Designers of the Year Photo Credit: John Sinal

Landscape Designer of the Year 2011: Paul Sangha

Paul Sangha creates environments that embrace both the wild and the groomed.

A boardwalk meandering through the fern-carpeted forest and down a steep cliff appears as though it’s in a national park—a five-star national park, where materials and workmanship benefit from a generous budget and careful attention to detail. But atop the escarpment, with its view of sea and mountains, the property in Vancouver’s Point Grey is more formally arranged, with features that include an infinity pool and bocce lawn, along with sculptures that are strategically located to catch a wandering eye. This recently completed garden redesign is the type of canvas frequently enjoyed by Vancouver landscape architect Paul Sangha. “We have a project of this scope on the go most of the time,” says Sangha, whose 12-person firm restricts itself almost entirely to residential work. “The challenge is to use the fewest brushstrokes.” The achievement of such sumptuous effect while exercising a restraint in keeping with sustainability ideals is one of the attributes that impressed the judging panel. “As beautifully groomed as these outdoor rooms are,” says judge Jim Hole, “you never feel that the natural surroundings have been compromised or sacrificed.” A native of Uganda who arrived in Vancouver via the Philippines as an eight-year-old, Sangha spent the first dozen or so years of his professional career working with designer Ron Rule before striking out on his own a dozen years ago. With his work concentrated in leafy, established neighbourhoods, where “the house and garden have to speak to each other,” Sangha is known less for bold gestures than for intricate problem solving. And yet there’s something uniquely Sangha about every space he designs: a sense of calm, the balance struck between hardscaping and plant material, and the emphasis on an indoor/outdoor style of life. This approach helps account for the judges’ agreement that, whether modern, classic, wild or rustic (or all four), Sangha’s work adeptly fits the needs of both the site and the homeowner.

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