Blurring the Boundaries: How Landscape Architecture Impacts the Human Experience


In celebration of World Landscape Architecture month, Sebastian Salvadó, Creative Director, Rios Clementi Hale Studios, shares how the practice is altering the way we live

Humans are drawn to nature. We seek experiences in majestic landscapes, get lost in lush views to green vistas, flock to the beach and the mountains. Yet we spend the majority of our time in buildings.

Landscape architecture offers a glimpse into how we shape our future environments and define our cities. Our practice at Rios Clementi Hale Studios has balanced the connection between architecture and landscape architecture for decades, leading to an innate understanding of design as a continuum – a sequence that embraces the connection between inside and outside and blurs the boundary between these parallel existences. 

In both residential projects and office environments, a connection to nature grounds us and provides an important connection to place. April is World Landscape Architecture Month, a time when we celebrate the importance of landscapes to our human experiences. In honor of the occasion, we’re reflecting on ways that we are influenced by the power of landscape architecture.  


IAC by Rios Clementi Hale – Photography by Tom Bonner – Job ID 6106

Landscapes are intrinsically connected. In addition to the visible civic infrastructure, there is a web of invisible infrastructure that weaves throughout natural spaces. In urban environments, where landscape supports rather than dominates our experience, landscapes play the important role of creating and extending habitat for pollinators like birds, bees, butterflies and beyond. At IAC, a living wall literally carries the surrounding landscape over 3,000 square feet up the side of the building in a grand gesture for the city and the workplace occupants.


The ideal Southern California climate makes it possible to extend the livable area of indoor environments, establishing a seamless connection between indoor and outdoor spaces. In our residential designs, we often dissipate the boundary between the environments with a carefully detailed threshold, making it difficult to tell where the interior space ends and the outdoor space begins. For this Venice residence, we placed the home’s sole dining room in a two-story outdoor pavilion that invites the outdoors into the home on both levels.


Palm Springs Downtown Park Project.

More than ever, our key focus is drawing people out of their solitary experiences and into landscapes where they can connect in meaningful ways and create memories. At Palm Springs Downtown Park, the site is divided into distinct areas that are designed to mitigate temperatures, which allows daytime use even in the extreme heat of summer months. It will include shady palm groves for picnicking, an eco-lawn and amphitheater for community events, artful shade structures, and a grotto water feature for play and relaxation.


Lawrence J. Ellison Institute for Transformative Medicine of USC.

Increasingly, we’re incorporating biophilic elements— light, sound, nature, and other sensorial strategies — into interiors to harness inspiration, create well-being, and, most importantly, tap into the restorative qualities of landscapes. The design of the Lawrence J. Ellison Institute for Transformative Medicine of USCincorporates gardens as well as principles of nature to inform the materials and spatial experience, while simultaneously seeking to transform patient wellness.


While an indoor connection to nature can impact health and wellness, there’s no replacement for the physical act of getting out into nature. Active landscapes create places for people to exercise, meditate, and experience the physical benefits of recreation in both planned and unplanned ways. The Park in San Diego is an active campus that acts as an amenity to support the workplace that surrounds it. As a result, the workplace boundaries are blurred as work flows outside into impromptu meetings, teams interact in social gatherings, and individuals pursue personal fitness throughout the site.

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