Kate Orff asks us to rethink “landscape”—to use urban greenspaces and blue spaces in fresh ways to mediate between humankind and nature.

Why you should listen

Kate Orff is a landscape architect who thinks deeply about sustainable development, biodiversity and community-based change—and suggests some surprising and wonderful ways to make change through landscape. She’s a professor at Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, where she’s a director of the Urban Landscape Lab. She’s the co-editor of the new book Gateway: Visions for an Urban National Park, about the Gateway National Recreation Area, a vast and underused tract of land spreading across the coastline of Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and New Jersey.

She is principal of SCAPE, a landscape architecture and urban design office with projects ranging from a 1,000-square-foot pocket park in Brooklyn to a 100-acre environmental center in Greenville, SC, to a 1000-acre landfill regeneration project in Dublin, Ireland. 

What others say

“Perhaps the snazziest proposal is also the oddest, calling for oyster beds in the Gowanus Canal. The oyster reefs, as imagined by Kate Orff, would ease the impact of storms and filter pollution in the water. Orff’s fantastical future also includes a flupsy (for “flowing upweller system”) parade of oyster-filled boats along the Gowanus.” — Samantha Henig, “Earl Versus the Oysters,” New Yorker, Sept. 2, 2010

Kate Orff’s TED talks

Quotes from Kate Orff

[The oyster] accepts algae and detritus in one end — and through this beautiful, glamorous set of stomach organs, out the other end comes cleaner water.
Kate Orff
TEDWomen 2010 • 266K views Jan 2011
Ingenious, Inspiring