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Landscape Architect Kate Orff Takes The Helm Of Columbia’s Urban Design Program

Landscape architect Kate Orff has been selected as the next director of Columbia University’s urban design program, within the school’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation. An associate professor at Columbia and part of Fast Company‘s 2014 Most Creative People list, Orff will take the reins of the program in June, replacing Richard Plunz, an expert in urban housing issues who has been director since 1992.

Photo: courtesy of Kate Orff

Orff is the founder of SCAPE, a landscape architecture firm with a focus on redesigning landscapes to deal with climate change, especially sea-level rise and flooding. Last year, SCAPE won the Buckminster Fuller Challenge for Living Breakwaters, a plan to improve coastal resiliency around Staten Island through oyster habitats. (The project was designed as part of the post-Sandy Rebuild by Design initiative from the federal government.)

“We have been very interested in designing for blue ecosystems,” the 43-year-old Orff told Co.Design in an interview about Living Breakwaters in October. “I’ve been called a waterscape architect for part of my working life,” she says. “We really tried to innovate thinking about water and land as this continuum.”

As for her plans for Columbia’s urban design program, her “goal is to magnify the social and humanitarian ethos that the program is well known for, and bring it together with themes of infrastructure, urbanism, and climate dynamics,” Orff said in a statement.