Recognizing the role that architects can play in lessening the impact of climate change on the built environment, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) has awarded the 2007 Latrobe Prize to a team of architects and engineers who are researching waterfront development and the ramifications of severe urban flooding. Guy Nordenson, founder of Guy Nordenson Associates and a Princeton University structural engineering professor, leads the seven-member group. Also on the team are Stan Allen, AIA, dean of the Princeton University School of Architecture; Catherine Seavitt, AIA, and James Smith, of Princeton University; Michael Tantala, of Tantala Associates; and Adam Yarinsky, FAIA, and Stephen Cassell, AIA, of the Architectural Research Office.

The team receives $100,000 to fund a two-year study of New York Harbor’s rivers, bays, and tidal estuaries. This effort merges three studies already under way. In addition to researching the urban ecology of harbor waterways, the group will propose new public transportation corridors to link the New York and New Jersey waterfronts, and investigate the urban consequences of severe flooding. Elements include urban water systems research, GIS-based disaster mitigation analyses, and video documentation of the waterfront.

Nordenson hopes that his findings can help further the dialogue about global-warming impacts and perhaps serve as a starting point for architects and engineers to reexamine waterfront planning and development. “It’s not just a passive response to global climate change,” he says. “The real problem of designing for raised sea levels is a part of this. What we’re trying to do here is to face up to reality and show people how serious this is.”

Stan Allen is proud that this year’s award winners are largely based at Princeton. “Nordenson’s project exemplifies the kind of work we would like to see at the School of Architecture. The Latrobe Prize helps to jump-start our new Center for Architecture, Urbanism, and Infrastructure,” he says.

The Latrobe Prize, named after Benjamin Latrobe, one of America’s first professional architects and designer of the U.S. Capitol, is awarded biennially to research efforts that show potential for launching significant advances in the architectural profession. The previous winner, Gordon Chong, FAIA, presents his work on the cultural impacts of health-care design at the AIA’s convention this week.