EDSA | Then and Now | Misha Ponomarenko

Then & Now

Previous interns – now employees, share their perspectives, advice and insights about all things landscape architecture and their experiences with EDSA.

Creating concepts centered on the human experience, Misha brings to the team a unique, bold design expression that focuses on blending form and function. With a master’s degree in architecture from O.M. Beketov Kharkiv National University of Urban Economy, he began working as an EDSA intern in 2014, later to join the team as a full-time employee. Now a Senior Associate of the firm, Misha has had the opportunity to take part in various international projects across the globe, allowing him to gain a culturally rich design perspective. Curious about his career journey thus far, we recently sat down with Misha to learn more about his goals and aspirations as a landscape architect.

Q: What is the most rewarding thing about being a landscape architect?

A: The simple answer is to see a site built with happy people enjoying it with smiles on their faces. It’s great to see your work implemented, but the reality is it takes some time for a project to be built. This type of reward you can only get once every so often.

But through the process, no matter the design phase, it is always very rewarding to be able to work with world class architects – the ability to collaborate with them and show off your unique skills as well. You get the opportunity to work together and figure out ways that things can be done in the most effective and efficient way possible. It’s quite nice working with a team because sometimes your idea is so raw, maybe even strange, and collaborating helps push you in the right direction.

Q: What is your design philosophy?

A: I graduated in Ukraine from an architecture program. We [Ukraine] didn’t have landscape architecture programs back then. My design philosophy is heavily influenced by architectural / structural thinking, which is essentially how you organize everything and put shapes into the structure. This is how my mind was molded in school and how I think about the design in general. My design philosophy is large scale, practical and rational. Within the structural aspect, I often use architectural and tectonic principles and apply them into the landscape. I learned a lot from Bjarke Ingels Group – from their rational design process and how they use diagrams to explain the design. So, this is part of my identity in a way.

Q: What is your favorite EDSA project and why?


There are so many, but if I need to pick one it would be Bluewaters Island in Dubai. The project is large scale and very urbanized, and I like the contemporary modern shapes. Very clean. I worked on it as an intern in 2014 and 2015 for an entire year. It was a lot of fun. It was a lot of late nights and long weekends. It was a lot of drafting and 3D modeling. It was my first introduction to landscape architecture in general. I never worked in the field before, and I just moved here from Ukraine for an internship with EDSA.

As an intern on this project, I was doing a lot of tasks that reinforced the fundamentals of landscape architecture and design. I distinctly remember drawing paving patterns. I spent days drawing paving around the entire island, which gave me time to listen to a lot of inspiring podcasts, interviews and audio books. The project also came with a lot of collaboration over team dinners, where I would learn more about not only the project, but the American culture through my coworkers. I was able to improve my English and gain a lot of new philosophical and spiritual ideals about life that have stayed with me ever since.

Q: What about landscape architecture are you the most passionate about? Have your passions shifted since becoming a full-time, practicing designer?

A: Two things: (1) shape sculpting and (2) space formation. Basically, shape sculpting is when you just work with the topography, like with a piece of fabric or textile and you just shape anything out of it. In other words, it is site grading. I love it – it is so fun! Space formation is a skill I use to apply my structural architecture knowledge to landscape architecture. By working with planting material, hardscape and water features, you form spaces in an architectural way, and you do so by using plants as the walls and partition elements to define or delineate a space. It’s creating something out of nothing.

Q: When you think about your time at EDSA thus far, what’s one word that comes to mind and why?

A: There were so many words, so I came up with the one: acceptance. It may sound like everything is super joyful and engaging all the time, but sometimes our profession can be quite challenging. Especially as an immigrant, there can be certain irrational fears and insecurities that create feelings of isolation and stress. While there are times of struggle and tension, it is always balanced with the fun work, great people and amazing projects of EDSA. Acceptance is about knowing what you can change and being okay with what you cannot. With knowing when to push your limits, you can develop fascinating, innovative design solutions.