The ASU Polytechnic Research District is an environment that fosters the generation of creative new ideas and innovative solutions to the challenges faced in the 21st Century around food, water, energy and humanitarian relief. It is a place to research, construct, and test new designs and products, a place to encourage interaction and collaboration between industry and academia and a place to experiment and proto-type these ideas at full scale.
The state of Arizona has a history of innovation around water, energy and food systems. Not surprisingly, ASU reflects academic and research strengths in all three areas. Accordingly, the research district master plan imagines a living laboratory built around these essential subject areas and, in the process, to create demonstrations of long-term sustainability throughout the site. The plan weaves the processes of learning, discovery, prototyping, and business creation into a continuous experience. The opportunity to witness full-scale demonstrations of science, engineering, and agriculture on a daily basis forms a primary structuring principle of the master plan and a framework for enabling collaboration and innovation.
Located at the Arizona State University Polytechnic Campus in Mesa, AZ, on the former site of the Williams Air Force Base, the Research District is not only an incubator of new ideas, but a test-bed for those ideas to be applied and proven.
The polytechnic is described as the ‘maker’ campus of the ASU university system and was established in 1996 on the site of the former Williams Airforce Base. The research district site is proposed in the area immediately south of the campus and adjacent to the Phoenix Mesa Gateway airport. The site has dates back 12,000 years, and is significant as an emergent site for the Hohokam, an ancient Native American culture, and as a sacred site for the Gila River Indians. The site today still contains numerous artifacts, including pottery, burial sites, pit houses, and two underground ponds. A detailed archaeological survey developed by specialist consultants helped map a system of archaeological loci at the outset of the process. The ASU Polytechnic campus built on part of this site establishes a climatically sensitive approach harnessing the desert landscape to create a human centric environment and lays the groundwork for developing a new paradigm that respects the historical layers to create a cutting edge contemporary research environment.
Harnessing the climatic and contextual location of the campus within a global arid belt presents the opportunity to craft a unique identity for a research district focused around Regenerative Systems - Food, Water and Energy. Collaboration with the airport provides additional opportunities to develop research areas around aviation and humanitarian relief systems and deploy them. The overarching intent of the Research District is to create a living laboratory for research, full-scale testing, and prototyping around these primary streams that are connected to the Polytechnic Campus’ current research. In addition to research and academic uses the plan introduces substantial housing for students and professionals, a range of community and social amenities, recreation spaces and central desert park.
The general landscape concept for the research district begins with the notion that the university campus is also a desert arboretum. Responding to the needs of ASU as a leading research university, a unique natural arroyo landscape system in the desert, and a rich indigenous history of the region, the scheme weaves the university campus landscape into this greater ecosystem in the Sonoran Desert. The proposed campus is connected by a loop (or a pedestrian mall) system that is surrounded by a natural desert landscape, with planting elements strategically placed to avoid possible disturbance to archaeological remains buried underground. The design of the landscape is a reinterpretation of the natural desert arroyo system and a celebration of cultures indigenous to the area. The general storm water management structure follows the terrain on the site and references historic topography and canal systems. A system of desert arroyo landscapes is proposed in between buildings and flanking streets, perpendicular to the existing contours running in a north-south direction across the campus. The project also integrates a water strategy that encourages water-efficient public realm design through plant selection, irrigation technologies, and storm water management.
To promote a distinct connection between the Campus and the Research District, a zone of collaborative multi-purpose buildings is organized around a central active public space, creating a dynamic place for exchange and interaction.
Within the campus and research district, spaces between buildings become important platforms to host activities promoting social interaction and to re-introduce native desert landscapes. The attitude towards the design of them is suggested to be one which promotes social interaction and fosters a high degree of visual excellence. The proposed plan establishes ASU as a steward of the land, setting an example for the community in terms of sustainability, sensitivity to native landscapes and cultural identity, while also creating a sense of place.
Sasaki Associates comprises architecture, planning, urban design, landscape architecture, graphic design, interior design, and civil engineering, as well as strategic planning and software development. Among these disciplines, we collaborate in equilibrium, and each is recognized nationally and internationally for design excellence. On our teams, practitioners from diverse backgrounds come together to create unique, contextual, enduring solutions. Our integrated approach yields rich ideas, surprising insights, unique partnerships, and a broad range of resources for our clients. This approach enables us to work seamlessly and successfully from planning to implementation. While our disciplines offer depth of expertise, our studio structure engenders breadth, innovation, and interdisciplinary collaboration. From our headquarters in metro Boston, USA, and with an office in Shanghai, we work in a variety of settings—locally, nationally, and globally.