Founding Principal - Janet Rosenberg + Associates / JRA
Areas of Specialty
- Landscape Architecture
- Urban Design
- Master Planning
Designer Q&A with Janet
What is your design philosophy?
Landscape design is influenced by so many external factors that are beyond the designer’s control; it is important to understand all of those influences, whether climatic, use-related, or other, and design to accommodate or even mediate them. Landscape designs are living entities; we design with the knowledge that our projects will change over time, and we do our best to ensure that our designs only improve with age. To that end, we strive to incorporate timeless, iconic elements in every design, which can create a lasting identity even in the face of fluctuating conditions and changing landscapes.
What led you to this career?
My mother’s garden inspired me to pursue this work. But in the 1960s, when I got started, landscape architecture wasn’t much of a career in Canada and there certainly weren’t many landscape architects at the time. What appealed to me most was the promise of growth, change, and influence. I knew that there was unexplored potential to make a difference in our cities and in people’s lives through this profession.
What has been your favorite project and why?
I can’t say that any one project is more special than the other, but I can name a few projects that are important, as they represent various milestones in my office:
Each residential project that I do is so enjoyable, because of the opportunities for truly creative approaches to horticulture, and the challenges inherent in balancing client needs, use patterns, and maintenance requirements.
Town Hall Square in Toronto was an excellent example of a successful design for public space, and it represents for JRA a negotiation between the City and developer that resulted in more public space for the community.
The most recent ARC design competition for a wildlife bridge in Colorado was important as it strengthened the office’s direction towards ecologically-driven design and technical innovation.
Tell us about your most challenging project.
HTO was probably our most challenging undertaking to date. The project was a highly collaborative process of working with a large multi-disciplinary team and with several stakeholder groups, all representing varied interests. The project also required very complex engineering solutions because our design demanded an extension of the site into the lake to bring people closer to the water. And finally, because the design was unconventional for the city at the time, it required a lot of convincing and a challenging process of obtaining approvals. When you do something different, you have to work harder to demonstrate its benefits and encourage a new comfort level.
What is your design process?
Our design process begins with a simple site visit. The site usually inspires the design. We explore the location, its context, surrounding architecture, and history to understand the constraints and opportunities inherent in the site. Depending on the project, we then interact with the client, the stakeholders, and the team of consultants. Each stakeholder often provides incredibly valuable insights into what the project must be and how it needs to function. We then come up with a scheme that responds to the demands of the site and the desires of user groups, and we give a recognizable form, image, and visual identity to all of these factors.