2017.03.23  xl: Experiments in Landscape and Urbanism

As our cities and environments become more complex and face unprecedented challenges, we think it is no longer sufficient to design for aesthetics alone. The practices of urban design, landscape architecture, and city planning require advocacy, research, collaboration outside of design fields, and experimentation. The innovation lab at SWA aims to address emerging complexities from a think tank-like platform. Funding from the 2016-2017 fellowship supported a pilot for xl: Experiments in Landscape and Urbanism. Over six months we structured the lab into four areas of work—foresight, research, visualization and simulation, and issues—and executed projects in each area; we assessed the state of research at the firm by canvasing designers for past and ongoing research projects and identified nine central areas of thought leadership; we ran innovation workshops in all studios and extracted reoccurring topics and issues of concern firm wide; we created a roadmap for strategic future research projects and made recommendations for integrating SWA’s four existing research initiatives. Our work was well-received. xl was part of two exhibitions, was awarded one grant, engaged in two AEC conferences, and was covered in eight design/urban planning publications. SWA states, “Our identity is founded on research, experimentation, and risk-taking.”  xl continues this history of innovation by aligning past and current investigations and by executing new projects.