Sasaki Associates, Inc.

Kabul Urban Design Framework

The Kabul Urban Design Framework, recipient of a 2020 AIA Award for Regional & Urban Design, was designed by Sasaki to set a vision for the city that is sustainable and resilient, helping to realize the promise of a burgeoning democracy.

Organized around a citywide framework for urban development and growth, as well as corridor designs for two of Kabul’s iconic roads, the plan tackles a host of issues facing the city. In addition, it stretches beyond physical design to affect Kabul’s social fabric, addressing women in the city, higher education opportunities, and the conservation of its culture.

The design-driven agenda faces significant challenges at the metropolitan scale due to the city’s informal development and its population growth of more than 2 million people in just 10 years. The plan’s ambitious growth strategy shifts development away from environmentally sensitive aquifers, restores an agricultural belt, and identifies new locations for education and economic investment. Shaping any development is a series of typologies the team developed that offer context-sensitive design guidelines for the whole city. This blend of site-specific design and guidance affects other areas of the plan, including ways to integrate the informal settlements that exist beyond the city’s borders.

Plans for commercial corridors along Darulaman Road, Afghanistan’s most symbolic road, and Massoud Boulevard, which connects the city to its airport, respond to the surrounding context and cultural history. Along Darulaman, the team repositions the important 6-kilometer corridor as an urban boulevard with three distinct districts, each with their own streetscape and programmatic focus. Given its status as the gateway to the city, Massoud Boulevard represents a change to demonstrate that investment in social infrastructure and the preservation of social anchors can quickly regenerate neighborhoods.

In total, the plan lays out a vision for the sustainable and resilient city Kabul can become. Its implementation represents boundless opportunities for millions of Afghans for generations to come.

Cornell Tech Campus Framework Plan

This master plan for Cornell University’s applied science program, designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in partnership with James Corner Field Operations, also won a 2020 AIA Award for Regional & Urban Design. Envisioned as free of discrete academic departments, the plan establishes an open and collaborative community of designers, engineers, and scientists on a boundary-free, 12.4-acre site woven into the green space of New York’s Roosevelt Island.

The plan emerged from a 2010 competition launched by the New York City Economic Development Corp. that explored whether the creation of an institution could spur economic development. The ambitious challenge carried city-owned land and a $100 million budget. Cornell was one of 27 institutions to respond, ultimately winning with its proposal to create a $2 billion, 2 million-square-foot campus where open spaces would eliminate the boundaries between the academic and commercial worlds.

The campus is organized around a central pedestrian boulevard called Techwalk, which connects the island’s Main Street with Four Freedoms Park. Buildings and outdoor rooms line Techwalk and offer a number of uniquely programmed spaces to support a diverse mix of uses. Every outdoor room boasts views of the Midtown Manhattan and Queens waterfronts and is optimized for its intended use. Apartments, workspaces, restaurants, and outdoor amenities are all mixed together in the plan, while parcels of land shaped by pathways provide ample space for future expansion informed by design briefs that support new program requirements.

Given its location, sustainability was a driving force behind the plan for the campus, and the team took a holistic approach to its design. To protect the campus from rising sea levels, Techwalk rises 5 to 7 feet above the 500-year flood plain elevation. A central utility plant, which includes renewable energy sources such as fuel cells, provides the campus’s electrical spot network system and sits on the site’s highest ridge.

By fundamentally rethinking 21st-century pedagogy, this plan lays out a vision for a new type of educational institution that is fully engaged with the community and surrounding industries. Pedestrian-oriented, dynamic, and sustainable, the envisioned campus is a microcosm of the city itself.