Thomas Prior

Historically, landscape architecture was concerned with the composition of private gardens, but Kate Orff is a landscape architect who’s never been hemmed in by garden walls—seeking instead to liberate landscape to do nothing less than repair our warming planet through design. In fact, to call her a landscape architect seems insufficient, since it implies she works only on land. Not true. For 10 years, Kate has been leading Living Breakwaters, an ongoing project to reduce the risks that storm surges pose to the coast of Staten Island and revive its living ecosystem at the same time. This spring they will complete work on five of the eight breakwaters, including the first with reef ridges. Her collaborators include engineers and architects, as well as nonhuman creatures like oysters, all working together to help regenerate a thriving habitat. As with Rachel Carson, Kate’s ecological vision contains a larger environmental ethic to help people protect biodiversity and adapt to climate change. By rallying communities to participate in her restorative, nature-based projects, she shows us how landscape can also help repair a fractured society.

Gang is an architect

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