Better design, together.
At Sasaki, we believe defining the future of place must be a collective, contextual, and values-driven exercise. We all have a stake in this work.
Through our 65 years of practice, we have affirmed that diverse perspectives, blended disciplines, open exchange, deep engagement with clients and communities, commitment to history and context, curiosity about new ways of thinking and making, and expert facility with data and emerging technologies, together, will always unearth stronger design than one vision hewn by one author ever could.
Our practice was founded on the power and purpose of interdisciplinary design. We are intentionally structured across a broad spectrum of services and expertise to address the complex problem sets our clients face. Each of our professional practice areas is recognised for design excellence locally, nationally, and globally. Together, we transcend the boundaries of singular disciplines to create integrated design solutions across scales, project typologies, and global contexts.
We work in partnership with leading organisations across educational, civic, cultural, and commercial contexts to help them more clearly define and resolve complex issues through a highly inclusive, innovative, and interdisciplinary process. We deeply understand the evolving nuances faced by our clients within and across sectors and how design can empower their business success.
Outside of our traditional design services, a number of key cross-practice teams make the entire Sasaki ecosystem and the work we produce stronger. These interdisciplinary networks—supported by expert specialists embedded directly into project teams—uncover unexpected connections and new ways of working, in service of delivering next-level solutions to our clients’ unique challenges.
Our founder, Hideo Sasaki, was an early champion of bringing diverse design perspectives together to strengthen ideas and outcomes, an approach that set us apart at the time of our founding. Sasaki intentionally invited multiple thinkers to the table and that table has only expanded over the years to bring more people around it.
Our contemporary understanding of diversity has built upon this foundation, extending beyond bringing collaborators from different disciplines together to a broader recognition of the value that an individual’s personal identity and perspective adds to design. We are therefore committed to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion both in the design of our projects and of our firm culture and operations.
Our mix of diverse vantage points is essential to Sasaki’s ability connect with clients and communities around the world. We work to ensure that a variety of constituents are active participants in the design process. Our design teams listen, engage, and reflect the distinct priorities of the communities, institutions, governments, and private companies with whom we work.
The John G. and Phyllis W. Smale Riverfront Park is a 32-acre park along the banks of the Ohio River in downtown Cincinnati. The largest in a series of public parks along the high banks of the river, the park is framed by great city landmarks including the Roebling Bridge, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, the Paul Brown Stadium, and the Great American Ball Park. The riverfront park completes a necklace of open spaces on the river, links statewide recreation trail and bike systems, and reconnects the heart of downtown Cincinnati to the Ohio River. Sasaki’s design for the park creates an appropriate setting for the Roebling Bridge, along with areas for large gatherings, passive recreation, and programmed events.
The park acts as a setting and catalyst for civic activities and entertainment venues and is supported by partnerships with private and public funds. Typical park events range from small picnic-like activities to larger pre- and post-game activities for the Bengals and Reds, concerts, and Tall Stacks—a music, arts, and heritage festival which brings 350,000 visitors to the downtown. The park includes several interactive water features, a performance stage, a sculpture play area, a pavilion, bench swings, water gardens, and Cinergy Trace, a 1000-foot-long riverfront promenade. Public landings and seasonal docking and wharves service the public and commercial cruise boat traffic. Park amenities are enhanced by a series of sustainable strategies, including an integrated bicycle center, support, and locker room facility and a restaurant pavilion supported by a geothermal heating and cooling system.
When the Lincoln Memorial opened in 1922, the National Mall was extended 2,500 feet westward toward the Potomac on filled land, creating a significant new national landscape. Today, the grounds of the Lincoln Memorial and Reflecting Pool constitute one of the most iconic and recognisable landscapes in the country.
However, the 21st century has introduced extraordinary new demands on this prominent civic landscape. With over 4.5 million visitors annually, the site was being used far beyond the capacity of the original design—causing stress on the landscape, paths, and other pedestrian areas. Security and accessibility were also outdated. Finally, the Reflecting Pool was filled with potable water and, due to failing structural conditions, water loss necessitated refilling two to three times each year—using nearly six million gallons of potable water each time. The National Park Service sought Sasaki to update and revise this landscape to meet contemporary needs while preserving the defining character of this national landmark. Through an integrated approach, Sasaki resolved accessibility and security issues, increased the resilience of the site, and incorporated sustainable solutions.
Sasaki created new paths parallel to the Reflecting Pool to accommodate the thousands of people who walk each day from the Lincoln Memorial to the World War II Memorial. The existing Elm Walks flanking the Reflecting Pool are updated with new paving, benches, and baffled LED lighting that preserves the dramatic reflective quality of views to the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument. Sasaki’s design also introduces new paths that descend to the Reflecting Pool with flanking walls that create a new security barrier. The walls relate and connect to the original terraces and are constructed with granite supplied from the quarry used for the memorial. The Reflecting Pool is deepened at the west end to serve as a new vehicular barrier, thus preserving the open view between the memorials at each end of the pool.
Xuhui Runway Park is an innovative urban revitalization project that breathes life into a unique piece of Shanghai’s history. Located in the Xuhui District, this 8.24-hectare site was formerly a runway for Longhua Airport, which had operated for over 80 years and was Shanghai’s only civilian airport until 1949. To reflect the site’s previous life, the park’s design scheme mimics the motion of a runway, creating diverse linear spaces for vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians by organizing the park and the street into one integrated runway system. While all the spaces are linear in shape, diverse spatial experiences are created by applying different materials, scales, topography, and programs. In this way, the park serves as a runway of modern life, providing a space for recreation and respite from the surrounding city.
The design also preserves portions of the runway’s original concrete where feasible, including the reuse of broken concrete pieces to build paths, plazas, and resting areas. By creating ascending and descending movement, along with the overlooks for pedestrians and cyclists, many of the park’s spaces resemble the experience of being on an airplane, which connect visitors to the past while also providing varied viewpoints of the site.
The street layout creates a compact urban district by limiting the width of vehicular travel lanes and promoting public transit over the use of passenger cars. Additionally, six rows of deciduous streets trees are planted along sidewalk, bicycle lanes and vehicular median, creating a comfortable microclimate, seasonal effect and human-scaled boulevard. Sunken gardens are sited between the park’s subway station and neighboring development parcels, improving the walking experience to and from the subway while enriching the spatial composition of the park.
As part of the master plan of Jiading New City, a new 70 hectare central landscape axis was envisioned across the 17 square kilometer new development at the fringe of the city of Shanghai. After five years of design and construction, Ziqidonglai Landscape Axis opened to the public. The linear park is one of the largest urban open spaces in this rapidly expanding district and acts as a walkable green corridor connecting otherwise separate green space patches and integrating with surrounding neighborhoods. Its combination of poetic form, cultural expression, public uses, and ecological restoration creates a multi-dimensional experience that will be enjoyed by many generations to come.
Sasaki’s design concept for the park, “Dancing in the Woods,” is based on a contemporary interpretation of traditional Chinese painting, calligraphy, and dance. The park emphasizes the rich cultural heritage of Jiading, and integrates this with the natural setting of the site. Natural landscape elements such as floating clouds and flowing water, common themes in the paintings of local artist Yanshao Lu, are reinterpreted into modern, dynamic forms representing movement and influencing how people interact with the landscape. Four major paths in the park interweave and interact with a variety of park elements in a choreographed composition, twisting and turning along the space and landforms, while carrying the cross park and along park traffics for pedestrians and bike riders. Spatial configurations within the park embrace dichotomies of form and purpose—open and enclosed, monumental and intimate, active and quiet, urban and pastoral, straight and curvilinear, elevated and recessed.
Sasaki, in partnership with Mayor Martin J. Walsh and the City of Boston, is embarking on a renovation of the historic Boston City Hall Plaza. The seven-acre plaza is one of the City’s largest civic spaces and for the last 50 years it has hosted events ranging from sports celebrations and political rallies to seasonal cultural festivals. Much has changed about the plaza’s urban context, standards of public safety and security, and municipal operations since its design in the 1960s. Currently, the Plaza lacks 21st century infrastructure to support engaged, civic life: its massive open space and stepped elevation change makes for an unwelcoming and inaccessible environment for everyday activity.
In October 2017, Mayor Walsh released the Boston City Hall and Plaza Master Planning Study: Rethink City Hall, which was led by Utile and Reed Hilderbrand. The study resulted in a 30-year master plan to address required repairs and to transform the 50-year-old City Hall and Plaza into an innovative, healthy, and efficient civic facility to better serve current and future generations of Bostonians and visitors, alike.
As part of the master planning process, Mayor Walsh engaged the community, beginning in early 2015, across social media and through dozens of public meetings to help crowdsource ideas on how to reimagine the plaza. As the project has proceeded it has engaged, and will continue to engage, many stakeholders and abutters; importantly, these include the MBTA and the U.S. General Services Administration, which concurrently has been masterplanning their own modern-era building and site.
The Phase 1 City Hall Plaza project arising from the Master Plan has begun. Led by Sasaki, its main goal is to make the plaza more accessible for all while delivering updated programming capabilities adding infrastructure and making it more sustainable. The new design aims to connect Congress and Cambridge Streets with an accessible sloped promenade activated by 21st century civic amenities like shady seating and gathering areas, a destination play space, public art space, and an iconic water feature. The main plaza will accommodate events of up to 20,000 people in a wide variety of potential configurations.
Between 1880 and the early 1950s, the 180-acre Bonnet Springs Park site was home to the Lakeland Railyard, which served as a major hub for the movement of freight up and down the east coast. In 1952 the railyard closed, leaving the land in an abandoned state and Lake Bonnet all but forgotten.
Then in 2015, recognizing that metro Lakeland is one of the fastest growing regions in the country, and building upon the city’s strong tradition of parks and natural areas, a group of Lakeland enthusiasts proposed the creation of Bonnet Springs Park—a central park for Lakeland.
In 2017 the Bonnet Springs Park board hired Sasaki to create a master plan for the park. Sasaki took input from the public during a six-month outreach period and incorporated ideas and desires into an approved design and park mission: to become an ecological jewel, a cultural magnet, and connected community asset.
Sasaki’s park design includes heritage gardens, a canopy walk, boating activities, sculpture gardens, playgrounds, and an event lawn. New walking and biking paths connect major park spaces with new buildings designed by Sasaki: Welcome Center, Nature Center, Event Center, and Children’s Museum and Cafe.
Emerging because of its relationship with the Yangtze, central China’s largest city of Wuhan has coevolved with the river so symbiotically for the past 1,800 years that every milestone in its history has been tied to the river. Centuries of floods created fertile land for the early settlers, and high water safeguarded the birth of the city. As Wuhan has emerged as one of China’s hotbeds for technology, education, and innovation, land prices have soared and the city faces rising conflicts between development pressures and public demand for open space. It is striving to explore new ways of embracing the river after nearly a century of industrial exploitations and urban expansion.
Wuhan’s Yangtze Riverfront Park leverages the river’s dynamic flooding to nurture a rich regional ecology, reinforce traditional wisdom and the local identity of living with an ever-changing river, and creates a dynamic recreational experience which is acutely attuned to the seasonal rise and fall of the Yangtze’s waters.
This “river culture” is so deeply embedded in Wuhan that today people still frequent the riverfront parks even when they are flooded—enjoying the rare excitement of such intimate contact with the water. The design of the park celebrates this strong river culture and leverages frequent flooding events as a vital driver of placemaking strategies. Much of the programming along the river is designed to celebrate the river’s spontaneity and incorporate its flooding as an essential element of the ever-changing landscape.
Built upon a strong consensus from the public engagement, the master plan for the Wuhan Yangtze Riverfront Park creates a socially inclusive and ecologically meaningful waterfront with a strong cultural identity that embraces the Wuhan’s unique philosophy derived from centuries of living alongside a dynamic river.
Published on March 17, 2020