Gerdo Aquino is an academic design critic, lecturer, and landscape architect whose research into innovative new materials and landscape technologies for public and/or private open spaces transforms post-industrial, urban waterfronts into viable places for people, commerce, and tourism and helps to shape the future growth of global cities. “With urban densities on the rise, cities are poised to exemplify greatness or self-destruction,” he says. “My projects in these cities seek to mediate the extremes and bring a sense of stability to the disparate communities and districts that make these cities livable. I see my practice as a dynamic mix of landscape architecture and urban design.”
Gerdo’s work focuses on under-utilized or abandoned urban and suburban infill sites that nonetheless “have the potential to enhance their existing surroundings through creative programming and natural systems integration.” Clients enlist him to assemble innovative teams where specialization is both required and necessary given the complex issues facing contemporary landscape architecture projects around the world. His longstanding interest in Asia began at Harvard, where he co-founded the Graduate School of Design’s first Asian student organization, AsiaGSD. He also has extensive experience in the analysis and planning of multi-scaled ecological corridors and repurposed streets and plazas in urban areas of North America, Asia, Russia, Latin America, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East.
Gerdo co-authored Landscape Infrastructure: Case Studies by SWA, encompassing much of his current thinking about landscape architecture, both professionally and academically. The book received an ASLA National Honor Award in Communications.
He received a Master of Landscape Architecture from Harvard University Graduate School of Design and a Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture from the University of Florida. Gerdo is a Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects and a member of the Central City Association of Los Angeles.
He is an adjunct Associate Professor of Architecture in the Master of Landscape Architecture Degree Program at the University of Southern California.
Thomas Balsley, FASLA, is a principal of the newly incorporated SWA/Balsley, in New York City, and the founder of the firm it replaces, Thomas Balsley Associates, best known for its fusion of landscape and urbanism in public parks and plazas. Balsley is also a principal at SWA.
For over 35 years, Mr. Balsley has created public spaces that enrich the community through landscape architecture and urban design. His work often exists in the margins of the city, the industrial edges, the waterfronts and vestigial spaces found in and around the urban grid. Mr. Balsley has reshaped social and cultural spaces around the world by sparking the public’s imagination with robust sustainable landscapes that are teeming with public life and a source of civic pride.
In New York City alone, Mr. Balsley has completed more than 100 parks and plazas including the 2014 ASLA Honor award-winning Hunter’s Point South across the East River from the UN, Riverside Park South, Gantry Plaza State Park, Chelsea Waterside Park, Peggy Rockefeller Plaza, Capitol Plaza and the recently completed plaza 51 Astor Place across from Cooper Union. In an unprecedented gesture, a small park on NYC’s 57th Street was named Balsley Park in recognition of his design contributions to the City. His impact throughout the United States can be seen in iconic new downtown spaces such as Main Street Garden in Dallas, West Shore Park at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, Cleveland’s Perk Park, and Denver’s Skyline Park in Denver. The award-winning Curtis Hixon Park in Tampa has proven a worthy example of the ways in which Balsley fuses urban design, programming, and innovative landscape architecture in ways that public and private interest are best served. Curtis Hixon has touched the lives of thousands in Tampa and become the “center” in which they meet and celebrate and to which they point with pride. His work has also attracted attention abroad, where he has completed the Osaka World Trade Center, Gate City in Tokyo, and Leeum Museum urban campus in Seoul by OMA, Botta, and Nouvel. More recently, his firm has won invited competitions for the Magok Waterfront in Seoul, Samsung Digital City Park with SAMOO and SIPG Harbor City Parks in Shanghai. Moving underground, NYC MTA has selected his bench design for its subway system.
His work appears in numerous publications including LAM, Architectural Record, Topos, Japan Landscape, Sculpture, I.D., KLA, and more. He lectures and teaches frequently in academic and public venues, such as Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, the University of Pennsylvania, the National Building Museum and Seoul National University. His monograph from Spacemaker Press “Thomas Balsley: The Urban Landscape” includes foreword by Herbert Muschamp and introduction by Peter Walker.
Mr. Balsley was recently awarded the 2015 ASLA Design Medal for body of exceptional work.
Justin uses design as a catalyst to reveal the subtle beauty that occurs at the intersection of natural and cultural systems. He has 15 years of experience working both domestically and internationally on a range of project types, including urban design, workplace environments, campus design, and park master plans. As a project manager leading teams on complex, high-performance developments, Justin has an established track record of working with clients, consultants, and contractors to achieve world-class projects. Understanding the critical role that research and technology play in quality landscape design, Justin has led SWA’s Post-Occupancy Analysis program to develop rigor in design methods through the systematic review of past work. He graduated from Cornell University with a Master of Landscape Architecture degree, and from the University of Redlands with a Bachelor of Environmental Studies degree. His professional interests include healthy cities, green infrastructure, and research and teaching.
John Wong is a Principal at the newly formed SWA/Balsley, and also SWA’s Chairman and the Managing Principal in the firm’s Sausalito, California, studio. Since joining SWA in 1976, John has directed an array of projects, from the design and crafting of small gardens to the large-scale planning and design of neighborhoods, towns, and new communities. He has extensive experience in North America, the Middle East, and Asia—particularly in Japan, Korea, and China. Over the past two decades, John has led more than 150 campus improvement projects at Stanford University, including the award-winning DAPER Master Plan and the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Center for the Visual Arts. He and his teams have designed the groundscapes for 12 of the 100 tallest buildings in the world.
John is inspired by great design, in whatever form: the French gardens of LeNotre; 15th- and 16th-century Italian gardens; 20th-century Minimalist artists (Richard Long, Sol Lewitt, Donald Judd); and Japanese Zen gardens. He believes in collaborating with the best minds in the design field “to push the envelope, raise the bar.” He credits his success with staying open to suggestions and design ideas from all of a project’s players—clients, architects, artists, engineers—and letting the best idea move forward. John has an MLA in Urban Design from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design; a BS in Landscape Architecture, with Honors, from UC Berkeley; and an AAS, with Honors, from the City College of San Francisco. He is a Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects, a member of the Institute of Urban Design and the Urban Land Institute, and an alumnus of the American Academy in Rome. Among his recent award-winning projects are Guthrie Green Park, in Tulsa, Oklahoma (Center for Active Design Award of Excellence) and UC Davis West Village, the nation’s largest planned net zero community (Northern California ASLA Merit Award).