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.

 

Butterflies at St. Luke’s Hospital in The Woodlands

Kudela & Weinheimer is honored to be the designers for the Butterfly Garden at St. Luke’s The Woodlands Hospital. The goal of this ½ acre project is to provide a peaceful, beautiful area for patients and their family members to relax and reflect. The space includes trellises, berms, benches with donor names engraved on them, and donation pavers throughout. The garden also features plants that are not only native and adaptive to the area but also attract butterflies, it overlooks the lake adjacent to the hospital. Butterfly gardens supply food and shelter for all phases of a butterfly’s life which includes caterpillar food plants, butterfly nectar plants and sunshine. Stones incorporated into the garden are helpful because they absorb some of the heat and provide a basking spot. Damp and shady areas are also needed for them to get water and retreat when temperatures get too hot. Butterflies are cold blooded creatures and need warm (but not too hot) resting places. Both nectar plants and host plants (where butterflies will lay their eggs) are needed. Butterflies tend to lay their eggs on the underside of leaves. Plants they like include lantana which is very heat tolerant, milkweed, zinnias, butterfly bushes, pentas, salvia, batface cuphea, verbena, coreopsis, and fire bush. Perennials they enjoy include Echinacea, lavender, joe-pye weed and penstemmon. This is a donor funded project through St. Luke’s and is one of many examples of how St. Luke’s utilizes donations to touch the lives of patients. 

St. Luke's Butterfly Garden Schematic Design

St. Luke’s Butterfly Garden Schematic Design and Idea board

If you would like to give a gift to St. Luke’s to see this or other projects come to fruition, please contact Mr. James Nicas at the St. Luke’s Foundation, 832.355.5857!
St. Luke’s The Woodlands is located on the west side of I-45 at College Park Drive, in The Woodlands of Course. K&W has worked on other projects for this hospital including the front drop off expansion area and the Main Street Extension. Sr. Project Manager Wesley Salazar continues to manage this interesting project. 
 

 

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.

Fulton Gardens was a Finalist at ULI Development of Distinction Awards 2013

Fulton Gardens. <<< Watch This Video!

Alongside of Insite Architecture, who created a modern senior living facility, Kudela & Weinheimer was responsible for the landscape design at Fulton Gardens. As mentioned in this video, Fulton Gardens was developed as a place for residents to have a place to “get to know each other.” Kudela & Weinheimer is proud to say that they could be a part of touching these senior residents’ lives by giving them beauty and functionality in their outdoor space.

City of San Antonio Parks and Recreation Bond Improvements

Author Audrey Rocha

-Author Audrey Rocha

Due to a bond program that was approved in 2007, the City of San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department has made substantial improvements over the last few years in their park system. The residents, my family included, have reaped many benefits from the enhancements. There are a wide variety of options available. My son loves the variety of playgrounds, I enjoy the different trail types and locations, and there are several dog parks for all the dog lovers.

Knowing how much I use & enjoy getting out and visiting the city parks, I am especially excited that K&W’s San Antonio office was recently selected to perform design services on park improvements for two parks. In 2012, the citizens approved another bond, which included $87.15 million for park improvements on 42 parks. K&W was selected to work on New Territories & Oscar Perez Parks. These parks are located on the northwest side of San Antonio. They are each going to get $350,000 worth of trail improvements, which K&W will have the benefit of designing.

Working at K&W, we do many open spaces and parks, but most are for private developers. We’re excited about the opportunity to serve in the public sector. The design work hasn’t started yet, but I will definitely be bringing my family to enjoy these parks when they’re complete and will be excited to post another blog entry showing the finished improvements.

Kudela & Weinheimer’s San Antonio office was established in 2006. The office has five employees and works on a diverse array of projects. Some notable San Antonio projects include The Broadway Condominiums and 1221 Broadway Lofts at River North. 

The Mullet a Graffiti Art Showcase; Business in the front and Party in the Back

The Mullet Graffiti Art Showcase

This has to be one of Kudela & Weinheimer‘s most “fun” projects to work on. A graffiti art showcase! The owner Johnathan Estes, purchased a site with a 16,800 square foot warehouse and had an idea to have galleries in the front rooms and parties in the big open space behind those rooms which is where the name, The Mullet, came from. Inspired by the 80’s haircut, “business in the front, party in the back.”

Located southeast of town at 10900 Kingspoint, Kudela & Weinheimer Landscape Architects, working with Windle + Volpe Architects, has so far, designed a schematic plan for the 8.3 acre site which includes two amphitheaters, semi circular graffiti chapels (for lack of a better description), graffiti walls sprinkled throughout on a triangular patterned recycled concrete pathway and possibly a small retail/concessions building. One amphitheater is proposed as being bermmed with lawn seating and the other is a flat paved amphitheater. Proposed for the site are several smaller buildings which will be used for artists workshops.

The idea is to have a very flexible space that could be used for things like farmers markets, artists studios, community gardens, specialty events and small concerts and possibly even small businesses. The result should be one very eclectic and interesting space!

Check out the article in The Chronicle for more details about The Mullet

Visit The Mullet’s Facebook page

Kudela & Weinheimer Landscape Architects is a full-service landscape architecture firm with offices in Houston & San Antonio Texas. Registered in 13 states. 

K&W is a team of creatively talented quality conscious professional Landscape Architects with a growing national reputation who derive professional fulfillment from building projects that embody our client’s vision and purpose. Along the way we provide truly expert advice to our clients. We invest in the latest technology as a means for providing the highest quality deliverables while remaining competitive. We value our employees and view them as our greatest asset. We strive to gain the respect of everyone we meet though Honesty and Integrity.

Revving up for Revit, Building Information Modeling for Landscape Architecture

Jacob Galles - Revit Guru

Jacob Galles – K&W Revit Guru

Recently, Kudela & Weinheimer has begun work on two projects that require the use of Revit, a Building Information Modeling program. Revit is a brand of Building Information Modeling (hereafter BIM) software that has proven itself a powerful tool for the AEC industry. It functions by creating a single central file, each user works on a local file (copy of central file) commanding individual consultants to work collaboratively. This keeps Revit drawings fully coordinated in terms of building, layout, and site objects depicted in these drawings. Changes made to one representation model are propagated to the other representations, reducing editing time and increasing efficiency. Projects involving multiple collaborators require the original author of a specific element to make changes, a preventive measure to eliminate editing of another’s work without notification. Program features such as this eliminate contradictory construction documents and modifications that would pass unnoticed until the construction process!

To date, Revit has not been popular in the Landscape Architecture sector of AEC consulting. Program advice and consultation are limited, and real world scenarios that relate to Landscape Architecture have yet to be explored, much less published. The program has not necessarily been designed for Civil Engineers or Landscape Architects, and at current, Revit’s main versions include Architecture, MEP, and Structural. In terms of market share, Revit remains the most popular of BIM software currently available.

However, the demands of the AEC industry are changing and the software creators are hopefully working versions for landscape and civil sectors now. Graphically, Revit is impressive, its walk-through features and rendering capabilities are high quality and extremely realistic. Revit has the power to display incredibly accurate solar and lighting studies as well. Realizing the immense benefits of this program, K&W is currently adapting the architecture and structural versions for our personal use in landscape architecture. This adaptation is being accomplished by designing and constructing various elements not available in standard versions of Revit. Common landscape elements often utilized by K&W including: fences, gates, seat walls, fountains, pools, and outdoor kitchens are being constructed and added to our Revit library as this blog is being read. [Side note: solar studies help landscape architects to determine the amount of sun available at various times of the day, which helps to determine planting, pool placement and possible rates of evaporation of water from soils.]

Kudela & Weinheimer is working on Wallis State Bank and Schlumberger Center for Chemistry Excellence, which the owners require the use of Revit based design. As our office Revit guru, I’ve been working on creating office standards within the program that are functional for landscape design. Initially, it’s quite the learning curve, but with every step we become more versed in the program and our office becomes more efficient.

Yet another fantastic element of Revit that has contributed to its popularity within construction and development is automatic adjustment of building and job cost. Changes made within the program automatically adjust material quantities and types within cost estimates, providing immediate updates. The cost and material quantity component makes BIM software important to developers and contractors adhering to strict budgets. Secondly, consultants work abreast on each project, decreasing mistakes while influencing and increasing collaboration. A central database for the software allows all stakeholders to remain updated and aware of responsibilities, thus removing design conflicts and risks.

Kudela & Weinheimer is actively involved in every aspect of Revit, and realizes the potential of the program both for our office and Landscape Architecture as an industry. Adapting the program will allow Kudela & Weinheimer to become more efficient and involved in the design process, providing our clients with better solutions and more precise cost estimates.

Kudela & Weinheimer strives to stay ahead of the curve. We are a full service, commercial landscape architecture firm dedicated to client satisfaction and creative, functional, build-able, budget conscious landscape design. Registered in 13 states, Kudela & Weinheimer works all over. Call us for your next project, you will not be disappointed! Click here to see more about Kudela & Weinheimer Landscape Architects