A Window to Our Future

Congratulations to SWA’s newly promoted staff! For designers, sketching can be an exercise in thinking – exploring ways to address a challenge. With their design and planning work taking form at a variety of scales, we asked SWA’s recently-promoted staff to open a “window” onto their daily practice of visual thinking: taking a design or planning detail, a sketch, or a rendering and extrapolating upon it in whatever creative way they chose.

Slide SWA’s New Leaders Sketch Their Thoughts Slide Anya Domlesky: This sketch represents Denver, Colorado’s major rail lines. It was drawn for a current research project on mid-size metro area economies that are surging, and Denver is among these 21 cities. This project looks at how four infrastructure corridor types can be instrumental in building out public space systems. Slide Tony Lopez: I’ve taken photos for quite a long time now and have always been drawn to the architecture of old Los Angeles. Finding time to sketch from photographs helps me to understand the details that create the striking compositions of shadow and light that make for timeless architecture. Slide Zi Gu: There are many “croissants” in this sketch! Slide Yi Li: This sketch is a study of different cultivation types in India for an academic project. Hybrid landforms were created based on these initial types; they will subtly change the landscape and harvest rain for cultivation, creating opportunities for plants and human activities to thrive. Slide Patrick McGannon: Complete Streets principles are on full display with the redesign of Bagby Street, where a new urban trail is reclaiming a mile-long stretch of right-of-way in downtown Houston as a signature civic street. The design encourages alternate transportation by adding a cycle track and defining a unified pedestrian corridor with a suspended pavement system over existing tree roots that allows pedestrians and mature Live Oaks to share the same space. Slide Yu Shi: I like to sketch my Siamese cat, Sake, on iPad. Here, I selected four of them and made a collage. Each one was drawn at different time. I really enjoy this quick way to record everyday life! Slide Liqiu Xu: This sketch was created by using different plants as brushes. This gives them a “rebirth” after withering, and reminds me of the transient nature of life. Slide Siying Xu: This sketch is the start of my re-understanding of landscape architecture. It’s not only about what we see, but the whole system, including the part we are not touching. The beauty of the ground/underground intrigues me. Slide Xiuxian Zhan: This sketch depicts the spring scene of a vast rice field. In the foreground are lush seedlings, and distant mountains can be seen faintly in the background. In the pandemic era, this kind of open picture gives me hope and strength. Slide Bella Zhang: This depicts a narrow alley towards a monastery's main building, where two monks were strolling in silence. The combination of nature and cultural landscape conveys a sublime beauty.

Associate Principals

Anya Domlesky
Landscape Architect/Researcher

Anya Domlesky is an urban designer currently at SWA Group as Director of Research. She runs XL Lab, the firm’s innovation lab undertaking practice-based research. As a designer, she has worked largely on issues around urbanization, coasts, and water. She holds an MLA from Harvard University Graduate School of Design and an M.Arch II from McGill University.

Tony Lopez
Landscape Designer
Los Angeles

Tony has practiced as a landscape designer in Los Angeles for more than 12 years working on various-scaled projects that include master planning, multi-family residential, transit-oriented development, hotels, and civic projects. Having grown up only five miles from Downtown Los Angeles, in El Sereno, Tony continues to be excited about the opportunities to impact the city he and his family have called “home.” Whether his projects are in Los Angeles or abroad, Tony views landscape design as the setting for families, friends, and communities to create lasting memories.


Zi Gu
Landscape Designer
New York (SWA/Balsley)

Zi joined the New York office in September 2016. She holds a master’s degree in landscape architecture from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design and a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Zhejiang University of Technology. With a background in landscape architecture, urban design, and architecture, she is interested in working at the intersection of multiple disciplines and offering diverse experiences designing for various scales and scope, from small private courtyards to large vibrant urban spaces.

Yi Li
Landscape Designer

Yi Li joined SWA in July 2015. She holds a master of landscape architecture from the University of Pennsylvania. She has led and had deep involvement in projects across many different scales and categories, and is interested in how landscape can be interwoven with the urban fabric to enhance people’s living environments and experiences.

Patrick McGannon
Landscape Architect

Patrick joined the Houston office during the summer of 2018. He earned his BLA from Louisiana State University in 2011, and has accumulated a broad range of experience practicing across Texas, Louisiana, and Montana. As a landscape architect, he is interested in creating spaces that promote opportunities for a healthy and active outdoor lifestyle as well as building a positive sense of community. While at SWA, Patrick has been able to pursue these interests through recent work on Bagby Street, Lonestar College, Alief Community Park, Galveston Island State Park, and the Bridgeland Communities. Outside of work, Patrick enjoys running in the local parks and perfecting his homemade hot sauce recipe.

Yu Shi
Landscape Designer

Yu Shi joined SWA’s Shanghai office as a landscape designer in 2018. Prior to joining SWA Group, she worked for Perkins and Will in San Francisco and West 8 Urban Design and Landscape Architecture in both Rotterdam, Netherlands, and New York City. She holds a Master of Landscape Architecture degree from Ohio State University and Bachelor of Arts degree from Tsinghua University.

Liqiu Xu
Landscape Designer
Laguna Beach

Liqiu joined SWA Laguna Beach office in 2017 after receiving her MLA degree from University of Pennsylvania. During her undergraduate study at Harbin Institute of Technology, she focused on urban planning and landscape architecture. Liqiu combines visual arts principles with the unique historical, cultural, and ecological details of each site to create innovative and harmonious public environments.

Siying Xu
Landscape Designer

Siying joined SWA’s Shanghai office in 2017 after working in the office of James Corner Field Operations and the office of WEST 8 Urban Design and Landscape Architecture. She earned her Master of Landscape Architecture degree and Certificate of Real Estate Design and Development from the University of Pennsylvania. Siying is committed to the innovative design synthesis between landscape architecture and urbanism.

Xiuxian Zhan
Landscape Designer

Xiuxian is a landscape designer with a strong interest in connecting large-scale ecological thinking to the design of the built environment. With a background in public administration and arts from Peking University followed by a Master in Landscape Architecture from University of California, Berkeley, Xiuxian seeks to address the complex contemporary urban and rural development issues by drawing from a wide spectrum of ecological, social, and design research.

Bella Zhang
Landscape Designer
Laguna Beach

Bella Zhang joined SWA in September 2017. She is interested in learning how urban geography evolves throughout the urbanization process and testing what landscape can do to activate urban places socially and ecologically. Bella believes landscape can translate the stories of cities/sites into aesthetic performances and beautiful experiences that make those stories perceptible to the public.