Outdoor Lifestyle Magazine - - Profiles - By ALINE MARIE LEMAy – MONTREAL, QC

Ellen Rasnikoff was al­ways in­ter­ested in art, na­ture, and de­sign as well as sci­ence. She was plan­ning to be an ar­chi­tect when she stum­bled upon the land­scape ar­chi­tec­ture course at the Uni­ver­sity of Guelph. She had never heard of it be­fore, but as soon as she saw it, she knew it was for her. “I’ve never looked back,” she says.

Rasnikoff has been with Para­mount Group for al­most twenty years. “I love my work,” she says. “I look for­ward to ev­ery day, truly, my whole work­ing life. Each day brings new projects, new clients, and new chal­lenges. I en­joy it so much.”

Para­mount Group pri­mar­ily does res­i­den­tial land­scapes and as a larger firm it of­fers cre­ative cus­tom land­scap­ing de­sign and ex­e­cu­tion. “We do in­dus­trial and com­mer­cial as well as larger res­i­den­tial projects but we work with all sizes of jobs and all types of ma­te­ri­als and installations –swim­ming pools, pa­tios, decks, and fronts of houses,” she ex­plains.

“The chal­lenge is putting to­gether the clients needs with their house, their fam­ily life, and us­ing the lat­est ma­te­ri­als and low main­te­nance tech­niques to give them ex­tra liv­ing space within their prop­erty. It’s lovely be­cause each project is different.”

Ac­cord­ing to Rasnikoff, the world of land­scape ar­chi­tec­ture has changed since her time in school. “I be­lieve every­body is more en­vi­ron­men­tally aware now so they can ap­pre­ci­ate the idea that we have to in­cor­po­rate green space into our plans, even in a smaller ur­ban project.”

When it comes to meet­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal stan­dards, ev­ery sea­son presents unique chal­lenges that re­quire different so­lu­tions. “For au­tumn and spring, while it’s still chilly out­side, we have in­stalled propane fire pits and fire­places which is also en­vi­ron­men­tally re­spon­si­ble be­cause the city of Montreal, on the is­land, does not al­low any more wood burn­ing. This is a newer tech­nol­ogy that we’re us­ing that still cre­ates that comfy out­door feel­ing with­out hav­ing to burn wood,” Rasnikoff ex­plains.

“When you’re de­sign­ing out­door spa­ces, it’s for all the senses, not only visual. It’s ol­fac­tory – the smells – and the sounds. If you want to block out am­bi­ent sounds or cre­ate a sound with a water­fall or at­tract birds, th­ese are all things I in­cor­po­rate in my de­signs. You may want to bor­row a view in the dis­tance, or a tree at a neigh­bour’s, or some­times add more pri­vacy. The de­sign is al­ways in­di­vid­u­ally based on the client’s needs to give them the best space pos­si­ble, at a rea­son­able bud­get.”

Rasnikoff of­fered her thoughts for future gen­er­a­tions: “Aware­ness, I think, is the big­gest change. Be aware that no mat­ter what cli­mate we’re liv­ing in, we can cre­ate an ex­ten­sion of liv­ing space out­doors be­cause of tech­nol­ogy.”

When asked to se­lect a favourite project to fea­ture for OL Magazine, Rasnikoff laughed, “I can­not choose my favourite jobs, just as I can­not choose my favourite daugh­ter!” It’s no won­der that her pas­sion for land­scape ar­chi­tec­ture is so ev­i­dent in ev­ery project she takes on.

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