Landscape Trends in COVID-Era Residential Development

by Ryan Trudell

The year 2020 brought so many challenges, yet so many great stories. Isolation from lockdown simply reinforced our need for community and desire for social connections. “Netflix and chill” gave way to a beautiful spring where tree-lined pathways through community greenbelts were filled with joggers and bikers. Pet adoptions were at all-time highs, and the development of dog parks and pet-friendly spaces provided a great opportunity to get outside and bond with fellow pet owners in a socially distanced manner. 

While our beautiful Arizona climate allows for year-round outdoor activities, one thing is certain: Shade is still a premium feature in the desert landscape. Whether it be shade cabañas around a resort-style community pool or arbor-covered al fresco dining areas equipped with BBQ grills and other outdoor kitchen amenities, being able to live life outdoors is best enjoyed by creating cooler microclimates within these larger community spaces. Needless to say, regardless of the landscape features that are being proposed, the addition of beautiful shade trees are an integral part of creating welcoming and livable landscape spaces.

As daytime gives way to night, large-scale fire pits equipped with comfortable seating have become a favorite place for families to gather and enjoy evening drinks or s’mores over the open fire. The flexibility of movable furniture that can be rearranged to meet the scale and dynamics of the group gathering is a huge benefit within all outdoor spaces.

Finally, any current community design that wants to incorporate more active recreation components must consider inclusion of the fastest-growing sport in the country – Pickleball. Between the relatively easy learning curve of the sport (especially for anyone who has played tennis, racquetball or table tennis in the past) and the minimal physical demands of the game, pickleball is a great sport for people of all ages who are looking for a great social sport and physical activity. The smaller play surface area of pickleball, when compared to other traditional sport court games such as tennis or basketball, makes this even more affordable in terms of construction costs and ease of fitting this feature into the community spaces.

If there is one good thing this global pandemic has revealed, it is the reaffirmation that mankind was intended to live in community. We were never designed to live in isolation; rather, we have been created to lean into community, constantly being shaped and developed by the people around us who share in our journey of life. This sense of community is vital to our health — whether it be physical, mental or spiritual — and the beginning of true community starts in our own neighborhoods and radiates out into our world. 

Ryan Trudell is vice president of landscape architecture at Creative Environments, a Tempe-based outdoor living environments and custom landscaping company founded in 1950.

Did You Know: Creative Environments, an award-winning firm known for being a trendsetter in the industry, took home six awards at the Arizona Landscape Contractors Association Excellence in Landscaping Awards in November. Four projects were recognized in the category “Best Model Home Installations Over $100K’’ and two others in the category “Best Commercial Installations from $1 to $3 Million.”  

Photo courtesy of Creative Environments

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