New York-based SCAPE, and its founder Kate Orff, have been awarded the 2023 OBEL AWARD. The fifth edition of the architecture prize was awarded to SCAPE and Orff for their “radical breakwaters design and community and ecosystems-driven approach to adaption.”
The Living Breakwaters scheme consists of 2,400 linear feet of near-shore breakwaters: Structures built of stone and ecologically enhanced concrete with a variety of features, including reef ridges and reef streets that provide habitat space for marine species. The project was developed by SCAPE for Rebuild by Design, a design competition led by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Beyond the breakwater infrastructure, the project also incorporates educational and engagement-related programming designed to “advance community stewardship, citizen science, and recreation along the water’s edge.” In its totality, the jury praised the scheme as a “visionary green infrastructure project" that “reduces risk, revives ecologies, and connects people to the shoreline."
“Breakwaters is an ancient idea for how to protect shorelines — and the people who live close to them — by building underwater seawalls to defend a harbor or a beach from the force of waves,” jury chair Martha Schwartz said in a statement. “Kate has designed an extraordinary, modern-day interpretation, the Living Breakwaters, which will not only protect humans and revitalize the coastline of New York City but also restore lost marine biodiversity. This is a visionary project that tackles the full task of adaptation, and which has the capacity to inspire and to positively impact vulnerable shorelines worldwide.”
The prize was awarded to SCAPE by a jury comprising Martha Schwartz (Martha Schwartz Partners), Kjetil Trædal Thorsen (Snøhetta), XU Tiantian (DnA), Dr. Wilhelm Vossenkuhl (Prof. em. Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München), Sumayya Vally (Counterspace), Louis Becker (Henning Larsen), and Aric Chen (Nieuwe Instituut).
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