Founded on state-of-the-art ecological and urban strategies, Sasaki's master plan for Minsk City celebrates the rare opportunity to transform an existing 320-hectare urban airport site into a dynamic, attractive, and sustainable new district for the city of Minsk, Belarus. The master plan provides a 24/7 vibrant, diverse, and balanced mixed-use program that celebrates the unique airport heritage, while also re-integrating regional ecological, vehicular, and public transport networks. The master plan brings Belarusian landscape heritage, ecology, and contemporary sustainable living together to create a compact urban district in the urban context of Minsk.
A district park system extends from the existing regional riparian corridor to the south of the site. This system permeates the development to define several distinctive and walkable neighborhoods, creating a unique landscape—a "city in a forest." Various high density urban centers associated with major transit stations provide strong focal points of activity and amenity within close proximity of all residents and visitors. Existing buildings and airport infrastructure across the site are retained and given new life. For example, the existing airport terminal is reimagined as an air museum, and the existing runway is conceived as Runway Park—a linear park that links each neighborhood while serving key ecological and infrastructural aspects of the plan.
A centralized mixed-use, high-density boulevard links plazas across the site and connects the development with existing rail stations to the east and west. Along this boulevard, a commercial plaza and a future metro station provide a new civic heart for the development. The plaza will be constantly activated by pedestrians traveling between the metro and the office towers, which provide a stunning urban backdrop. This activity is strengthened by ground floor retail engaging the public realm, where water fountains, pavilions, tree groves, and lawns provide year round delight. The cultural plaza with museums, art galleries, and other uses is located on the west side of the site. The station plaza is located at the existing railway station on the east side. Additional public spaces bring a unique identity to each neighborhood and encourage walkability.
Multiple community facilities are located in each neighborhood to further encourage walkability, social interaction, and connectivity to the open space network. Their strategic location encourages social interaction between each neighborhood and strengthens connectivity to the regional Svislach river tributary to the south of the site. A well-integrated open space program creates a variety of activities for the year round enjoyment of residents and visitors to the district. For example, water bodies provide for canoeing and paddling in the summer, and skating rinks during winter. Within Runway Park, planting islands are added to create smaller sub-parks. Holes are punched in the concrete to allow vegetation to emerge.
The benefits of the forest extend far beyond aesthetics, providing habitat and ecological value that reinforce sustainability in the city. The urban forestation strategy takes full advantage of the Svislach river tributary and extends the riparian vegetation into the new development. Forest greenways function as wind breakers of the harsh winter wind from the northwest and collect rainfall and surface runoffs from each neighborhood in the raining seasons. Stormwater is collected and infiltrated through the forest greenways before draining into a series of ponds and a seasonal creek in the forest.