February 10th, 2020
Employee Spotlight: Misa Hsinyi Chen + Andy Dawson

In this month’s employee spotlight, landscape architects Misa and Andy share their thoughts on their design process and creative influences, as well as...superpowers. 

misa spotlight

Misa Hsinyi Chen, ASLA

andy spotlight

Andrew Dawson, ASLA

What is your creative process? 

M: I value working together with different disciplines to look for hidden opportunities and envision future outcomes. Creating a process that encourages dialogue: pin-ups, design team charrettes, community engagement workshops - the closer and more collaboratively we work together, the more likely that seeds of ideas will spread, grow, and pollinate. 

A: While working on a project, whether it's an urban plaza or a windswept desert, I prefer to be on-site at different times of day, in different seasons, and approach it from different angles, with people and alone. From my impressions of the site and its community, I’ll charge ahead with quick ideas, but then I need to stop and get feedback, which usually clarifies something I didn’t see or even consider. I thrive on the conversations that happen with the design team and the client around these early concepts. They usually launch a whole new set of better ideas, and the design then moves forward in a much stronger way. 

How much does your life influence your work and vice versa? 

M: Growing up as a city kid, I am biased on how public spaces are informed by their context, existing usage patterns, and the transformative impact a simple and effective design can have on the quality of life. Living and working in the urban environment has made me passionate about finding design opportunities to bring beauty, engagement and environmental benefits to places where people work, play, learn, and live. 

A: Being mobile and traveling to our offices in Philadelphia and San Francisco along with project sites helps me to frame the interrelationships of landscapes and the importance of distance and time – basically our geography. Since our work is so tied to place, I think wherever I am, and I’m making observations that are tying my experiences to my work. 

What would you do (for a career) if you weren’t a landscape architect? 

M: Interior designer, stationery designer, children’s book illustrator, and maybe children’s outwear designer… work that brings moment of happiness to people’s daily life. 

A: I almost went to law school. That sure would have been different. 

What are five words (or less) of advice for others in your profession? 

M: "Find something you believe in." - Norman Foster 

A:  Geography knows the truth. 

Where is your favorite place to be? 

M: Places where I can be myself. It can be a tiny coffee shop tucked in a hustle-bustle urban alley, it can be a mountain summit with a breathtaking view, it can be a gallery room at MOMA… and certainly it can be as simple as my home for some hygge. 

A: On any ski slope, anywhere. 

Bonus Question 
If you could pick one superpower, what would it be? 

M: Time travel. I mean, what if? 

A: Flight. Duh.