I once had the opportunity to design the backyard of a condominium built into a slope. What with the downward slope from front to back of the condo, visitors would be greeted at the front door, then go downstairs to sliding glass doors and out to the rear yard. As an alternative, visitors might walk down a hall on the entry level, turn to the left into a dining room, go across the dining room and out onto a balcony. If that was their introduction to the backyard then the landscape narrative’s introduction would start with the tree tops at the far end of the yard. As they walked across the dining room and out onto the balcony, the narrative would unfold from the tree tops down, step-by-step, to the tree trunks, how they were set in the ground and then progresses from that part of the backyard’s far end, to the middle of the yard, and then to a view looking down at the patio and BBQ area below. So like an author deciding upon a story’s first word, first impression, the sequencing of what is seen, maybe heard and not yet seen, smelled, felt as sun or shade is all important to the narrative, the choreography, of the design.
Years ago, I was fascinated by the sequence one had to endure when arriving at a multidisciplinary design firm, what was then called, Sasaki, Dawson, DeMay. You entered off the street into a small alcove and then climbed a long, red carpeted stairway, two flights up to the receptionist’s desk. We know what red does to heart rate and blood pressure. Add a flight of stairs, a mid-climb landing, a turn to the right, and a second flight of stairs, and you begin your arrival. As you climb the second flight, probably already out of breath, what you see up ahead is the top of the receptionist’s backdrop first. With each step upward you see the top of the receptionist’s head, then face, then torso, then desk. And finally, you arrive, out of breadth, for your appointment.