but in a rapidly changing climate fueled# by the summer’s intense heat, flooding,## fires, and now hurricanes, architect and# designer Kate Orff is helping redefine## her field and push us all toward# new climate adaptation solutions.

Jeffrey Brown has the story for our# arts and culture series, Canvas.

KATE ORFF, Landscape Architect:## We’re here in Tottenville, which wa JEFFREY BROWN: A walk on# the shore of Staten Island,## New York, with landscape architect Kate Orff.

But this is no day at the beach.# And despite the gentle lapping of## water on a hot summer morning, this# is anything but a healthy coastline.

In 2012, this area was overwhelmed by the# storm surge caused by Hurricane Sandy,## which caused widespread flooding in many# parts of New York City.

More than half of## the 43 people killed were on Staten Island.# And the destruction extended well inland.

Eleven years later, Kate Orff is watching the# final stages of an experiment she hopes can point## the way towards a healthier ecosystem and mitigate# future disasters.

It’s called Living Breakwaters.

KATE ORFF: The breakwaters are kind of a# strategy about helping to slow the water,## helping to clean the water, helping to replenish# this incredibly eroded shoreline, actually reverse## erosion, and then start to rebuild this kind of# critical three-dimensional mosaic of subtidal and## intertidal rock marine ecosystem that we have# literally decimated in the New York Harbor.

It’s down to about 1 percent of its former extent.

JEFFREY BROWN: Orff is founder of the# design firm SCAPE based in Sh e is a leading voice in her field pushing# efforts to address the climate crisis and## its many impacts.

She was the first landscape# architect to receive a MacArthur genius award,## directs the Urban Design Program# at Columbia University, and this## year was named to the TIME 100 of the# most influential people in the world.

One mantra, adapting to a changing climate,# requires adapting her own profession.

KATE ORFF: It requires rethinking# our training, our perspective,## our assumptions about what is land, what# is water, what is engineering, what is art?

I think every profession today is now your# existing profession, plus climate emergency.

JEFFREY BROWN: You use the term climate# adaptation clearly behind a lot of what## you’re after.

What does climate adaptation mean?

KATE ORFF: Climate adaptation in the built# environmen view at what we have built now and where we# have built, and how can we — knowing that## all of these sort of factors are in flux, what# can we do to look at that built environment in## a synthetic and holistic way and try to make# adaptations to make us safer in the future?

And a lot of times, the answers are murky.

JEFFREY BROWN: Like the waters of Raritan# Bay, where the Living Breakwaters are being## constructed, with $107 million in funding by# New York state and the federal government.

The idea, build a set of barriers that will# hold back water with eight partially submerged## structures of stones and concrete.

A nonprofit# called the Billion Oyster Project will seed the## structures with oyster larvae, eventually# recreating an oyster reef, a return to an## earlier era, when oysters were an enormous part# of New York’s economy and natural ecosystem.

The oyster as an answer to# a lot of these problems?

KATE ORFF: This would have# been a thriving salt marsh.## You would have had oyster reefs covering the bay.

JEFFREY BROWN: Which would# have prevented erosion, yes.

KATE ORFF: Right.

And these inta And so the oyster is a Keystone of# that landscape.

And the reason is,## it is — it kind of can create reefs.

It can# build up.

It can form wave-attenuating reefs.## It’s food for migrating birds.

It creates# shallow waters for the horseshoe crab.

It## kind of sets into motion these more sort of# shallow, intertidal, protective landscapes.

JEFFREY BROWN: So the idea is millions or# a billion oysters create a new ecosystem?

KATE ORFF: Right.

And we have to start,## so oyster is the first step.

It’s not# the answer JEFFREY BROWN: It’s a step that’s catching on,## including a similar smaller project highlighted# on the “NewsHour Orff herself is working at sites around# the country and, more and more, the globe,## mostly small-scaled, client-driven projects.## But she wants to work and wants us to think# bigger, a Mississippi River National Park,## for example, bold, transformative# ideas for the American landscape.

If all of this is so obvious, why isn’t# it the norm?

What are the barriers?

KATE ORFF: And the barriers are many,# right?

These big projects that we need## to conceive of that may cross state# boundaries, they may cross watershe They certainly will cross city boundaries.# They’re really more at a regional scale,## kind of don’t have an owner, if you will, or# a way to kind of like nest into the system.

JEFFREY BROWN: What’s your job# in making us see it differently?

KATE ORFF: Right.

or you can’t do this, you can’t drive this way,# you can’t put your house on this coastline.

JEFFREY BROWN: And then people say… KATE ORFF: And JEFFREY BROWN: Yes rich, textured environmental future# that we should be running towards.

JEFFREY BROWN: When you talk about# changing the way landscape architecture## or other parts of the design world# are done, you include activism.

KATE ORFF: That’s right.

We can’t just# be passively accepting and assuming## what’s — what’s coming on the plate is# not what needs to be done.

We need to be## defining the projects that are happening# or that are coming our way.

And so… JEFFREY BROWN: You mean you want to be putting the## projects forward or the designs# KATE ORFF: Yes.

I want to be# suggesting w JEFFREY BROWN: Another part of her practi schools on Staten Island to# get young students involved.

Knowledge and ownership, she believes,# are fundamental to any future ch KATE ORFF: There’s this sense of# despair, frankly.

There’s a sense of,## I’m inheriting a world that I did not# make and that I am now responsible for.

And I just feel like its too much of a# cop-out to say to the next generation,## oh, you’re going to be the solvers.# That’s really not fair.

I really want## to feel like they — that we are making# a huge difference and that we’re at least## setting a pathway that these students feel# like they can — they can see themselves on.

JEFFREY BROWN: Her hope, one day soon,# that will include enjoying a healthy and## inviting beach near home.

Completion of the Living# Breakwaters is expected by the end of next year.

For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Jeffrey# Brown on Staten Island, New York.

 Landscape Architecture 

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