Landscape architect Craig Wilson breaks down the use of straight vs curved paths.
One of the key questions I ask garden design clients when putting together a design brief is if they prefer straight or curved lines in the proposed layout. While some clients are open to either, some will have strong views against one or the other. In observing landscape and garden design of the last few years, it seems that straight lines have been the order of the day. This could be a response to a number of factors. Firstly, many of the new homes recently built are contemporary in nature with crisp, clean lines and this theme has been extended out into the landscape and garden to create an integrated look. Another key driver has probably been the general reduction in section sizes. Straight lines are easier to apply to a small site and, if part of the brief, can be used to create a space
that reads visually bigger. A curved layout in a smaller space will often create bigger, deeper garden beds, particularly in the corners of sections and this may not
meet the requirement of an often-requested low-maintenance garden. When it comes down to pragmatic matters – straight lines are cheaper and easier to build than curves, especially in hard landscape elements. Does this mean the curve is dead in landscape design? No, not at all. Curves can create a flowing, restful atmosphere that’s often difficult to create with straight lines. Curved lines will seem to be the right response when there’s a significant natural element on site to refer to, like a stream edge, large existing tree or sloping change of level. A contemporary curvaceous element can create a strong contrast to the straight lines of a building and create an exciting design element that disrupts the predictability of clean, crisp lines. A key to using curves well in the landscape is to keep them bold, simple and not overly complex or ‘wobbling’ all over the place.
The next garden layout you look at isn’t right or wrong because it used straight lines or curves – it was hopefully a reflection of the homeowner’s wishes or a well-designed use of the available space and site constraints. My question to you is which do you prefer?