2017 Merit Award

Resiliency Rocks Garden

Category: Small Project Under $150,000

Landscape Architect:

Local Office Landscape and Urban Design


Project Team:

Insight Civil Engineering

Shore View Condominiums

About the Project:

The Resiliency Rocks Garden, commissioned soon after Superstorm Sandy ravaged the buildings of a twenty-unit shorefront condominium in Rockaway Beach, New York, acts as resilient infrastructure at the smallest scale. The landscape architects collaborated with civil engineers, integrating a flood barrier into the tilted garden, which features dune natives adapted to steady saline winds and occasional inundation.

To leverage the condo association’s investment, the landscape architect supervised volunteer crews during the phased installation of the plantings. The garden has survived – and successfully protected the condo buildings – through three hurricane seasons, and the successful reforestation of this beachfront block spurred a re-evaluation of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation’s approved street tree list for coastal areas.

Project Location: Rockaway Beach, New York

Special Factors

The Resiliency Rocks Garden pilots the principles of combining hard and soft infrastructure at the micro-scale. The board association of a multi-building oceanfront condominium engaged the landscape architect soon after Superstorm Sandy had devastated the property: during the storm, the property was hit with three-and-a-half feet of flooding; several cars had crashed into the first-floor windows and doors, and an enormous section of the public boardwalk had floated off its foundation and slammed into the street-side façades. The board association needed to rebuild their streetscape, but their common fund had been drained with other recovery efforts, and they were hesitant to invest in a landscape that might be swept away in the next storm.

The landscape architect collaborated with a civil engineer to offer a solution that is not only designed to survive future disturbances, but it actively protects the condo from future flooding. Together, the firms designed a white oak flood wall with gasketed, self-sealing entry gates. The wall was designed to return on itself at a slope, creating an enclosed, tilted planter between the sidewalk and the building entries. The benefit of this simple transformation – from a perfunctory, vertical flood wall, to an enclosed planter tilted toward the pedestrian realm – is twofold: the additional heft and absorption of the planting soil increases the durability of the wall, and the garden enhances both the privacy of the condo units and the beauty of the public realm.

To make the most of the condo association’s limited budget, the landscape architect embraced the role of community organizer, leveraging the community’s capacity to self-heal from Sandy. They teamed up with local relief organizations to stage two supervised volunteer planting days. The events attracted donations from local businesses and politicians and put “do-it-yourself”-scale resiliency in the public eye.