toward privacy

• attitudes toward their neighbors

• pets

• outdoor service needs (such as garbage cans, dog yard, clothes lines, storage for garden tools)

• special preferences for plant species and colors

• use of swimming pool, barbecue area, music system, night lighting

• special needs because of age (young children, elderly residents) or physical disabilities

• budget (for annual and total expenditures)

The site of the proposed landscape may or may not support all of the uses desired by the clients. It may also offer possibilities not recognized by the clients. Therefore, its initial assessment by the designer should be independent of client input. The site analysis may include:

• dimensions of the lot

• topography (elevation variations)

• geology (rock formations, including the bedrock base and rock outcroppings)

• hydrography (surface and underground water and drainage patterns)

• existing vegetation

• existing buildings

• location of utility lines and pipes above and below ground

• soil analysis (structure, type, fertility, and pH)

• historic importance of the site

• directional orientation

• established circulation patterns

• proximity to roads, public transportation, or waterways

• views from the site (pleasant and unpleasant)

• views toward the site

• problem areas (such as wet spots, low spots, wells)

• prevailing wind direction and velocity

Most of this information can be gathered by the designer, although some may require the assistance of other agencies and professionals. For example, a complicated terrain may require that an engineering firm be hired to produce a detailed survey. Many designers use a check­list to summarize the characteristics of each site (Figure 9-4).

Once the needs of the client and the capabilities of the site are determined, the two must be coordinated by the designer. In doing so, it is helpful to apply knowledge and experience gained from interior design. Known as the outdoor room concept, the approach is based on two notions:

1. People live in different rooms of their home and can be expected to do the same in different spaces of the landscape.

2. The components of an indoor room (walls, ceiling, and floor) are also present in the outdoors, thereby permitting outdoor spaces to be perceived as rooms.