Hands-On — February 2, 2011
Reviving New York’s rivers – with oysters!
Professor, author and outside-the-box landscape architect Kate Orff asks us to rethink “landscape”—to use urban green spaces and blue spaces in fresh ways to mediate between humankind and nature. In this TED video, Kate makes her case for using the oyster as an agent of urban change. Bundled into beds and sunk into city rivers, oysters slurp up pollution and make legendarily dirty waters clean — thus driving even more innovation in “oyster-tecture.” Orff shares her vision for an urban landscape that links nature and humanity for mutual benefit.
Orff thinks deeply about sustainable development, biodiversity and community-based change—and suggests some surprising and wonderful ways to make change through landscape. 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 also a principal with 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.
“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, 09/2010
Gateway National Recreation Area is one of the most diverse and underused parks in the national park system. Spreading across the coastline of Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and New Jersey, it includes wildlife estuaries, bird-nesting areas, salt marshes, historic military forts, beaches, and NYC's first municipal airport, to name just a few of its exceptional features. It also contains sewage treatment plants, sewer outfalls, landfills, and acres upon acres of "black mayonnaise." Due to neglect and misuse, this extraordinary natural and national resource is at risk.