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JR Harris - Profile
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Harris has worked in exterior spatial design and the land based industry for over 40 years; designing, constructing and managing projects as diverse as tiny intimate courtyards and small formal gardens to major land reclamation schemes, public parks, memorial gardens, vast informal landscapes, lakes, wetlands, play zones and sports grounds. His projects have been recognised by several environmental and design awards.

He has written landscape associated articles for newspapers, magazines and websites, and regularly lectures on horticulture, landscape design, construction and garden history. In addition he is a Greenflag Judge, assessing parks, landscapes and woodlands. Harris has a particular interest in creating period gardens and restoring historic parks. Subsequently his work has led to significant research, documentation, innovation and activity in this field.

However, he also enjoys producing imaginative designs, introducing drama into the landscape and utilising alternative materials and interesting artefacts. Harris approaches his work with passion, designing with an artist’s eye, affording meticulous attention to detail and adopting a sympathetic approach to the environment, where recognition of the ‘genius loci’ is paramount and an appreciation for the local geology and architecture plays a key role. He is possibly atypical in that he doesn’t candidly accept the opportunity of a blank canvas as the perfect opportunity. In contrast he thrives on a challenge and recognises that problematic sites can provide unique direction and stimulating conclusions.

Harris’s reflection on DESIGN

“Clients essentially desire quality ‘design and build’ projects that will suit their individual lifestyles and appeal to their unique tastes and requirements. Often, an artistically drafted plan can visually suggest a realization of the client’s expectation... and may indeed fulfil the brief. Nevertheless, it is important to recognize that although patterns on paper may appear to delineate and potentially realize the aspirations of the client; plans can merely be shapes on the ground that when built may not afford the character zones and features that are expected. Subsequently, careful thought must be given to the scale, interpretation and vertical elements which will create the usable space.


I approach design as a solution to a problem, which is either practical or aesthetic; but most often it is a combination of the two. My focus on design principles ensures that every avenue is explored and that the final scheme works from a human perspective: the garden or landscape is seldom a bird’s eye view, but is experienced from human eye level.  The overriding principal is to present a realistic resolution to the client’s problem.

What is good design? Good design provides a perfect solution to a particular quandary; it contains elements of expectation and surprise, and recognises the fourth dimension – time; the seasons and the years. Often on TV and in books and magazines we see landscapes designed to astonish – and some are excellent. However, they are often designed in isolation with little or no regard to the setting and subsequently harmony and unity are lost. A garden or landscape should not sit alone but must to some degree harmonise with its zone of visual influence.”

And an addendum...

“I believe that designers never realise their full worth without venturing beyond their own paradigms. Excellent schemes are often realised by a good designer using principles learned at design school. But... to venture beyond your paradigms is to venture into a world of magical grottos, sinuous rills, romantic follies, caverns of foliage, sunken terraces, moats, labyrinths, stumperies and trompe l’oeils.... a world of endless possibilities. With adherence to good design principles, an artistic flair and prudent imagination, fabricating the illusion is attainable: the illusion that creates the ambience of the sanctuary – the rapture, the drama, the romance, the intrigue.”

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