This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Phytophilia: Using intimate plant knowledge to inform design decisions




Reeder, Drake

Type of Degree



Landscape Architecture


Landscape architecture is conflicted on the importance of plant knowledge in our profession, where often controversy emerges from questioning the amount needed to create “good” design. While the main focus is on the amount of knowledge needed, little is done to look at the lens in which designers use for planting design. By having plants in a design, regardless of their perceived value, there is an impact brought about with the inclusion of living three dimensional organisms. This thesis began with a fascination for plants, including how they are used in design and their intrinsic characteristics. Through the use of case studies and design iterations, this thesis critically discusses two common methodologies, form driven and character driven design. Through these methods, common ways of using plants are explored to determine their strengths and weaknesses. Defining these lenses allows for the creation of new ways of thinking and discussing the roles plants play in landscape architecture. Out of this defining of lenses, a new perspective emerges which explores intimate plant knowledge as a basis for the design process. Through a series of design explorations, the idea of phytophilia is tested for its ability to create a new approach to design. This method, coined phytophilic design, explores the idea of using intimate plant knowledge to inform the overall layout of the design. The new method encompasses the process used by designers to inform decisions and the way these decisions are explored with modeling, hand rendering, and computer rendering. Exploring phytophilic design through various media allows the ideas to be tested through multiple scales of time. Using this design methodology, innovative ideas are uncovered through intimate knowledge of plants that respond to the individuality of the species in order to create unique landscapes that are novel to the site and the species.