What We Think

Certain experiences we’ve had working with communities have shaped how we think about our work, what is our role as a designer and advocate. What can we bring to a situation by virtue of coming from the outside, as we often do? What can we learn from a site? What can people there teach us?


It’s important to join communities we work with so we can gain their trust, get to learn their priorities, values, deep passions, and hot buttons. It’s the same with their sites. One of the great values of being new to the problem and the site is the fresh eyes that we can bring to what is really powerful, beautiful, and provocative. These features or qualities may be so familiar that they have been hiding in plain sight.


We hate importations. We’re always looking for those things that the city is already made of, that make cities unique, turning the familiar into the strange and beautiful experiences that resonate with native culture and create vivid memories that could never exist anywhere else.


Healthy design processes are shaped by deep engagement with the client and community, learning their stories and experiences, not just what they wrote on a note card. In the end, the project is about a communal vision that is forged by the values of the public it will serve. Our job then becomes translating that vision into a physical, material sensibility that resonates with people, that feels both familiar and new at the same time. It’s about the hard work of making things fit and cohere, making them practical, logical, affordable, and something you never forget!

Who We Are

TLS Berkeley

Tom Leader

Principal / Founder

Tom Leader is founder and principal of TLS Landscape Architecture in Berkeley, CA. For nearly 35 years, Tom has grounded his practice in an authentic understanding and appreciation of culture, ecology, craftsmanship and design. Sincere in his exploration of the creative process, Tom has remained on the cutting edge of design innovation, his work widely recognized for excellence. Since founding TLS in 2001, Tom has sought to create “original, tangible experiences” of place in such award-winning projects as Railroad Park in Birmingham, Alabama, and RIVERFIRST in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and through his provocative site works and art installations. A former partner at Peter Walker + Partners, Tom received a BA in landscape architecture from UC Berkeley and MLA from Harvard University Graduate School of Design.


He received the Rome Prize in Landscape Architecture at the American Academy in Rome in 1998/99 and was a finalist for the Smithsonian National Design Award in 2011. The work of TLS has been featured in various museum exhibitions including “Shanghai Carpet”, in MoMA New York’s 2007 “Groundswell”, concerning international landscape design. Tom lectures widely and the work of TLS is published frequently. Tom serves the Bay Area community as a member of the Bay Conservation and Development Commission Design Review Board as well as the City of Richmond Design Review Board. A Richmond resident, Tom leads the firm’s pro bono planning work for the future of the 35 mile Richmond shoreline looking at the intersection of sea level rise and seismic stability planning. This year he was elected to the College of Fellows of the ASLA.

Wei Chen

Project Principal

Asia Practice Director

Wei Chen has always found beauty in the intricacies of life. Originally trained as an engineer in China, he soon found himself enthralled by the transformative power of nature. His professional education followed this passion in a logical trajectory and before long Wei attained a degree in environmental design. His design work at TLS seamlessly merges an enthusiasm for landscapes with a wide array of technical skills in photography, animation, and graphic design. He earned an MLA degree from the University of Pennsylvania School of Design, and was awarded an ASLA Honor Award in 2012.

Kathryn Drinkhouse

Senior Associate

Technical Director

For over 20 years, Kathryn has collaborated with creative and talented professionals, bringing projects to fruition. She enjoys the opportunities, team work, problem solving, and new challenges presented by each project. Moving projects from design through documentation and construction, she has helped build a variety of environments including large regional parks; public urban parks; downtown streetscapes; high-rise mixed-use developments; major league ball parks; institutional and educational campuses; and single-family residences. She loves getting projects built and watching ideas bloom, come to life, and evolve into new spaces for enjoyment. After graduating from the University of Florida, Kathryn has been able to do this with Sasaki Associates; Patricia O’Brien Landscape Architecture; Peter Walker and Partners; Martha Schwartz/Ken Smith/David Meyer Landscape Architects; and is now three years into her tenure with Tom Leader Studio.


Wenmo Zhang


A documentary about Anthony Gaudi sparked Wenmo’s lifelong fascination with landscape architecture. How could a man create such brilliant and engaging space? This is the core question that drives her work as a landscape architecture designer. After eight years of study and work, she finally became a member of Tom Leader Studio (TLS), bringing her one step closer to the dream of applying her creativity and enthusiasm to the field. Before attending graduate school in the U.S., Wenmo worked for two years in Beijing and gained valuable professional experience at Tsinghua Hong Zheng Landscape Studio and China Academy of Urban Planning and Design. She was involved in multiple projects scaling from sculpture to urban design and planning, which built a solid foundation for her study and work at TLS.


Wenmo received her BA in Landscape Architecture from Remin University of China, and Master of Landscape Architecture & Regional Planning degrees from the University of Pennsylvania. In addition to landscape architecture design, she is interested in arts, history, philosophy, and travel. Her footprints can be found around the world including Spain, France, Italy, Northern Europe, North America, the Caribbean, Latin America, Japan, and Southwest Asia.

Mario Accordino

Senior Designer

Originally from Richmond, Virginia, Mario received a Bachelor’s of Landscape Architecture at Northeastern University and joined TLS in 2015. At TLS, Mario has contributed to several projects including the Boulder Civic Area, Bishop Ranch Office Park, Hall’s Island and the India Basin Waterfront Competition.


Hang Su

Senior Designer

With a background in both architecture and landscape architecture, Hang Su has always been obsessed with designing for the challenges facing complex urban situations. After receiving his BA from China Academy of Art, a MLA from the University of Minnesota, studying in Netherlands and Turkey, and working with a variety of firms in China and the US, he has gained a wide range of project experiences of different scales. In particular, his projects have been focused on exploring how nature processes interact with the complexity of modern landscape while evoking people’s sensorial experiences, and have been awarded the MN Chapter ASLA Merit Award and Student Design Excellence during his Graduate School. Since joining the TLS team, he has continued to learn and shape the future of cities worldwide. His spatial and graphical abilities help bring the clarity and uniqueness to intricate project-based solutions. During his free time, Hang likes to travel by train, ski and hike.

Heather Dunbar

Project Designer

Heather is happy to be contributing to the work at TLS where there is a rigorous engagement and belief in the public realm. By virtue of her previous career as a designer for theater and film in New York City, Heather brings an interest and sensibility of texture, material and narrative to her work and how these tools can be engaged towards placemaking.


While Heather has contributed to various international and national projects at TLS, her primary focus has been a new HUD financed 8 acre public park in Birmingham, Alabama (which she is project managing) and a corporate site in Los Angeles.


Prior to joining TLS Heather worked at SWA (Sausalito), GLS (San Francisco)and Public Work (Toronto). She graduated from Harvard Graduate School of Design where her graduate work included studios with Rem Koolhaas and Konjian Yu. She is also a TLS intern alum.

Pablo Alfaro

Project Designer

Pablo’s life has been always shaped by landscape. He was born during one of the biggest floods in Santiago de Chile in 1982, grew up next to the Andes, surfed in the cold waters of the Humboldt current, and studied architecture surrounded by nature in a colonial “casa Patio.” There he did his thesis about fog collection as a sustainable landscape infrastructure to provide water in the Atacama Desert. After obtaining his architecture degree in 2008 he worked in several important landscape infrastructure and public architecture projects in Chile, most of them funded by the Chilean government. His search for arid landscapes of fog brought him to California where he earned an MLA degree from UC Berkeley.


Pablo doesn’t believe in a division between architecture and landscape, hence his work consistently creates linkages between the two disciplines. He’s been awarded the Stephen Lenci Award for Architecture and Landscape Architecture Research, the Randy Hester Award for Ecological Democracy 2015, the ASLA Certificate of Honor, and the ASLA Honor Award 2016 for his project FOGFEST, featured on the cover of LAM Magazine.

Kushal Lachhwani

Project Designer

Born and raised in a billion plus country, India – Kushal is always in quest for inclusive and aesthetic landscapes which are able to pacify humans and other species living among chaotic cities and stressed out environments. Before studying landscape architecture, he was trained as an architect and since then has believed in eliminating the distinction between two fields. He takes his inspiration from works of Sri Lankan architect-Geoffrey Bawa and likes to design spaces indoor, outdoor and in between.


Kushal continuously educates himself with travel and has explored working in several geographies and projects including non-profit research in Delhi, school in Himalayas, urban plazas in Thailand, exhibitions in Netherlands and Market Street in San Francisco. He received a Bachelor of Architecture from School of Planning and Architecture, Delhi, India and a Master of Landscape Architecture from the University of California, Berkeley. He was awarded the Geraldine Scott Travel fellowship to study landscapes in motion (view from the train), ASLA certificate of Honor, CA (2016). He is also a TATA scholar and his work has been exhibited in 2012 Architecture Biennale, Rotterdam, Netherlands. He is a theater enthusiast; likes to cook Indian and Thai food and his favorite cities are Bombay, Bangkok and Barcelona.

Thor Andersen

Project Designer

Thor grew up in the foggy redwood forests of rural Humboldt County. He studied philosophy at Whitman College, but a Watson Fellowship allowed him to travel in Asia, Africa, and Europe studying memorials for a year. These travels inspired him to consider a career in design, and he still draws from these experiences in his work. He earned his MLA from the Harvard GSD and his thesis focused on designing for wildland fire on the Mogollon Rim in Arizona. After graduating, a Penny White Fellowship allowed him to study bison rangelands in northern plains states. Thor loves maps and understanding infrastructural and ecological systems at a territorial scale and has especially enjoyed working on Resilient by Design | Bay Area Challenge while at TLS.


In his free time, he goes to the Marin Headlands or Pt. Reyes, but when he ventures further afield he heads to the river to swim, canoe, and throw rocks. He can also be spotted surreptitiously taking seeds from arboretums and botanical gardens to try to germinate in his garden.


Thor’s real name is Erik, but he goes by his middle name in the office to avoid confusion with Erik Prince.


Yuqing Nie

Project Designer

You know that “a-ha” moment that parents experience when they see their kid fall in love with something? Not barbies, not cartoons, not playgrounds. Instead, her parents experienced that moment when she first touched a Lego. And thus began Yuqing’s lifelong love affair with Lego and – you guessed it – Architecture. At this point, you may be wondering if the previous sentence is missing the word “Landscape”. You’re right, but please read on; you’ll find out. Here’s her story.


She first began studying architecture as an undergraduate at China’s Central Academy of Fine Arts. It was there where she built a strong foundation, learning about – no pun intended – foundations of structures, technical skills, and developing a profound understanding of arts and design. She practiced her skills over a four month internship at the Beijing office of RSAA, a German architecture firm.


As she began understanding different architectural styles, she yearned for more exposure. That instigated her next move to UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design, where she obtained a Master of Architecture Degree. It was there where she took on projects of increasing complexity, blending her creative imagination with meticulous planning, while not forgetting practicality. It was also there where she realized that Architecture and Landscape isn’t as distinct as people make it out to be, and that each complements the other. She wanted to be able to show that in her work, and this goal led her to Harvard’s GSD, where she embarked on a path to obtain a Master of Landscape Architecture degree.


This new foray excited her, and she worked hard to earn an opportunity to intern with Meyer + Silberberg Land Architects – helping to realize their projects by performing concept design, creating construction drawings, as well as rendering and diagram representation.


And if Harvard and M+S LA were initial steps towards her goal, she’s truly fulfilling her goal right now at TLS. She is now diligently utilizing her experience in both disciplines, her technical expertise, and her interest in ecological solutions to design and portray Landscape Architecture projects of TLS. She hopes that these projects will improve people’s quality of life and as a bonus, add a new series to her lifelong love affair’s portfolio.


Christopher Beasley

Project Designer

Raised in North Texas and seasoned in South Louisiana, Christopher’s desire to create and captivate has brought him outside his familiar turf and southern roots.  During his undergraduate work in Landscape Architecture at LSU, Christopher explored other avenues of design and creativity beyond the computer and landscape studio. Fine art, sculpture, metalwork and photography empowered him to better express his design direction.  Recent projects include Harvard Plaza in Cambridge, Apple Park in Cupertino and Workday World Headquarters at BART’s West Dublin/Pleasanton Station.


Access to nature, culture, history, topography and endless activities is what made the West so appealing to Christopher. His extreme hobbies encompass every boardsport California offers.  When he isnt assisting his team at the office, Christopher is tinkering and innovating with alternative forms of transportation. He lives by a friends wise words,”Trust the flow of life”.

Wanpeng Zu

Project Designer

Wanpeng is really interested in working as a landscape architect to care about the public space both locally and internationally from different aspects. With the background of Architecture and Urban Design, Wanpeng is used to working with the design methods to think about better relationships between people, program, and place by manipulating space according to both clients’ and citizen’s demands, and think about other social issues for a better, safer, more just and diverse life in the future. Wanpeng’s prior interests in taking photos and sculpture has given her deep knowledge of beauty and materials and an enthusiasm for details.


Wanpeng earned a Master of Science in Architecture and Urban Design from Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation and a Bachelor of Urban Planning from Harbin Institute of Technology in China. Besides, her work has been exhibited during Amman Design Week in Jordan and on the Columbia University Website and Abstract.


Prior joining TLS, Wanpeng worked as an Architect at No Architecture, PLLC in NYC with multiple projects in Switzerland and NYC, where she figured out her role as an all-around designer and a fast-paced communicator. She also worked as an Urban Designer both in NYC and China.

Xiaoye Xing

Project Designer

Xiaoye joined TLS in 2017. She never hesitates to become a landscape architect with her love of natural landscape. She has deep interests and experiences in hydrological issues, oceans, rivers, creeks, which makes her a good fit for ecological projects. She believes a good design comes from critical analysis and consistent observation.


She will continue to explore landscape design as a living, shifting process but not a static artifact and utilize big thinking with elegant craftmanship.


Prior to joining TLS, Xiaoye worked at the OLIN Studio in Philadelphia and SWA Group in Laguna Beach for both deep local and international projects. She holds a Master of Landscape Architecture from University of Pennsylvania, a Bachelor of Agronomy at Landscape Gardening as well as a minor in industrial design from Zhejiang University, China.

Scott Getz

Project Designer

Raised in the south suburbs of Chicago, Scott took an early interest in horticulture studying at gardens such as Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Royal Horticultural Society, Wisley, and Chicago Botanic Garden.  This empirical, ‘hands in ground’ approach was carried forward to his graduate studies at the University of Virginia’s School of Architecture where he graduated with a Master of Landscape Architecture in 2017.


By coupling research and intuition-based insights with computational design methodologies, Scott believes that great spaces are derived from and communicative of the culture’s and processes that created them.  Although emphasizing site history in his work, Scott also relishes the weird, monstrous, and catastrophic landscapes portrayed in the alternative realities of Futurism where narrative’s challenge contemporary power structures and formalities.


Outside of design, he likes to ride his bike, swim, and hike.  Scott joined TLS in 2018 as a Project Designer.

Jiawen Chen

Project Designer

Born and raised in a scenic city of China, Hangzhou, Jiawen spent numerous weekend excursions into the mountainous lake circles. She thus grew up with a mystical connection to the sights, sounds, and smells of nature. She studied environmental design at Tongji University to explore the power of nature, followed by obtaining her MLA degree from the Harvard GSD.


Jiawen has a broad interest on topics from geopolitical territory to ecologies. Her work Korea Remade has been awarded the 2018 ASLA Student Award of Excellence. She was also awarded an ASLA Honor Award at the same year for her work Bloom! A Dynamic Landscape Biological System.


Jiawen loves Pikachu, Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor, and Unaju(grilled eel over rice).

Sarah Chase

Studio Coordinator

Sarah has a background in art and love for organizing. She escaped from New Jersey over 15 years ago and settled on the west coast. She received her BFA from Alfred University and has experience managing offices for non-profit organizations, tech companies, and studio artists. She also enjoys painting, gardening, and hiking with her dog Bug. Her interest in gardening and art is focused on pollinators and low water plants that support them.

Tom McMillan

Consulting Principal

Since completing his undergraduate and graduate degrees in architecture at UC Berkeley in 1973, Tom has worked almost exclusively as an architect for Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) in San Francisco. Beginning there as a designer, he gradually shifted into work with a technical emphasis, eventually becoming a technical studio director. Tom honed his expertise in site development based on opportunities to work on several large projects with major site components requiring coordinating the architecture with civil engineers and landscape architects.


During his 35-year tenure at SOM, Tom led several award-winning projects. Tom recently left the firm to pursue other passions, which—in addition to cycling and fishing—include landscape architecture. In his role as a consulting principal, Tom brings his years of experience and technical skills as an architect to TLS’s projects, helping to ensure their workability, affordability, constructability, longevity, and delight.

TLS Shanghai

Ivan Valin

Associate / Shanghai Office General Manager

Ivan is currently based in Hong Kong, where he is helping to establish a regional TLS office. Before moving overseas Ivan worked at the TLS Berkeley studio, where he was involved in numerous projects including Railroad Park East Gate and the San Bernardino Courthouse. In Hong Kong, he was a Senior Associate at AECOM, where he directed high-profile government and commercial projects in Hong Kong and China.


Ivan is currently an Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of Hong Kong, where he teaches graduate design studios and leads seminars on construction technology and strategic landscape master planning. His design and research work explore issues of water and landscape ecology in tropical cities, as well as landscape planning practices in peri-urban areas. Ivan’s work has been exhibited internationally with the National Building Museum, the International Architecture Biennale in Rotterdam, and the Hong Kong and Shenzhen Biennale.


Ivan holds both a Master in Architecture degree and a Master in Landscape Architecture degree from the University of California at Berkeley, where he was the recipient of the G. Hoshi Prize and the J.K. Branner Traveling Fellowship.

Lu Gao


Lu Gao, joined TLS Shanghai in 2017. With a mixed background in Biology, Arts, and Landscape Architecture, Lu is interested in creating site-specific narrative spaces providing harmony and humanity, with deep thoughts on ecology, culture heritage, human behavior, etc.


Before joining TLS Shanghai Office, Lu worked at SWA both in US and China, and was an Associate at SWA Shanghai office, where she was involved in plenty public and private projects with different types and scales. During the years of professional practice, she developed a global perspectives on landscape design as well as keen attention on site characters and design details. Not only being involved in all design phases, she also has rich experiences on project management and with outstanding leadership.


Lu is a Registered Landscape Architect in Texas, USA, and a registered LEED, AP BD+C. She holds a MLA degree from Rhode Island School of Design and a BLA degree from Shanghai Jiaotong University in China.

Xianhua Wang

Shanghai Office Supervisor

Prior to joining TLS, Xianhua engaged in real estate, landscape design and marketing. She graduated from Tongji University with a BLA degree. The rich experience gives her broader understanding of this industry and enables her to perform better on marketing and promotion. She has great interest in art, movies and music, and enjoys every facet of daily life.

Fan Wei

Project Designer

Fan Wei has a deep interest in the role of landscape architecture in shaping and changing urban public life. He has always been interested in the interaction between design, phenomenon, and theoretic interpretation. He holds a PhD in Landscape Architecture from Tongji University.

Huan Zheng

Project Designer / RA

Huan Zheng, RA joined TLS Shanghai in 2017. With background in both architecture and landscape architecture, Huan is interested in various project types and scales, and has always been seeking balance between built and natural environment. She is also interested in vernacular precedents from various cultures and would like to explore to utilize them under contemporary contextual conditions.


Before settling in Shanghai, Huan was an Architect and Project Manager at Bercy Chen Studio in Austin, Texas. She has experience in designing and managing projects from concept phase through final occupancy. The highly integrated design/build approach helps her understand the challenges and possibilities in innovative design and construction. She has worked on a range of projects including master planning, residential, office, hospitality, public parks and private gardens, etc.


Huan is a Registered Architect in Texas, USA. She holds a Master in Landscape Architecture from University of Pennsylvania, and a Bachelor in Architecture from Zhejiang University in China.


Chen Sun

Project Designer

Chen Sun, joined TLS at March 2018, is a young landscape designer with working experience in China and aboard. She is a Graduate from Rhode Island School of Design with a master degree of Landscape Architecture and was recognized with American Society of Landscape Architects Graduate Honor Award. Profoundly influenced by the experiences in RISD, Chen is fascinated by the beauty of art and human perception.


Before her career in TLS, Chen has worked on different types of project include residential landscape, urban park, resort landscape planning and design and national park service at various phases. Grown up in China and travelled though the world, Chen has gained a global perspective towards landscape architecture. She is driven by the opportunity to provide solutions with her creativity, passion and knowledge for design issues inherent in range of typologies and scales, from specific sites to global systems.


Chen enjoys her spare time by travelling or simply getting active.



Shanghai Sanlin Bund Ecological Park International Competition First Prize, Shanghai Sanlin Eco Valley



Winner of International Competition, Lion Mountain Park



MIPIM Asia Best Chinese Futura Project Gold Award, Wuhan Erqi

ASLA-MN Merit Award for Analysis and Planning, RiverFirst



SCUP Excellence in Landscape Architecture, Open Space and Planning and Design Award, Stanford Medical School



ULI Amanda Burden Urban Open Space Award, Railroad Park



ASLA Alabama Honor Award, Railroad Park

Cooper Hewitt Museum National Design Award, Finalist



ASLA Honor Award, Pool Pavilion Forest

ASLA Honor Award, Stabiae Archaeological Park

ASLA-NCC Merit Award, Parkmerced



Rebuilding the American City, David Gamble and Patty Heyda



“2 Concepts for Shaping Region’s Future Shoreline,” John King, San Francisco Chronicle

30:30 Landscape Architecture, Meaghan Kombol



Curating at the Edge: Artists Respond to the U.S./Mexico Border, Kate Bonansinga

“Everybody’s Territory,” Beth Dunlop, Landscape Architecture Magazine



“Birmingham Aims for Efficient Urban Renewal with $17.5M Rail Park,” Suzanne Labarre, Fast Company



Tom Leader Studio: Three Projects, Jason Kentner, Source Books in Landscape Architecture



Pool Pavilion Forest, cover story, Landscape Architecture Magazine



“Messing with Perfection,” ID Magazine



Next Generation Architecture, Joseph Rosa, Rizzoli

“Avant Gardens,” New York Times Arts section



Pool Pavilion Forest, Dialogue Magazine



“Railyard Remake in Santa Fe,” Competitions Magazine

“Sediment,” Landscape Journal, Vol. 21

“Fresh Ideas?” Landscape Architecture Magazine



“Revelatory Landsacpes,” SFMOMA exhibition catalog



Richmond Bayway, Meeting of the Minds, Richmond, CA

“Emerald Networks: Reviving the Legacy of City Parks,” Northeastern University, Boston, MA



“Crafting Architecture: Concept, Sketch, Model,” Museum of Craft and Design, San Francisco, CA



Snagged, Gallery Installation, University of Texas, El Paso

Compost, Gallery Installation, Ohio State University



National Design Triennial, “Design Life Now,” Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum



“Entry 2006,” Zollverein Design Museum



“Groundswell,” Museum of Modern Art, New York



“Temporal Map of Rome,” San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, acquired for Permanent Collection

“Earth Economics,” ArchiLab, Orleans, France



“Revelatory Landscapes,” San Francisco Museum of Modern Art