Winner chosen in Lake Monona Waterfront Competition

Lake Monona

Sasaki is thrilled to have been selected to redesign Lake Monona’s urban waterfront in Madison, Wisconsin, USA. After an intensive design process and four-month review period, the Lake Monona Waterfront Ad-hoc Committee selected Sasaki to lead this once-in-a-generation design opportunity.

Lake Monona

Sasaki was shortlisted alongside two other firms in the competition, and quickly got to work engaging with the Madison community to understand their aspirations for a new waterfront. Sasaki’s winning, final proposal, “Voices of the Lake: Monona’s Waterfront,” will create an accessible, activated waterfront and establish a protected shoreline for wildlife to flourish.

Lake Monona

In a unanimous vote Wednesday night, the Ad-Hoc committee chose Sasaki because of the plan’s commitment to sustainability, history, and incorporating public feedback. Leading up to the committee’s decision, a community survey with a record-breaking 2,400+ responses favored Sasaki’s design in every category.

Lake Monona

“The isthmus of Madison is a very unique environment and I see Sasaki as the best way to honor this special area,” said one of the survey respondents. “I believe Madison residents would get the most out of the recreational and ecological opportunities that Sasaki will create.”

Sasaki’s multidisciplinary team of local and national landscape architects, architects, engineers, and ecologists, including GRAEF and Moffatt & Nichol, have closely collaborated to create an ambitious and feasible master plan. Through on-site visits, in-depth conversations, analysis of community feedback, and technical due diligence, the design team has envisioned a lake edge that amplifies all voices.

The design lays out plans for pedestrian infrastructure that creates a stronger connection to the core of downtown and to the south neighborhoods such as Bay View, Bay Creek and Alliant Energy Center. Improved intersections, widened walking paths, and separated bike lanes will create a new waterfront that is accessible for all people. Destinations at Law Park, S. Hamilton Street, the John Nolen Causeway, and Olin Park bring new programming which will activate Lake Monona’s waterfront throughout the whole year.

“The best designs come from listening and being flexible,” says Anna Cawrse, principal and co-director of Sasaki Denver. “We understand the push and pull of design and ‘real life,’ and we thrive on that tension. Ultimately, the final design needs to meet the demands of the community priorities, technical implementation, and phasing/funding. We are thrilled to move forward with the community of Madison to create Lake Monona’s new waterfront.”

Anna Cawrse, principal and co-director of Sasaki Denver
Lake Monona

The lake belongs to all of us

The Ad-Hoc committee was impressed by Sasaki’s community outreach efforts, ecological approach, and connection to the Ho-Chunk Nation.

Lake Monona, a freshwater lake, became home to the first human inhabitants of the area, the Ho-Chunk Nation. One of the tenets of Sasaki’s design is to learn from how the Ho-Chunk Nation has cared for the lake. In turn, Sasaki developed a design that prioritizes lake health and makes the space accessible to all of its users–human or otherwise.

What the community wants

Before the community-wide survey was launched to garner feedback on all three final designs, the City of Madison hosted a public kick-off, a mid-term presentation, and a final public meeting that attracted more than 300 in-person attendees.

“Madison provided so much feedback and support throughout the entire design process. My favorite part of this project is that it has the potential to truly amplify all voices. This journey has just begun, and we are excited to work together with the city and community to turn the vision to reality.”

Lanmuzhi Yang, senior landscape architect at Sasaki.

Sasaki will now work with the City of Madison to develop a master plan for Lake Monona, with the goal of completing the plan in September 2023.

About Damian Holmes 3314 Articles
Damian Holmes is the Founder and Editor of World Landscape Architecture (WLA). He is a registered landscape architect (AILA) working in international design practice in Australia. Damian founded WLA in 2007 to provide a website for landscape architects written by landscape architects. Connect on Linkedin at