Voids and Masses

Voids and Masses in the Landscape proper design

In our last article, we discussed “Form Following Function”, which means that the intended function of a landscape is paramount to the design. In this lesson, we want to explore the next step of making the functional yard spatially pleasing with a well-thought-out flow. With our function determined, let’s start thinking about how to integrate the creative elements of the yard!

First, we should start by scouting our most important vantage points and ask ourselves questions about what we want our view from those locations to achieve.  What do we want to put emphasis and/or focus on? How do we want to prioritize what to focus on? Do we need to add something of interest to be our point of focus? This focus could be a functional element (like the pergola in our illustration), or a piece of art, a fountain, or even a nice tree. From there we can consider how to enhance the natural beauty of the view we are creating.

Next, with our view laid out, we should think of how a painter would sketch the view of the yard as if it were a painting. The artist’s canvas leads the eye on a journey through the painting to a point of interest, and then continues the journey out of the picture.  In a Landscape canvas, we can adopt all the beauties of this principal to form the desired visual journey from your vantage point.  Utilizing clever mixtures of voids and masses is a great tool for the landscape artist to achieve this. Voids are anything that leads the eye low to the ground and does not block other landscape elements.  A few examples of these voids are low growing ground cover, a pool, or an interesting hardscape. Masses, as the name implies, are larger items or large groups of items such as larger shrubs, a boulder, or a proud tree. The optimization of voids and masses can provide wonderful surprises, and even make the yard seem larger by leading your mind and eye on fascinating divergent paths that flow through a complex space, as opposed to a straight line. The possibilities and power of voids and masses are endless.

The mission is to work your medium into a story, the unfolding of which we control. The harmonization and blending of these artistic elements can have endless impacts on the subliminal aura of your yard in totality. In the world of nature, a world in which we all belong, anyone can create a masterpiece. In our next article we will continue to explore how achieve this using the tools of lines to further guide the viewer’s focus.