Promotions Spring 2022:
Inspired People, Inspired Places
Congratulations to SWA’s newly promoted staff! As we help our clients design for a more livable world, these professionals offer creative thinking, imaginative approaches, technical expertise and a commitment to creating resilient and enduring places. We asked our newly promoted Associate Principals to share a place that has inspired them, and describe how it has influenced their thinking about design.
Design inspiration and influences are personal, and arise from a variety of sources. What has influenced our new Associate Principals’ thoughts about design? Here are their reflections on a place that inspires them.
Landscape Designer, San Francisco
View Daniel’s Bio
There is nowhere better to witness firsthand the struggle for dominance between Mother Nature and feats of human engineering than the rugged Big Sur coast. Clinging onto treacherous cliffs with the ferocious sea biting away at its base, the mighty Highway 1 is an inspiring and humbling experience, displaying the balance we will have to continue to navigate in the future as designers.
Landscape Designer, Laguna Beach
View Evan’s Bio
Although built nearly a decade ago, Lourve Lens Park has continued to inspire me because of its application of contemporary design philosophy, which has created a landscape that appears as if it were made 50 years in the future. The challenge of landscape design is to develop a set of ideas that objectively look to solve future issues without becoming outdated, particularly because landscape is a system that grows and develops years after construction ends. With its dynamic, morphing spaces, Lourve Lens Park is able to capture the site’s history, ideas of temporality, and restoration of industrial ecosystems, all of which are critical components that have become fundamental in contemporary landscape design. This lesson has impacted my design approach: capturing the possibilities of a site by revealing the intrinsic qualities of the space and exploring them visually, spatially, and programmatically.
Landscape Architect, Dallas
View Ron’s Bio
Not the most “special” or “inspiring” place in the world, but The Sound (a small retail and park area) really got me to rethink what kind of outdoor spaces people actually need and want to use. It’s rather simple and classic: a seating area, a few retail establishments, water, trees for shade, and some breeze. It doesn’t need much, and it’s not the most expensive piece of land in the city, but it is a well-balanced setting to relax and enjoy. It’s definitely one of the most visited places for my family, and I wish everyone had access to effortlessly comfortable places like this near their home.
Landscape Architect, Houston
View Jiyoung’s Bio
Our greatest natural spaces calm you, make you wonder, and can humble you. As a designer, nature teaches us the strength of simplicity, the curiosity of the unknown, and the power of a strong idea. In the age of climate change, it also teaches us fragility. When considered together, nature empowers us to commit to design that matters most.
Congratulations to our new Associates, who bring an array of perspectives and experience to SWA’s work.
Shi joined SWA Shanghai in August of 2018. She is interested in solving complicated design issues using parametric design methods. Before joining SWA Group, she worked at Mikyoung Kim Design, and interned for STOSS and Mahan Rykiel Associates. She received her MLA from Rhode Island School of Design, where she also worked as a teaching assistant. She also works as a part-time animator and has participated several interesting competitions, including the Blank Space project. In her spare time, she likes studying coding and Grasshopper. Currently, she is in the middle of developing her own very first Grasshopper plugin, which helps people with complicated pavement layouts and pattern generation.
China Marketing Director
Iris joined SWA’s Shanghai office as China Marketing Director in May 2018. In addition to her six years of experience with a US-based design firm in Shanghai, she brings diversified marketing experience and strategic business development thinking to the company. Her goal is to employ her unique and competitive business development and marketing skills to help the company achieve more outstanding projects. She looks forward to working with talented teams from different offices.
Minyoung Choi is a landscape designer working on a diverse range of scales and typologies including urban planning, urban plazas, mixed-use retail developments, cultural gardens, corporate headquarters, parks, Expos, and competitions. She brings to her work a background in fine arts, and is particularly fascinated by the interplay of art, landscape, and human scale. Minyoung continually seeks opportunities to experiment with materials for various site elements and to design interactive spaces to enhance the user experience. Minyoung received her MLA from the University of Pennsylvania and a BFA from the Art Institute of Chicago. Formerly, she worked with AECOM, HOK in San Francisco, and !Melk in New York City.
New York/SWA Balsley
Peter joined SWA/Balsley after working in Baltimore, MD for the past 2+ years. Prior to living in Baltimore, he studied at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he received his Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture and a Certificate in Environmental Studies. During his time at UW-Madison, he was involved in LAbash and ASLA Student Council, and was awarded the Wisconsin ASLA state Chapter Honor Award. He also spent part of a summer studying abroad at Peking University in Beijing, China.
His professional interests include graphics (both hand and digital), innovative stormwater management practices, and construction documentation.
Accounts Payable Specialist
Elyssa joined SWA’s Accounting department in May 2017, and currently serves as Accounts Payable Specialist in Sausalito’s beautiful office by the bay. She brings an extensive and broad accounting background as well as energy and creativity, and enjoys continually optimizing processes and assisting as SWA goes 100 percent digital with the firm’s records. Elyssa oversees overhead expenses, carefully reviewing our bills and making sure they are coded correctly and paid on time. She also administrates all corporate credit cards, as well as corporate and individual memberships and licenses, Certificate of Insurance documentation requests, expense report cycles, and numerous other accounting-related tasks. In February 2021, Elyssa became a California Notary Public, and now provides in-house notarization services for Sausalito. She is a Marin native and enjoys free time with her chihuahua/side-kick and two grown sons.
Nelly joined SWA in 2014 and has focused on applying an ecologically and socially driven approach to projects including the Upper Brays Bayou Greenway, the Hill at Sims Park, Baton Rouge Lakes Master Plan, and the Onion Creek Master Plan. Recently her contributions to Prairieland, Creekland, and Warren Ranch include helping to develop an overall vision for more sustainable development with an emphasis on green infrastructure, native landscapes, and overall wellness. In addition to helping craft the vision and design standards for these projects, she has contributed to a series of public art installations. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in economics and a BA in Mexican American studies from the University of Texas at Austin in 2008; completed her MLA at UT in 2012; and earned a Master of Science in urban design the following year.
Susan George earned her Bachelor of Architecture with Honors from the University of Houston and a Master’s in Urban Design from Rice University. She joined SWA in 2019 after seven years of practicing architecture in Houston, contributing to a wide range of corporate commercial, mixed-use, and institutional developments. At Rice University, Susan’s graduate research culminated in a project that prioritizes the thoughtful integration of ecological conservation, cultural engagement, and urban resilience—passions which serve her every day as she brings conceptual and performative clarity to her work at SWA. Recent work includes Evelyn’s Park Phase ll, Alief Community Center, University of North Texas, University of Houston Law Center, and Noor City, Egypt.
Zhou Rui Guan
Zhuorui joined SWA group in June 2018. After graduating from Tongji University, she worked for Maoand Hassell for eight years. She has experience with a variety of scales and types of landscape: open space, waterfronts, parks, streetscapes, airports; community, residential, commercial, and workplace developments; and hotels and resorts. She participated as a core team member and/or chief designer for many projects in China, such as the Nanjing Tangshan Museum public realm and Shenzhen Baoan Airport. Her passion is to create emotional rather than merely good-looking spaces. During her free time, she enjoys developing new hobbies to gain more ideas for design.
Wenling joined SWA in August 2016. She holds an MLA from Harvard GSD as well as a Bachelor of Architecture and a Master of Landscape Architecture from Tsinghua University in Beijing. She has worked at JCFO, AECOM, Michel Desvigne Paysagiste, and the Urban Planning and Design Institute of Tsinghua. She has developed a wide-ranging skillset in architecture, landscape architecture, and urban design through her education and professional experiences. She is very comfortable with parametric design skills in architecture, landscape architecture, and urban design, as well as with making physical models. She is actively looking to gain skills in design implementation at any scale, and is deeply interested in rural development, garden history in rural or urban settings, and constitutional and personal mapping.
Rob joined SWA in 2014 after graduating from the University of Texas at Austin with a bachelor’s of architecture. First introduced to landscape architecture as a Houston summer intern in 2010, his studies in Austin were diversified into urban design and planning, including participation in the award-winning Green Alley Demonstration Project. His love of places and spaces comes from an integral desire to travel, explore, see new environments, and meet new people. Growing up in central Houston afforded Rob constant exposure to development successes and failures, as well as to design, planning, and construction experiences he hopes to use with his education and the resources at SWA to create a better future for Texas.
Allison joined SWA in 2015 after graduating with a BLA from Texas A&M University. She strongly believes in the health and social benefits of green spaces for disadvantaged communities, and works to provide access to nature and recreation both professionally and through her involvement with numerous volunteer pro-bono projects in the Houston area. Allison has been heavily involved in the Houston-Gulf Coast section of ASLA, having served as Chair of the section in 2019. In her time with HGC ASLA, Allison has helped organized numerous educational opportunities for members, including a guided tour of Levy Park, expansion of the Houston Public Library’s Architecture Archives, public education booths for WLAM throughout the city of Houston, and a local lecture series with Land8 (Land8x8). Allison also served on behalf of ASLA in authoring the Resilient Houston Plan.
Yuzhou (Joe), joined SWA in September of 2017, after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania with an MLA. He also holds a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Southeast University in Nanjing, China. After five years of undergraduate study, he realized the importance of dealing with the relationship between buildings and surroundings. He believes landscape is the framework of cities, which is why he went to UPenn to pursue an MLA degree. His passion for architecture never stops, but he thinks landscape is the right scale to think about contemporary “hot issues.”
Ross joined SWA in 2011 in the role of Desktop Support after working in IT management in a corporate environment since 1999. Prior to that, he was a senior technician and store manager for a retail computer store for four years. Ross is passionate about computers and loves to read. When he’s not working, he shares his wife Jill’s passion for Friesian horses and carriage driving. They enjoy driving their horse and buggy in local parades and competing at horse shows. In addition to their three horses, they have six pugs and a miniature donkey (Lindsay Lohan). Ross and his wife are always up for a road trip and love to barbecue.
New York/SWA Balsley
Monica is a landscape architect and urban designer interested in merging ecology and innovation to create meaningful and multi-purpose landscapes. Prior to joining SWA/Balsley, she was with the urban design studio in CallisonRTKL’s New York office, leading its landscape practice in activating the open spaces of mixed-use projects. As an affiliate of ARCADIS, she also worked on combining remediation and resiliency strategies for brownfield redevelopments. In 2011, she earned her MLA from Virginia Tech, and worked in the Washington DC metro area prior to moving to New York City in 2016.
Xiaochi has been with SWA since June of 2018 and is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania. He has a diverse educational background in design, architecture, and landscape architecture. Before joining SWA, Xiaochi worked for Beijing Turenscape in Beijing and Offshoots, Inc. in Boston, Massachusetts. Adept at visual representation, conceptual design, and construction documentation, Xiaochi works alongside senior leaders to conceive and detail landscapes across a spectrum of project types. With his documentation and construction administration skills alongside his design expertise, Xiaochi has played a critical role in the Walmart Campus master plan in Bentonville, Arkansas, among other projects.
Hank Thomas is a Landscape Architect and licensed irrigator capable of leading all aspects of the design process from concept through to construction observation. He has been involved in various project types in a range of different scales from small retail plazas to large education and mixed-use developments, with a particular emphasis on collaboration, detailed documentation, and the user experience. Since graduating from the University of Arkansas, Hank has developed his approach to design in multiple markets with multiple scales of firm. This broad experience across scale and sector has allowed him to develop a solution-oriented aesthetic that transforms requirements of code, constructability, and program into opportunities for design excellence.
Chanon joined SWA after spending five years as a landscape architect at SHMA, Bangkok, Thailand and several years in New York as a landscape designer with James Corner Field Operations, Supermass Studio, and SWA/Balsley. He holds an MLA from Rhode Island School of Design, where he received the ASLA Merit award. He worked with multidisciplinary teams on projects varying widely in scale and typology, including the research and design of mixed-use/commercial projects, residential roof terraces, public parks, and international competitions. These projects required innovative problem-solving through ecological landscape design and long-term sustainability goals. Chanon also has a deep interest in the social benefits of landscape architecture. His work addresses methodologies to improve urban conditions for people through innovative designs that provide comfort and interest in public urban spaces. His projects have been featured in ArchDaily and Designboom.
Ashton is a licensed landscape architect in the Houston office. She earned her BLA with a New Media Art minor from Texas A&M University, where she was named an Olmsted Scholar in 2017. Since joining SWA in 2018, she has contributed to various domestic and international park, trail, streetscape, campus, and master planning projects. Her most recent work includes Brackenridge Park, San Antonio Spirit Reach, Edmond Veterans Memorial, Shepherd Drive Corridor Reconstruction, Atlanta’s Freedom Park, Houston METRO Urban Design Guidelines, and Cairo Capital Gardens Master Plan. Ashton perceives dynamic design as animate—experientially immersive, ecologically regenerative, and culturally imbued with meaning—integrating the end-user within carefully layered living systems.
Alex joined SWA in July of 2019. A native of Montreal, Quebec, he obtained a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture from the University of Guelph. Upon graduation, he worked for Hargreaves Associates in San Francisco, where he participated in all phases of design and project coordination on multiple high-profile projects domestically and internationally. He has also collaborated in cross-functional studio environments, solving highly complex matters from concept to release. His interest lies in complex cultural spaces, where key issues of landscape discourse, ecological challenges, and place-making converge.
Nandi has been with SWA since July 2018. He holds an MLA from the University of Pennsylvania and a BA in Landscape Architecture from Chongqing University in China. Previously, he worked for SWA in Los Angeles and Olin Studio in Philadelphia, where he was a landscape intern and involved in variously scaled projects in both the US and China. Currently, Nandi is working on schematic design for Samsung headquarters in San Francisco and a new residential project in Koreatown, LA. He has a strong interest in the public realm and has developed a wide-ranging skillset in landscape architecture and urban design through his educational and professional experience.
Kevin received his MLA from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. Driven by the integration of social, ecological, and spatial conditions that exists in cities, he pursued planning and design in landscape architecture. Prior to receiving his master’s degree, he graduated with a Bachelor’s in Environmental Science, with specialization in atmospheric air quality and trends for sustainable policy changes. Kevin’s six years of experience have included work on commercial/retail, hospitality, and podium projects in Southern California, as well as master-planned communities, mixed-use urban design, and infill projects around the world. He is thoroughly involved in the design process, and has in-depth knowledge of the design stages from concept through construction documentation.
Trained in both urban planning and landscape architecture, Brandi believes that urban context and site specificity, artistically reconciled, create the best landscapes: comfortable and attractive for residents and visitors alike. These works represent the spirit of a city, and reflect the wisdom of the people living there. Adept in rendering programs, 3D modeling, and AutoCAD, she is helping to advance design process, visual communication, and representation, as well as construction documentation. She has participated in projects including Amgen’s corporate campus master plan, several LAUSD school projects, transit-oriented development projects in Los Angeles, mixed-use development projects, and streetscape improvement design. She plays a critical role for international projects.
Xinye is passionate about discovering the different roles of landscape architecture in urban life and natural processes. Her work ranges from public art, site design, and placemaking to urban design and regional planning. She uses various approaches to discover the hidden potential of space and the environment. Xinye plays an important role in SWA’s domestic and international projects. She believes that each piece of land has its own story, and that a thorough understanding of cultural and ecological context can support innovative design and planning moves.
Zhoufei joined the SWA Los Angeles studio in 2018. She graduated with an MLA degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Tongji University in Shanghai. She was an SWA summer program participant in 2017. Upon graduation, Zhoufei received the George Madden Boughton Prize from UPenn for design excellence and environmental and social consciousness. She is eager to continue learning and expanding her interests in designing landscapes that respond and function according to social impact and environmental needs.