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Levees, dikes, seawalls—for centuries humans have been building barriers to fight back the sea. But with ocean levels rising and climate change unleashing devastating storms, new tactics are needed to work with nature, not against it.

Among those striving to find solutions is landscape architect Kate Orff, founder of the New York studio Scape. In 2010, as part of a show at the Museum of Modern Art, she presented Oyster-tecture, a plan calling for the use of oyster reefs to attenuate waves and coastal flooding while cleaning polluted waters. (A single bivalve can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day.) Orff has incorporated that research into her Living Breakwaters project, one of the winners of Rebuild by Design, a competition seeking the best ways to prepare New York City for future Hurricane Sandy–like disasters. Her proposal aims to return protective shallow-water ecosystems to Staten Island’s southern end, supporting a rich diversity of marine and bird life.

"I’m overlaying coastal defenses with ecological restoration," Orff says. The $60 million scheme will also feature kayak stations and educational centers, helping to draw people back to this stretch of shore. As she notes, "Humans love to be connected to the water." For more information go to scapestudioom .

Click to see a selection of landscape architect Kate Orff's projects .


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