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Urban Planner, Landscape Architect Among This Year’s MacArthur ‘Genius Grant’ Award Winners

MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant recipients Damon Rich and Kate Orff

An urban planner and a landscape architect were among the 24 winners of this year’s MacArthur "Genius Grant" fellowships.

Three criteria exist for choosing each of the fellows: exceptional creativity, the promise of essential advances based on a history of significant accomplishments and the potential for the fellowship to expedite creative work in the future. Each winner is given a $625K award paid out over five years, which is meant to be used to further their potential. Recipients can be from a variety of fields, including science, art and education.

Damon Rich, an urban planner from Newark, New Jersey, was one of this year’s winners thanks to his creative design strategies and work in engaging community-based organizations and public school students to explore issues such as tenant rights, affordable housing and infrastructure design, according to the MacArthur Foundation.

Rich also served as chief urban designer and director of planning for Newark and played a pivotal role in working with advocates to transform the Newark waterfront with parks, trails and environmental installations.

Kate Orff is a landscape architect from New York City and another winner of the grant this year. She is the founding principal of SCAPE, a landscape architecture and urban design studio.

Orff focuses on working with underutilized public space and hidden ecological systems under the built environment. Her research addresses issues with urbanization and climate change, which she seeks to improve through collaborations with ecologists, engineers, educators and artists who work together to make the urban habitat more resilient.