Architecture Lecture: Kate Orff, SCAPE Core Series

by Manuela Hiches

Petrochemical America (Kate Orff, SCAPE)

Kate Orff is the director of the Urban Studies Program at GSAPP, Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, as well as the founder of SCAPE, a landscape architecture firm. The lecture served to give an overview of the projects that SCAPE has been involved with.

The first project that caught my attention was Petrochemical America which looks into the “economic ecologies along 150 miles of the Mississippi River from Baton Rouge to New Orleans, an area of intense chemical production” (SCAPE). This project is not only fascinating in what was done in itself but also about how the information found was displayed. SCAPE made a point to portray data in their drawings that immediately captivates the viewers. What could have been simple graphs and pie charts turns into elaborate layers of data compacted into one complex drawings, that isn’t too hard to understand. For more information on the project, visit this link.

Living Breakwaters (Kate Orff, SCAPE

The other project mentioned in the presentation that I’d like to highlight is Living Breakwaters which was a proposal on how to help with flooding and erosion at the New York Bight. The “proposal was [actually] awarded to New York State and will be implemented by the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery” (SCAPE). Kate Orff was very enthusiastic about this project, being called the oyster lady and all. She and her team worked to create a way to prevent problems that arose during Hurricane Sandy. This presentation I enjoyed since it seemed very much down to earth by the fact that not only did SCAPE focus on the problem at hand, but they kept in mind the community that would be affected by this. The interesting part that she claimed that even the water critters were their clients for their project. For more information on the project, visit the link below:

Throughout this presentation I was able to enjoy some aspect of what landscape architecture truly involves and its importance of it. It doesn’t simply involve the small patch of grass that is outside of your apartment but it is actually something much more complex and absolutely intriguing. I hope to see even more projects from SCAPE and see more of their innovative designs. I encourage everyone to also look into the rest of their projects on their website below:

GSAPP usually does guest lectures like these all the time which are pretty much open to everyone. It’s a resource that many don’t know we have but architecture and urban studies students should definitely take the chance to go to one of these lectures if you haven’t already. The GSAPP websites posts tons of events that are just as insightful as this one.

Manuela Hiches is a Junior at Barnard and Managing Editor for The Nine Ways of Knowing. 


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