Ellen Barth Alster is President of Barth Alster Design, dedicated to practicing sustainable, contemporary landscape architecture, with a reverence for Southwestern tradition.  For over 20 years Ellen has envisioned, designed, and constructed outdoor spaces from small courtyards and parks to master planned communities, commercial developments, roadways and regional plans.


A resident of Tucson, Arizona since 1993, Ellen's work capitalizes on the dazzling vibrant colors and textures of the Sonoran desert landscape. The project site and surroundings are a springboard from which to design, energized by the challenge of integrating what is already there. She uses native plants - varied species of  prickly pear, cholla, ocotillo, yucca and agave - as sculptures themselves to group, arrange, and manipulate to enhance and highlight the project architecture.  Collaborating with artists from across the United States, Ellen's trademark is to incorporate freestanding sculpture, reliefs, and murals into projects.


Ellen's goal is for the finished design to be functional, appropriate to the surroundings, and provide an element of surprise and awe. Open to working on multi-disciplinary teams with architects and engineers, Ellen works to seamlessly blend the exterior space with the overall project concept so as to create comfortable spaces for people to use. Proficient in the principles of water harvesting and low water use landscapes, she is dedicated to offering clients low maintenance, low water plants for both aesthetic and practical reasons. 


Prior to 1993, Ellen was with TerraDesigns, Inc. in New Orleans.  Her projects included restoring the Orleans Avenue Canal with the Army Corps of Engineers and the Royal Sonesta Hotel in the French Quarter.  While in Washington, D.C. with Rhodeside, Harwell and Urban Associates she contributed to high profile projects ranging from sculpture gardens at the National Gallery of Art and the Hirshhorn Museum, to the Vietnam Women's Memorial and roof gardens along Pennsylvania Avenue for the international law firm of Crowell and Moring.  She was also instrumental in preparing design guides for the U.S. Army bases of Fort Belvoir and Vint Hill Farms, and master plans for Prince George's County, Maryland, and McLean, Virginia.


Originally from Southfield, Michigan, Ellen earned the Master of Landscape Architecture at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design and the Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture at Michigan State University in East Lansing.