Kalamazoo, MI – Landscape Forms, a designer, manufacturer and marketer of outdoor commercial furniture and accessories, hosted a 3-day charrette event that gave 24 Gen-X landscape architecture professionals from all over the country an opportunity to become very well acquainted with the City of Kalamazoo. These emerging young design leaders were divided into three teams and encouraged to develop their own concept plans for the City. They were challenged to imagine a downtown experience that would attract people, support Michigan’s Cool Cities Program and integrate existing downtown focal points. The Landscape Architecture Foundation co-hosed this experience, titled X-Treme LA, held September 11 through 13 at the Landscape Forms headquarters and other sites within the city.
The event brought together emerging young design leaders and, in a highly charged and compressed time frame in pursuit of common goals, transformed them into three agile teams. In this experimental charrette, each team developed a master plan for the Kalamazoo downtown area that was focused on the density, diversity, mix of residential and commercial development, and efficient transportation that are key to a vibrant city center.
The experience fostered creative thinking, team building and facility of expression as this select group of next-generation participants teamed with best-in-class peers to developed plans and designs for a real-world urban revitalization project. The professional development program was intended to provide exposure and experience that would benefit the participants as well as the firms in which they work.
Co-Hosts and Team Leaders Shared Impressive Backgrounds
Each of the three teams relied on the participation of a highly distinguished guest as co-host or as team leader. Special guests who filled these roles were:
· Frederick Steiner, FASLA, member of the board of directors for Landscape Architecture Foundation
· Tom Balsley, FASLA; Thomas Balsley Associates in New York has been reshaping urban spaces around the world for more than 30 years. He is the recipient of 50+ awards for the design of plazas, parks, waterfronts, streetscapes and other landscapes that celebrate public open space.
· Chip Crawford, FASLA, Director of the Planning Group, HOK, St. Louis. He has managed teams of planners, landscape architects and urban designers in major projects that have transformed the urban landscape around the globe and has personally led community projects in China, Mexico, Chile, Indonesia, Malaysia, India and the US.
City of Kalamazoo Leaders Were Involved
The Vice Mayor of the City of Kalamazoo, Bobby Hopewell, offered greetings to the guests at the opening dinner meeting. Special guests from the City of Kalamazoo, some of whom served as guides to tour the landscape architects through selected sites in the city, were Robert G. Miller, Chair, Downtown Kalamazoo Incorporated and Associate Vice President for Community Outreach, Western Michigan University; Robert Doud, Chair, Kalamazoo Downtown Development Authority and Vice President of Public Affairs at Bronson Healthcare Group; Jeff Chamberlain, Community Planning and Development Director, City of Kalamazoo; Kenneth Nacci, President, Downtown Kalamazoo Incorporated; and Steven R. Deisler, Vice President, Planning and Development, Downtown Kalamazoo Incorporated. These guests from the city also enjoyed the teams’ final presentations on the third day of the event.
Landscape Forms, the leader in its industry, believes in the power of design to enrich outdoor spaces. Therefore, using Kalamazoo as a model, the goal for X-Treme LA was to create a plan with themes and initiatives that would leverage under-used and poorly-connected resources to create a downtown experience that attracts people, supports Michigan’s Cool Cities Program, makes Kalamazoo a better place to live, work, learn and play, and that would provide an opportunity to engage young design leaders in an important activity to challenge their creativity and enhance their understanding of revitalization projects.
Landscape Forms has won numerous design awards during its 37-year history. The company’s product list includes exterior seating systems, benches, tables and chairs, umbrellas, wheelchair-accessible picnic tables, planters, litter receptacles and ash urns. Clients include such well-recognized companies as Boeing, Cisco Systems, Hewlett Packard, Harvard University, Disney, Chrysler, Mayo Clinic, Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo, Sprint, American Airlines, LaGuardia Airport, Microsoft, Nike, United States Tennis Association and many others. www.landscapeforms.com.
# # #