Career Path Inspirations
Join us in congratulating SWA’s 15 newest associates and associate principals! We asked our newly promoted staff to describe what inspired them to pursue the field of landscape architecture, urban design, or planning. Here is what they shared.
Office Manager, Houston
View Maribel’s Bio
The ability to enact change by developing multi-faceted design responses to social and cultural challenges is what draws me to landscape architecture. Landscape architecture plays a critical, formative role in the social infrastructure of our cities and communities. By designing places that are inclusive, equitable, and sustainable, landscape architecture can foster resilient communities that celebrate our differences, provide a sense of belonging, and promote social interaction and co-existence.
Landscape Architect, Houston
View Garett’s Bio
The pursuit of meaningful place is what inspired me to make landscape architecture a part of my career path. It is gratifying to know that each line drawn, each detail created, and each site plan plotted would combine to create a greater whole; and that the result would be a remarkable place that improves the health, safety, and welfare of each of its users.
Landscape Designer, Laguna Beach
View Daniel’s Bio
I have always been (and continue to be) inspired by, the evolution that happens within a place over time: from the growth and seasonality of a landscape, to the patina that time helps develop in the beloved character of a place. These aspects simultaneously reveal how each place’s past has shaped it, and its potential for the future.
Landscape Designer, Shanghai
View Peichen’s Bio
Love of nature and observations of everyday life is always the best inspiration for landscape architects. These kinds of moments inspire me: discovering the beauty of different plants and natural materials; noticing the transition and transformation of natural textures through time; understanding daily and tangible images of urban life; and breathing in the atmosphere of various public activities and natural places.
While growing up in Southeast Los Angeles, the absence and lack of accessibility to green open spaces was very evident to me. This experience led to my belief that the relationship we have with nature is instrumental to our overall well-being and quality of life. Landscape architecture is the profession and tool that perfectly marries my interest in social and environmental equity, allowing me to design thoughtful and engaging spaces that reconnect people with nature.
Marketing and Communications
I began working with landscape architects, urban designers, and environmental scientists while in graduate school to complete my MFA in writing. I quickly became intrigued by the breadth and detail of the work, and ever since that time, I have enjoyed the process of learning about land-based design and related issues, and helping practitioners to effectively communicate their ideas.
Yifan (Eva) Cai
I have always been captivated by the beauty of ever-changing nature and culture, and landscape architecture is the perfect way to express my passion. It allows me to explore each unique site by creatively cutting, framing, or even freezing a piece of its natural and cultural elements. Landscape architecture, for me, is like an immersive movie clip; it captures moments in time that can be shared with many, so that more people can appreciate and remember all that our surroundings have to offer.
What’s inspiring about landscape architecture and urban design is that these fields are continuously evolving. We as designers are always searching for the best solutions for the community. I love traveling worldwide to learn how different cities operate or visit innovative projects. Learning from successful, engaging spaces helps us advance our practice. Even more inspiring is that our day-to-day work in the office is always different! No one project is the same, so we’re always tailoring our work and daily activities to be unique.
My research and design work, which includes climate-forward master planning, healthcare projects, and stormwater parks, reflects my longstanding conviction that public space design plays an indispensable role in advancing environmental justice and tackling the climate crisis. With my background in policy development and systems-thinking, I advocate for landscape architects’ voices in shaping environmental policies, and I’m passionate about leveraging SWA’s work to address the climate crisis.
Working at SWA has offered me the opportunity to be involved in many exciting landscape projects and, in the past few years, to complete built work. I’m inspired by the diversity of projects, which allows me to practice the knowledge and skills I learned at school. Meanwhile, the professional work process helps me to understand how to bring design ideas to life. With the firm’s support, I feel confident and capable to continue exploring open spaces, and creating a better living environment as a designer.
Through designing places we have an opportunity to touch lives. We find ways to reveal and connect to nature that exists around us. It’s rewarding work bringing together user groups and stakeholders and learning their aspirations and values to craft a shared vision. I love the challenge of transforming that vision into an actual and authentic place—one that offers compelling experiences for all. It is a communal process, often informed by science, culture and history, but also very personal.
One of the main reasons I decided to pursue a landscape architecture degree in college is because I love to be in nature. Being outside on a trail, in a forest, or even on the road looking at beautiful landscapes is what makes me happy. I have a deep appreciation for the design process of creating beautiful spaces for people, enhancing their experience of connection with nature and each other. Having lived in three countries, and in traveling to many places with different cultures, I believe that each project is unique, and strive to emphasize the identity and character of each space in the design process.
The content and process of landscape architecture continually inspire me. My interests, ranging from sculptural form, fine detail, art, and spatial culture, to large systems and complex issues, converge in landscape architecture. The design process compels me deeply: the systems investigated, the creative ideas explored, the tools applied, the relationships fostered, and the transformative potentials every project represents. My definition of landscape is expansive: a design discipline, an imbricated and chaotic field, a medium for broader change.
I grew up in a coastal city in China. When I was little, I would spend entire afternoons sitting on the beach, staring at the ocean and listening to the waves. It was peaceful and relaxing. Growing up, it is more difficult for us to find a secret “me” spot in the world of concrete forests. Because of that, I developed a passion to pursue landscape architecture as my career so that I could help create outdoor spaces for people to relax, enjoy, and recharge: to give them the peace I had when I was a little girl.