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Women’s Opportunity Center

Kayonza, Rwanda

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Modern Brooklyn Garden


julie farris

landscape designer

xs space
370 clinton street
brooklyn, new york 11231





Julie Farris lives and works in New York City. A native New Yorker, Julie received her BA from Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York and her MLA from Harvard University Graduate School of Design in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  Julie’s work focuses on the potential for small forgotten spaces throughout the city to become verdant, sustainable, inexpensive and aesthetic landscapes for urban residents. She has worked at several large firms in New York City, including M. Paul Friedberg and Partners as well as HLW International and Balmori Associates. In 2005, she founded a studio, XS Space LLC, and completed a temporary landscape/multi-media installation entitled Temporary Landscape: A Pasture for Urban Space in the Columbia Waterfront District in Brooklyn. In 2007 she worked in collaboration with Balmori Associates and the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation to complete an 8,000 square foot public space, Urban Meadow, which is now a permanent park located in Red Hook, Brooklyn. In 2009 she collaborated with an artist and The Public Art Fund to build a temporary landscape installation in Tribeca in Manhattan.  Her work has focused on international projects in Rwanda and Nepal as well as residential landscapes in Long Island and townhouses in New York City.

Her work has appeared in numerous publications and books, including Architectural Digest, Landscape Architecture Magazine, The Architect’s Newspaper, Ladies’ Home Journal , The New York Post and The New York Times.  She is a member of the Board of Trustees at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and is a co-founder of The Big Future Group, a not- for- profit organization that designs and implements sustainable projects in developing countries. She has also recently started a highly curated online sourcebook for outdoor design called Landstylist, and you can link to the site at  Julie resides in Brooklyn with her husband and two children.


Women’s Opportunity Center

Kayonza, Rwanda

The Women’s Opportunity Center was completed in June, 2013. It is a two acre site that was converted into a destination for women across the hills of Rwanda.  It has classrooms, a visitors center, a kitchen, a marketplace, a large gathering space, and a garden that is called the peace zone.  The project is sponsored by Women for Women International, and the architecture by Sharon Davis Design Studio.

The landscape consists of several zones going from the most public areas to the most quiet and more private.  The plantings, inspired by the works of Roberto Burle Marx, are drifts of flowering groundcovers, shrubs and native grasses.  Integral to the project was the ability for plants to be harvested for various purposes lending to the sustainability of the site and economy, such as the moringa , medicinal and kitchen herbs, bamboo, and fruit trees. The landscape is largely planted from seed,  and is in process of evolving and establishing itself on site. I worked in collaboration with Susan Quillian- Maurer, also a landscape designer, who was living in Rwanda at the time and able to oversee the installation.

This project was recently awarded the the civic and community built projects category at the  World Architecture Festival in Singapore 2013.

Photos by Elizabeth Felicella.