Zoli's embrace of non-conventional projects "is the hallmark of a game-changer," adds Nina-Marie Lister, a planner and adviser to Animal Road Crossing, a coalition that held an international competition in 2010 to design an innovative wildlife crossing at Colorado's West Vail Pass along I-70. Potential jurors needed to be collaborative and to truly appreciate the problem.

She wanted Zoli to be a juror, but he wanted to compete. An HNTB team led by Zoli, working with Van Valkenburgh, won. "Ted is fluent in fields that are outside of his own," says Van Valkenburgh. "He understands landscape architecture, he gets design, and he is knowledgeable about ecology."

Zoli was again motivated by a Buddhist sense of nature, honed further by his visits to his surrogate family in Taiwan, combined with the desire to solve a practical problem. He notes that wildlife highway accidents cost $8 billion a year in claims and injuries to humans and bemoans animal deaths. "As drivers, we lost sensitivity to the fact that animals belong in these areas. We got into the idea that this was OK," he says.

Never has the newlywed been busier. "I once sat next to Ted on a flight to San Diego from Newark," recalls Van Valkenburgh. "I am a bit of a workaholic, but he did so much work on this flight that I felt exhausted just sitting next to him!" Things might only get more intense: Zoli and HNTB are now on one of the teams vying for the Tappan Zee Bridge rehabilitation. "What I appreciate most about his maturation is, he's finally figured out how to empty his voice mail on his cell phone," jokes David Goodyear, senior vice president with team member T.Y. Lin International.

Through it all, Zoli keeps calm. Retaining a clarity of vision for every bridge solution, to him, is summed up in the Chinese scroll that hangs in his office. A gift from his executive assistant's father in Taiwan, he treasures it for that imperfection of smudges left by the brushstrokes and its message: "Thoughts not twisty."