Enabling a Future-Focused Practice in an Uncertain Age

LA CES Professional Credit Available
XL Lab Resilience Case Study
New York City's Hunter's Point South Waterfront Park phase 1 at different times of the day. XL Lab conducted a research project examining the coastal resilience of the park five years after it opened. Courtesy SWA Group XL Lab.

As our cities and environments become more complex and face unprecedented challenges, it is no longer sufficient to design for aesthetics alone. Climate change, emerging technologies, and rapid urbanization are major drivers accelerating change in our environments. Designers need to speed up, better equip, and be deft in changing course to begin to meet these challenges with meaningful impact. The practice of urban design, landscape architecture, and planning now demands going beyond typical design services to support deeper insights via foresight, research, experimentation, and innovative advocacy. At SWA Group, dedicating a practice-based research and innovation group to this challenge has altered its professional stance from traditionally service-based in a reactive mode, to a proactive stance. This talk describes the group, XL Lab, its way of working, its research methodologies, how it integrates research into design projects and the firm, and examples of its practice-based research projects, especially those that are future-focused and aimed at making positive climate impacts.  


Anya Domlesky

Anya Domlesky is an urban designer and landscape architect, currently the Director of Research at SWA Group. She runs XL Lab, the firm’s innovation lab undertaking practice-based research on three drivers of change in the built environment: climate change, emerging technologies, and processes of urbanization. Her focus tends towards scales beyond the designed site: smaller, at the scale of a material or person, and larger, at the scale of cities and regions, looking at infrastructure, natural resources, and drivers of urban building and unbuilding. Her research has been shown at both the Venice and Shenzhen Biennales, in books such as Third Coast Atlas and Studio Ecologies, as well as various journals, professional publications, and the popular press. As a designer, Anya has focused on landscape-driven urban design and environmental planning.  She has previously worked at the New York City Department of City Planning Waterfront and Open Space Division and Hood Design, lectured internationally, and taught at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design and Boston Architectural College. She holds an MLA from the Harvard GSD and an M.Arch II from McGill University.

LA CES Professional Development: 

This lecture has been approved through the American Society of Landscape Architecture's Continuing Education System (LA CES) for 1.0 Professional Development Hour (PDH).* 

Subjects covered include:

  • Project Management
  • Sustainable Development & Design
  • Technology / CADD / GIS

*To receive 1.0 PDH accreditation, attendees must sign an attendance record at the end of the lecture. This opportunity is in-person only. 

For questions, please email Dana Perlson (dlp5h@virginia.edu) Administrative Assistant for the Department of Landscape Architecture.

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This lecture is supported by the Myles H. Thaler endowment.


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