National Harbor is a mixed-use community on the Potomac River just south of Washington, DC. While conveniently located near key tourist sites, National Harbor is a resort and convention destination that offers an alternative to the urban experience of Washington proper. Sasaki provided urban planning and landscape architecture for principal exterior spaces of the community, architecture for key buildings, and graphic design for signage and wayfinding systems.
Evocative of the region's great urban places—such as Georgetown, Annapolis, and the Baltimore Inner Harbor—National Harbor has a great diversity of connected public open spaces, including streetscapes, plazas, and parks. The vehicular entrance to National Harbor, called the National Gateway, is designed to provide a sense of transition and arrival. Motorists pass through a monumental gateway portal featuring a site-specific sculpture by Albert Paley, cross a series of cobblestone paving bands, and pass under the dappled light of a densely-planted birch grove before arriving at the community's urban street grid.
A major pedestrian thoroughfare called American Way, inspired by Barcelona's famed Las Ramblas, establishes the primary spine of the community. Defined by an allee of majestic plane trees, this unifying open space showcases multiple iconic fountains, numerous pieces of public art, and a series of small-scale vendor kiosks. The color and texture of the avenue's paving sets the stage for its terminus: a waterfront plaza that steps down to a natural sandy beach along the Potomac. Both this avenue and the waterfront plaza are designed as flexible spaces, capable of accommodating the activities of daily life and hosting major festivals. These key urban spaces are framed by retail storefronts and restaurants, promoting both street activity and urban interaction.