Have you ever wondered why Japanese gardens place so much importance on natural stone, gravel, sand or designer water features? Or perhaps the emphasis on urban horticulture in mega cities such as Shanghai is something that has always fascinated you. What both of these examples have in common is none other than culture. Culture plays a significant role in landscape design, shaping both the aesthetic and functional aspects of outdoor spaces. Commonly referred to as human-environment interaction, the link between culture and physical landscape has helped to provide a sense of place and identity, as well as build historical tradition for people all around the world for centuries.

If you are interested in learning more about the interrelation between culture and landscape, you’ve come to the perfect place. In this article, we discuss the relationship between culture and ecology in landscape design, so read on to find out more.

Ecological Principles In Landscape Design

First and foremost, it is important to understand the ecological principles in landscape, which can help us better understand how it goes hand in hand with the cultural aspects of landscape design. Ecological principles are central to landscape design all over the world. The design process involves the integration of ecological principles into the planning, design, and management of landscapes. This includes understanding the natural systems that exist in a particular environment and using this knowledge to create sustainable and resilient landscapes.

Ecological principles can be applied to landscape design in a variety of ways. For example, designers can use native plant species in their designs, which are better adapted to local environmental conditions and require less maintenance and resources than their non-native counterparts. They can also design landscapes that mimic natural ecosystems, creating habitats for wildlife and promoting biodiversity.

Additionally, designers can incorporate sustainable water management practices, such as rainwater harvesting, to reduce water consumption and promote water conservation — something that is incredibly important in water-stressed countries such as Singapore that are heavily dependent on rainfall due to the lack of natural water resources.

The Role Of Culture In Landscape Design

Culture plays an important role in landscape design because it informs the design process and influences the way people interact with their environment. Landscape design is not just about creating beautiful outdoor spaces, but is also about creating spaces that are meaningful and relevant to the people who use them. Culture shapes the way people perceive and use outdoor spaces, and it is therefore important for landscape designers to understand the cultural context in which they are working.

Culture can influence landscape design in a variety of ways. For instance, cultural beliefs and practices may dictate the use of certain colours, materials, or plants in outdoor spaces. This is most notable in Japanese or Chinese culture in which much emphasis is placed on feng-shui. Similarly, religious or spiritual traditions may also play a role in the design of outdoor spaces, such as the use of specific symbols or the arrangement of natural elements in a certain way. For example, in Native American cultures, the use of plants such as sage and cedar holds important cultural and spiritual significance.

Additionally, cultural values may also influence the way that people interact with outdoor spaces. In some cultures, there may be a strong emphasis on community and social gathering, which could be reflected in the design of public parks or other outdoor spaces. In other cultures, there may be a greater emphasis on individualism or privacy, which could influence the design of private gardens or outdoor living spaces.

Landscape Designs Around The World

Now that we have a better understanding of the role of culture and ecology in landscape design, let’s dive into a few examples that perfectly showcase this relationship around the world.


Australian landscape design is significant in its unique ability to reflect the country’s diverse environment, climate, and culture. Landscape designs down under often include native plants because they are well-suited to the local climate and soil conditions and are drought-resistant, making them perfect for the country’s warmer and arid climate. Many Australian native plants also hold cultural significance to Indigenous Australians, who have used them for food, medicine, and ceremonial purposes for thousands of years. Using native plants in landscape design can help to acknowledge and celebrate this cultural heritage.

England & Europe 

Europe has a rich history of landscape design, and is also one that has greatly influenced the field of landscape architecture all around the world. Formal gardens have been an important part of European landscape design for centuries, heavily influenced by English landscape architecture during the Victorian era. These gardens are characterised by symmetrical, geometric shapes, and carefully manicured lawns and hedges. The most famous example of a formal garden in England is the gardens at the Palace of Versailles.

The use of greenhouses are also common practice in English and European landscape design, as they provide a controlled environment for cultivating plants. This is partly due to the fact that the climate in these regions can be unpredictable and often not conducive to year-round gardening.


Japanese gardens are possibly one of the most famous and notable examples that perfectly showcases the relationship between culture and ecology. This country’s iconic landscapes are renowned the world over for their beauty, intricacy, and depth of meaning. Japanese landscape design is known for its careful attention to detail, particularly in the pruning and shaping of plants. There is also heavy emphasis on water features, such as ponds, streams, and waterfalls, because water is seen as a symbol of life and vitality. Additionally, Zen gardens, also known as karesansui or “dry landscape” gardens, are one of the most recognisable elements of Japanese landscape design. Their main purpose is to serve meditative spaces that promote contemplation and mindfulness — all incredibly important components of traditional Japanese culture.


Chinese landscape design has a long history and has influenced garden design and landscape architecture around the world. First and foremost, balance and harmony are central to traditional Chinese landscape design. This is achieved through the use of symmetry, balance of yin and yang, and careful attention to the relationship between the built environment and the natural environment. In more recent times, China has also experienced a huge shift in focus towards urban horticulture to support the sustainable development of the country’s ever-expanding city centres.

In A Nutshell

Culture and ecology are two critical elements that influence landscape design, and their relationship is crucial for creating sustainable and meaningful landscapes. How we view the world inevitably shapes our surroundings, and in turn, our surroundings further strengthen our individual cultures and traditions. In this regard, the relationship between culture and ecology in landscape design is one that is dynamic and constantly evolving alongside us.


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