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Molly McNally + Elisabeth Hoff
BLA/Urban Landscape Class of 2016

Where are you working and what type of firm is it?

We both were lucky enough to have an opportunity to co-op at Tom Leader Studio, a small landscape architecture firm in the San Francisco Bay Area. Our coworkers often refer to us as the “twin-terns.”


Where is the firm located and what is it like to be working in that location?

The firm is located in the East Bay, across the bay from San Francisco, in Berkeley, California. We had a 20-minute walking commute from the nearby hill we lived on. The evening walk home was pretty strenuous but the view of the sun setting behind Golden Gate definitely made it worth it!


We were also located in close proximity to University of California Berkeley and attended a few of the College of Environmental Design lectures and exhibitions. It was nice to be able to interact with other college students.

How did your experience in the studio prepare your coop experience?

The firm has a very iterative, interactive process. Coworkers are constantly helping analyze, critique, or discuss one another’s work – set up much like a studio. We even have weekly pin-ups. The structure overall feels relatively similar, something that was different from both of our last co-ops.

What has been your favorite project you have participated in on co-op?

The majority of our time is spent on continuing an internal research initiative sparked by TLS’s entry in Rising Tides, an ideas competition on sea level rise in the Bay Area.

The research focuses on the city of Richmond, CA, a less affluent community in the Bay Area. While researching the effects of sea level rise on this area, it also became clear that there is also significant potential of heavy destruction from seismic activity. TLS’s research has looked into creating a response to both of these high risk factors while remaining sensitive to the rich industrial history and local demographics.

The project has been an iterative process, one that each person in the firm has had a hand in. The trajectory of the project has changed multiple times – which keeps it interesting!

You can check out the in-progress booklet here:


How do you think your coop experience will influence you back in studio?

The collaborative process with our co-workers has taught us to consider many different types of opinions and approaches. I think it encourages a young designer to take chances but understand the essence of the people and history of the site you are designing for.

We have also gotten familiar with Adobe After Effects, creating a video animation that shows how our site, Richmond, has changed overtime. It would be fun to be able to create a video for our next studio projects.

What are the fun things you have been able to do?

While Boston was covered in snow, it was 65 and sunny here (sorry Northeastern!). With that as motivation, we spent as much time as possible outside.  Our weekends activities ranged from driving down the Coastal Highway 1 to hiking in the Marin headlands to sailing on an 80-foot boat. One of our favorite weekends consisted of a spontaneous camping trip to Yosemite.


We loved pretty much everything about living in the Bay Area but there is something extra special to be said about the “hella” good burritos we ate on a weekly basis.