June 26, 2018

Meet the OJB Team

Cynthia Dehlavi is an Associate in OJB's Houston office.

What inspired you to become a landscape architect? I was in my fourth year of my BArch degree spending a lot of time in the studio, longing for the outdoors. The thought of creating indoor/outdoor environments really intrigued me. Seriously, we all spend way too much time inside. This has to change. Home to car to office to car to gym to home and back and repeat. This is so many people’s lives. At the same time, I knew I would want to teach design studio at some point in my life at a university and getting a masters would be required. Landscape architecture fascinated me because of its systems based design approach, inherent sustainability and tree loving spirit.

Who as an artist or landscape architect influenced your design and plant materials? Olifeur Eliasson may be one of my favorite artists. I may name my first child Olifeur, boy or girl. Cool name? Yah. He speaks about nature, empowerment, destination and landscape.  All components of a landscape project.

What is your focus when designing? What makes your work rewarding? My focus is people. I want to create environments that improve people’s physical and mental health. Sustainability is key, because we need to mitigate the amount of toxins we absorb. I love design because it affects people’s mood. There is so much repetitive poor design. For example, think about the basic asphalt parking lot. It’s the most terrible space in the world. Physical discomfort will come from your mental discomfort of the space. Now think of laying in the grass under a tree in a park. Relaxation, joy and rejuvenation occur. The compromise would be a parking lot with giant trees, bioswales and permeable paving. You just feel good in nicely designed, environmentally conscious spaces. If my work results in making spaces for people to live their best lives, that is incredibly rewarding.

Where do you go to feel inspired? Of course, travel is the best way to feel inspired. Seeing new places, taking part in new cultures and disconnecting from the normal can create a dream like state. I really loved Mexico City. The culture of the place is so vibrant. There is a beautiful mix of historic and modern. It’s very dense but feels open and walkable. I love how in the city embraces rooftops as active space. Plus, it’s so close to home! Such an easy getaway.  If I am not able to travel though, I will work out or meditate for mental clarity.

What has been your favorite OJB project to work on and why? I am most excited about Post-HTX. A 5.3 acre roof deck looking out of Houston, covered in activity for adults is just mind blowing to me. Currently we are in the first phases of design. I have most enjoyed collaborating with our architecture and development team. When a ground of creative young minds come together, a project is so fun. We really focused on the elements of play and farming for this design. I think these two items will distinguish the project from others.

The Urban Farmification research project was another favorite project. Both of these projects introduce agriculture as an amenity. Urban farming is going to become huge as the obsession with food source heightens. Funny how being able to engage with the food you eat can be sold as a luxury item now. In both projects, we use urban farming as a method for creating a destination. It’s a great juxtaposition in the urban environment that I find fascinating.