Why I love Landscape Design for Hotels and Hospitality Properties

I always notice the landscape.  I have lived and traveled all over the world, and the landscape and its products are always what I remember. They define a place for me – the most memorable thing about Ronda Spain was the otherworldly cork forest we got lost in; in coastal Scotland, it was the dells of (non-native and overwhelming) rhododendrons. The ubiquitous tree peonies in the city parks of Bejing, China, and the lemon groves of Sicily. Plants and local materials define the landscape and the experiences derived from it. The food, activities, and experiences all spring from what is at hand naturally – and when it doesn’t, or when it is too contrived or completely imported, I find it impossible to connect with the experience. When the design is in sync with what belongs in the place (this is what landscape designers often refer to as the genius loci of a place), a place becomes more endlessly endearing and indelible.

To me, the mark of a good hotel – at whatever price point and in any location – is one that knows its place and works to be the best it can be as part of that landscape and community.

Moss-covered trees with reddish-brown trunks in a dense forest setting.
Cork Oak forest on the Iberian Peninsula. Image by Lookout station.

I remember when I moved from the front range of Colorado (where I grew up) to Upstate NY – where I went to college. Besides not loving the dorm food, I had another big struggle – coming from Colorado’s wide open plains and direction-orienting mountains to upstate New York meant I was constantly feeling claustrophobic and blind to where I was headed.  There were so many trees that it made getting lost too easy because, unlike home, I couldn’t see for miles and generally worked myself in the right direction. 

I eventually adjusted to the woodlands and grew to love them and fast forward many years in the future when I moved from England back to New England, I was surprised by a knowing sense of nostalgia the first time I drove down I-84 through Connecticut.

The forest was so different than the forests of England. My husband hardly noticed but I couldn’t get over the way the trees looked on the side of the highway.  I couldn’t describe the difference, but I knew that I wasn’t in the UK, or France, or Florida, or Northern California, or Canada, or Russia, or Norway or…or….or…

I have always thought it might be interesting to make a study of how forests and wooded areas look different from the highway, but I am not sure what the point would be.

But I do have a point to tell you this – I bring this all up to answer a question that was recently asked of me,…Why landscapes? And why residential design? And why hospitality design (that is the landscapes around hotels, resorts, restaurants, spas and other great destinations)? 

This is why:

I love to travel. Writing about it makes me happy, but also, there is a trickle-down effect. What you see in hotels today is often what you see in homes tomorrow.  When it comes to design, I like to be an early adopter.  Hotels (at least the best ones) recognize that they are part of a travel experience and the culture of their location. They should be all about creating authenticity to highlight what is special and interesting about the place.  What is the point otherwise? It could simply be the plants that thrive on that land and the food that they produce, or going to a greater extent and with design, making a place that is exceptional and that highlights what is different. What makes the forests feel special in different places?

The act of removing myself from one environment to another is completely inspiring, and It is the thing I turn to when in a rut. It always opens my eyes and helps me imagine something new and hopefully better.

That is why I talk about what I talk about here. I can daydream about all the places I haven’t been and share the ones I have. I can study them and learn from them, and you, my dear readers, can take inspiration, too, and create your own local places that I am sure would be so interesting to visit.

More ideas for placemaking and creating landscapes that are unique to their place.

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  1. The garden that you show is a picture of loveliness.

    I also recognize that resort design highly influences and inspires residential design.
    I like your analogy of the ‘trickle down effect’.
    So true.

    I’ve been fortunate to travel a little bit during my life.
    The following are my favorite resort gardens that have inspired my landscape design practice.
    In Oxfordshire UK : Le Manor aux Quat Saison

    In Bali ( many favorites but the ultimate was ) The Oberoi -

    In Napa Valley : Auberge du Soleil –

    In Kauai : The Grand Hyatt

    – – link to 2 photo albums – Bali resorts and the Grand Hyatt resort in Kauai.

  2. rochelle says:

    Wow, Michelle we are two minds thinking alike…. I love Le Manor too…haven’t been to the others…but they are amazing looking – thanks for sharing. Also, so great to have other designers reading…makes me feel good.

  3. rochelle says:

    Michelle – do you know, is the oberoi in bali designed by Bill Bensley? It looks like it… I am going to research… I am preparing a posting on him…he is one of my design heroes.

  4. Rochell,
    I’m not sure if Bill Bensley worked on the Oberoi.
    I would look in the new book, Paradise by Design, that was just published on his resort designs but I have lent this book to a client to inspire her to let me do some water features on her project.
    Have you seen his new book ? It is my absolute favorite !!!

    I went to Bali 2 years ago with an eclectic group known as ‘The Hortisexuals’. We went to tour cutting edge Balinese residential and resort gardens.
    We were treated to the opportunity to meet Made Wijaya and view several of his projects including his own studio and home where he served us the most exotic tasting tropical lime juice martinis. – Thank goodness we had a driver !
    Also have the opportunity to meet several other designers and view their projects.

    Another fantastic resort that I had a chance to visit was the Novotel Benoa, designed by Bill Bensley. – That garden and resort is fantastic ! –

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