Kate Orff, RLA, FASLA, is Founding Principal and Partner at SCAPE. She focuses on retooling the practice of landscape architecture relative to the uncertainty of climate change and creating spaces to foster social life, which she has explored through publications, activism, research, and projects.
Widely recognized as a leading voice in landscape architecture, urban design, and climate adaptation in a global context, she is known for advancing complex, creative, and collaborative work that advances broad environmental and social prerogatives.
Among her many accolades, Kate became the first landscape architect to receive the MacArthur Foundation’s prestigious “genius” grant in 2017. In 2019, she was elevated to the ASLA Council of Fellows, accepted a National Design Award in Landscape Architecture from the Cooper Hewitt, and was named a “Hero of the Harbor” by the Waterfront Alliance. In 2020, she was named Urbanist of the Year by The Architect’s Newspaper. In 2023, she was named to the TIME 100, the magazine’s annual list of the most influential people in the world.
Kate is the author of several books including Toward an Urban Ecology (Monacelli, 2016), co-author, with photographer Richard Misrach, of Petrochemical America (Aperture, 2012), and a contributor to All We Can Save (Penguin Random House, 2020), a bestselling anthology of women climate leaders. She has been profiled extensively for publications including The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Economist, National Geographic, and many more.
Kate graduated with a Bachelor’s in Political and Social Thought from the University of Virginia with Distinction and earned a Master’s in Landscape Architecture from the Graduate School of Design (GSD) at Harvard University. She is currently the Director of the Urban Design Program, Co-Director of the Center for Resilient Cities and Landscapes (CRCL), and Professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP). She also sits on the Commission on Accelerating Climate Action for the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, as well as the Advisory Board for Urban Ocean Lab, a policy think tank.
- Read Jeanne Gang’s tribute to Kate in the TIME 100.
- Read Eric Klinenberg’s profile of Kate and SCAPE in The New Yorker.
- Watch Kate’s interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on the value of natural infrastructure.
Landscape Architect: New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, South Carolina, Minnesota, Arkansas
Director, Master of Architecture and Urban Design Program, Columbia University GSAPP
Co-Director, Center for Resilient Cities and Landscapes (CRCL), Columbia University GSAPP
Professor, Columbia University GSAPP
MacArthur Fellow, 2017
USA Artist Fellow, 2012
American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Architecture, 2015
Board & Advisory Roles
Advisor, Urban Ocean Lab
Member, Commission on Accelerating Climate Action, American Academy of Arts & Sciences
Contributor, Committee on Infrastructure, Climate & Sustainability, NYC Mayoral Transition Team for Eric Adams
Additional honors include:
Urbanist of the Year, The Architect’s Newspaper, 2020
ASLA Council of Fellows, 2019
National Design Award, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, 2019
Waterfront Alliance, Hero of the Harbor, 2019
ASLA Professional Awards, Honor Award – Communications, Toward An Urban Ecology, 2017
Buckminster Fuller Challenge Winner, 2014
Rebuild by Design, Winning Team – Living Breakwaters, 2014
“Most Creative People,” Fast Company, 2014
National Academician, 2013
“Emerging Voice,” Architectural League of New York, 2012
Team Leader, MoMA “Rising Currents” Exhibit, 2010
“Toward an Urban Ecology” (Monacelli Press, 2016)
“Petrochemical America” (Aperture, 2012)
“Gateways: Visions for an Urban National Park” (Princeton Architectural Press, 2011)