50th Anniversary Golden Nugget of the Week: Who was Hideo Sasaki?

By Richard Burke
50th Anniversary History Subcommittee

Hideo Sasaki founded and led the firm that made The Landings what it is today. A tract of land, however beautiful, is a blank canvas until someone applies their own creative vision to its contours. Union Camp and Branigar turned to the world-renowned firm of Sasaki Associates for this critical character shaping task: Master Planners of college and university campuses, downtown urban cores, the waterfronts of Boston and Kuwait, the 2008 Olympics’ Green in Beijing, the entire island of Costa Smeralda (reputed to be the “most expensive location in Europe”) and - -  most familiar to us - - Sea Pines Plantation, with its iconic Harbourtown.

Sasaki started modestly. Born in 1919, he grew up on his parents' truck farm and worked in beet fields in Arizona, when he and 120,000 other citizens of Japanese descent were forcibly relocated to World War II internment camps. He eventually made his way to Chicago, where he discovered landscape architecture at the University of Illinois, and later earned his master's degree in landscape architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. He went on to head that school’s landscape architecture department from 1958 to 1968, and when that department celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1999, Harvard awarded him the Centennial Medal, honoring extraordinary achievement in landscape architecture.

Sasaki was an early pioneer of collaborative, cross-disciplinary design, which informed the way today’s landscape architects think about how a plan, a site, and a building all intersect to create a cohesive whole. “He didn’t change the field of landscape architecture, he reinvented it!”

Hideo was appointed to the United States Commission of Fine Arts by President Kennedy in 1961 and again by President Johnson in 1965 He was the first recipient of the American Society of Landscape Architects' Medal in 1971, and in 1973 he received the Allied Professions Medal from the American Institute of Architects. He was a Juror for the Vietnam Memorial Competition in 1981, the Astronaut Memorial Competition in 1988, and the Peace Garden Competition in 1989.

When the Urban Land Institute gave The Landings its Best in the Nation Award  in 1986, the citation emphasized “Best Planned” and that kudo rightly goes to Hideo Sasaki and his design firm. Sasaki died in 2000, but he left an indelible mark on Skidaway that thousands of us enjoy each and every day.


Hideo Sasaki pictured in center of photo

This article was originally published by The Landings Association on their website.

Visit landings.org to read the original article.