The Office of James Burnett focuses on creating landscapes that transform perspectives and evoke emotional responses. The firm’s work imaginatively unifies the relationship between landscape and architecture, ensuring unique compositions that satisfy the demands of both form and function.
Creating unique and unforgettable sensory experiences that promote healthy living is core to OJB’s design ethos. The firm’s early work was rooted in healthcare, where Jim tapped his personal and professional experience to design supportive, healthy, and restorative environments. This careful analysis of landscape’s interaction with the senses became a driving force in OJB’s designs and has been translated into the firm’s work across all verticals – academic, civic, cultural, office, hospitality, mixed-use, and retail.
OJB’s design process conceives original and inventive landscapes within the framework of context and function, mitigating site challenges with creative and innovative solutions. The firm is committed to an inclusive, exploratory process that engages and inspires project stakeholders and collaborators; OJB’s integrated, multi-disciplinary approach has sustained the relevance of the firm throughout its 27-year history as it continues to challenge the conventional boundaries of landscape architecture.
Jim founded the Office of James Burnett in 1989 in Houston, Texas. The firm’s early projects were thoughtful and composed, quickly establishing OJB as a leader in the field of landscape architecture. By 2003, OJB opened a second office in San Diego, CA. The new location expanded OJB’s reach to the west coast, and the firm grew quickly. In 2013, OJB opened its Boston office and currently employs 60 professionals throughout the firm.
Pioneering a new ecological aesthetic for arid landscapes in the southwest, Sunnylands Center & Gardens is a nine-acre desert jewel amid Rancho Mirage’s conventional, thirsty sprawl. The new Interpretive Center and Botanical Gardens celebrate the cultural legacy of publisher, diplomat, and philanthropist Walter Annenberg and his wife Lenore. OJB created a collection of museum-quality garden spaces that invite discovery and reflection. Organic and free flowing at the site’s edges, the lines of hardscape surfaces and planting beds take on a geometric precision. Frederick Fisher and Partners’ 15,000-SF LEED Gold-rated building houses exhibition space, a café, a theater, and a gift shop. The Center’s western windows offer views of an event terrace, lawn, and the San Jacinto Mountains beyond. Twin reflecting basins flank the terrace, mirror the desert sky, lower the ambient temperature, and fill the area with the sound of water. More than 1.25 miles of walking trails lead visitors past the circular event lawn and flowering palo verde trees, to a labyrinth garden, a performance circle, and interpretive displays of native plants. The planting design features 53,000 hand-picked specimens from over 50 arid-landscape plant species chosen for their sculptural character, seasonal interest, and wildlife habitat value. Cutting-edge water efficiency measures throughout the site allow the garden to thrive using only 20% of its water allocation from the Coachella Valley Water District.
Klyde Warren Park was created over one of the busiest freeways in Dallas, Texas. The freeway had severed the city’s two largest cultural districts for many years. Restoring the connection has transformed the city by bridging the gap and creating a new heart of downtown. Acting as a common ground for the surrounding museums and businesses, Klyde Warren Park is a vibrant and well-programmed urban park. Bisected by the existing Olive Street bridge, the park is organized by a sweeping pedestrian promenade that features a continuous canopy of specimen pond cypress. The promenade draws visitors through the park past a botanical garden, a children’s garden with an interactive water feature, a reading room, and an event lawn. A large public plaza adjacent to Olive Street connects the restaurant terrace, the performance pavilion, and the casual take-out pavilion to the street and features an interactive fountain feature. The park has measurably decreased noise and air pollution in the area and increased activity for businesses and cultural institutions. Moreover, real estate and property values surrounding the park have seen a steady increase since the start of construction. Klyde Warren Park has gracefully reconnected the city, and has become an integral and endeared open space in Downtown Dallas.
A key part of Oklahoma City’s Project 180 public works program, the Myriad Botanical Gardens renovation has transformed 15 underused acres into a highly programmed park and the heart of downtown. Two decades after its opening, the park’s Crystal Bridge Conservatory, lake, and gardens were popular for photography, but limited accessibility, a lack of programming, and the perception that the garden was unsafe discouraged visits. OJB worked with stakeholders to re-envision the park as a vibrant and iconic setting for civic and cultural events. The design preserved over 300 high-value specimen trees and directed on-site stormwater to the renovated central lake, where it supplements irrigation. The Garden draws visitors onto a tree-lined promenade leading through botanical plantings around the lake’s upper rim. Quiet, shaded berms overlook the 28,000-SF Great Lawn and a sculptural bandshell by Gensler’s David Epstein. Sycamore trees buffer Hudson Avenue while providing flexible space to support the annual Festival of the Arts. An interactive water feature marks the entry to a children’s garden that offers active play and natural learning. A dog park, a fountain plaza, and a restaurant with outdoor dining enliven the eastern portion of the site. The garden rooms are used year-round for concerts, plays, weddings, galas, and sports and fitness events. Since its re-opening, the park has welcomed more than a million visitors annually and catalyzed downtown economic development.
On this 94-acre campus, carefully detailed outdoor spaces artfully manage the site’s stormwater and create a serene setting for employees and visitors. The renovation consolidates disparate facilities from across the Houston metropolitan area into a new-world headquarters on the site of an existing manufacturing and shipping facility. OJB worked to ensure that the design was environmentally responsible, preserved the site’s unique character, and addressed the many programmatic needs of the people working there.
New buildings are located towards the interior of the site, preserving forest canopy along the perimeter and insulating personnel from manufacturing operations. Large interior stands of trees were preserved and more than 500 new trees were planted to give scale, shade, and separation. OJB created two interconnected lakes at the center of campus, which serves as amenity and focal point for the campus while managing runoff. Adjacent to the lake, wetland systems planted extensively with native vegetation provide additional detention and create wildlife habitat.
A series of compatible outdoor use areas – gravel terraces, hardwood decks, trellis-shaded walkways – invite users out into the landscape to relax, play, and socialize. Throughout the campus, the sweeping elliptical lines of the lake are echoed in the design of water features, walkways, decks, and planting beds.
Levy Park is a highly programmed 5.9-acre urban park located within the Upper Kirby District of Houston. The Upper Kirby Redevelopment Authority, a public-private partnership, hired OJB to design a world-class urban park that offers something for everyone and will become the heart of a district, used daily by residents, and serving as a destination for all of Houston.
Programming for the park includes a performance pavilion, two large event lawns, a community garden, several water features, and a dog park. A generous promenade circling the park connects a games area, play berms, decomposed granite seating courts, and a food kiosk. Several mixed-use residential and office buildings front the park and are united by the surrounding renovated streetscapes, which strengthen pedestrian and vehicular connectivity to the park. At the heart of the park is a winding children’s garden, which among its playful fountains and tree houses, sit several 40-70-year-old legacy live oak trees that were relocated on-site.
The design of Levy Park incorporated sustainable environmental elements including a rain garden, which harvests runoff water from adjacent buildings; a community garden, which collects rainwater; and the installation of solar and LED lighting to lessen the carbon footprint.
The park has already economically benefited the rapidly developing neighborhood, as the parkland makes nearby projects more desirable. Levy Park is slated to open in December 2016.