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Xtreme LA: Morro Bay

Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo

An Xtreme LA Challenge

How can resilient design for the future address reparative actions for past and current generations? This singular, critically important question captures the ambitious spirit and multidimensional challenge at the heart of Xtreme LA Morro Bay.

On January 30 - February 1, 2024, Landscape Forms, North America’s leading designer and manufacturer of premium site furniture, structure, LED lighting, and accessories, sponsored its tenth Xtreme LA challenge at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. 

The 2024 Xtreme LA Challenge was presented in partnership between Landscape Forms and the Landscape Architecture Foundation and co-hosted by Marjorie Simmons, Chief Executive Officer of Landscape Forms; John Scott, Director of Marketing at Landscape Forms; Barbara Deutsch, FASLA, Chief Executive Officer of the Landscape Architecture Foundation; Kevin Dong, Interim Dean of the College of Architecture and Environmental Design at Cal Poly; Beverley Bass, ASLA, PLA, LEED AP, Department Head of Landscape Architecture at Cal Poly; and Lauren Elizabeth Hackney, Lecturer in Landscape Architecture at Cal Poly. Honored guests included Kelsey Shaffer, a representative from the yak titʸu titʸu yak tiłhini (ytt) Northern Chumash Tribe who provided invaluable insight on the perspectives of the tribe and significance of Morro Rock and its surrounding lands; Bill Roschen, Chairperson of the Morro Bay Planning Commission; and Jen Ford, member of the Morro Bay City Council. 

The fast-paced, 36-hour 2024 Xtreme LA challenge was designed to foster creativity, team building and facility of expression, and worked to bring fresh, innovative thinking to an issue of critical ecological and cultural importance to its community. Eleven emerging professionals from leading landscape architecture firms across the country and sixteen exceptional students from the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo landscape architecture program worked in three teams under the mentorship of two distinguished landscape architects: Sarah Kuehl, ASLA, Founder of EinwillerKuehl Landscape Architecture and Maura Rockcastle, ASLA, PLA, Principal and Co-Founder of TEN x TEN Landscape Architecture. 

The Challenge

Design landscapes that are resilient for the future while also taking reparative actions for past and current generations. 

The project site and location of focus for Xtreme LA Morro Bay is a diverse patchwork of culturally, historically, ecologically and economically significant landscapes. Flanked on one side by Morro Rock and the decommissioned Morro Bay Power Plant and proposed Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) site on the other, the project area included: 

  • The Morro Rock Vicinity: 26 acres of open spit and causeway space that includes a large underutilized parking lot, a two-way road to base of Morro Rock, a dune restoration area, and Coleman Park.
  • The Harbor: 2,300 linear feet of shoreline and a sub-tidal channel that serves as the entrance to Morro Bay harbor. 
  • The Embarcadero: 5 acres of streetscape space that is a hub of economic activity and tourism opportunities. It overlooks Morro Bay’s working waterfront, home of the region’s historic commercial fishing and aquaculture industries. 
  • The Triangle Lot: A 2-acre sliver of land situated opposite The Embarcadero and in the shadow of the decommissioned power plant’s towering stacks. 

While teams are encouraged to fully engage their creativity and innovative design thinking, proposed solutions must incorporate elements that:

  • Enhance stewardship through reprogramming that elevates Indigenous voices and educates visitors about history, culture, and Traditional Ecological Knowledge.
  • Prioritize significant habitat conservation and restoration supported by a wealth of low-impact, nature-focused recreation opportunities.
  • Consider shoreline change, the potential flooding and/or loss of Morro Rock beach and its parking area, and other future impacts brought on by climate change. 

Embracing these opportunities and creatively addressing these challenges, the participants embarked on a very influential project. By contributing passion, sharing expertise, and inspiring innovative solutions, they knew they were not only providing meaningful value and resilience to a region’s ecosystems, but that they were also helping secure a future for landscape architecture that prioritizes righting past wrongs, elevates the voices of Indigenous and other marginalized communities, and aims explicitly to challenge—rather than reproduce—the significant structural inequalities that underpin design and development.

Team kʔitutʸinha & Opening

"We Return To / We Come Back"

Ecology & Nature Wins! and Land Justice

Led by Maura Rockcastle, ASLA, PLA, Principal and Co-Founder of TEN x TEN Landscape Architecture

Team kʔišnaqhinɨwana 

“We Intend to Know”

Local Power & Change Over Time

Led by Sarah Kuehl, ASLA, Founder of EinwillerKuehl Landscape Architecture

Team łqinatʸi & Closing

“The One Who Dances” 

Public Access

Led by Sarah Kuehl, ASLA, Founder of EinwillerKuehl Landscape Architecture

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