Thomas Balsley: Uncommon Ground
November 1, 2015
Thomas Balsley, FASLA
“The vitality of any city can be gauged by the richness and vibrancy of its public realm, and its public spaces should reflect our civic values, our sense of place, and our commitment to the quality of life we have promised all citizens.”
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.
The juxtaposition and harmony of natural and human habitat; the dynamics of public open space; the genius and acumen of Peter Walker and the tenacity of Paul Friedberg.
Bachelor of Science at Syracuse University
Bachelor of Landscape Architecture at SUNY ESF
AFFILIATIONS & REGISTRATIONS
Fellow, American Society of Landscape Architects (Year-Present)
Honorary Member, AIA NY (Year-Present)
Fellow, Institute for Urban Design
Fellow and National Register of Peer Professionals, GSA
Associate Private Member, Urban Land Institute
Member, Waterfront Center
Member, City Parks Alliance
Member, International Downtown Association
Member, Forum for Urban Design
Trustee, Parks Council
ASLA Design Medal
National Honor Award, ASLA, Hunter’s Point South Waterfront Park
Honor Award, The Waterfront Center, Hunter’s Point South Waterfront Park
American Architecture Award, The Chicago Athenaeum, Hunter’s Point South Waterfront Park
National Honor Award, ASLA, Gantry Plaza State Park, Queens, NY