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.