Daydream (n.) Oxford Dictionary defines it a series of pleasant thoughts that distract one’s attention from the present. Now, more than ever, while we are confined to our homes, we rely on memories of gardens, beaches, parks and pools as an escape mechanism from the daily news. Mostly, we go into the recesses of our minds, to draw from pleasant experiences, lest we forget.
We will return to those relaxing, essential days of enjoying that siesta in the shade, that cold drink with wet feet in the pool or sand, and that lost gaze at the ocean. The situation we are experiencing may change many things, but our desire to continue to treasure experiences under the sky will always be there.
Without other outlets for activities, we are learning to appreciate the outdoors and wide open spaces even more. We enjoy the sun on our faces, the smells of the flowers, the shade of the trees, the rustle of the leaves in the wind.
As we go out into the world again, in large spaces and social activities, it will take creativity and innovation to usher in an era of change.
In the near future, instead of hardscape and formed barriers, we can use plant material and softscape to divide spaces into intimate areas with social distance. Walkways can be separated from seating with ground cover and shrubs.
In San Diego, CA, we designed Civita’s Masterplan Rec Center with smaller inlets for privacy with natural walls created from shrubs. These days, distance is a key factor in creating the desired separation, and will no doubt continue to be important with the need for social distancing. This can be done, while allowing a lot of visual connection (as seen on the right), or by using layers of plant material to enhance the barrier and provide a sense of intimate space. Elsewhere throughout the rec center, an impressive collection of trees and shrubs including sago palms, king palms, coral trees, tree aloe and olive trees, Japanese blueberry, bird of paradise, variegated hibiscus, and dwarf heavenly bamboo wind around the pools and seating areas, masking the distance and creating small garden rooms.
At The Point in El Segundo, CA, a custom-designed long, narrow fountain with 5 “bowls,” each containing queen sego palms and succulents separate diners from nearby pedestrian traffic. The senses are further stimulated by the relaxing sounds of the water. It’s a visually and audibly more attractive way to create distance, without making patio inhabitants feel isolated or alone. Sightlines are not completely disrupted, but space between is distanced in a more pleasing way.
Creative work space is becoming the trend, even more so now that many are remotely working, and we are designing multiple spaces to accommodate environments outside a traditional office. One such example is Hotel Nia in Menlo Park, CA, where state-of-the-art amenities allow small groups or individual workers to enjoy the environment. Throughout the overall design of the hotel, there are a variety of intimate gathering areas defined through the landscaping that blur the lines between indoors and outdoors, delivering that naturalistic, warm and inviting feel guests crave.
Ultimately, natural environments cater to our needs; providing relief from stressful times. We crave the sun and the moon, times spent with friends around a fire or BBQ, viewing the waves of the ocean, riding a bike down a path or playing in a park. Nature provides enjoyment in the physical space outside our homes, and we will find safe and creative ways to enjoy our surroundings once again.