This is the last in a three-part series on patio and walkway design in San Diego. We have discussed creating more permeable landscapes through designing with the Watershed Approach. Now here are a few thoughts, somewhat random, in pulling it all together.
The front entry area serves as your calling card: your statement to the world passing by. This makes this access point an excellent place to start a design. The front walkway and area around it may include steps, pillars, a fence and gate, a patio or seating area, walls, and one or more auxiliary pathways that join it on its march to the front door.
Front walkways that form a straight, 90-degree line from the street to the door are unimaginative; if space affords, one or more jogs in the paving needs to be added to create a more varied and interesting pattern on the visitor’s approach. The placement of side pathways has become crucial as lawns are replaced. While the lawn tolerated any abuse a family and pets could thrust upon it, few plants tolerate foot traffic. Side pathways of stone, gravel, and concrete and stone paving, or possibly mulch, are used to weave through planted areas, and can also serve as spaces to gather, rest, and view the garden.
It is critically important to size landscape surfaces to proper dimensions, in the front yard and throughout the property. Patio spaces that feel cramped and overcrowded are guaranteed not to be used as intended. Neither do we want to tip toe down skinny walkways This is not an area to scrimp in the budget.
A list of questions must be answered before beginning to draw these horizontal surfaces. How many people will potentially use the patio at the same time? What will each patio be used for? What types of outdoor furnishings will be necessary? How can permeable materials be incorporated to absorb surface water and prevent runoff? With the elimination or downsizing of the traditional lawn, alternatives to creating useable space include -- at least in part -- increasing the size of patios, adding several distinct patios, or both. These spaces are an increasingly important consideration in designing the new landscapes.
Permeable materials of low environmental impact have become an important ethical consideration in the new landscapes. The basic materials that have traditionally been used to form outdoor surfaces – concrete, rock, and wood – have not changed. It’s the way these materials are used and the finished product that has changed. More and more patios, walkways, and even driveways are being designed with permeable concrete, segmented concrete pavers, or gravel, all without a solid mortar underbelly so water can penetrate through to the soil below. By combining the harder patio surfaces of concrete and stone with permeable gravels, the horizontal surface is visually expanded, an important spatial consideration.
Like the rooms in a house, patio areas serve as centers for specific outdoor activities and functions, some somewhat unique. One client coined her special hillside steps and small patio as her ‘Stairway to Chardonnay’, a place to unwind in the evening with a glass of a favorite wine.