Ja Architecture Studio wins OAA competition with indigenous-inspired sustainable landscape design

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By Mark Buckshon

Ontario Construction News staff writer

The winning design in the Ontario Association of Architects (OAA) Landscape Design Competition is inspired by Indigenous plants and natural systems, incorporating them into a sustainable and accessible space.

Designed by Toronto’s Ja Architecture Studio, the winning concept, titled The Grounding Meadow, received a $20,000 prize for its innovative and sustainable proposal. The design team, composed of Nima Javidi, Behnaz Assadi, Todd Douglas, and Kayam Ramsewak, will now lead the landscape redesign project at the OAA’s headquarters at 111 Moatfield Dr. in Toronto.

The design emphasizes the importance of climate change and reconciliation, incorporating the cultures and traditions of Indigenous communities. The landscape design is built around a wild meadow, allowing water to freely run underneath, creating a more natural ecosystem for the area. The design also pays homage to the Don River watershed, integrating it into the overall landscape composition.

“Our project tries to address the two core themes of the competition—climate change and Reconciliation—through one legible protagonist: the ground,” says Javidi. “We aimed to translate our awareness of the importance of land, its history, and ecology into a spatial and experiential one.”

Javidi and Assadi worked with Douglas and MTE Consultants to develop the landscape design, and they received feedback from a jury of experts who praised the design’s incorporation of natural systems and its sensitivity to environmental change. The jury also noted the design’s cultural significance, recognising the use of perennials and grasses as part of the overall composition.

“Our Landscape Design Competition has showcased how sustainable and thoughtful architecture can reshape our environment for the better,” says OAA President Settimo Vilardi. “Congratulations to Team Chestnut and all our honourable mentions for their outstanding contributions. These designs not only respect our commitment to environmental stewardship, but also create a welcoming and inspiring space for everyone. We look forward to seeing ‘The Grounding Meadow’ come to life, setting a new standard for sustainable landscape design.”

In addition to the winning design, three honorable mentions were awarded to the following teams:

  • “Catch/Renew/Release,” by Team Basswood (led by Lisa Rapoport of PLANT Architect Inc., with landscape architect Eric Klaver and other members of PLANT Architect and Chesley Blahut of Aplin Martin Consultants Ltd.);
  • “4887 Saplings,” by Team Elm (led by Kevin Weiss of Weiss Architecture & Urbanism Ltd., with landscape architect Robert Wright and civil engineer David Sharp of Husson Engineering + Management); and
  • “Landscape Reconnect,” by Team Ironwood (led by Joël León Danis of Make Good Projects Inc., with landscape architect Victoria Taylor of VTLA Studio and civil engineer Frank Fisl of Watercom Engineering Inc.).

Construction on the project is expected to begin in the spring of 2025, with a budget of $2 million.

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