The Big U: Rebuild by Design

Starr Whitehouse was formed by Laura Starr and Stephen Whitehouse to focus their professional commitment on making places more livable, vibrant, and green. With comprehensive experience in parks, residences, urban design, and environmental planning in New York City and beyond, Starr Whitehouse’s process spans a continuum from strategy to implementation.

Starr Whitehouse principals have been re-imagining New York’s most iconic landscapes for over three decades. As Chief of Design for the Central Park Conservancy, Laura Starr teamed with Studio Director Jeffrey Poor on the ambitious renovation of Central Park. Starr and Poor have been collaborating with the Battery Conservancy since its founding, crafting a world-class waterfront park that will welcome future generations. As the former Chief of Planning for NYC Parks, Stephen Whitehouse is responsible for such watershed initiatives as the Greenway Program and the expansion of the USTA National Tennis Center. His award-winning Bushwick Inlet Park, a collaboration with Jeffrey Poor, was recently certified LEED Platinum. The firm is currently working on two of NYC’s Anchor Park Initiatives: St. Mary’s Park in the Bronx and a new park on a former landfill at Freshkills Park in Staten Island.

The firm’s residential work ranges from innovative affordable housing developments, such as Related Companies’ 925-unit complex at Hunter’s Point South in Queens, to top-tier ventures such as the Durst Organization’s new VIA 57 West development. Residential designs include multiple mixed-use projects for L&M Development Partners, the renovation of two historic courtyards on Front Street, and a new courtyard for one of Central Park West’s most celebrated housing co-operatives.

Starr Whitehouse has been at the forefront of resiliency strategy since Hurricane Sandy hit Manhattan in 2012. On the Mayor’s Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency, the firm explored protective solutions that double as economic and cultural amenities for Staten Island and Manhattan. These ideas reached their full expression in 2013’s Big U Plan, a collabroation with BIG Architects. The design, which proposes wrapping the Manhattan coastline in a seamless 10-mile ribbon of protective and community-enhancing infrastructure, won $335 million in federal funds for the City. Starr Whitehouse recently led two more resiliency studies for the City, the Harlem Greenway Link and NYC Parks’ East Harlem Resiliency Study, supplementing coastal and inland engineering solutions with community-building strategies that can nurture networks vital to recovery from natural disaster.

In 2018, Starr Whitehouse opened our first satellite office in Atlanta, GA. Led by Senior Associate Jacob Lange, the Atlanta office will further Starr Whitehouse’s mission to make urban space more livable, vibrant, and green by extending our practice to the Southeast, while continuing to work in close cooperation with our New York City office on projects in the New York Metropolitan Area and beyond.


  • Landscape Architects
New York