We’re Still Hiring!

SetWidth360-Hiring-2013 (1)Among all of the bad news of layoffs in the energy industry….we bring good news! K&W is looking for detail oriented landscape architects that are drawn to the construction aspect of LA. If you love to see landscape design get built the way it was intended, you pay close attention to the details, and like to get out in the field – this is the job for you! Come work with Kudela & Weinheimer as a Construction Administrator, show us what you’ve got.

Mid-Level LA Construction Admin

Enhancing Landscape Design Skills: Portland Stitch Competition

Landscape Architecture is a broad discipline requiring a vast professional skill set to be successful. You must be able to analyze and respond to everything from knowing how people walk, bike, and drive around to what views will exist 20 years from now when trees mature. You need to be able to predict what people will use a space for while simultaneously appreciating the aesthetic that will appeal to the end user. You must be able to understand landscape design from the scale of regional neighborhoods and adjacent cities down to construction techniques of a seat wall and know how changes in the details will relate to the whole. It is to say the least a complicated profession.

It is not uncommon for some of these skills to go unused in day to day activities in a busy Landscape Architecture firm. Not due to anything intentional, but more to the speed at which work moves through the office and the various people that have a hand in it. One person does the planning, another does the design, and yet another handles the details of implementation. At K&W this is no different. It speaks to the success of the company and the client relationships we have built.

One way for us as practicing designers to keep our senses sharpened is to participate in design competitions. So we come to the Portland Stitch competition. It was a small charette to design a concept for a small park capping a sunken highway with the intent to reconnect long disassociated neighborhoods.  It was an exercise that seemed to have a simple outcome, design a park, see if you win the competition. But in truth it had a much broader more important purpose and result. It made us realize how much we don’t necessarily know the skills and talents of the people we work with. While we see them every day, team style hierarchy can keep us from really knowing the person at the next desk.

So we met once a week, first bringing together our research to understand the history and culture of a neighborhood and city unfamiliar to us, then to share various concept designs, and finally to flush out our ideas into a presentable project. We remembered those lessons from school about site analysis and design themes that we’d tucked away and we reactivated our collaborative brains. The end result is a team of designers that remembers the importance of making sure the details we pour over fit the design intent of the spaces we work in and a greater appreciation of the people we work with everyday.

The process wasn’t simple. Of course if the solution were an obvious one, anyone could be a landscape architect. The competition was open ended with very little direction. We were given a site size (200’ x 200’), told the general motivation for this particular park space, and given the rules for the final product (6 – 11”x17” sheets max). The vagueness of this set of directions meant we on the team spent much of our time discussing how much feasibility should be a part of our design. Can this be built? How much would this cost? How conceptual should our final product be? We decided to find a middle ground between feasibility and completely conceptual design.

The main feature of the design…”the creek bed”, started as a glass floor that you could stand on and see the highway traffic moving under the park. This would capture movement and connect the history, reality and future of the space. As we discussed feasibility, it was decided to pull that back slightly to an under-lit glass tile that would allude to the history but be much more build-able  in another example, during the research phase of the project, we learned that the neighborhood had a history of being home to Chinese immigrants that would often have vegetable gardens for growing vegetables they had brought with them. This was a concept we followed for a while looking at Chinese vegetables as landscape plants and designs that paid homage to a patchwork of garden plots. But as this was developed, it felt too specific to meet the needs of the current neighborhood and the need to reconnect to downtown.

Of course as we look at the project in its entirety, we do what all good designers do and see things we could do better. These projects highlight areas in our personal and group skill sets to continue developing. That, of course, is the entire purpose of this type of work. We are striving to connect with colleagues, develop under-utilized skills and to grow professionally.  Portland Stitch served for us as a first step in doing just that.

Edgar, Michael, Peter, Aaron and Danielle

Competition Team: Edgar, Michael, Peter, Aaron and Danielle

A little about the Author of this post – Peter Caldwell

Having shared in the joys of marriage and fatherhood, Peter now wades through the vast layers of knowledge attributable to a career in the most misunderstood of professions. Somewhere between a lawn mower and a master planner of the universe, he now sews the seeds of future landscapes and community in which he designs for… 

Humor aside, joining Kudela & Weinheimer Landscape Architects in March 2014, Peter came to us from Purdue University in Indiana. Peter recently completed his Master of Ecological Sciences & Engineering, which compliments his BSLA (Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture), both from Purdue University. Peter has an entrepreneurial spirit having had his own real estate appraisal company, co-founding “World Help Solutions” (currently based in Kansas City), and starting a dog grooming salon with his wife Andrea.  Father of two sons Noah (14) & Ian (6), the three of them are Lego fanatics and love building & launching model rockets. Peter is a lifelong student and loves observing people around the world to learn what is common and celebrate what is different.  He is settling into his new home and life here in Texas and spends his weekends with the family exploring dog parks (for their 4 dogs) and visiting local restaurants, parks and activities.


Psychology of Social Spaces

Author - Danielle Bilot

Author: Danielle Bilot

Landscape Architecture is often perceived as a discipline that chooses plants, lays out sidewalks, and designs pools that gather immense amount of children at your home on your days off. In reality, we are much more than that. We are many disciplines all rolled into one: Horticulture, Engineering, Agriculture, Architecture, Urban Planning, Soil Science, and many others. But the most important discipline that we employ is most often overlooked: Psychology. Beautiful designs do not just happen. They apply the proper use of lines, colors and textures to provide contextual clues to the brain that innately prompt people into performing certain movements to guide them through a space.

One of my focuses in graduate school at the University of Oregon was Understanding the Psychology of Social Spaces. Each time I have to design a space here at K&W, I program spaces according to the desired level of covert and overt socialization and the amount of movement that supports the primary function, depending on if it is a transition or gathering area. Then I use a combination of design guidelines that intuitively cue people into using the space appropriately. For example, when I design transition zones, I do not use many vertical lines because those imply a focus, to stop and look at. Instead, I use more horizontal lines that are easy for the eye to follow and simultaneously encourage movement. I use trees that have more horizontal branching habits, such as pines, white oaks, and some maples, but not a willow or a cypress. I use fences that have horizontal planks instead of vertical ones. I use pavement materials that are long and linear, not short and facing opposite the flow of traffic. Even the simplest details should reflect the use of an area. When choosing colors for splash pad equipment, I use color combinations that are opposite on the color wheel for the stationary objects that are vertical. It implies a focus point, especially with the water falling down around it. For elements like the loops that children are supposed to run through, I choose colors that are next to each other on the color wheel. These imply movement, or transition.  All of these principles create a cohesive, psychologically functional social space.

These are only a few of the design principles that designers can apply to make spaces more comfortable and easy to use. Too often we forget that “the pretty” can and should be functional and fit into the appropriate context of the overall site program. If you would like more information on design tactics like these, I would recommend looking at the book A Pattern Language. The University of Oregon campus is designed according to those principles in the book and has been commended for proper use of wayfinding methods, placement and size of green spaces, and retaining important connections to major buildings on site.

Click on the pictures below to show direct examples of the landscape design tactics talked about above.

Ms. Bilot, our “Bee Lady” as we affectionately like to call her – you’ll find out why soon enough if you stay tuned to the blog, has a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture from University of Wisconsin and a Master of Landscape Architecture from University of Oregon. Ms. Bilot was acknowledged in GROW – Wisconsin’s Magazine for the Life Sciences for the positive effects of the Neu-Life Park built in Milwalukee. Having multiple awards under her belt, she is a talented landscape designer. Danielle has a passion for alternative methods of transportation (she rides her bike to work daily…IN HOUSTON) and organic, hormone free, non-gmo foods. She is, to say the least, our resident hippie.

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. 

Creating a Sense of Community & Pride

Author Wesley Salazar, Project Manager

One of the many ways that Kudela & Weinheimer has been able to aid in the beautification of the City of Houston and help create a sense of community pride in various parts of the city has been through the use of the Adopt-An-Esplanade program.

The Adopt-An-Esplanade program is a collaborative effort between the City of Houston and any local management district, civic association or business owner that allows for the adoptee to enhance their esplanades through the addition of landscape, irrigation, decorative paving materials and in some cases, community/district markers that meet the adoption programs design standards.

Once the construction of the esplanades is complete and has passed all city inspections, the deed of gift is issued over and the City of Houston will graciously pay for all water utilized by the irrigation system. This is a win-win situation for the both the beautification of the city and adoptee.

Kudela & Weinheimer has successfully designed and have been involved in the construction of over 120 medians throughout the City of Houston. We not only want to make sure our designs reflect what is representative of that specific community and create a form of identification, but we make sure that the installation of the design is successfully completed through weekly site inspections and documentation.

Kudela & Weinheimer has had the opportunities to work with various civic associations and management districts that include the following:

–          Spring Branch Management District
–          East Aldine Management District
–          Memorial City Management District
–          Woodland Heights Neighborhood Civic Association
–          Washington Heights Civic Association
–          Orchard Communities

One of the great benefits Kudela & Weinheimer has had through the design and construction of all these esplanades are the relationships we have built with several of the City of Houston partners. Mrs. Marilu De La Fuente- Adoption Coordinator, Mr. Abel Gonzales- Deputy Director, Greenspace Division and Teofilo ‘T’ Rebagay-City Traffic Engineer, have all been essential in making all of our esplanade enhancement projects a reality. They have guided us through each project and we are confident we know exactly what they need to create a successful project.

Kudela and Weinheimer is very proud to have had the opportunity of work with all the civic associations, management districts and developers that have had the desire and interest in beautifying an element that not only improves the aesthetics of their area but can really bring out a sense of community and pride to everyone who drives by the esplanades.

Wesley F. Salazar, Project Manager

Wesley Salazar joined Kudela & Weinheimer directly after graduating the Texas A&M University Landscape Architecture program. From the beginning he has worked on a vast array of commercial projects including: management districts and median enhancements, K-12 and Higher Ed, office, retail, and mixed use, multifamily and parks. With a sharp eye for detail and intense talent for landscape architecture he has quickly excelled into a Project Manager position at the firm. He manages a team of 6 and is passionate about customer service and customer satisfaction. Mr. Salazar has personally been an integral link for each of the Adopt-An-Esplanade programs Kudela & Weinheimer has prepared for our clients.

Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio: Military’s Medical Headquarters

Fort Sam Houston is known as the “Home of Army Medicine” and as of 2011 is the largest and most important military medical training facility in the world. Kudela & Weinheimer’s San Antonio office has had the opportunity provide landscape architecture for two projects at Fort Sam, IMCOM and METC.

IMCOM is the acronym for Installation Management Command. According to Wikipedia, this arm of the United States Army “supports the war fighting mission by providing standardized, effective & efficient services, facilities and infrastructure to Soldiers, Civilians and Families for an Army and Nation engaged in persistent conflict.” The group is made up of: The former Installation Management Agency (IMA); the former Community and Family Support Center, currently known as Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation; and the former Army Environmental Center. The purpose for the newly organized IMCOM was simply to “focus on installation management and enhance the well-being of Soldiers, Families and Civilians,” according to Wikipedia.

The METC is short for Medical Educational & Training Campus, it offers over 60 academic programs in various medical specialties to US enlisted military students. The METC is an integrated campus under a single university-style administration, it has affiliations with several academic bachelors and masters degree programs with universities such as Baylor University, University of Texas Health Science Centers at Houston and San Antonio, and University of Nebraska. The Army Medical Department and School trains more than 25,000 students annually. All military medical training has been consolidated at Fort Sam Houston as a result of the BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure Commission). Fort Sam Houston is The Military’s Medical Headquarters, and the METC covers more than 2,000,000 square feet of the Fort Sam Houston campus.

Kudela & Weinheimer has a broad variety of projects our portfolio and we are honored to have had the opportunity to give our military personnel an enjoyable outdoor built environment. Through HJD Capital Electric, Inc and Allen Nutt Architect, K&W handled 5 phases of street and parking lot additions for the IMCOM campus. We designed planting and landscape according to the Army Corp of Engineers Guideline Standards and maintained a budget of $100,000 for the entire project with a $30,000 landscape budget.

The METC Integration Plan proposed troop walks, lighting, and landscaping to unify all the separate components of the METC campus and integrate it into a cohesive campus. We completed a planting design that helped serve that purpose. We selected the plant palette according to the constraints of the project. Most notably, plants had to provide interest all year, but also be drought tolerant and able to survive the San Antonio climate without continuous irrigation (environmentally friendly and sustainable). For the design, we placed trees and planting beds at major points of interest along the walks, using the palette to create interesting repetitions that integrated the campus. The scope included proposing planting along 3,800 Linear Feet of walkway, with a $50,000 landscaping budget.

The METC is estimated to bring $15 billion  per year to San Antonio and is reported to have already brought $621 million to the San Antonio economy.

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Kudela & Weinhiemer San Antonio office key people: