Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Students in the University of Arizona College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, CALA, will get a rare opportunity to work closely this week with some of the nation's most talented young design and planning professionals.

The goal of "Xtreme LA" - a one-and-a-half day (Oct. 5-6) rapid-fire design session, called a "charrette" - is to churn ideas and produce schematic concepts to create a theoretical gateway to Downtown Tucson.

Teams will present the results of their work to a group that includes CALA faculty and students, local officials, planning and design professionals and the public on Thursday, Oct. 6, at 12:30 p.m. at UA Downtown, 44 N. Stone Avenue at Pennington Street.

The exhibit will also be open on Saturday, Oct. 8, 6-9 p.m., during Tucson's monthly Second Saturday event. Both presentations are open to the public.

The charrette will split 16 UA students and 18 professionals into teams that will be guided by two internationally noted planners, Sean "Monte" Wilson and Trevor McIntyre.

Wilson, director of the Atlanta-based HOK Planning Group, has worked world wide on a range of projects including mixed-use developments, urban revitalization and transit developments.  McIntyre, who is from Canada, is involved with a variety of community planning and design, transit and master planning projects for the IBI Group.

Outdoor furniture manufacturer Landscape Forms, which selected and brought in the professional group to Tucson, and the Landscape Architecture Foundation are sponsoring the event.

The exercise will start on Wednesday morning with a tour of Downtown Tucson. Local representatives will point out study elements such as new and historic neighborhoods, transportation routes, public amenities, businesses and vacant land.

What then follows is an energetic exchange of ideas, opinions, video, drawings, maps, surveys, local building guidelines and whatever else is needed to get people's points of view across.

Anyone who watches the television show "The Apprentice" will recognize some of the dynamics of charrettes, according to Lauri Macmillan Johnson, director of the UA School of Landscape Architecture and Planning.

Some of the issues that might be addressed include corridors connecting neighborhoods and activities on either side of Interstate 10, creating public spaces and networks that integrate mechanized and non-mechanized transportation, and developing new and sustainable ways for residents to address the sometimes harsh climate and urban heat island effects.

Johnson said Xtreme LA is a chance for young, forward-thinking practitioners at some of the nation's most prestigious design firms including Phoenix-based TenEyck Landscape Architects, to work closely to foster creative thinking and team building. It also will expose CALA students to the kind of real-world experience they're likely to encounter once they graduate.

And what they'll leave behind this week, Johnson said, are some topics for further discussion on how Tucson might move forward on some key growth issues.

For more information contact: Lauri Macmillan Johnson, UA School of Landscape Architecture and Planning, 520-621-8790, or