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 Dou Zhang, senior landscape architect in Sasaki's Urban Studio and director of our Shanghai office!
Q: Why do you do what you do?
A: I enjoy designing public landscape to serve ordinary people—the places that become a critical part of their lives. Despite the hard work and the bureaucracy I often have to go through, watching people using the space I designed in their daily life makes all my effort worth it.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: Always multi-tasking! On the project side, I am designing three park projects in China—Xuhui Yunjing Road and Open Space and Chongming International Forum Lake in Shanghai, and Guangyang Island Park in Chongqing. On the management side, I am refining the Shanghai office set-up and the coordination between the two offices. On the marketing side, I am working with the marketing team on pursuing new projects and establishing a quarterly newsletter.
Q: In which research topics or concepts are you most interested?
A: Both adapted reuse of existing infrastructures in urban redevelopment and urban agriculture have interested me the most in the recent years.
Instead of endless urban expansion which takes valuable farmland and wildlife habitats away, regeneration in existing urban areas shall be the focus of future development. Among the projects I've been intensively involved in over the past five years—Jiading Park, Suzhou SIP Streetscape, Chongming International Forum Lake, and Xuhui Yunjing Road Open Space (which has just started)—all involve reuse of infrastructure such as bridges, roads, existing buildings, elevated highways, existing levees, and airport runways. They are not only critical elements of the overall design concept and sustainable design strategy, but also carry the message of the local history.
The other one is about urban farming. It is not so much about growing agricultural plants in the city, but more about connecting people's daily life with farming. People growing up in the city these days know so little about farm life, about where the food they eat every day comes from. It is informative and a joy for them to visit farms, provided the farm is well designed for its function and aesthetics. I personally find that visiting a farm is a perfect way to wind down. A recent project I worked on, Xixian Eco Farm, was an effort trying to link urban life with the countryside.
Xixian Eco Farm
Q: Hideo Sasaki once said, "Contribution is the only value." What do you contribute?
A: Contribution is multi-faceted. At work, I contribute my creativity, my passion, my professional knowledge, and judgment to create the best outcome for each project. At home, I contribute my love and my care to make my loved ones happy. At a societal level, I contribute my vision and my knowledge to affect a larger group of people, so they can also contribute to make a better world.
Q: Where is your favorite place in the world?
A: Barcelona. It offers an amazing combination of culture, art, nature, and activity. It is historical. It is contemporary. It is always vibrant and it is filled with stories. There are endless things to explore. I find something new every time I go.
Q: Whom do you admire?
A: I admire people who enjoy their life.
Q: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
A: Everybody has their own angle when looking at the same issue. Things which are surprising to some people may be the norm to others. It is really hard to tell.
Q: What's on your iPod?
A: I do not use an iPod.