Landscape Design

Screening versus Focusing

June 19, 2012
image of brick wall with wooden fence on top

When space and code permit, fences and walls can do a good job of screening smaller items beyond.

A friend recently asked me to take a look at the backyard of their rented urban home and help them screen a series of unsightly pipes and wires on the house as well as the conglomeration of waste bins and refuse in the adjoining yard. None of the property belongs to my friends, so actually cleaning up or moving any of the offending items is not a viable option.

I understand why they want to screen the view, the trouble is that the only way to completely screen in such a case would be to build a structure that would cover it all. In this case, that just isn’t feasible, both due to building code and ownership issues. This is a case for what I call focusing – creating a visually arresting space that draws the eye, so that the unwanted view beyond no longer takes center stage.

Will my friends still see the wires on their house and the mess in their neighbor’s yard? Sure, to some extent. It will be partially screened by the planting and movable pergola we will construct. But there’s no question the uglies will still be there. The point is, the garden space will take up their attention, shifting the point of focus and lessening the importance of the ugly bits.

Is focusing the perfect solution for every circumstance? No, but it’s a necessary solution in a lot of cases. Especially in urban situations, it isn’t always possible to screen unwanted views, so finding another way around the problem is crucial. Best of all, if you can find a way to work the uglies into the composition, to turn them from a negative to a positive, you’re ahead on all counts!

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