Landscape Designers
Kirk Bianchi

Mar 13, 2012
Landscape Designers

Kirk's Style

Dramatic: Eliciting joy and wonder through intentional acts of beauty
Enlivening: Engaging the senses with delightful and pleasant experiences
Stunning: Interrupting "the rush" long enough for people to pause, reflect, and appreciate
Captivating: Heightening awareness and appreciation for subtleties that make all the difference
Suspenseful: Building anticipation and curiosity for what thrills might come next
Wonderful: Eliciting joy and delight for beauty's sake, awakening the sense for what is possible
Powerful: Expressing the sublime in as "few moves" as possible
Expressive: Clearly and congruently articulating themes and motifs
Pure: Seeking harmony free of "noise" and all that is superfluous
Eclectic: Working with "style" to achieve the ultimate embodiment of afore-mentioned values.

Designer Q&A with Kirk

What is your design philosophy?
Art is not arbitrary. I seek to elevate outdoor living as an art form, by creating stunning integrations of water + earth, fire + fountain, art + architecture.

I believe that our surrounding environment is precisely like music.

Orderly, inspiring music has a direct impact on our thoughts and our emotions. It can affect us in a powerful way, freeing us to flourish and become our best selves.

The visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and olfactory stimuli we take in from our daily environment affects us in the same way, just like playing certain music over and over and over, but its contribution to our emotional state, relationships and productivity often goes unnoticed. For instance, a cluttered desk is often said to be a reflection of ones mental state. Yet it works the other way as well. The ritual of ordering ones desk actually quits the mind, liberating one to move on to other tasks. What is true of our desks is also true of our homes and garden spaces.

We take in our world through the five senses. When our senses are enlivened by colors that are in harmony with each other, by elements that are mathematically proportioned one to the other, and by scenes that flow effortlessly from one to the other, we achieve a state of stillness, peace, and quietness within us. From this place of calm, we are able to live at the peak of our abilities. We create better. We relate better. We play better. We work better. We ARE better.

I create environments that appeal to our senses in the same way Mozart and Bach approached their auditory mediums. There are underlying rules and proportions to the process of shaping ones environment, just as in music, that yield tangible results in how we feel about ourselves, our life, and our relationships.

I ask my clients, "Why settle for ordinary?" By arranging the elements they were going to invest in anyway, in an intentional and beautiful way, they can achieve the spectacular. They will create for themselves a sanctuary that transcends the mundane, a sense of place and "home" that will affect their quality of life and relationships with loved ones for the better, each and every day.

What led you to this career?

Whereas many come to this profession via a love for botany and horticulture, I came to the world of exterior design through the "back door."

In my youth, I was an avid student of art, drawing, photography, and model building.

This early immersion imparted me with an intuitive sense for proportion, scale and composition. For all four years in high school, I also had the privilege of participating in advanced architectural drafting classes and competitions that inspired me to excel.

During the summer between my junior and senior year, I was given the opportunity to experience Japan with my father, for an entire month. I was blown away by the cultures sense of design, how they brought nature into everyday living as a fundamental way of life. Everything there was "art," right down to how they arranged food on your plate. Their "zen" approach to life was an awakening for me, where one slows the mind down enough to notice and savor the subtle nuances, appreciating the most elemental things, paring everything down to it’s essence.

While pursuing my love for architecture, business and Japanese culture during college, I became disenchanted by "the grind" my peers and mentors were experiencing in the corporate world of commercial architecture, and I began to seek an alternate course.

Providentially, I crossed paths with an article in the paper, where an ex-pro-fisherman-turned- pool-designer was incorporating scenes of his world travels into the backyards of his clients, to create a private oasis for them to retreat to. I called him up, curious. The next day I was digging swimming pools, setting boulder waterfalls, pouring concrete, then sketching and drawing for the owner of the company by night.

I loved that I was bringing my artistry to the table in a way that satisfied my need to give to real people, not just a committee. The fruits of my labor appeared before my eyes within weeks, impacting the lives of families in a positive way, and I enjoyed the fact that I could be enterprising in how I delivered my talents. My art was not a commodity, and it was good for business as well! That was 18 years ago!

What has been your favorite project and why?
My favorite has been for a gruff-on-the-outside-teddy-bear-on-the-inside-grandfatherly figure in my life, Bill Langer, and his amazing wife, Linda. They are some of the most grateful, genuine, humble, down to earth, caring, gracious, and appreciative people that I know. There is no one beneath them. The lowliest contributor to their project was treated with the utmost of respect, and they honored the labor and opinion of each individual with courtesy and appreciation. For these kinds of people, you just want to give 200% of yourself at every opportunity.

As a real estate developer, Bill managed to acquire an empty lot, an anomaly in the most prime area of mid-town Phoenix known as Arcadia, known for its upscale, yet family oriented, neighborhoods in close proximity to Camelback Mountain, Old Town Scottsdale, and the business district of Biltmore Estates. Bill, familiar with the process, knew that success in building was a team sport, not a solo effort. He immediately sought to surround himself with a select crew of artisans, experts, to make their dream come true. And that he did. At the end of the two-year effort, we were all sad to see it finish! We had become like family.

The most satisfying aspect of the project, (the relationships and mutual respect we had for each other), is what allowed the built project itself to be an expression of everyone’s highest effort. It was a cul-de-sac lot that had a very small curbside presence, with a vast expanse behind it and around it. Instead of just one area behind the house, the wedge shaped lot had nooks and crannies completely enveloping the structure, and my exercise was to discover the ultimate expression of bringing the outside in. I was called upon to shape the overall outdoor experience of the property, from the curbside approach to all of the spaces around, culminating in the reflective swimming pool that mirrored a specimen ironwood tree and romantic spa getaway, accessed by "floating" granite step-stones, enjoyed from all the prime living spaces of the home.

See the whole project here:

Tell us about your most challenging project.
My second favorite project has also been my most challenging. The clients loved their modern, geometrically expressive home with a subtractive style of architecture, but had inherited a back yard from the previous owner that was totally incongruent. It was a complete hodge-podge of materials, elevations, and obstructive plantings, surpassed only by the towering fake rock waterfall (plopped down at the end of a geometric pool) as seen from the front door. We likened it to an "artificial penguin exhibit," and to make things more "interesting," it was the one element that the client thought should remain! (Only the smiling chant in unison from the pool contractor, landscape contractor, and myself, with a resounding "Heck no! It’s the first to go!" persuaded her with a laugh to give us free reign to make things completely right.)

See the whole project here:

The first challenge was to unite the geometry of the existing pool to the home by redoing all of the hardscape and landscape around the pool. The homes signature motif, namely its diagonal overhead trelliswork as appreciated from the entry, is what inspired the flooring pattern for the backyard layout. In turn, discovering this "hidden math and geometry" lead to the spatial organization of every other element in the yard.

Once the floor design was identified, the second challenge was laying out the exacting paver design in the field, which required custom molds to be made for the unusual sizes. The paver flooring in turn also allowed us to functionally address the lack of drainage in the zero slope oddly confined space.

Then the third hardest part of the project ensued...which was setting the mature trees, planters and firepits, and ultimately a ramada, into their actual real world locations. There was no room for error in locating these huge elements. If they were out of alignment, the last- to-be-installed flooring design would prove it in the end and we would be stuck.

The ultimate finale of the project was finessing the otherwise mundane diamond shaped pool into an expanded trapezoid with a deck level weir around its entire perimeter. The result? The pool, crisp, angular and flush, is now set as a mirror, situated perfectly to reflect the raw sculptural form of an aged ironwood tree within its crystal clear surface. The tree is gracefully feminine, swaying in the breeze, providing a loose and delightful contrast within its more rigidly masculine frame, a worthy focal point of the entire property.

What is your design process?
Ultimately my design approach is a process of elimination that is subtractive in sequence.

First I identify issues of shade and sun, views that are favorable vs not so favorable, as well as drainage and elevation changes that work for or against the space.

Second, I place trees throughout the layout, set to 1) provide shade at desirable times of day, 2) screen views, or 3) to serve as sculptural focal points. Once set, these tell me where the other elements are NOT going.

Thirdly, I place kitchen areas. They need to be convenient to both the indoor as well as outdoor dining areas, without being obstructive visually or to the traffic flow in them and around them. Once set, these tell me where the remaining elements are NOT going.

Fourth, I place furniture throughout the plan, identifying the destination spaces, how will they be used, and then I am careful to creating the traffic flow between these elements without obstructions. To locate these elements I ask, which areas will be used for sunning, and at what time of day? I ask, what areas will be used for dining in the shade and at what time of day? Once set, these tell me where the remaining elements are NOT going.

Then and only then do I place the pool or waterfeature if there is to be one.

Water takes its shape from the vessel that confines it. And the vessel that defines it should take its cues from every other element in the yard. To place the pool first would force it upon the space intrusively, making all other elements subservient.

I feel that the inverse order I take in placing a pool or waterfeature in the scene is the key factor in why my pools feel integrated with their environments, as part of an overall theme.

Lastly I consider style. Once the locations and proportions of the spaces are defined, I ask, "Should the pool and the deck configurations be geometric or fluid? Naturalistic or Architectural?" All of these last descriptors are like "skin" over a framework. They take their cues from the architectural styling of the home, the topography of the lot, and the clients choice of materials that they would like to express. So whether a project is to be contemporary or naturalistic in its finished esthetic, the same principles of design, proportion, and spatial planning are what under gird the validity of the space and how it actually functions and is experienced.


Contact Information

Kirk Bianchi

WaterScapes by Bianchi Design, LLC

12222 N Paradise Village pkwy #219 

Phoenix, AZ 85032