Sasaki's practice has always been enriched by its connections to academia—whether through the legacy of Hideo Sasaki's teaching-based model, the firm's ongoing commitment to campus planning and design, or recent teaching engagements at schools like the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, Northeastern University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Rhode Island School of Design.
In a lecture at Iowa State University's College of Design on September 19, Sasaki Urban Studio members Gina Ford, Laura Marett, and Alexis Canter focused on this confluence of practice and academia. The trio spoke about Sasaki's recent work within the context of the Midwest floodplain and explored the specific connections this work has to Iowa State University.
Alexis discussed Sasaki's winning entry for the Water Works Competition, which re-envisions Water Works Park—the site of the City of Des Moines's drinking water infrastructure that also features recreation uses and rich ecology. The competition was the brainchild of Iowa State University's associate professor of landscape architecture Carl Rogers, who was inspired by the relevance of the site to contemporary issues of landscape architecture. Professor Rogers formulated the international design competition through his professional practice seminar, working with students to create the competition brief, assemble data, and launch the competition website. Gina and Alexis are also collaborating this semester with Professor Rogers and his colleagues, assistant professor Bambi Yost and lecturer Tom Neppl, on their current design studio, which focuses on another water infrastructure-based competition on the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn.
Laura discussed Sasaki's current work at ISU's Iowa State Center. Built in the late '60s and early '70s, the Iowa State Center is a stunning architectural complex of significant facilities including the Scheman Building, the Stephens Auditorium, the Fischer Theater, and the Hilton Coliseum. Led by Joe Hibbard, the Sasaki team is creating a landscape master plan for the site addressing issues of wear, connection, event planning, flood-resilience, and identity. Used frequently as the subject of landscape studios at the College of Design, the site and its future potential incited a lively discussion from the students in the audience.
Lastly, Gina foregrounded these interwoven connections between academia and practice as a model for the tackling complex issues of the region. Moving forward, for example, the Sasaki Urban Studio will be partnering with Iowa State University and the University of Nebraska at Lincoln on a joint, multi-year study to address issues of ecology, recreation, and flood-resilience on the Missouri River.