2016 National Grant Competition for Emerging
Professionals in Landscape Architecture


Kimberly Garza Kimberly Garza
ATLAS Lab | Sacramento, CA
University of California, Berkeley

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What made you become interested in Landscape Architecture?
Art, highways and suburban sprawl.

Growing up in a traditional suburban neighborhood and traveling mostly by car, I have always been fascinated by the suburban condition. Sidewalks that led to nowhere, empty parks, abandoned strip malls, etc., I questioned all the time, “How can we make this better? How can we improve the design of our cities?” Taking college courses in art, urban design and ecology, coupled with my love of drawing and design brought me to the field of landscape architecture and enabled me to start understanding various city planning models and how we improve them through landscape design.

What one thing inspires you and your designs?
Multifunctional design that surprises and tells a hidden story about a place.

What do you think is the biggest challenge Landscape Architects face today?
Advocacy about the field of landscape architecture and reshaping common misconceptions about what landscape architects do and the skills they provide.

Often times when I share that I'm a landscape architect with someone, I often hear, “Can you design my backyard?” or “What’s the name of that plant?” The field of landscape architecture encompasses a vast knowledge base from form-making and planning, to engineering and ecology, at varying scales. Given current infrastructure needs, extreme climate change and reinvestment into urban cores across the US, the field of landscape architecture has started to breakdown the "silos" that are all too common in design practice by disrupting traditional notions of what is “urban,” what is “landscape,” or what is “infrastructure.” In doing so, landscape architects have been leading the design conversation and developing holistic, innovative, and site-specific design solutions to address such issues.

What is the most important lesson you have learned so far in your career?
Partnerships are key!

When I began to work in private practice, I solely operated under the guidance of an architect or developer. In recent years, I have started to identify sites of interests (focusing on underserved or underutilized spaces) and initiated design interventions by engaging various organizations and agencies for support and funding. Operating outside the traditional architect/developer client structure has enabled me to be more entrepreneurial and creative about how I practice and how I network.


Kimberly Garza
Click to enlarge
What change would you make to your region if money were no object?

The Dune is a temporary urban park installation that serves to reconnect Sacramento with its rivers.

Idea Name: The DUNE


Sacramento rivers are Sacramento's biggest assets, yet there is little to no connection between the City and the River and few areas to view or enjoy them. In response, The Dune proposes a new urban park model that seeks to CREATE an interactive, educational and fun experience along the river as a means to reconnect the City to the River. The Dune is a microcosm. It symbolizes the most critical assets of the City while cultivating a new, contemporary identity for the city of Sacramento - strengthening public life, culture and development potential along the Sacramento River. While landscape may be often seen as a second-hand investment, the Sacramento riverfront is in a unique position to reconceive itself as a cultural landmark.


For Sacramento, the American and Sacramento Rivers have historically enabled ecological and economic vitality for our region. As Sacramento continues to expand and we re-invest and redevelop our downtown core, we are in great position to rethink how we use, play and enjoy our riverfront experience. While several developments are in the works along the Sacramento riverfront, many are a few years out for construction. The Dune builds on this momentum and proposes to activate the river during the Summer of 2017.


The Dune is 25' in height and occupies a 40,000 sf area. The Dune is comprised of a series of tactical investments:

Sand bed
Shipping containers

The DUNE accommodates both day and nighttime sloped seating as well as lounging for river events, performances, movie night screenings, people watching and serves as a play space for the community. The Dune is a playful surface that encourages active programs, while maintaining a robust construction technology that ensures durability throughout its use. Atop the dune is an overlook that orients visitors towards the Sacramento River and allows for new and exciting views across the city’s grid. A shipping container frames the dune. The shipping container walls inform residents and visitors of the city's trail and park network and current events. Housed within the Dune is a kiosk space allowing for temporary vending of food and drink. A part of the core project is its iconic sand beach that allows for a comfortable and flexible event space.

In addition to the installation itself, to bring greater awareness about the river and our proximity to the river, a "Walk[Your City]" campaign would be implemented. "Walk[Your City]" helps boost community walkability through informational street signs that inform city goers walking times/distances to cultural destinations within their city. For example, a Walk[Sacramento] sign would be placed on a street light pole near K Street, that states: "10 minute walk to Sacramento River."