Landscape Architect Wins MacArthur Genius Award


Nice news this week via Brad McKee, editor of Landscape Architecture Magazine, who writes:

Brad notes in passing that six (!) architects have won the coveted “genius” fellowship.

This first-time inclusion of a landscape professional reminds me of a similar trend at the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, the body that reviews important projects here in D.C.  The seven Commissioners there now include three landscape architects – the most ever by two – and they’re all women. I reported the milestone in this post.

But back to Kate Orff:

Her description of the design firm she founded resonates with me especially: “We’re science-driven, research-driven, and activist in our approach.”

The MacArthur Foundation describes her work this way:

Designing adaptive and resilient urban habitats and encouraging residents to be active stewards of the ecological systems underlying our built environment.

Kate Orff is a landscape architect envisioning new forms of public space that reveal and revive the hidden ecological systems underlying our built environments and encourage urban residents to become active stewards of their natural surroundings. Her research and design practice addresses the challenges posed by urbanization and climate change (such as biodiversity loss and rising sea levels) through in-depth collaborations with ecologists, engineers, educators, artists, and community members that aim to make our urban habitats more adaptive and resilient.

In reviewing her firm’s projects I noticed they include making self-guided podcast tours that invite city dwellers to explore the natural histories of their regions. Yet another example of podcasts permeating our culture, a trend I applaud!

Check out the other 23 recent MacArthur recipients to see what good company Kate Orff is in.

Photo credit – MacArthur Foundation.


  1. “We have a huge role to play, not just to beautify, but to actually, literally reset ecosystems.”
    ————————Kate Orff.

    I agree. We take from the planet through what we eat, the land on which we live, the energy we consume. AND, we do not need to own a landscape architecture firm for each of us to give back and make a difference. Just imagine if every homeowner had an area set aside to help bring back the healthy ecology of the neighborhood before it was built. We can all do that, but I think we can do more. We can plant and care for an open area nearby our homes. For example, I monitor a nest box trail on federal property nearby. I asked the facilities manager if he would remove the Callery Pear that took over the hill at the facility. I showed him how destructive this invasive has become in our country. He removed the entire hill, mowed, tossed some native seeds, and three months later we have this: (Two videos included.)

    He recently wanted to mow. I asked that he hold off until next Spring and explained why. Also, the bluebirds I monitor, which he likes, were still here, enjoying and feasting from the new landscape before possibly migrating south.

    I work hard on my own garden, especially now, as it is teaming with pollinators, but this immense hill will benefit the ecology of the region far more than my yard will. Let’s expand our reach. We can give back. Let’s do it.

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