This article was written by Len Hordyk, DynaSCAPE Product Manager – Design Solutions. Len has over 20 years of experience in the landscape industry.
Design is a creative process that gives you the freedom to choose the lines, shapes and styles that you feel are best suited to your project and your client’s wishes. There some simple design tips to consider when designing a primary walkway. Let’s use the example of a residential walkway that will function as a means to connect the driveway to the front entrance.
Approaching the Driveway – Most mistakes are made where the walkway opens up at the driveway. Most designers understand that you should widen a walkway where it connects to a larger area, like a driveway, to collect and funnel people down the path. The first instinct is to flare the walkway to a sharp point on either side (A). This is bad design from a construction point of view because it is difficult to shape materials like natural stone or pavers into a sharp point. Concrete could be formed into this shape quite easily, but this narrow section is structurally weak and prone to crack or break off, especially in colder climate with ground frost. It would be more appropriate to start flaring the walkway further back in order to end the edge at a much less sharp angle. This can work with both curves and square lines as shown in the examples below (B,C).
Designing Steps in Walkways – When placing a step or steps into a walkway design there a few things to consider. It is important to remember to use the same rise and tread for all steps, with a maximum height of 7” (80mm). If you are breaking up steps with landings, keep landings no shorter than 4’ (1.25m) with a preferred length of 5’ (1.5m) to allow for regular rhythm of movement. Dealing with a step at the driveway can be challenging and is often done incorrectly. Since most driveways have some slope to them, if you placed a step right against the driveway edge, the step rise would be become increasingly higher further down the driveway (A). This can be both dangerous and awkward. The key here is to place the step in the walkway away from the driveway, allowing you to slope the last part of the walkway to match the driveway (B). This may require something to retain the grade at the ends of the steps but the results are far more desirable.
Dealing with Longer Walkways – Large homes often need long walkways to connect the driveway to the main entrance. This often leads to long, boring walkways with little interest for the user so the challenge here is to make it an interesting and pleasant experience. This can be easily done by adding a focal point or several features along the way. One option would be to add a sitting area with a bench, or a place for planters or sculptural elements (see diagram below), keeping in mind not to disrupt traffic flow. Another option might be to add an expanded area with a different material or pattern to break up the walkway and add interest. Remember to flare the walkway properly at the road or driveway and place your steps in the right location(s).