West 8 Profile

West 8

Founded in 1987, West 8 has offices in New York, The Netherlands and Belgium. With an extensive portfolio of urban master plans and designs, landscape interventions, waterfront projects, parks, squares and gardens, the firm also develops concepts and visions for large-scale planning issues.

Imagining extraordinary new landscapes in the midst of complex contexts has been a hallmark of West 8’s design philosophy from the very beginning. We have learned that every community, every project, and every potential is different, and that design responses must be crafted for the particular character of a place.

West 8 has developed projects all over the world in places such as Copenhagen, London, Moscow, New York, Madrid, Hamburg, Toronto, Amsterdam, Shanghai and Seoul. The office gained international recognition with projects such as Schouwburgplein in Rotterdam (NL), Borneo Sporenburg in Amsterdam (NL), Chiswick Park in London (UK), Expo '02 in Yverdon-les-Bains (CH) and Miami SoundScape (USA). Many of the projects are the result of groundbreaking entries in important international competitions.

Recently-won competitions include West Kowloon Cultural District Park (HK), Governors Island in New York (USA), Madrid Rio (ES), Sagrera Linea Park (ES), and Yongsan Park in Seoul (KR).

Amongst the numerous awards received by West 8 are the Global Award for Sustainable Architecture™, the Honor Award of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), the International Urban Landscape Gold Award (IULA), the Prix de Rome, the Dutch Maaskant Award, the Bijhouwer Award, the Green Pin, the Veronica Rudge Green Prize for Urban Design and the Lifetime Achievement Award for Architecture of The Mondriaan Fund (previously BKVB, the Netherlands Foundation for Visual Arts, Design and Architecture). West 8 was also finalist for the Rosa Barba First European Landscape Prize.

Today, the design team consists of more than 80 designers, including architects, urban designers, landscape architects, industrial engineers and artists, from eighteen countries on six continents. Their large diversity in age, talents and cultural backgrounds makes the office function as a collective, and has proven to be of inestimable value to remain at the international forefront of design.

West 8's Philosophy

West 8

Second Nature Each project is approached in two simultaneous and characteristically Dutch ways. Firstly, we take a classic civil engineering approach based on logic, utility and necessity. Secondly, we believe in identity-led production of landscape - we respect the location, context or envisioned nature of the site. Overall, this method envisions a new nature, a ‘second nature’ of constructed landscapes that simultaneously responds to pragmatic demands (water management, population growth, traffic congestion) and, through identity, symbols, and expression, also reinforces the existing culture to which the intervention belongs.

Water as Leverage West 8 has built up a reputation for its focus and emphasis on local context, including ecology, location, history, geography, and culture as the basis for design. Our designs are site-specific and guarantee a long-lasting value to the communities we design for. It is West 8’s aim to develop designs that will be embraced and cared for with pride. Hence, sustainability through cultural constructs is strongly embedded in West 8’s design philosophy.

At the core of this approach, we address the question of true “relevance”: the integration of sustainability measures and goals that simultaneously enhance the design and actively create new ecologies.

In recent decades, climate change and sea level rise have become a key driver in the planning strategy of every waterfront urban development. From the day West 8 was founded, sustainability has been at the forefront of the firm's work. As a component of every water management infrastructure project, we always add a crucial element of public intrigue. Our innovative, holistic approach allows the designated water infrastructure to be not only functional, but also sustainable and cost-effective. With every linear meter of infrastructure in the public realm we design, wherever landscape interventions marry urban space, we aim to leverage better living conditions for human societies while rehabilitating aquatic or underwater habitat to enrich the shoreline biotope. This approach is complementary to the environmental sensitivity and ecological enrichment that characterize West 8’s work.

Selection of Projects: Governors Island

On New York’s Governors Island, West 8 created a park to last for generations.

We understood from the outset that the Island, situated in New York Harbor, would need to be resilient against rising ocean waters. In order to build a sustainable park, we had to plan for sea level rise and more frequent and violent storms - about 50 acres of the southern part of the island would have been vulnerable to the impacts of these storms. The brackish harbor water presented a condition unsuitable for growing trees. As a solution, we raised the island by using debris from demolished buildings to elevate tree roots above the high-water mark. This assures decades of healthy tree growth.

“Hurricane Sandy brought the future sooner than we expected and the power and height of the storm surge on the Island proved the importance of integrating resistance to the rising waters into the DNA of the park.”– said Adriaan Geuze, director of West 8. Sandy’s storm surge exceeded the projected 100-year flood in the year 2100 by about a foot. Nonetheless, Governors Island made it through the storm relatively unscathed. The island is currently undergoing a transition to reinvent its land use planning and potential cultural urban re-development. This is made possible through the Island’s park and public realm, a new sustainable destination for all citizens and visitors alike.

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Selection of Projects: Happy Isles

West 8

The Delta Metropolis in the Netherlands is one of the most densely populated areas in the world.

It is also a zone that is difficult to define: disorderly districts are a mix of outskirts and suburbs, industrial sites, retail parks, ports and infrastructure, laced with remnants of the historic landscape. The Happy Isles Consortium - West 8 and Svasek Hydraulics – developed a plan that combines safety features and the addition of new land by a series of sprayed-up sand islands off the coast of Belgium and The Netherlands. These islands buffer wave stress and help control sea level during storm surges through the strategic engineering of underwater topography.

The islands have gently undulating inner dunes where one million property allotments will be issued. On the biggest island, Hollandsoog (150,000 hectares), a broad representation of the community will be able to obtain a lease. The island economy will be based on leisure and nature experience; a happy island for family, lonely-hearts, poets and festivals. Sand dredging creates deep troughs which may become special habitats, resting areas and spawning grounds for a number of marine species. Capitalizing on the Dutch tradition of land-making in the interests of diverse stakeholders, Happy Isles forms a sustainable gift for future generations - their promised land.

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Selection of Projects: Xinhua Waterfront

West 8

Xinhua Waterfront Park is a 1.9 km stretch of green public space situated on the east bank of Shanghai’s Huangpu River.

The park was transformed from an inaccessible industrial brownfield into a new space that establishes a connection between the city and the beautiful Huangpu River. It is now one of the largest public green spaces in the central area of Shanghai. The waterfront connects important city streets to the river and provides a greenbelt that allows joggers, cyclists and pedestrians to experience spectacular river views and different landscapes via a variety of routes and levels.

The design team had to incorporate an existing 30m-wide concrete riverside dock and a high flood defence wall into the park design. As a solution, the park was designed and built on several planes. This topography creates intimate and dynamic connections to the river’s edge while seamlessly integrating the flood defence and concrete dock into the park's configuration. This solution leverages new potential for sustainable urban life in Shanghai.

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Xiongan, The Future City: I. Existing Situation

West 8

In a monumental decision designed to relieve pressure on the capital, China will be implementing a new 'triangle' that joins the existing cities of Beijing and Tianjian with the creation of a new city: Xiongan.

Xiongan is primed to become a new model for urban development. It is intended to be the new cultural district of the capital - within the first phase of development, the new city will accommodate over a million residents in 100 square kilometers. It will also house the non-governmental functions of the capital. As in most prosperous historic cities, effective water infrastructure is key for the new city’s urban planning.

Its geographic location has been strategically chosen at a slightly higher terrain, which can be leveraged for sustainable water management and also allow the city to be more resilient to potential flood risks.

Baiyangdian, the designated new green levee, is the blue heart of the Xiongan New Area and the largest freshwater lake in Northern China. Nicknamed ‘the kidney of Northern China’, the lower tip of the Jiu River is an important regulated water body in the Haihe River Basin. A maze-like pattern of waterways sits within a lush green landscape that produces unique and pleasant scenery in a renowned resort area.

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Xiongan, The Future City: II. Engineering by Nature

West 8

Both China and the Netherlands have a long history of water conservation.

In both countries, water conservation projects have provided people with beautiful, safe and green homes for generations. Both the West Lake and Dujiangyan in Hangzhou of China, and the family of windmills at Kinderdijk in the Netherlands are famous world cultural heritage sites. While they function as tourist attractions, these water conservancy projects are still in operation even centuries after construction. They show us how water conservancy projects can be transformed into unique landscapes and add to a country’s national identity.

We believe, ‘learning to live with water’ instead of competing with water is the only long-term and sustainable solution to water-related resilience challenges. This ideology forms the foundation for the sustainable, long-term planning of the Xiongan New Area.

West 8’s proposal for Xiongan New Area builds upon the wisdom of our ancestors, combining our national heritage with the latest technologies to create a safe and beautiful city for future generations.


Xiongan, The Future City: III. The All-in-One Dike

West 8

The North China Plain is an alluvial plain that stretches from the Western Taihang Mountains to the Bohai Gulf in the east.

For most of the year, the area rarely receives rainfall. In the summer, however, when the southeast monsoon meets the Taihang Mountains, the plains experience heavy downpours. In the Baiyangdian basin, the range over which the water ebbs and flows is greatly affected by the amount of water entering the lake. In order to reduce the threat of flooding, people have historically built dams along the Baiyangdian which have been reinforced several times throughout history.

West 8’s design proposal for the ecological embankment around the Xiongan New District Start-up Area comprises a total length of 54 kilometers. It is built upon the existing Xin'an North Embankment, Pinghe Left Embankment and Baigou Yinhe Right Embankment. According to the flood control reinforcement requirements of the New District, the height and width of existing dikes must be increased to ensure the city is protected against the increasingly unpredictable conditions of climate change.

The reinforcement of these dikes presents an opportunity to design and deliver ecological co-benefits from the engineered flood defense infrastructure. In West 8’s proposal, the new ecological embankment will adapt to the current conditions as part of an integrated, future-proof scheme. The new plan aims to achieve the ultimate balance between social and ecological benefits in every aspect of design and construction.

By incorporating proposed plans for urban development and transportation systems, the dike reinforcements will help to restore the ecology of the area and create new cultural, tourism and leisure opportunities. The clear concept of the landscape intervention is to combine the landscape experience (sports, festivities, music, and ecology education opportunities) with the pragmatic functions of a dike. While the entire Baiyangdian waterway system is being enhanced with diverse maintenance spaces, rehabilitating Dianbo’s aquatic or underwater habitat will enrich the shoreline habitat and improve the urban and natural environments of Dianyang.

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Xiongan, The Future City: IV. Dike and Overall Water System

West 8

The new concept for the city’s water scheme is one of harmony – to allow the city and nature to coexist without conflict.

Attitudes towards water management have evolved from "blocking" in ancient times, to "drain or irrigate" in modern times, to today's future-focused ideal of "retention". This dike will help the city coexist with the natural ecosystems upon which it relies. It also acts as a multipurpose, integrated part of the urban landscape as flood protection infrastructure with space for leisure activities. In addition, the installation of dams, water locks and pumping stations creates a series of water icons on land, highlighting how the landscape is made possible.

Due to the arid climate and overexploitation of groundwater in the region, Xiong'an New Area is facing water shortages and problems caused by pollution in the Baiyangdian area. The recycling of water resources in West 8’s proposal underlies a unified urban and civic construction landscape strategy that minimizes the need for an external water supply. The proposal also creates an inner wetland to enhance the natural water storage capacity of the landscape.

A rich assortment of streams, cofferdams, canals and moorings that are fed by gravity and sluices will transform the dry arid landscape into a rich, temporarily flooded biotope. With this new, low-impact, development system, Xiongan's new water cycle will become circular and sustainable.

The design combines water resources from rainfall, the rivers and recycled water from the city itself in a truly holistic water strategy. The surface water of the new city will be collected, stored, reused and purified in linear parks within the city structure. These parks are designed to be adaptive and can handle a range of conditions from very dry periods to persistent flooding. Any unused water will then be diverted and stored in the ancient lake called Daan Gudian, the deepest point of the Xiongan New Area. Rainwater converges here and forms thousands of ponds. When the lake reaches maximum capacity, the excess will be directly or indirectly discharged into the Baiyangdian area through the new water system and canals.

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Xiongan, The Future City: V. Holistic Solution

West 8

The Xiongan Planning and Construction Bureau aspires to systematically integrate urban functionality with the creation of new ecological space in the creation of a successful new city.

The overall landscape plan proposed by West 8 is based on this future-focused ideology. It is a comprehensive professional plan that highlights opportunities for resilience within a holistic, interwoven and interconnected system. Many lessons have been learned from “trial and error” methods, and through productive discussions between designers and engineers on the project team.

Challenges for development in the New Area include topography, surface and groundwater treatment, flood control and prevention, placemaking and community resilience, habitat and ecological restoration, establishment of windproof corridors, construction of dams and locks, improving connectivity, and sustainable energy production. West8's landscape masterplan accomodates all of these challenges and more skillfully and harmoniously in a future city where nature and city can coexist.