In this recurring Q&A series, Sasaki staff share what inspires them, what they are working on, and a bit about life outside the office. Today, say hello to Susannah Ross, senior associate and landscape architect in our Urban Studio!
Why do you do what you do?
I am energized and fulfilled by living in the city and so I love transforming neglected or underused urban sites into open spaces that attract energy and life. Our projects help people see their cities—and city-living—in a new light. We not only provide an inviting, memorable space for engaging with others, but help build on the sense of identity and pride in a place.
What are you working on now?
I am overseeing the completion of the construction documents for the surface renovation of Ithaca Commons, a pedestrian mall in Ithaca, New York. It is a relatively small site with a complex network of aging utilities winding below the surface. Demo of the site has been completed, utility work is underway, and it is exciting to know that our design drawings for the surface elements will not sit on a shelf, but are eagerly anticipated and ready to be realized by the city—next spring—for an equally eager public. It has been a sometimes painstaking process of accommodating stakeholder desires and infrastructural realities within an elegant and eclectic design, but we think we're almost there.
In which research topics or concepts are you most interested?
We all know that our urban landscape projects add value to neighborhoods, adjacent real estate, and quality of life, but it is powerful to be able to quantify that for potential clients. We have made some progress in this area, but could use more data. Sasaki's expertise brings so much value to a project, and it would help to be able to "prove" it.
Hideo Sasaki once said, "Contribution is the only value." What do you contribute?
I contribute a sense of humor, a rational perspective, an ability to listen, balance.
Where is your favorite place in the world?
If I had to choose one place it would be Migis Lodge, on Sebago Lake in South Casco, Maine. It's a lakeside summer resort run by my family. The landscape is not exactly planned or ordered, but no designer in the world could recreate the magic and peace that I find there.
Sebago Lake, Maine
Whom do you admire?
I admire people who devote lives to confronting the hard issues on this planet and making substantial change--whether big or small. I admire those who go into the Peace Corps, reporters who go to impoverished, war-torn countries to get the truth out to the rest of the world, but I also admire those who use their wealth and fame in thoughtful, meaningful ways. Bill and Melinda Gates were recently awarded the Lasker-Bloomberg Public Service Award for, as stated by the foundation, "leading a historic transformation in the way we view the globe's most pressing health concerns and improving the lives of millions of the world's most vulnerable." They obviously thought carefully about how their personal fortune could benefit the planet in the most dramatic way, and they have made change happen.
What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
I have a very large and confusing set of siblings, consisting of one full brother, one half-brother, two half-sisters, a step-brother and a step-sister. Also, my boyfriend of four years has been mistaken for one of the guys from Duck Dynasty—and I don't even mind!
What's on your iPod?
The contents of my iPod are all over the map, but I love reggae, rock, and rap. On high rotation are some of the favorites I've seen live in the last year—The Killers, The Cult, Damian Marley, Gary Clark Jr., Counting Crows. Pearl Jam is next if I can stomach the ticket prices left out there. For working out I have a list of guilty-pleasure pop and dance music— Nicki Minaj, Kesha, Rihanna, and Lady Gaga.