Kate Orff and Rob Rogers

Designer Q+A: Kate Orff for SCAPE and Rogers Marvel

June 20, 2013 by Elizabeth Hixson

We invited the three Water Works shortlisted firms to share more about themselves and their work. The following is the first of three posts, this one from SCAPE and Rogers Marvel, written by Kate Orff.

Watch for more posts this week and next!

Water Works has many layers including history and archaeology, significance to First Nations, geology, the river, and the falls. What fascinates you about Water Works?
Our team is inspired by nature in the city and the confluence of energy, ecology, history, and civic life that define this place. Water Works was a site where energy was generated from the currents and it will be a “power park” in the future in every sense of the word –from both the falls and the active and engaging public events and activities on its edges.

We imagine building a place that exists in a continuum of history that layers up (with an intense focus on getting the existing ruins “right”) to frame a connected, contextual urban and cultural riverfront for the next century.

How can we future-proof our parks? What are the big issues facing urban parks in this century?
I think in the future, parks will become places that hold water, that protect inland settlement from wave action, and that serve many ecological functions that go beyond traditional aesthetic and recreational notions. Urban Parks bring people together – they are eco-infrastructural and social spaces.

Another issue facing future parks is long-term funding and maintenance – parks must have a clear mission, identity, and programmed edges and interior destinations that are connected to urban life. They need strategies for long term stewardship that can withstand short-term budget challenges.

What is your favorite river or waterfront city, and what do you like about it?
I grew up near Annapolis, Maryland, and Annapolis is still exciting to me – it is a small, vibrant city that has kept a deep physical and cultural connection to its harbor. Many people travel by boat, or just get out onto the water to canoe or swim, or go crabbing. Its edges are also very accessible. The Severn River – and the entire watery network of creeks and bays, shoals and coves of the Chesapeake Bay – is very present in my mind. The crossing geometry of islands and spits where the Mississippi meets downtown Minneapolis brings to mind the great potential of a river-centric city and my memories of the Annapolis landscape.

What got you interested in design and what keeps you fascinated?
I am interested in design as a way of thinking – I see patterns and connections between things, and design is a way to try to bring different ideas together. Design keeps me fascinated because in every project there is a different dynamic that plays out between my intuitions to be an artist and “make things” and the desire to engage in a greater civic and environment context. Each project occupies a different place in this spectrum. I’m always trying to hit that sweet spot.

Featured Image: Kate Orff (L) and Rob Rogers (R), Rogers Marvel

Water Works is Supported By
St. Anthony Falls Heritage Board | Jay & Rose Phillips Family Foundation
Pentair Foundation | Many Generous Donors

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