The literal translation of the Latin phrase ‘genius loci’ is ‘genius of space’. Most landscape architects and landscape designers use an adapted and more manageable translation, ‘spirit of place’.
Niagara Falls in New York has genius loci. So does the Anderson Gardens in Rockford, Illinois. One is natural, the other is manmade, but both are deeply memorable. It is those genuinely dramatic places that have genius loci.
I saw Niagara Falls over fifty years ago. I saw Anderson Gardens as recently as two years ago. Yet both are etched in my memory. They have a distinguished spirit that will be forever with me.
While those are large scale examples, you can also get a great spirit of place in your own backyard. I strive to create it in each project. I want the experience to be memorable for my clients and more selfishly for me as well.
There are an infinite number of ways that landscape architects and landscape designers achieve genius loci. Yet, there is no formula for establishing it.
But there is a jumping off point. It starts with a willing homeowner and an experienced landscape designer who asks good questions. I like to make sure that both my clients and I are effectively determining the project objectives. Once we know the objective(s) it is a matter of me developing design solutions to meet those objectives.
An initial idea justifies design. Then concepts are developed that are consistent with the idea and the objectives. Then specific details are developed to amplify the concepts. And then the space gets built. And when it all pulls together in a magical way we may find ‘genius loci’.