Meet the Team is a series of interviews featuring the various professionals on our project team – both in-front and behind-the-scenes – who regularly provide valuable input, countless design iterations, environmental surveys and much more. Without these talented individuals, we would not be where we are today in realizing the possibilities of The Bay Park.
Gina Ford joined The Bay team when the Sarasota Bayfront Planning Organization selected Sasaki as the project’s master planning design firm in 2016. Since then, Gina has been integral in every step of the master planning process, from initial design meetings to community engagement events and more. Gina has now cofounded a new design studio, Agency Landscape + Planning, and remains the lead designer on The Bay. We interviewed Gina to learn a bit more about her background, her love for public parks and how she envisions the future of The Bay.
Can you share a bit more about your background, experience and personal story?
“With a foundational education in both architecture and landscape architecture, my first few decades of practice were at the global mutli-disciplinary design firm, Sasaki. There, as one of the first woman principals, I led a creative interdisciplinary practice and served as the lead on numerous initiatives – including professional projects, academic design studios, exhibitions, critical writing and lecturing.
I worked on various public parks including Moore Square in Raleigh, North Carolina and the Lawn On D in Boston. I also worked on waterfronts such as the Chicago Riverwalk and Tom Hanafan River’s Edge Park in Iowa. I also had the opportunity to work on resiliency and park system planning.
In 2018, as the Bayfront Master Plan launched, I co-founded a new design studio, Agency Landscape + Planning, that focuses on issues of public space planning and design, urban resilience, and the integration of arts, culture and ecology in cities. Core to this new practice is the belief that landscape is a powerful agent of change, particularly in cities. Much of our work focuses on physical design within the context of large-scale, dynamic systems, and particularly flood prone landscapes. The Sarasota Bayfront and The Bay project is a perfect alignment of these ambitions!”
What is your favorite park and your contribution or role in development? What were some important design elements and the biggest challenges you faced?
“Every project is different and brings with it challenges and success. There are two challenges I think about most. One is designing for resilience. With changing sea levels and frequent storm events, designing places to be resilient to sudden and unexpected impacts is key. The Chicago Riverwalk is a great example of a project that floods annually but is designed to receive floodwaters in many ways – in design details, planting choices and operations planning.
The second is designing for diverse cultural experience. The recently opened Moore Square in Raleigh, North Carolina did this beautifully. Our design work acknowledged layers of cultural history, from important views to significant existing trees to coordinated cultural narratives. It also allowed for more diverse cultural programming, an idea that emerged during the planning process that guided all of our design decision-making.”
What excites you about The Bay Park design/plan, process, and team? What is your favorite and most rewarding part of the work?
“This is the first project I have been part of that is born entirely from a grassroots community effort. The amount of passion, energy and time it takes for volunteers to have moved the public’s awareness and collective consciousness of the potentials of this site is remarkable. It makes me want to throw all of my energy at making the design reflect that passion, but also be a place that truly welcomes all of the people of Sarasota.”