INWED24, Landscape Design, People Spotlight, Sustainability, Urban Design, Urban Planning

Our People Spotlight series gives you an inside look at our technical experts around the world. This week, we are highlighting a landscape architecture, design and urban planning director from our Montreal, Canada office and providing insight into her inspiration and work.

Djemila Hadj-Hamou has more than 30 years of experience and is the newly appointed lead of our Landscape Architecture, Urban Planning and Urban Design team in Quebec. She obtained a bachelor’s degree in architecture and has a master’s degree in urban planning with a major in urban design from Université de Montréal (University of Montreal). She leads a variety of projects of different scales and also teaches a course in urban regeneration at the University of Montreal.

Tell us what inspired you to join the industry.

I’ve always been fascinated by the way architecture shapes a city, so I decided to study in this field and specialize in urban architecture. The balance between built environments and open spaces in a city isn’t a mere coincidence, but rather the result of a meticulous design process and thoughtful planning. Urban design links urban planning, architecture and landscape. Complex projects often require additional expertise, and I find building a multidisciplinary team to deliver a large project both challenging and very rewarding.

I’ve always been fascinated by the way architecture shapes a city, so I decided to study in this field and specialize in urban architecture.”

What is your favorite AECOM project that you’ve worked on and why?

I’ve really enjoyed working on many projects throughout my career at AECOM, especially those that require an innovative approach and push us to think outside the box. I particularly enjoyed a recent collaboration with our rail team on a high frequency rail (HFR) project since I love projects that bring together multidisciplinary teams. My role in the project was to evaluate the options for closing level crossings and ensure the urban and landscape integration of the proposed concepts.

Another favourite project is a traffic mitigation study for the City of Montreal. What made this project particularly interesting was that it combined three concepts: street density, greening and car traffic reduction. Our typo-morphological approach allowed us to identify potential solutions and layouts for the urban context. One of the proposed solutions included a typology of thresholds and adapted streets including school streets, play streets, square-park streets and garden streets. Inspired by Barcelona’s recently-developed superblocks, we were able to rethink the design and transform these areas into more liveable and healthy neighbourhoods for residents. This successful outcome was achieved through collaboration with our local transportation and mobility experts.

One favourite project is a traffic mitigation study for the City of Montreal. What made this project particularly interesting was that it combined three concepts: street density, greening and car traffic reduction.”

Tell us a story of how your work positively impacted the community.

As an urban planner and designer, I work to positively impact communities with outdoor spaces that combine sustainability and cultural relevance, and that artfully blend in with enhanced neighborhoods and improve the quality of life for residents. The innovative approach for the restoration of the pedestrian section of Prince-Arthur Street in Montreal’s Plateau Mont-Royal neighborhood is an example of a project that positively impacted the community, and was completed on time to mark the city’s 375th anniversary in 2017. 

Prior to our work, the street had been a route where bicycle traffic could often pose risks to pedestrian safety. We transformed it into a green, pedestrian-friendly and safe promenade for families and children to stroll past restaurants and cafes. The middle of the promenade is enhanced with terraces, furniture and flowers, a similar concept to the popular La Rambla in Barcelona.

Our innovative, sustainable and environmentally friendly approach has guided the redesign of the street, giving pedestrians a feeling of safety to freely enjoy their strolls, while discouraging cyclists from using the pedestrian area. The street links the very lively Saint-Laurent Boulevard and the quiet Saint-Louis Square at the border between Plateau Mont-Royal and Montreal’s City Center. Distinctive furniture, multi-purpose flower box benches and its open space nature, make this area a local favourite venue for temporary outdoor events and seasonal activities.

The innovative approach for the restoration of the pedestrian section of Prince-Arthur Street in Montreal’s Plateau Mont-Royal neighborhood is an example of a project that positively impacted the community. Prior to our work, the street had been a route where bicycle traffic could often pose risks to pedestrian safety. We transformed it into a green, pedestrian-friendly and safe promenade for families and children to stroll past restaurants and cafes.”

Share a piece of career advice.

Get involved and be dedicated despite the obstacles that may arise along the way — it’s well worth it, as our industry has many exciting career possibilities. We are witnessing a number of paradigm shifts in many areas, so seize every opportunity that comes your way to collaborate with colleagues and cliennts, and develop innovative solutions and industry best practices that will improve communities and drive equity for years to come.

Originally published Jan 31, 2024

Author: Djemila Hadj-Hamou