Xtreme LA – Creative Landscape Architecture Challenge

3This year, Project Manager Wesley Salazar had the opportunity to represent Kudela & Weinheimer (K&W) at the LAF XTREME LA Challenge. The LAF [Landscape Architecture Foundation] describes XTREME LA as a group of landscape architects and landscape architecture students gathering for a two-day design challenge named XTREME LA. The event, sponsored by Landscape Forms in partnership with LAF, provides an intense creative experience focused on a critical landscape planning and design challenge. This year, our very own Wesley Salazar attended the XTREME LA 2013 Challenge in Berkeley, CA.

Here is a description of what the event focused on this year:
“The event will foster creative thinking, team building, and facility of expression. Two teams made up of best-in-class young design professionals and masters level landscape architecture students will work under the guidance of prominent landscape architects to envision creative solutions for critical shoreline challenges in the San Francisco Bay.

Extreme weather events and gradual sea level rise have always created challenges for coastal landscape design. The new challenge comes from evidence that the rate of sea level rise is increasing, along with the likelihood of extreme rainfall and winds. It is becoming clearer that coastal development must change in order to accommodate new beaches, marshes and sub-tidal grasslands that will be needed when habitats that exist today are submerged. This global conflict must be addressed, if we expect to have fish and shellfish to eat 50-75 years from now. The other side of the problem is that human cultures are often slow to prepare for unprecedented changes, finding them difficult to imagine.

2The challenge of this event is to propose new shoreline types and structures that will create new opportunities to experience this urban waterside environment, and to perceive, understand and adapt to environmental change. The client is the Bay Area Conservation and Development Commission, which is actively seeking new prototypical proposals that could be applied around the Bay, from San Francisco to San Jose to San Pablo Bay.

The site is the historic Berkeley Pier and adjacent areas on either side, including the Bay edges of Shorebird Park and Cesar Chavez Park. This stretch of shoreline includes a public pier structure, a small sandy beach park with picnic facilities, and a significant amount of parking for two small restaurants that could be relocated or reduced. The pier is a popular public fishing spot, and the adjacent area is actively used for kite flying, bicycling, dog walking, other recreational activities, and major public festivals. Chavez Park is the site of a former municipal landfill, now surrounded by rock riprap that protects it from winter tides and wave action. This entirely artificial landscape offers considerable freedom to propose new schemes, and increase the length of Bay edge that includes multiple zones of plants and wildlife.”

The teams comprised of 13 professionals [including Kudela & Weinheimer’s Wesley Salazar] and 15 graduate students from across the country. The challenge originally started with 4 teams that each came up with a different concept during design charettes. The teams made a site visit to the Berkeley
 Pier, analyzed the site and learned about the local ecosystem. Concepts were formed and the original ideas were presented to the deciding committee. The committee then narrowed down to just two concept teams. They chose a minimalist approach with little change to the surrounding development as a solution and then the opposite extreme of having ample amounts of new man-made development to sustain the shoreline. The two final teams deliberated for three intense days of research and design before presenting their creative solutions to the city officials. Wesley was one of six professionals to represent the minimalist approach to shoreline preservation and restoration.

He describes his experience as a great way to see how other landscape architects in other parts of the country come up with landscape solutions.He emphasized that working with students who’s ideas have not been jaded by the restrictions of real word development and money constraints was a refreshing change as well.

Being that the environment was completely new to him, Wesley said that his involvement with the challenge opened his mind to new landscape design ideas, new ways to come up with solutions and provided him with a fresh outlook on his profession. All of these things, he says are opportunities to provide better more innovative solutions to his clients at Kudela & Weinheimer. As well as having an out of box experience, he was able to make new contacts and friends from different landscape environments that he can call upon and bounce ideas off of in the future.

Everyone at Kudela & Weinheimer is proud of Wesley for representing the firm and showing architects around the country how Houstonians do it!

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Wesley is a graduate from Texas A&M University with a Bachelor’s degree in Landscape Architecture. Wesley enjoys working on large scale commercial projects as well as mixed use developments in urban areas. Figuring out ways to improve dense urban areas and creating a sense of community is one of the things Wesley enjoys doing most at K&W. 

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