Based in Australia, ASPECT Studios is an internationally awarded design firm of innovative, city-shaping leaders. They are best known for their adoption of human-centered and ecologically responsive approach to landscape architecture.
The studio’s projects respond to contemporary challenges. Where cities are congested and lacking inspiration, they come in with biophilic designs that expertly weave the surrounding nature into the urban landscape. Thus, creating spaces that are full of life and community.
By effectively reinventing spaces, they usher in a new era of contemporary development where people and nature coexist and connect on multiple levels. Something we desperately need in our cities’ increasingly concrete built environment.
ASPECT Studios are self-professed designers, landscape architects and urbanists connected by one purpose – “to deliver projects which challenge and delight whilst enhancing the lives of people and natural systems in an enduring way.”
True to this, they have recreated cities to reveal the landscape, social rituals, and cultural significance. In their work, we see them champion creative solutions that encourage people to connect with their environment and enhance their engagement with their spaces. It is evident that their abilities strengthen and shape the public life of cities in thoughtful, creative, and sustainable ways.
“We believe in the deep connectedness of all living things. We are for life – enhanced public life, the life of natural systems in the city.”
Discover eight award-winning landscape architectural highlights by ASPECT Studios.
1. The Ring, China
Photo source for The Ring, China: ASPECT Studios | Photographer: Wenjie Wang
Nestled in the heart of Chongqing, The Ring is a landmark community-oriented space that tells a journey through fantasy and natural wonder.
Nothing like your traditional retail destination, it boasts of public open spaces, multitudes of facilities, and unique indoor and outdoor experiences; tailored for the enjoyment of a diverse community. As Hong Kong Land’s first ‘experience-based retail destination’, The Ring focuses on cultivating social connection by integrating nature in the fabric of its design.
Mimicking natural forms, the park’s architecture features dreamy undulations of the calm sea current. The tonal transitions of terraces give an impression of light fading into the depths of the ocean. This creates a series of usable community spaces for art exhibitions, gatherings, or shaded relaxation areas. In the same spirit, the manta rays sketched out on shaded seating platers, facilities, and spaces, also reflect the idea of togetherness.
The park also has a plaza framed on either side by elevated lookouts and structural art patterned to the form of a seashell. This allows visitors to explore as they traverse a cave-like space to see the 20 meter-high dancing fountain.
You can even enjoy an open-air dining street inspired by a forest valley. Dense planting displays, misting systems and water features are used to enhance the ambiance of the space even further. These elements reflect the connection between ocean and land to provide an outdoor experience that’s unique and imaginative.
By focusing on people, community, and nature, ASPECT Studios was also able to elevate the retail experience and reimagined what it could be. More importantly, they created a meaningful green space for people to relax, connect, and explore.
Today, the urban park serves as a public space that caters to 50,000 residents, giving them a place to meet and find refuge in the shade of the trees.
2. HyperLane, China
HyperLane is a 2.4km multi-level sky park designed as a youth culture and lifestyle destination at the heart of Chengdu’s university district. It is a playful linear space that links the transportation hub with the campuses within the city.
The HyperLane is built on a site formerly occupied by a series of derelict parking spaces that didn’t offer any social or environmental value. Moreover, the perimeter walls separated the student accommodation from the school, making it physically and socially disconnected from the entire campus. Responding to this, the HyperLane is designed to connect in every direction, creating a barrier-free skypark and pedestrian network.
Striking, bold, and beautiful, this space draws you in with its curved patterned design for the floor, furniture, and dividers. These wavy, jigsaw-like designs are creatively used to introduce water features, build contrast, and create a unique look.
With its overall planning and design, you get a feeling of community. Open space layout acts as an urban promenade and the terrace sprinkled with small social seating pods create intimate spaces.
As shared in their Instagram post, “The design of the scheme is founded on the principle of creating a balanced system that responds to both the humanistic and environmental needs of the project.”
True enough, the space encourages youth community-oriented connections, social spaces, and performance while integrating natural systems, indigenous planting and a site-wide water sensitive design system. In fact, 60% of the commercial space is self-sustaining. The HyperLane’s use of the natural environment and elements of water in the commercial space creates a feeling of comfort and vibrancy to everyday life.
So far, the first phase of this project, The Urban Gallery, has been completed. As shared by ASPECT Studios, “Within this space are several principal areas. The Promenade consists of a network of planters, rain gardens, and multi-directional social seating that when combined, acts as a fridge to the main road with a layer of trees”.
While we have yet to see a completed version, HyperLane is already able to give an experiential place that supports creative arts, music, and culture.
3. Quay Quarter Lanes, Australia
Quay Quarter lanes is a cohesive precinct where you can work, live, and play as it rejuvenates the old city block. It builds upon the existing network of streets, creating a new and lively space for public activity.
“Quay Quarter creates an energetic city neighborhood offering lifestyle, well-being and social experiences with iconic office space, laneways, plazas and green spaces.” – Kylie O’Connor, AMP Capital Global Head of Real Estate
Breathing new life into the space, this project comprises a collection of new and restored buildings, arcades, plazas, and laneways. All of which have transformed the neighborhood into a collective public space that the whole community can call their own.
This is clearly embodied in Loftus Lane, where ASPECT Studios created a new central spine that provides a warm, textural, inviting space amidst the large scale buildings and overall development in Sydney. Once a service lane, the renewed design is meant to create a place where people would want to be.
It is a place where you can freely meander amongst the lush greenery, admire the surrounding artwork and heritage buildings, and find a respite in the bustling city. By adding more seating, clean walkways, and touches of nature, they created an intimate space that connects the old and new architecture.
“Part of the delight of Loftus Lane is that it features a surprising mix of details, materials, colors and textures, which creates a sense of liveliness not unlike what you might find in an old European city.” – Sacha Coles, Studio Director for ASPECT Studios, Sydney
Suffice to say, the Quay Quarter Lanes is a wonderful project, resulting in a sequence of places connected through a habitable, pedestrian-friendly public domain.
4. Macquarie University Central Courtyard, Australia
This joint project with ASPECT Studios and Architectus, seeks to expand the conventions of learning spaces with its creation of a generous outdoor space that elevates and reimagines campus life.
Turning the outdoors into an open venue for study, recreation, and relaxation, ASPECT studios provides a great atmosphere for students to move freely, collaborate, and appreciate the natural views all around. This shift in focus is not only meant to encourage interactive learning by breaking down the boundaries of classroom walls, but also brings more attention to wellbeing and an emphasis on ecological stewardship.
Photo source: Architectus
With this in mind, the landscape architects chose to introduce native and exotic plants for more intimate and lightly defined spaces within the courtyards. These species of plants can also form canopies to reduce urban heat as people gather and comfortably rest.
Generously sized benches, varied staircases, and movable tables are integrated to invite students to stay and interact. In addition, other amenities for exercise and recreation enlivens the space with a constant hum of activities.
More than a vivid and charming landscape, the project also touches on environmental repair with its restoration and rehabilitation of the creek within the campus. Now, the creek’s fauna has returned as it welcomes all sorts of animals to its banks and in the air above it. This simple effort enhanced biodiversity and aided in urban cooling; at the same time, serves as an opportunity to educate younger generations on sustainable practices to preserve their natural surroundings.
As a whole, the precinct project delivers an enhanced educational experience. ASPECT Studios created a green space at the heart of the Macquarie campus that will support students throughout their journey. Being the largest and most transformative project in the campus in the past 50 years, the courtyard expresses the vision and aspiration of the university – to create a place that can make a lasting and positive impact on its students.
5. Westpac Place at 275 Kent Street, Australia
Located within a five-minute walk from the Wynyard Station and positioned to the east of the bustling Barangaroo precinct, the Westpac Place at 275 Kent street welcomes over 20,000 people per hour, at peak, from the Wynyard walk pedestrian connection.
With the increased pedestrian movement, the architects sought to create a valuable urban green oasis that people can use in a variety of ways. The site provides a small space to the north west of the city center, and connected through to the harbor using the accessibility of various terrace levels.
The small rectangular space has three distinct landscape moves:
- The raised central lawn and park provides a series of edge conditions for people to occupy. This is made of a generous open lawn and seating edges. Dense planting for both ends of the lawn features an abundance of trees to provide shade and a beautiful way to frame the overall space.
- The retail edge provides outdoor public seating for food and beverage areas nearby.
- While the western edge reinterprets the original shoreline through its use of native and exotic planting. This living facade acts as a green backdrop to the urban park, and provides additional seating for people.
The retail edge (left) and the western edge (right) creates space for people to occupy in various ways.
6. Oaklands Crossing Grade Separation Project, Australia
In partnership with the South Australian Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure, the Australian Government and the Public Transport Projects Alliance, this project sought to reduce congestion and increase the use of public transportation.
A key design move was the canopy architecture, seen in the image below as the orange-tinted structure. It lifts and folds with cutaways to show the wider urban realm beyond the station precinct. This also serves as a walkway that provides more shelter and shade. To spruce up the space, greenery was integrated to an environment traditionally dominated by the coldness of concrete and steel.
The whole area resembles the shape of a triangle, with the northern tip being the train station. A plaza is situated below and the edges of the triangle consists of new cycleways, pedestrian footbridges, and pathways that improved safety and built connections to the neighboring areas.
To enhance the view, the new plaza’s surrounding landscaped areas also showcase extensive planting, paved areas, public art and areas for seating. The area was designed to be a welcoming place with quality urban furniture and services for pop ups. Through urban greening, the Oakland Crossing is reimagined as a more ‘human’ place which the community can happily use.
Once again, ASPECT Studios creates a space that encourages generous connectivity for the surrounding residents and businesses. By making these significant changes to the station, the entire area breathes new life and renewed curiosity with public places like these.
7. One City Development, China
This development consists of a cultural and art center, commercial precinct, and eco-shopping gardens. Like the others, this space is more than a commercial setting, it’s one where people can gather for recreation and work.
It has become a landmark that is rooted in the local culture through its careful design reflecting the mythological Chinese Phoenix. The flowing landscape whose fluid lines and winding curves guide people through the outdoor events space.
At the heart of the main gathering area, the central plaza, stands the ‘solar tree’ – an extensive canopy across the main entertainment space to shelter people from the sun and rain. To its east, you see the Phoenix reflection pool and the playful display of dancing fountains show off a beautiful sight. South of the water show, a series of sweeping walls sculpted from local stone, enhances the edges, deliberately bringing people closer together in the dappled shade.
Locally selected trees and plants also decorate the surrounding area for shaded seating and a beautiful space for you to enjoy.
“Grand and inspiring, humanistic and engaging. It’s a landscape of many facets, scales and experiences, each contributing to a dynamic new public domain. The careful selection of native trees and shrubs will bring a seasonal dimension to the design, as the spaces take on different characters through the year.” – Stephen Buckle, Studio Director ASPECT Studios, Shanghai.
To top it all off, the lighting design integrated in the architecture, transforms the plaza from a place of commerce in the day to a recreational space at night.
8. Pelzer Park/ Pityarilla (Park 19) Activity Hub, Australia
Located in the southern Park Lands of Adelaide, the hub is a place that encourages learning through play while celebrating diversity and interaction. With this, there was a clear focus on a design that promotes imagination, exploration, and social inclusion.
Pelzer Park includes an upgraded nature playspace, promenade, plaza, recreation centers, and a dog park. All of these enhancements set the stage for free roaming and curiosity of the outdoors.
Furthermore, this vibrant multi-functional destination fosters a sense of connectivity to the city through its pedestrian, cycling lanes, and easy access to public transportation. With walking trails, wide open areas, and scenic picnic spots, this green space provides for a multi-generational interaction and a rich variety of entertainment for the whole family to enjoy.
The park consists of two main attractions, the Marshmallow Playspace and the Oxbow Playspace. The Marshmallow Playspace is nestled under an ancient Moreton Bay Fig and features interactive water play elements placed throughout rock and sand paths. Traditional play elements like seesaws and slides sit alongside metallic cubby house structures inspired by Aboriginal Wurlies.
Whereas the Oxbow Playspace is made of a variety of stepping stones, logs, and boulders that children can climb on and play around in. A large wooden climbing frame with a rope net, provides a fun challenge for kids to play with too.
At the hub’s center, a creek bed weaves through and is home to thousands of indigenous species. Aside from creating a lush green space, they are planted to increase biodiversity and prevent erosion. Another creek bed can be found in the northern end of the hub where people can bring their dogs to explore the natural rocky obstacles and doggy water play features.
Photo source: City of Adelaide
Known and loved for its scenic walking trails, the park is open for visitors to explore the large loop (approximately 800m) and the small loop (approximately 200m). The former starts from the park entrance and follows a gravel path before rejoining the shared use path. While the latter starts at the opposite side of the park and heads to the back of the tennis court, leading to the dog park, before rejoining the path leading to the main entrance. Both routes are easy and perfect for family outings and morning walks.