SCAPE is a design-driven landscape architecture and urban design studio based in New York. We believe landscape architecture can enable positive change in communities through the creation of regenerative living infrastructure and public landscapes. We work to integrate natural cycles and systems into environments across all scales, from the urban pocket-park to the regional ecological plan. We do this through diverse forms of landscape architecture – built landscapes, planning frameworks, research, books, and installations – with the ultimate goal of connecting people to their immediate environment and creating dynamic and adaptive landscapes of the future.
Our staff is experienced in landscape architecture, architecture, urban design, horticulture, and planning, and we integrate these skillsets to practice design as interpreters and synthetic thinkers. We lead and work with teams of engineers and architects on complex projects, from stormwater streetscapes to large scale coastal infrastructure, translating technical expertise into legible and engaging public space. We also believe in working with communities and stakeholders to translate complex visions into realizable actions.
We work with clients to ensure that design concept remains intact through the process of building landscapes. To achieve solid, high-performance public landscapes, we combine new technologies with tried and true construction techniques. We aim to create public landscapes of lasting significance, reconnecting neighborhoods and habitats for generations to come.
Our work and collaborations have led to several national awards, including the Buckminster Fuller Challenge Winner, two national American Society of Landscape Architects awards, and a several NY American Society of Landscape Architects Awards. SCAPE was established in 2007.
How can urban streetscapes adapt to the ecological challenges of the twenty-first century? At Buffalo Niagara Medical Center, a monotonous urban environment was ecologically barren and lacking a unique identity. SCAPE and nArchitects collaborated to re-establish a strong vegetated footprint for the site. Long angled planting beds maximize additional tree planting area while respecting the root zones of existing large street trees. A tiered system of vegetation increases permeability while cooling the space. The shrub layer, understory tree planting, and canopy tree planting are composed of a mix of native and urban-adapted species with a high tolerance to Buffalo’s harsh winters and salting regime. A new experience emerges within the campus– a once homogenous edge transforms into a dynamic and ever-changing forested walkway, offering new experiences for students, patients, and visitors who use the path every day.
Located in the heart of East Harlem and a New York City Housing Authority development, Blake Hobbs Play-za has united a diverse and disadvantaged community with a re-energized, active urban space that serves both neighborhood residents and DREAM Charter School students. Prior to the park’s revitalization, the site was an underutilized 20,000 SF asphalt play lot with deteriorating play equipment, cracking asphalt, and a tall, unwelcoming chain link fence. The park’s existing urban canopy, created by twenty-two mature London Plane Trees, twenty of which were preserved in the new design, was the park’s hallmark and its only natural element. The site is located within the boundary of a public housing complex in East Harlem, NY, a neighborhood with one of the highest concentrations of public housing in the city. While these housing complexes often look ‘green’ from above due to older trees and lawns, public space within the complexes are low-quality, highly segregated, and single use. The project goal was to create a vibrant, multi-purpose urban space that responded to the needs of the school, elderly community members, and the East Harlem neighborhood, while preserving the property’s unique and healthy urban canopy, a feature that is rare in low-income neighborhoods.
Town Branch Commons weaves a linear network of public space along the 2.5 mile path of the historic Town Branch creek in downtown Lexington, Kentucky. Once a waste canal, sewer, and water conduit for the city, the buried stream channel of Town Branch is an opportunity to reconnect the city with its Bluegrass identity and build a legacy public space network for the 21st century. Rather than introducing a single daylit stream channel into the city fabric, the design uses the local limestone (karst) geology as inspiration for a series of pools, pockets, water windows, and stream channels that brings water into the public realm. A hybrid park network, multi-modal trail system, and water filtration landscape, Town Branch Commons connects Lexington’s rural and urban communities and reinvigorates the downtown. SCAPE won the Town Branch Commons competition in 2013 and the project has grown to secure $23.1 million for design and construction for early phase design and construction.
The Living Breakwaters concept design was developed by the SCAPE team for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Rebuild by Design (RBD) Initiative, and was one of six winning proposals in this global competition. SCAPE’s layered approach overlays coastal resiliency infrastructure with habitat enhancement techniques and environmental stewardship models, linking in-water protective interventions to on-shore resiliency and community engagement.
Proposed for the South Shore of Staten Island, Living Breakwaters employs a necklace of breakwaters to buffer neighborhoods from wave damage and erosion while providing a more biodiverse habitat for juvenile fish, oysters, and other organisms. This living infrastructure is paired with social resiliency frameworks in adjacent neighborhoods on-shore to help increase awareness of risk, empower citizens, and engage local schools in waterfront education. The proposal was awarded to New York State and is currently being implemented by the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery with $60 million of CDBG-DR funding allocated for this project, currently in the schematic design process.
Part monograph, part manual, part manifesto, Toward an Urban Ecology reconceives urban landscape design as a form of activism, demonstrating how to move beyond familiar and increasingly outmoded ways of thinking about environmental, urban, and social issues as separate domains; and advocating for the synthesis of practice to create a truly urban ecology. The book depicts a range of participatory and science-based strategies through the lens of SCAPE’s practice, featuring projects, collaborators, and invited essays on urban ecological design.
The themes of Revive, Cohabit, Engage, and Scale serve as the framework for the book. These chapters provide forward-thinking and celebratory design provocations that can catalyze chance and arm the reader with a way of thinking and acting ecologically across systems. Combining design, research, art, and environmental knowledge in order to advance landscape architecture as a form of activism, the practice has yielded a synthetic vision of landscape, infrastructure, and community. We hope that it will inspire you to synthesize everything that you know, to marshal your own personal talents, and to work toward an urban ecology.
Published on December 2, 2016