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.

BILLIONS! It’s all going to the dogs

K&W not only designs with people in mind, they design with Fido in mind. The newest trend for multifamily developments is the addition of dog parks. Giving residents an oasis for their four-legged friends provides yet another selling point for luxury and urban apartment homes. Dog parks have become a necessary amenity for high-end residential leasing.

Some developers will go to extremes to make sure their resident pooches have a nice and tidy place to get some fresh air. Recent examples of cutting edge development include Gables Park Plaza II in Austin, Gables Memorial Hills, Gables Bering, Gables West Ave, 2411 Washington, Greystar Champions and Tuscany Court. The developers of these projects have asked Kudela & Weinheimer to design top-notch dog parks for their residents’ furry companions, some even have doggy potties, state of the art Extreme Dog Washers and extra special Green Links Turf for on-structure dog parks. It’s no wonder these multifamily developers want to keep their residents happy by providing amenities for their dogs, because according to Bloomberg Businessweek, Americans spend $41 billion a year on their pets!

Want to see more of Kudela & Weinheimer’s projects?

K&W joins the blog world. Hello, this is who we are!

Kudela & Weinheimer is a full service Landscape Architecture firm with offices in Houston and San Antonio. The firm has 18 highly talented employees at this time. Thad Kudela is design principal at K&W. His extraordinary design skills account for the firm’s highly inventive work. Darin Weinheimer acts as construction principal at K&W. Kudela & Weinheimer’s concise construction documentation moves projects smoothly from drawing board to finish.

Kudela & Weinheimer’s services include, but are not limited to: Site Planning, Urban Design, Landscape Architecture, Master Planning, Irrigation Design, Reclaimed Water Irrigation Methods, Project Management, On-Structure Landscape Design, Park and Trail Systems, Planting Design and Construction Administration.

Estimates. Budgets. Schedules. K&W excels at the practical aspects of a project. You’ll find that we forecast costs accurately, schedule jobs realistically, and execute assignments efficiently. We believe in acting rather than reacting which makes us highly responsive. And we firmly believe that delivering on our promises is the secret to long-term success.

This year we are celebrating our 20th year in business. K&W started landscape architecture design consulting in 1991, since that time the firm has produced a diverse portfolio of commercial projects. To see our projects visit our website!