Hardscape Design

The term hardscape refers to landscaping structures constructed from inorganic materials that work toward sculpting the overall landscaping design. These structures include many things such as driveways, patios, walls, fencing, and drainage. The design of hardscape must always be treated as a very critical and precise art. Since the human mind naturally gravitates toward a sense of order and system, manmade structures on the landscape must be carefully engineered so as to give form to organic essence and compliment to architectural style. They must always work to develop the aesthetic of the home and the terrain in a way that magnifies its true essence. They must never clash with their surroundings in a way that diminishes aesthetic for the sake of mere pragmatic function.

Materials selection is very important to hardscape design. Different materials allude to different states of mind and contribute individual aesthetic elements unique unto themselves. The feeling we get from a brick walkway is not going to be the same as the feeling we get from a concrete sidewalk. Depending on the theme of both home architecture and the surrounding landscape, hardscape materials will ultimately be chosen that will unify the home with the landscape in such a fashion as to clearly establish a corresponding theme between the two. Wood may be chosen to create a simple, traditional sensibility in even the most meticulously constructed of outdoor rooms. Concrete patios may be built chosen to establish the stark contrasts that predominate contemporary design. Stone work ranging from cut stone to limestone and tile can be used to create any number of thematic connotations ranging from a formal Old World entryway to a wilderness façade around a natural swimming pool.


Drainage is another important aspect of all hardscape design projects. Any structure built in a front yard or back yard creates a potential dam for rainwater, so there must be a mechanism of some sort built into the design of the structure that will prevent it from encroaching on the structure or collecting at its base.
The design of the hardscape needs to accomplish this at a functional value and simultaneously uphold the aesthetic. This requires hiding drain inlets and building custom decorative drain grates that conceal their purpose behind the ornamental. In other cases, it may be necessary to pitch drains so that there are fewer drain inlets. In cases where it simply will not work to have any visible drain built into the hardscape itself, (such as we see in certain patios, walkways, and motor courts), then the structure must be designed with a very subtle slope that causes water to runoff without creating uneven paving in the process.

Hardscape design also includes seat walls, retaining wall, columns, and curbs. These structures are designed either as a component of irrigation systems, or as barriers against water encroachment from areas outside of the landscape proper. Again, constructing these elements must be done very skillfully with an eye for balance, integration, and harmony always trained on both the individual forms and the overall unity they create upon completion of the project. This is why hardscape design often proves to be the most expensive aspect of landscaping, which is one reason why it needs to be done correctly by professional, experienced landscaping architects or designers. Attempting to take any shortcuts in this area almost guarantees that the project will have to be done all over again. If done wrong, it will often be the next generation that fixes it.

Exterior Worlds, in business since 1987, provides hardscape design and constructions services for residences, commercial buildings and retail centers in the Houston area. Call them at 713-827-2255 to request a consultation or estimate.