If these floors could speak: Design direction at the Charlotte Airport

I am fascinated with the way our surroundings impact our movements.  We take cues from architecture, color, pattern, materials, etc... and move accordingly. Long, narrow spaces cause us to move quickly.  Repeated patterns and high contrast signal to our brains that it's time to pick up the pace.  Less contrast and open spaces encourage gathering and slowing down. At the Charlotte airport recently, the floor pattern in the rental car corridor caught my attention.  The flooring in this area is amazing!  It is designed for people to subtly understand when, where, and how to move - without signs! Let's take a stroll through this area and see how the design works.

When you come off the escalator or come in from the doors, this compass-like pattern in the flooring greets you.  This is a clear focusing spot - where you pause and consider your options.  Decisions are made at places called nodes.  And nodes aren't helpful in a linear, high-energy place.  You need a little time to think - and the space to do it.  The circle surrounded by evenly sized points creates a square shape with a central core.  Everything in this 15'x15' space is encouraging you to slow down.

You make your decision to enter through the doors, and you're greeted by this striped floor pattern. People walk through here, wait in line, and (finally) approach the rental car counters.  The flooring helps make all this happen. Triangular stripes of dark and light tiles encourage movement and increase the energy associated with the space.  This is high contrast, lively territory! You're supposed to walk through this part. 

Floor color detail

Floor color detail

Navy blue, white, and grey were used for the flooring. This provides a slightly less harsh contrast than black and white would.  Blue is a soothing, calming color and surely works overtime at the airport!

As you turn towards your rental car desks, you move off from the navy-white-corridor and into an area dominated by the white tiles.  Some grey and navy remain, but the softer contrast and higher white percentage is far less intense.  This keeps people calmer - what we all need in an airport. Long thin lines of navy delineate each area, and the triangles subtly direct people towards the desks.  Brilliant flooring!  How can we relate this to a client's landscape?  One of the primary considerations of any space is how it's intended to be used: to move, to sit, to relax, to work...  What's under our feet, along with all the other elements of a design, should support the role of a space.

3 pathway pointers to try at home

wood garden path-2

At the Brenton Arboretum, outside Dallas Center, Iowa, there is a small path that leads around their visitor's center.  It caught my eye and I'm so excited to talk about it - I love thinking through how we move through garden spaces. This walkway is awesome on so many levels.  While it's at a public facility, it could just as easily grace a homeowner's yard. Let's talk about just the path itself, and leave the plants, the view, and the location for another day.  Here are 3 things to think about when creating a path, and how this example just nails it:

Scale, Shape, and Surface

Scale: The path is a minor option off of the wide main sidewalk to the Visitor Center's entrance.  It is a secondary choice - and as such, it's much narrower than the main walkway.  The major thoroughfare in any landscape should be wide and easy to navigate, but secondary paths get to be interesting, and this one surely is.  It's not quite wide enough for two people, so you can't go too fast.  It's meant for someone who wants to take time to wander.  It is tucked up close to the building, but doesn't feel dwarfed because of all the plant material.

Shape: It has this delightful curve.  You're taking your time here - no runway needed.  Curves slow us down and add mystery.  You can't see the final destination for this path - the curve obscures it.  And that's GREAT for a secondary path. It's not what you want for the main path to your home (or a Visitor's Center) - but it's exactly right for a quiet stroll.

wood garden path-2

Surface: Oh, this one is fun!  We're at an arboretum - a living tree collection - so of course we'll use tree slices, or tree cookies, as the steppers.  Set in concrete, these are not perfectly level and they'll break down and change over time, but it's a great material for this site.  Not only is it a nod to the location, but it adds a graphic, artistic quality that plain gravel can't provide.

wood round closeup

For clients, I like to think about the job of each walkway, and make sure that the scale, shape and surface we use line up with the role that path plays.  This little path is beckoning a visitor to come explore more - and I'm first in line.