It will perhaps be advantageous to give a brief summary of design in general before the specific subject of design in landscape is approached. The underlying principles of design are found in all branches of the fine and applied arts, and are the means of criticizing intelligently any object of design, be it a rose-jar or a landscape.
There are no such things as rules of design. One cannot learn a few formulae and then turn out satisfactory work because of having gone through a certain number of processes and made a definite number of motions. The well-trained designer always has an attitude toward his subject which will direct him in his work. The acquisition of such an attitude is a matter of deep study, and requires a long time and a fine enthusiasm; and of course, as is the case with everything worth while, it will ripen and change gradually as the experience of the designer grows and his horizon broadens.
The designer's attitude is first one of intelligent wonderment, of inquiry as to the possibilities of the subject, and is attained through the training of the imagination. A designer who sees only one solution for every problem that comes to him is very certain to turn out inferior work. There may have been geniuses whose work was always the result of swift and sure intuition, but none of them is practising in landscape or any other branch of design at present.
Speaking generally, the question of use is first to be considered. Use may be defined in two ways, the practical and the esthetic. Of course all design is fundamentally practical, inasmuch as it aims to give the best solution of any problem with which one is working. Whatever is to be designed must perform its duties thoroughly; but that is not enough. It must also perform them gracefully, for the day has gone by when it was thought that objects of use need not be attractive. In fact, if a useful object is repellent in appearance its very ugliness often militates against its usefulness. Every solution of a utilitarian problem should appear to solve the situation so completely that one cannot behold it without a feeling of satisfaction. Thus beautiful surroundings of one sort or another are created, and these in turn have a direct influence upon the lives of those who can see them and live among them.
If the design stops short with the mere fulfilling of some utilitarian purpose, it will probably not be entirely practical; it must be satisfactory in appearance as well as in use, or it will not attain the highest degree of practicability. Even though the roads be well graded, the bridges strong, the walks laid out in such a manner as to facilitate circulation, and the plant masses so located as to screen objectionable views or to enhance existing ones, the result may be beautiful; or it may be that the strong insistence upon practicability has made the function of the various parts too obvious, and the ideas of beauty, for which the design was created, have been lost. A great deal of study is often required in order that the finished design should appear unstudied, that is to say, spontaneous.
The esthetic and the practical should always appear together. It is no less necessary that the practical conjoin with the esthetic, in order that a work of design produce the greatest amount of pleasure.
A picture, for instance, may be very beautiful in itself, and yet if it is hung in a dark corner, or where the light reflects from its surface so as to interfere with its enjoyment, it is decidedly out of place, and is therefore bad design. Design in this and every other case, as far as final usage is concerned, deals as much with the placing of the object as with the object itself.
Figure 2. DURHAM CATHEDRAL.
In landscape, a plant grouping or a piece of sculpture, an architectural accessory or a vista, may be beautiful in themselves, but if they are placed in wrong relation to their surroundings, they are "(bad design)"
How is one to judge of the proper interrelation of the parts of a design % This is again a question of use. The province of a designer is to combine the material with which he has to work to the best possible advantage. Every part of a design must be placed where it can function freely and to the best advantage. It must not only perform its function well, but must look as if it did. Painters often meet with the reverse of this difficulty. In working out compositions where the human figure appears, they often find that it is impossible for the model to assume the supposedly graceful poses which had appeared easy to them when they were thinking only of lines and not of functions. (All true beauty is functional. It is said that the human body is beautiful because it expresses its functions well. The function, then, should always appear unmistakably, whether it be mainly practical or esthetic or both in combination.
It can safely be said that a beautiful design is never the result of chance. It is only in very rare cases that things have happened to be beautiful, at least so far as the handiwork of man is concerned. Wherever one is struck by a beautiful combination of landscape and architecture, whether it be Durham Cathedral, on its river bluff, dominating the landscape (Fig. 2), or the torii of Miya-jima, enhancing the beauty of the sacred waters (Fig. 3), it is certain to be the product of consummate art, and not a happy accident. To be sure, the conditions of location were taken advantage of in both cases by the types of structure selected, but it was the accomplished designer who welded the diverse elements into a harmonious whole, and brought out in all its perfection the consummate work of art.
Design, is an expression of man's attitude to-wards nature. It is universal, and the underlying ideas are the same in all cases. Since landscape design is only one of the kindred branches of general design, it follows that it is exactly like all the other provinces of design, such as architecture, painting, music, and literature, so far as general principles go. Its own individual characteristics are due to the fact that the landscape-designer has certain unique conditions imposed upon him by the limitations of his problem. These conditions are quite different from those with which his brother-designers have to deal, but he has also the satisfaction of knowing that he has certain glorious opportunities which it would be impossible for them to take advantage of in their respective fields.
Figure 3. THE TORII AT MIYAJIMA, JAPAN.