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Xtreme LA: A Unique Design Challenge in Tucson

The fourth Xtreme LA event was hosted on October 4-6 by the University of Arizona in Tucson. Xtreme LA is a creative challenge for the design leaders of tomorrow. This unique professional development program teams select young professionals and students with prominent landscape architects for an intense 2-day charrette, in which participants develop design solutions for urban initiatives in a host city. Many thanks to Landscape Forms for producing this event.

xtremela1Thirteen young professionals (under 35 years old) from across the country, who were identified by their firms as potential leaders, came to Tuscon to work with 13 landscape architecture students from the University of Arizona on pressing transportation issues.

The Arizona Department of Transportation is embarking on a process to connect Tucson and Phoenix with intercity rail. Meanwhile, the City of Tucson plans to build a modern streetcar line from the university through downtown, the first leg of a planned streetcar, light rail, and commuter rail system. The Xtreme LA Challenge was to design streetcar stops along the likely path of the intercity rail line to create convenient transit connections and xtremela2a sense of place around these nodes.

Participants were divided into two teams and worked under distiguished team leaders with extensive experience in urban revitalization and transportation projects. Sean M. (Monte) Wilson is a Senior Vice President and Director of the HOK Planning Group who has served as lead designer on a range of transit-oriented developments, urban revitalization studies, and master plans. Trevor McIntyre is a a Director at the IBI Group and has extensive experience in public consultation in the areas of transit-oriented development, design visioning, and waterfront development.

xtremela3After briefs from local representatives and tours of key sites, the teams settled in to the studio for a day-and-a-half of strategizing, developing conceptual plans, and creating presentation materials for their solutions. The teams took very different approaches with Monte Wilson’s team offering broad and strategic suggestions framed as a series of recommendations, while Trevor McIntyre’s team focused on a target area and presented specific solutions including some interesting element/product ideas. 

Final presentations were given before an audience that included members of city council, local government agencies,and interested citizens. There was a strong showing of support from the community, and all appreciated the range of ideas presented and will consider them as plans move forward.

Xtreme LA was conceived by and is sponsored by Landscape Forms in partnership with LAF. In addition to fostering critical thinking, team building, and creative expression, the program provides a unique opportunity for intergenerational professional development, which is increasingly absent due to the economic downsizing and the resultant gap in mentoring resources in many firms.

Xtreme LA: A Unique Design Challenge in Austin

xtremelaaustin1During the morning site visit, Dean Almy indicates one potential location for a proposed light rail bridge.We just returned after an intense 3 days in Austin, Texas with the Xtreme LA Challenge. This year’s event, co-hosted by LAF, Landscape Forms and the University of Texas at Austin, brought young professionals from around the country to Austin to work with UT graduate students on a design challenge with established leaders in the profession.

Susannah C. Drake, RLA, RA a principal at dlandstudio and Sarah Kuehl of Peter Walker and Partners led the two teams, which had a day-and-a-half to propose design solutions for an underutilized area along the south shore of Lady Bird Lake.

Austin City Councilmember Chris Riley and UT’s Dean Almy, a member of the Waterfront Planning xtremelaaustin2Susannah Drake's team presents their “soft-boiled egg” concept: hard waterfront edge, green space in the center.Board charged with making recommendations to the City, presented an overview of the area, development challenges and opportunities. The teams spent the following morning visiting both sides of the waterfront to get a feel for the site and its context. They then headed to the studio to vet ideas, hash out solutions, and develop materials to present in just over 24 hours.

The teams presenting their ideas the following afternoon to a packed audience that included representatives from the Waterfront Planning Board, Austin’s Parks and Recreation Department, and the City Planning Commission, along with UT students and other interested stakeholders.

“The teams demonstrated the importance of the xtremelaaustin3Sarah Kuehl's team was inspired by the idea of performance: musical, athletic, natural, city and landscape performance.discipline of landscape architecture to the construction of quality of life in the urban environment,” said Dean Almy. “Each of the teams developed a very thorough analysis of the challenges that future development of the site is facing, and they were able to arrive at two very distinct and provocative solutions in a very short time frame. The presentations will be part of the Waterfront Board’s future diliberations on the future of the area.”

LAF sincerely thanks Landscape Forms and the University of Texas at Austin for all they did to organize this outstanding event. Now in its third year, the Xtreme LA program provides young leaders with a unique opportunity to meet and interact with seasoned professionals and peers from across the country. This year’s inclusion of students on the design teams added an extra layer of mentoring and learning opportunities.