21st Century Garden Design?

We are – ‘in studio hortus voluptatis’ – in pursuit of garden pleasure. Our approach in this pursuit, is 21st century.

So what makes a design 21st century?

It has been said that the living today are exposed to more information in one day than an average person in the 17th century is exposed to in their entire lifetime.

17th century person

Coupled with being time poor and in need of peace and solitude, people are increasingly turning to their garden, parks and other outdoor spaces as a place to retreat, to relax and unwind. This does not mean they necessarily want to be disconnected from the world here, as this is increasingly becoming un-relaxing! It just means that the provision of more facilities to help with relaxation can help address the balance of being on duty and off duty.

If you close your eyes and imagine a place you want to be, invariably it will be outside, it will be beautiful, warm, peaceful, it will have sounds and smells that relax you. Therefore the outside spaces you experience are very important.

So here is a list of important elements that we consider when designing a 21st century garden or landscape. The list is not finite and it is likely to change with time. Many of these elements are related and together create for us, an exciting range of possibilities in garden design and landscape architecture.

12 Elements of 21st Century Garden and Landscape Design

Conceptual – ensure there is an idea behind the design and demonstrate it on a macro and micro level in a myriad of ways that are entertaining and interesting.

Immersive – make it experiential by immersing in a fun and memorable experience. This works on various levels. Tell a story within the design and get those who experience the garden or landscape to be part of that story. Look at ways the garden or landscape can be affected by the people who use it as part of the entertaining factors of that space. Areas within the garden could immerse you in new worlds or different places. There is room in landscape design for (immersive) 3D experiences.  For example, in presenting your design (getting clients to walk through a garden simulation before it is built or by 3D printing a model) as well as creating places to entertain (game / sport simulators within the garden design).


Connectivity – this is fundamental element of a 21st century garden. When you sit by the pool or lie under a tree, sit on a bench, or hang out in a treehouse, we want to be connected or at least have the option to be. Spending time surfing the net, conversing on social networking sites and just being able to check in periodically helps you to relax. This is now the primary entertainment mode and gardens should not become black holes in terms of connectivity otherwise they will work against encouraging people to spend more time in gardens.

Digital Design – everything you can imagine is real by using computers to create forms and structures. This includes digital morphogenesis which is a way of making forms and adaptations rather than simulating or representing what is already in existence. It often feels like making the impossible possible. This can be used in conjunction with new and more sustainable materials.


3D Printed Dress worn by Dita Von Teese

Anoushka Feiler Bestique 3D printed sculpture

3D printed Leaf sculptures on the wall of a golf simulator studio – Bestique Studio

Disaster Mitigation – considering the potential disaster and mitigating its effects wherever possible. It sounds at first irrelevant if you are outside of an earthquake, tsunami or volcanic area, but consider the number of homes affected by flash floods in Great Britain and Ireland in 2012 which affected thousands of homes. Underground flash flood water storage, heating driveways as well as a nuclear bunker 😉 all sit within this.

Spontaneous Run Ins – finding ways to encourage ways that people will meet or gather spontaneously when they use the garden. The sole purpose here is to increasing face to face social interaction in a world where we are many more times likely to communicate online.

Recycling and Up Cycling – finding ways to use old building materials preferably not in the way they were originally intended.

Historical Re-interpretation – a nod to the history of the place, the Genius Loci, to ensure there is cohesiveness and a connection to its surroundings. Otherwise it will feel disconnected and dislocated; in absolute contrast with the ideal of creating a place you feel connected to and comfortable. You will feel safe in the way maybe subliminally there are things you recognise, yet you may not be able to put your finger on what that is exactly. The aesthetics may be very different but there will be something linking it reassuringly back to the past.

The William and Mary Chair

Emotive – we are striving for the same tummy flip that you get when you spot a good looking guy or girl as you walk through or view it from a vantage point. It should constantly draw you out from inside. And above all, humour is tantamount; every garden should make you smile.

Adaptive – gardens should be designed with a level of flexibility in mind to have a range of uses to increase their use (as well as maximise the investment). This includes adaptive garden structures, buildings and open spaces. This largely involves moving structures in some shape or form.

Healthy, Sustainable and Ethical – it goes without saying that this feature should be very much part of a 21st century garden. It is tantamount to improving quality of life and creating meaningful, lasting environments. We should not compromise on the aesthetic but rather create an exciting new one through the use of sustainable materials and methods. This includes looking at healthier materials, for example cutting down on carcinogenic materials or in more extreme cases, cutting down on plants that are particularly uncomfortable for hay fever or asthma sufferers. We seek to minimise the negative environmental impact of the landscaping and have a conscientious approach to energy and ecological conservation in the design.

Space Increasing – space is often constricted. Any way to increase space improves quality of life and often the financial value of it. This has various facets from using garden space to store your things through to ways to increase your living space, outdoor rooms, garden gyms, home offices, home spas, party rooms, outdoor living areas, winter garden rooms to simple storage solutions.

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