JOANNA PERTZ, RLAFounder + Principal

As Founder and Principal of JPLA, Joanna extends her unique design vision into all aspects of the firm’s work.  Building on her extensive knowledge of over twenty-five years in the field of landscape architecture,  Joanna leads the practice, collaborating closely with JPLA staff as a way to cultivate new ideas and to foster learning and mastery of the work. Her approach to each project involves an interplay between site specific analysis, conceptual exploration, and an understanding of each client’s goals. Joanna’s designs are born through a passion to create, a keen sensitivity to the sensory and experiential qualities in the world around us, and a desire to provide opportunities for connection. Through practice, she is committed to creating and sustaining landscapes that improve the ecological and social health of our communities. 

Prior to starting her own practice, Joanna was an Associate at HLW International, LLP and a Design Manager at Quennell Rothschild and Partners, LLP. She also worked as an Apprentice Stone Carver in Texas, assisting the production of large-scale urban sculpture before entering architectural practice. Building on her background in the arts and years of professional practice, Joanna brings a conceptual and technical rigor to her work to create highly crafted and resilient landscapes. Joanna received her Master’s Degree in Landscape Architecture from Rhode Island School of Design, where she graduated with Honors and a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies and Fine Arts from University of California, Santa Cruz. Joanna enjoys sourcing local ingredients and cooking up a storm for family and friends, dancing, creating beautiful things and exploring new places with her husband and three boys. 


RACHEL WHITESIDE, RLA – Associate Principal

Rachel plays a critical role supporting the firm and Founder – collaborating on design, helping to shape strategy and business development, and managing projects in the office.  Rachel leads JPLA’s design + production efforts to deliver clear, thorough design presentations and construction documents and interfaces with clients and consultants for streamlined, effective communication. Throughout the course of a project, Rachel takes pride to ensure that JPLA’s design vision is carried out from the inception of concept design through the execution of construction details.  Through seventeen years in the field, Rachel brings to the team a diverse skill set that includes an advanced understanding of the materials and technologies of landscape and a penchant for plants and planting design.

With a background in Fine Arts, Rachel has an eye for design and a graphic sensibility that she brings to her work. Since receiving her MLA from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design in 2004, Rachel has worked in New York City building her experience on local and international projects, across a range of sectors and scales.  Rachel enjoys exploring Brooklyn’s large parks with her family and dog, and takes refuge in the beaches and meadows of the North shore of Long Island where she grew up.


ANNIE SCOTT HALABURDA Horticulture Oversight Manager and Landscape Designer

Annie Scott Halaburda manages JPLA’s Landscape Maintenance Oversight practice. In this role, she helps our clients identify the required services needed, assembles the allied professionals to perform the work, and oversees the project in-situ to provide the best systems and strategies for the health of their landscapes. Her work is guided by a hands-on approach with an emphasis on field observations and clear communication with clients and contractors.

Prior to joining JPLA, Annie earned both a Masters degree in Landscape Architecture from the City College of New York, and a Master’s degree in Landscape Design from The Conway School. With this extensive knowledge base, Annie founded an ecological design studio where she designed landscapes for residential clients, community projects, and nonprofits.

Annie believes in creating and sustaining landscapes that are resilient and emotionally resonant. Through her work, she aims to create opportunities for joy and engagement in the landscape to foster a shared sense of environmental stewardship. In her free time, Annie enjoys working in her vegetable garden, biking, hiking, and exploring natural and urban areas.


MARIA ISABEL ARROYO Landscape Designer

Maria has a facility with the digital tools of graphics and technical production, particularly with AutoCAD drafting, organization and drawing management. As a project designer, Maria supports the development and refinement of design concepts through clear and thorough graphic and technical documents, and also excels in developing organizational systems and product research. In her first year at JPLA, Maria led production on NYCHA PACT ABM, 3 public housing landscapes in Washington Hts Neighborhood, with the completion of construction documents in January 2022.

Prior to joining JPLA, Maria worked throughout the Mid-Atlantic on a diverse range of projects including small public spaces, highway greening, urban streetscapes, multi-family residential landscape and private residential gardens. Her Graduate education at the Harvard GSD’s MLA Program provided a framework of space-making and ecology and refined her undergraduate foundation in design and analysis. Maria is an avid reader and maker and enjoys learning about history, art, and sustainability while also dabbling in a number of creative projects including drawing, sewing, crochet, and photography.


AARON NELL Landscape Designer

As a landscape designer at JPLA, Aaron contributes to all aspects of project work from design and planning to advancing material research to construction documents and construction administration. Aaron strives for clarity in graphic and verbal communication, coordinating with consultants and clients throughout the design process.

Prior to joining JPLA, Aaron worked in Southern California on landscape and planning projects in multifamily, estate residential, institutional, corporate, and public landscapes, focusing on sustainable design practices in a drought and fire sensitive region. Originally from rural Alabama, he graduated with an MLA from Auburn University in his home state and worked as a graduate teaching assistant in design introduction classes.  Aaron is passionate about landscape as the intersection of human and non-human expression in the city. He enjoys exploring, sketching, and investigating ecologies both native and novel.

MICHAEL CAFIERO Landscape Designer

Michael contributes to all phases of design from site research to construction administration. His approach to projects is founded in intensive site research, rigorous conceptual organization, and creative problem-solving.

Michael brings a diverse skill-set to JPLA, with previous experience in architecture, gardening, construction management, and landscape design.
In 2019, he was granted a fellowship to research the regenerative landscapes of the Chateau de Courances in France. Upon graduation from the GSD in 2020, he was awarded the American Society of Landscape Architecture’s Award of Merit. His previous landscape projects include a 6-acre multi-use development in South Boston, various amenity terraces, courtyards, and small-scaled residential gardens.

Michael’s introduction into landscape architecture originally stemmed from his interests in sustainable agricultural systems that promote deep, multi-species relationships. Originally from Long Island, New York, he is interested in integrating the diverse ecosystems of the Northeast into our built environment. Outside of JPLA, Michael can be found gardening, cooking, and biking New York’s urban wilds.