Big ideas permeate SWA design and thinking. Here, explore the thinking, tools, and research that informs and is influenced by our design work: research and innovation projects from XL Lab, perspectives from individual designers, and longer publications spearheaded by senior designers.

Systematic research and innovation projects at SWA create knowledge that reaches beyond any one site to inform designs that help cities, communities, and environments address emerging complexities and face unprecedented challenges. XL Lab is the firm-wide platform for research and innovation at SWA. The lab provides insights into future conditions in the built environment, analysis of site performance, new tools in technology through experimentation, and topical investigations. Lab projects support design teams through tools, metrics, information, and studies. Contact the lab at

SWA’s thought leaders offer their insights on a wide variety of land- and city-based topics, from mobility to issues of social equity associated with access to quality green space.

We reach our colleagues and peers through articles, white papers, and lengthier works that showcase our projects and the thinking that drives design at SWA.

SWA Works: Landscapes for People

Landscape architecture has revolutionized over the past decade, with concerns over sea-level rise, alternative transit, water quality, and social equity key issues that SWA addresses daily. With seven billion people in the world, the pressure is on to create unique open space systems that integrate aesthetics and programming with sustainability, nature, and economics. This monograph details SWA’s unique approach in four primary categories: Urban Regeneration, Creative Campus, Lifestyle, and Adaptive Strategies.

Landscape Infrastructure

The future of infrastructure no longer belongs solely to engineers and transportation planners. The rapid pace of change in cities and towns means that multidisciplinary teams of landscape architects, environmental planners, and architects work with scientists and engineers to fully realize the wide-ranging benefits possible along underutilized highway and railway corridors, rooftops, floodplains, and other human-made and natural corridors. All case studies include technical diagrams and plans for repositioning infrastructure to address issues of recreation, transit, and habitat.

Designing Places for People and the Environment

Part autobiography, part firm history, and a window into the future of urban design, this title presents lessons learned from 55 years of experience in urban design and planning. SWA Group’s first president uses 35 case studies drawn from his personal history and portfolios of SWA’s iconic work to detail the business and professional practices that allow it to plan, design, and build livable and sustainable communities where people can live in dignity, with health and happiness.

Thomas Balsley: Uncommon Ground

New York-based landscape architect Thomas Balsley, managing principal of SWA/Balsley, has driven the design and creation of some of the most notable and awarded spaces internationally and throughout the U.S., including the recently opened Hunter’s Point South Waterfront Park in Long Island City, New York. This volume collects selected Balsley projects that display the sweeping range of his work over the past 25 years.