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.


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. 

Landscape Architecture Has Healing Powers – Menninger Clinic Grand Opening in Houston, Texas

April 12, 2012 Menninger Clinic held a grand opening of it’s new Houston, Texas, John M. O’Quinn Foundation Campus, near South Post Oak Blvd and S. Main Street. With probably three hundred plus attendees, it turned out to be a perfect day for an outdoor event, where all could enjoy the landscaped grounds that Kudela & Weinheimer designed. The weather has recently been warm in Houston, but the sun was behind the clouds and the temperature outside was nice with a slight breeze through the courtyard.

Directly in the middle of the healing garden courtyard, set up on the labyrinth, the grand opening took place under a white tent. Ian Aitken, President and CEO of The Menninger Clinic began the ceremony with a welcome speech, followed by other words of thanks and appreciation from various members of Menninger Clinic’s Board of Directors and other influential medical professionals and community leaders. As a special addition, the Lt. Governor, David Dewhurst, spoke about mental health and how it’s touched so many families including his own.

The medical buildings were designed by Kirksey Architects with a Frank Lloyd Wright inspiration to invoke a strong sense of warmth and home. Special touches reminiscent of Wright included design motifs in masonry, stained glass, woodwork, lighting, carpets and retired fabric designed by Wright were used for patient room window treatments. There are approximately 185,000 sf that have a capacity for 120 patients. Each medical building was meticulously designed for safety with clear lines of vision, quick access doors on units, custom-made door pulls, continuous door hinges, break away shower curtains and draperies, multiple patient room lighting options without electrical cords and security cameras.

In addition to the carefully designed buildings the landscaping and therapeutic healing gardens are an extremely important consideration for the medical campus. Healing gardens have been used for over a thousand years to aid in healing of mental and physical ailments; although the practice had been diminished over time as medical technology advanced in the 20th century, it is coming back as a complementary aspect to western medical technology. The purpose behind a meditation/healing garden is to provide a soothing, peaceful and relaxing place that evokes calmness, which research has proven to have therapeutic benefits. Roger Ulrich, a professor at The Center for Health Systems and Design at Texas A&M University, presented a paper entitled “Health Benefits of Gardens in Hospitals” that focuses on the importance of including landscaped healing gardens to reduce stress and provide a pleasant distraction to compliment the sterile hospital architectural presence.

650 Trees were planted on the medical site. 50 of those trees were mature. A tree spade is used to move and transplant large trees from one site to another.

The Menninger Faculty and Staff recognize the importance of including healing gardens at their facility, and carefully considered the landscape development from Kudela & Weinheimer for the site. The healing gardens at the new Menninger Clinic, John M. O’Quinn Campus, are lush landscaped grounds that are functional, maintainable and visually pleasing. With a 50 acre site and approximately $3 million for landscaping; Kudela & Weinheimer was able to conceptually design and create a cohesive and beautiful healing medical campus. The original site began as a flat, uninteresting, unwooded area that Kudela & Weinheimer transformed to have over 650 trees, 50 of which were mature “Century Trees” used in the courtyard. The smallest trees used on the site were 100 gallon.

While a healing garden must be simple, to keep the space easy to understand, it also needs to include a variety of texture, forms and color. Kudela & Weinheimer invested an ample amount of time conceptualizing the landscape for the 4-acre medical courtyard which hosts a labyrinth, berms, seating areas and meditation gardens. Custom artwork and sculptures provide a hard-surfaced interest to the healing gardens. An outdoor therapeutic saltwater swimming pool and outdoor dining arbor contribute to socialization and physical activity, which Is imperative for mental well-being. All of these landscaped pockets provide an easy to understand, soothing outdoor space with a healthy variety of sensory stimulation to aid in the recovery of The Menninger Clinic’s patients.

There are a few special and unique touches that are a part of the landscape design, including a 2-ton sculpture, “The Vital Balance,” that has been relocated from the original medical clinic in Topeka, Kansas, a sand volleyball court and a chef’s herb garden located outside of the open kitchen. Each unit also includes an open air landscaped terrace, for a more private setting. In addition to these noted special features, The Menninger Clinic Campus was also designed and built to LEED® certification standards.

Kudela & Weinheimer is proud to have provided landscape design that will assist with the healing and care of The Menninger Clinic’s program at the Houston, Texas campus. Visit our website for more medical related projects.

The Menninger Clinic is a world leader in medical psychiatric treatment, research and education.

Texas A&M University Agriculture Headquarters Building Wins Awards

Texas A&M University Agriculture Headquarters Building | ENR: Engineering News Record | McGraw-Hill Construction.

It’s old-ish news, but it’s still worth a mention. The Texas A&M University Agriculture Headquarters Building won a couple of awards. The ENR  2011 Best Projects, Award of Merit and The Associated Builders and Contractors of Greater Houston Institutional Merit Award, 2011 are 2 awards that the building has been given.

Kudela & Weinheimer has had the pleasure of being the Landscape Architect for this project, helping to achieve LEED Silver status, which is determined by the USGBC (United States Green Building Council). One aspect which contributes to the LEED points is that the roof of the Agriculture Building will capture rainwater which will be stored in an underground 40,000 gallon tank; that water will be used for irrigation. Kudela & Weinheimer also designed the site with vegetative bioswales, constructed wetlands, native and adaptive plants, crop demonstration areas, pedestrian circulation, outdoor classroom and courtyard spaces, specialty gardens, and grassland, motor court and an urban street-scape along Kimbrough Boulevard.

Learn more about Kudela & Weinheimer visit our website 

Big Box Retailers Ahead of the Curve

Ryan Petree

Kudela & Weinheimer is a unique firm that gives its architect’s the ability to work on a wide range of projects. These can range from high-profile sky scrapers to big box retail. Surprisingly enough, it happens to be the retail market that is leading the charge for better building practices at the moment.

More and more retail projects are asking for advanced technology in regards to irrigation systems to better allow them to manage their typically large systems. This in turn leads to lower water bills. Large parking lots require much larger looped irrigation systems to reach the entire project site parameter planting and parking lot islands. Large systems can often mean more opportunity for a break in the system that can go unnoticed. Breaks can result in thousands of dollars in excess on water bills. High tech controllers (evapotranspiration controllers with weather stations) allow for a computerized system reports and monitoring that instantly recognized unusually high water usage for the irrigation zone with the break. The controllers can even shut off a particular zone, while the rest of the system runs and maintains a healthy landscape. These high-tech controllers in tandem with drip irrigation for planting areas often mean more efficient and more economical landscapes.

Controller used to detect breaks in large irrigation systems

Irrigation isn’t the only way retail projects are ahead of the curve. Landscape guidelines, from the client, have become more detailed and refined. This is not only in plant selection, but installation practices as well. The requirement of native and/or adaptive plants ensures the landscape is more tolerable in times of drought. This can be as simple as native or adaptive grasses and groundcovers in high heat areas such as parking lot islands. It also means that the material is grown closer to the project and reduces costs on shipping and ultimately the installation cost. Native and adaptive plants, in addition to responsible design help ensure that the project site fits in with the local style of the surrounding area.

Native & Adaptive Plants Example

Lastly, thorough construction administration (site inspections, monitoring and field reports) requirements help to lower overall maintenance costs. More site visits for inspections ensure less construction mistakes and a better finished project. This can mean higher consultant fees up front, but the inability for contractors to cut corners with more supervision on the project can pay dividends in the end. More material submittals also guarantees that plant material installed is consistent with the size and type specified in addition to being a better quality. Some clients are even requiring the more costly material such as trees to be tagged at the nursery by the Landscape Architect to ensure the best available plant material is installed on the site.

Retail projects often have less landscaping than other projects we work on, but that doesn’t mean they are inferior by any means.  If more projects took on the better building practices this part of the industry is embracing, development in general might be better off.

Written by Ryan Petree

Ryan spends a lot of time doing hands-on field work. Tasks including punching projects, tagging trees and ensuring installation quality control on site.