Career Opportunities

Senior Research Associate/ Research and Innovation Lead

Posted: Friday, January 17, 2020

Who are we?

SWA is a design firm improving cities, places, and districts with landscape architecture, urban design, and planning expertise.,

XL Lab is the research and innovation lab at SWA engaging in practice-based research. The lab produces original research and foresight projects, supports innovation and research integration in design projects, and provides tools and information to designers.

What is the role?

You will be a key member of XL Lab as a Senior Research Associate/ Research and Innovation Lead. SWA has multiple studios where this role can be located: San Francisco, Sausalito, Los Angeles, Laguna Beach, New York, Houston, or Dallas. You will be a firm wide resource and work closely with the Director of Research in San Francisco, as well as with XL members and principals in each office.

You will work exclusively on the XL Lab team, helping bring research expertise, experimentation, and insight to SWA designers, clients, and the wider AEC industry. The lab focuses on 6 areas: water, urban environments, infrastructure, communities, mobility, and health.

You will produce research, experiment with methods and tools, generate foresight scenarios, create graphics, create and make public presentations, and design and execute other public programs and events such as exhibitions. As a part of a young lab, your role will continue to evolve.

You will travel to other studio locations, and internationally, according to project needs.

What you have to achieve:

Add to the originality, quality, relevance, and output of practice-based research at SWA
-Develop original research projects
-Facilitate other researchers’ project development
-Contribute to ongoing and in-progress research efforts
-Develop strong research partners

Enhance design projects through knowledge transfer and collaboration
-Support teams with information, tools, and insights
-Serve variously as a collaborator, leader, and advisor on research

Effectively communicate and disseminate research insights and products to designers, clients, the wider AEC industry, and others
-Make research accessible, understandable, and easily useable/actionable (visual, textual, verbal)
-Make compelling presentations and visuals (written and verbal)

What we expect:

1. Design experience, skills, and knowledge
-Minimum 1 year professional experience in a design office (in landscape architecture, architecture, urban design or planning). We expect 2 to 6 years total of combined professional design and research experience.
-Demonstrated strength and experience in designing and building projects. This might include proficiency in AutoCAD, 3D modeling (SketchUp or Rhino), hand sketching, Revit, Grasshopper, preparation of construction drawings/documents, digital fabrication or traditional fabrication, licensure, and practical knowledge of landscape construction.
-A professional undergraduate or graduate degree from an accredited program. Dual degree holders in landscape architecture and another field are especially encouraged to apply.

2. Research and analysis expertise
-Includes self-directed research and research assistance.
-A main expertise area, or two. Post-occupancy studies, technology and computation, foresight, climate change resilience, energy/materials/carbon, land use, transportation, are examples.
-Ideally your experience includes applied research.
-Familiarity and experience with the methods and standards of academic research.
-Demonstrated ability to generate original, compelling, and relevant research questions and studies.
-Your expertise might include proficiency in coding, scripting, Python, quantitative analysis, ArcMap/ArcGIS, and data gathering tools.

3. Communication skills
-Strong, persuasive writer and critical thinker. This could be demonstrated through reports, articles, proposals (exhibition, program, grant), or awards submissions.
-Compelling public speaker
-Strong visual communicator (this might include proficiency in AutoCAD, Adobe Creative Suite (Illustrator, InDesign, Photoshop, esp.), 3D modeling (SketchUp or Rhino), rendering, graphic design and layout, website building, animation, Google Earth Pro, ArcMap/ArcGIS, video editing, hand sketching, VR, and data visualization)

4. Project management capability
-Project management or project coordination experience
-Demonstrated ability to successfully direct the work of junior staff
-Demonstrated ability to successfully work directly with clients, other consultants, and partners

5. Mission alignment
-We are a research and innovation team in a design practice setting. We care about seeing research applied in the field to improve design outcomes and enhance the field. This differs from an academic setting and mission and may require generalizing findings and information to be flexible enough for many types of projects, providing applicable tools, analytical methods, or frameworks for use in practice, communicating results to practitioners via accessible channels, and delivery in a timely way that address current issues.

Benefits of working at SWA:

As a 60 year old employee-owned company, SWA has some of the best employee benefits in the industry. Profit sharing, Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) contributions, and bonuses are additional compensation to competitive salaries. This adds to full medical coverage, dental insurance, emergency medical and travel assistance, pre-tax commuter checks, paid time off (vacation, sick, holiday), 401K matching contribution to your retirement plan, supplemental paid parental leave, reimbursement of testing for licensure, and H1B sponsorship in the U.S. where applicable.

To apply, please submit to

Resume/CV which includes public presentations (word or PDF)
Portfolio of design and research work (PDF, 20MB max.)
Writing sample(s) (PDF)
Contact info for 2-3 references
Email or cover letter addressing the 5 expectations above


Work Location:

7 options including New York

Number of Positions:


Submitters Name:


Submitters Email:

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