lei image

My fellow landscape designers have likely have seen this mother and child in digital rendering images more than a few times. And, though we don’t know who they are, they are superstars in the digital landscape. I’ve witnessed them in parks, plazas, public markets, playgrounds, streetscapes, waterfront spaces . . .there is no place I don’t expect them to pop up. So what make them so popular?

The vibrant color and dynamic shape of composition draw our eyes. The figures bring liveliness into any image without upsetting any harmony. The bright red t-shirt serves as a strong focal point and sharpens the senses. Especially in the case of a proposed design with a neutral material palette, a speck of brightness certainly animates the scene.  When placed at distance, the duo leads a viewer’s eyes (and imagination) into a deeper field of space, lending the image a tinge of mystery.

The enthusiastic child is irresistible. The child is just about to break loose from the mum’s hand to explore its surroundings. The way he/she embraces the environment instantly arouses viewers’ anticipation of an environment so beautiful, fascinating, and playful, that it stimulates a young heart at the sight of it.

The subconscious response to the image suggests safety, comfort, family unity, and happiness makes it a strong candidate for any public space. Theorist William H. Whyte pointed out that the “most-used places also tend to have a higher than average proportion of women…Where there is a higher than average proportion of women, the plaza is probably a good one and has been chosen as such.” It was found in various observational studies of public space that women, especially with young children, have more considerations than men in term of where to sit or which route to walk, including cleanliness, visibility, safety, comfort, convenience, and aesthetic qualities. The appeal of a design that welcomes female and young users is easy to grasp.

In my ideal public space, every family member feels engaged through their senses, as well as their imagination.

Lei Zhang is a designer in the Houston studio.


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