Project: Living Breakwaters
Location: Staten Island, NY
Firm: SCAPE / Landscape Architecture
Year: 2013
Competition: Rebuild by Design
Website: Rebuild by Design – Living Breakwaters 

Project Description: The Living Breakwaters concept design was developed by the SCAPE / Landscape Architecture team for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Rebuild by Design Initiative, and was one of six winning proposals in the global competition. The proposal was awarded to New York State and will be implemented by the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery with $60 million of CDBG-DR funding allocated specifically for this project. (Read more here and here).

The Living Breakwaters project reduces risk, revives ecologies, and connects educators to the shoreline, inspiring a new generation of harbor stewards and a more resilient region over time. Staten Island sits at the mouth of the New York Bight, and is vulnerable to wave action and erosion. Rather than create a wall between people and water, the project embraces the water, increases awareness of risk, and steps down that risk with a necklace of breakwaters to buffer against wave damage, flooding and erosion.

The SCAPE team designed “reef street” micro-pockets of habitat complexity to host finfish, shellfish, and lobsters, and also modeled the breakwater system at a macro scale to understand how and where they can most effectively protect communities. This living infrastructure will be paired with social resiliency frameworks in adjacent neighborhoods. Through the Billion Oyster Project and an associated network of programmed water hubs, local schools will be empowered with science, recreation, education, and access.

The layered approach is especially suited to Staten Island’s south shore, but it is also replicable in other waterfront communities faced with the similar duality of risk and opportunity presented by their connection to the water. Tottenville, the site of our proposed Phase One pilot, was once known as “the Town the Oyster Built.” During Sandy, lives were tragically lost, and homes and parks were severely damaged. Moving forward, we can foster a vibrant water-based culture, invest in our students, shoreline ecologies and economies, and Tottenville can claim the mantle as the Town the reef re-built.

Project Video: 

Living Breakwaters from Rebuild by Design on Vimeo.

The SCAPE Team:
SCAPE Landscape Architecture
Parsons Brinckerhoff
Dr. Philip Orton / Stevens Institute of Technology
Ocean and Coastal Consultants
SeArc Ecological Marine Consulting
The New York Harbor School
Paul Greenberg