I have two school age children, and I have been to my fair share of kid’s birthday parties. When it comes time for the cake, I often cringe. A plate gets handed to me with a sliver of cake with a thick layer of icing on the outside, and if I’m (un)lucky, there’s a giant frosting flower. I consider the structure of the cake for a moment – a dry cake with that looks barely edible, with a disproportionate amount of too-sweet, oddly-colored icing. After eating only the cake, I notice the other plates in the garbage that are missing cake yet the giant glob of frosting remains. Sadly, I know those are not my kids’ plates and I’m in for a sugar-fueled rest of the day.
Then I start to think…why is the icing left so often? The frosting is often an afterthought to the cake - applied because it’s expected to be there or because the color is pretty, making the cake and the icing so frequently disparate. Then I ask, what if the icing was considered at the same time as the cake? Would a layer of frosting inside the cake make it less dry and more balanced? Would a natural color complimentary to the cake make me want to go back for seconds? If the flavor of the icing related to the cake, would it make for a better experience and more enjoyable party? These are the things I think about, and why I’m no fun at birthday parties.
All too often I have seen the landscaping on any given project treated as the obligatory icing on the cake - something that could make the cake look better and taste better, but is often done haphazardly and without consideration to the cake experience as a whole.
I’ve been studying landscape architecture or practicing landscape architecture for longer than I haven’t, and am now bringing this experience to the McMinnville Planning Department. As the Planning Department launches its effort to identify Great Neighborhood Principles that will guide and shape the way McMinnville’s neighborhoods look, feel, and grow for years to come, it struck me how interwoven the concepts I’ve learned and put into practice as a landscape architect are in many of the guidelines being considered as Great Neighborhood Principles. Landscape design, when integrated thoughtfully and carefully, can contribute to a neighborhood’s aesthetics, safety, and sociability. It can contribute to a population’s health and well-being. It will even contribute to the economic success of a commercial district. Are these important Great Neighborhood Principles? I think they are, and in future posts I hope to explore how thoughtful landscape design, when integrated into the process rather than just being icing on the cake, is an essential ingredient for Great Neighborhoods.
"Great Neighborhood Principles" will help us explore what makes a neighborhood in