Living Breakwaters, the 2023 OBEL AWARD winning project, is a half mile linear necklace of near-shore breakwaters along the south shore of Staten Island in New York. A mix of stones and carefully designed ecologically enhanced concrete units are placed strategically to calm the water, reduce erosion, and rebuild onshore beaches, but also to support oysters, fin fish, and other marine species. The oysters will form part of the design of the artificial reef formation. As they reproduce, the breakwaters grow denser and able to provide more protection of the shore.
On receiving the prize, Kate Orff says:
“Winning an architecture prize is really important for a project like this which involved so many different people working together with a shared purpose. It is a true encouragement for cities and landscape architects, ecologists and hydrodynamic engineers, mayors, and many other people to come together and develop coastal adaptation projects for their communities, wherever they are. And I think that it is also an acknowledgement of the importance of thinking about design at a holistic, planetary scale. The natural systems are in various stages of decline, and in order to repair them, we have to think and design systemically to tie the pieces back together. And that is an incredibly bold, creative act. Hopefully, this award can make that point more clear; that nature is a matter of design now.”