Garden Design Essentials: Mass and Shape
I am reviewing the principles and elements of design — directly out of my 1980s college textbook Design Through Discovery, from Marjorie Elliott Bevlin — since they link to gardens. I wanted to research my own understanding of those timeless layout themes and locate jobs to illustrate each one.
It ends up that shape and mass are interrelated concepts, elements that refer to the way we see types in the environment. Think about shape as a two-way shape and mass as its own three-dimensional iteration. Bevlin illustrates shape with a line drawing of a square. Twist that square into a block and the idea of mass appears.
In the landscape, we could use both shape and mass to define spaces and provide us clues about the way to occupy or browse through them. The eye may see shapes as patterns, such as in a floor, wall or surface layout. And similarly, the eye sees symmetrical, natural or multidimensional types as mass.
Below are some great images to help us know how to use shape and mass from the landscape.
More in this backyard layout series: Using Lines | Using Rhythm | Using texture
House + House Architects
The natural, curved lines of the staircase railing and balcony display infuse the room with play. While used for functional purposes — safety and navigation — the bent metallic forms possess a pleasing design characteristic. I love the open and transparent design, which makes the metalwork less imposing.
The Collins Group/JDP Design
There’s not any question that these three rock formations add mass into the meditation garden. Certainly, these pieces are man-made, but since they have been constructed from native stone as opposed to from fiberglass or metal, they fit into the space quite naturally. Furthermore, they appear to have a calming, timeless presence, indicating protection. The visual stone mass strikes a balance with another mass in the slim tree trunks.
Feldman Architecture, Inc..
Simple chairs, shaped by a collection of linear wood shapes, provide seating as well as dimensional interest at this patio’s edge.
Some shapes are so distinctly connected with a layout style that they become legendary. You’d assume that this arched doorway in a garden wall was constructed to complement a Tudor-style cottage, for instance. The diamond-pattern lattice from the door’s upper portion is echoed by X-shaped bracing about the lower section of the doorway. Utterly charming.
Arterra Landscape Architects
A bird-eye view of a romantic courtyard garden lets us see where masses and shapes interrelate with perfect harmony. First you see the rectangular stepping stones and deck shapes, then the three dimensional variations emerge from the Cor-Ten planter box (left) along with the poured-concrete planter (correct). The decorative fountain wall infuses another mass into the scheme. While this environment is modest scale, it seems voluminous. Insert yet another contour: the curved chaise, a graceful footnote to each of the geometry here.
Ron Herman Landscape Architect
A checkerboard-style installation has the impression of a Tetris video game. Made with two distinct materials — soft, green turf and slate-colored stone — those stacked cubes wrapped in weathered steel attract energy and interest to the courtyard. They illustrate how easily a simple square could develop into a three-dimensional form. There are two factors to the layout: shadow and light, based on the time of day along with your vantage point.
Studio Zerbey Architecture + Design
This leafy-style artwork is created from cardboard toilet paper tubes to get an interior area. I added it to the ideabook, however, since it nicely illustrates how interest and volume are made by repeating simple lines. The genius of the design is just one strong, leaf-inspired form. Multiplied as a mass, it transforms into something suggestive of a lush tree branch.
This outdoor room is magnificent, thanks to the clever way that shapes and mass are used. The implanted wall includes a dominant spiral shape that you can not help but notice. In the foreground, the bulk is created by the contemporary seating as well as from the symmetrical planting beds and trees.
While the ingredients are absolutely conventional — a yard, ground cover, flowering shrubs and a shrub — this layout uses shape quite well. The overall look is sophisticated, starting with the solid, curved yard and continuing into the curved planting bands that emanates out of it, all of the way into the arborvitae hedge, which offers mass at the perimeter of the beautiful, green backyard.
Garden Sculptures Shape the Landscape