Exterior flooring in landscape architecture

by Ofentse Sefolo
Exterior flooring in landscape architecture

From sky-high glass observation decks to front yard pergolas, lavish greenery and indoors that extend to outdoors, exterior flooring has always been closely intertwined with landscape architecture. Floors in Africa magazine spoke to Neal Schoof, founding director of Insite Landscape Architects as well as Mark Saint Pol and Julia McLachlan from Square One to find out more about how public-private spaces are changing, the trends in exterior flooring, and sustainability issues that change the way they create liveable spaces for the future.

Pairing different size pavers and slicker dimensions
Neal says that landscape architecture trends are following architectural trends. “The biggest trend that jumps to mind is the use of a terrazzo look in exterior flooring both in tiles and in pavers. Designers and manufacturers are taking more care in patterning hard landscape materials such as pairing larger pavers with smaller pavers, coloured pavers with plain ones, and more delicate and intricate patterning with different textures and modern sizes that extend far beyond the traditional brick or cobble size. Slicker modern paver module dimensions and variety are also currently driving exterior flooring trends.”

The context drives the sustainability
While interior and exterior architecture are often driven by form and excitement about new possibilities, landscape architecture draws its cues from the environment. In Italy, exterior flooring is built from the marble found in the specific Italian region.

“The landscape is what determines how we design and this is also what creates the identity of a town. In properties near Table Mountain, we’re more likely to see sandstone, and we lean towards granite if the project is in Clifton because of all the boulders in the area. Trendy doesn’t mesh well with our profession. Landscape architecture is very context driven so we look at everything from the heritage of the city, social dynamics in the area to the physical environment and what the future will hold in the setting,” says Mark.

When it comes to sustainability, Neal says there are a few major talking points in the industry. “While sustainability has an impact on landscape architecture, it also does not have a large enough impact within the current sustainability measuring/points systems within South Africa.As Landscape Architects, we’re focused not only on improving and maintaining the aesthetics of a landscape, but also on designing water wise, low maintenance, indigenous, robust and durable exteriors.”

There is also a greater awareness about water usage and how clients can get the most from their investments by planning sustainable water systems. Julia says that special care is taken to design outside spaces where water is pushed back into the aquifer, the building or redirected to plants.

“Unfortunately, municipalities don’t always have the budget to maintain paving so we are more likely to design storm water retention basins that can absorb water and contribute to a resilient planting area than to install permeable pavers,” says Julia.

Creating public and semi-private outdoor areas
Julia adds that forward-thinking developers and companies are investing in outdoor flooring and landscape architecture that offers benefits to the public and not just employees and guests at their own offices. Some examples of this include Discovery’s iconic new headquarters in Sandton, which created outdoor areas that connect the building with public spaces, the semi-private deck that forms part of Atterbury’s Gauteng head office called Die Klubhuis, as well as parts of city centres that are being upgraded to include outdoor furniture and more attractive spaces for the public.

“There are a number of South African cities as well as companies that aren’t doing enough to develop open spaces in their locations. While there are many constraints to doing this, when planned well and executed correctly, it is obviously in a client’s best interest to have a welcoming space surrounding their property,” says Julia.

Mark says that in South African cities, many companies are still very introspective in how they engage with public spaces in their vicinity. “Only a small number of companies are open to extending their exterior landscapes in the public realms. Besides safety elements that need to be considered, they don’t necessarily want to upgrade something that is in the public realm. Future-ready ideas are focused on inclusivity, mobility and access – which are what we are seeing at some of the success stories,” says Mark.

Composite decking a big trend
Both Neal and Mark agree that clients are increasingly requesting composite decking. “Materials for composite decks have evolved and are more colourfast, interestingly textured, high performing and diversified than in the past, making them popular among commercial and residential clients,” says Neal.

Mark adds that the challenge with composite decking is making sure you know the source of the products in the decking. “When specifying a timber deck, make sure you are using a by-product of timber, that the plastics are recycled, and that you know where the materials are from. It can happen that a composite decking product claims to be made from recycled plastics but contains all sorts of toxins. Designers and specifiers need to be more rigorous about finding out what their composite decking is actually made up of and ensure that the timber they source come from sustainable forests,” concludes Mark.

Full thanks and acknowledgement are given to www.insitegroup.co.za and www.sq1.co.za for some of the information in this article.

Images courtesy of Insite Group

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