The Buckminster Fuller Challenge, considered by some to be "socially responsible design’s highest award," just announced an innovative flood mitigation project as its grand prize winner. Called Living Breakwaters, the coastal resilience project submitted by New York-based SCAPE/ Landscape Architecture is taking home the prestigious award thanks to its inventive idea to use a string of ecologically-engineered breakwaters to protect coastal and inland areas from wave and flood damage caused by natural disasters such as Superstorm Sandy.
The Living Breakwaters project was designed specifically for Staten Island and Rarutan Bay and is based on the idea of flood mitigation through the implementation of a well-strategized blend of structural defense and ecosystem reinforcement. The plan aims to manipulate the ocean’s potent energy rather than working against it by using “layered ecologically-engineered breakwaters, the strengthening of biodiversity and coastal habitats through ‘reef streets’, the nurturing and resuscitation of fisheries and historic livelihoods, and deep community engagement through diverse partnerships and innovative educational programs.”
Sarah Skenazy, Buckminster Fuller Challenge Program Manager, emphasized the important role of community within the infrastructure project: “This year’s Challenge winners deeply know that doing a physical intervention off the coastline would not be enough to create systemic change. Living Breakwaters is a project based in connections—the leadership team brings their deep expertise in technology and ecological science into the social dimension onshore in partnership with the community itself.”
“We are so honored to be the 2014 Fuller Challenge recipient – Fuller was optimistic about the future of humanity and deeply believed in cooperation as the way forward,” said Kate Orff of SCAPE. “As climate change impacts threaten shoreline populations, Living Breakwaters hopefully represents a paradigm shift in how we collectively address climate risks, by focusing on regenerating waterfront communities and social systems, and enhancing threatened ecosystems.”
Although the Fuller Challenge is an extremely prestigious award that comes with a $100,000 cash award, it’s not the only trophy sitting on SCAPE’s shelf. Living Breakwaters was also one of the winners in this year’s Rebuild By Design competition, and took home a staggering $60 million in award money to implement the design.