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Winning Designs to Take Root at CSUCI

Two Ventura County architects are among four whose ideas are chosen to help restore courtyards on the Spanish-style campus.

March 25, 2004|Fred Alvarez | Times Staff Writer

Between them, architects Miguel Fernandez and Kathie Kottler have the bell-tower building at Cal State Channel Islands surrounded.

Winners of a design competition at the Ventura County campus, they came up with plans to use towering sycamores, pygmy date palms and colorful bursts of day lilies and flax to breathe new life into aging courtyards that border the bell-tower complex.

The pair are among four winners, announced this week, of a courtyard restoration contest sponsored by the campus and Sunset magazine.

Kottler, an Oak View landscape architect, won for her redesign of a series of courtyards that grace the southern edge of the bell-tower complex, the heart of California's newest public university.

She added a layer of landscape design to a winning drawing by Fernandez for a courtyard west of the bell-tower building, a timeworn space expected to receive heavy foot traffic as campus enrollment increases.

"I'm a very big proponent of having the university here, and I thought it would be fun to take an active role in helping it flourish," said Fernandez. The Oxnard building architect conceived a space of concrete and grass walkways dotted with vending carts and a wireless Internet station.

There are about 30 courtyards on the campus, which opened in fall 2002 at the site of the former Camarillo State Hospital. Once green and leafy, the courtyards provided a thriving complement to the Spanish-style architecture of the hospital complex.

But after the hospital closed in 1997 and a college campus emerged in its place, university leaders found they didn't have enough money to open a new school and keep up the courtyards.

Enter Sunset magazine, which at the behest of university officials put out a call in its November issue to landscape architects and designers across the nation to bring their best ideas for returning four of the garden spaces to their original splendor.

The contest drew nearly two dozen entries. A professor of landscape architecture at Texas Tech University submitted a plan, as did a student at Cal Poly Pomona for a class project. (The design didn't win, but the student got an A minus.)

The contest was judged last month by Cal State Channel Islands staff members, professional landscape architects and Sunset's senior garden editor, Kathleen Brenzel.

The other winners were Los Angeles-based Oleo Landscape Architecture, which designed Courtyard M, and Santa Barbara architect Scott Menzel, who designed the President's Courtyard at the center of a new administration building.

"I've got to tell you, the judging was very difficult; they were all excellent," said Brenzel, who was at a campus ceremony Tuesday to present the winners with a joint Channel Islands-Sunset award, a glass plaque. Sunset's involvement won't end there. The publication plans to follow the restoration efforts as they unfold at the campus and could end up featuring the finished courtyards in the magazine.

There is a long way to go, however, before any of the designs take root.

The university's nonprofit fundraising foundation is in the process of raising money for the rehabilitation effort, seeking to persuade sponsors to underwrite projects in return for getting their names on the courtyards.

The money will be used to pay for some of the rehabilitation work, establish endowments for courtyard maintenance and fund other university programs.

Foundation supporters also are scrambling to persuade local nurseries, landscape companies and other businesses to donate supplies and services.

"I've never seen a group of working professionals get so passionate about their work -- they came to the campus, fell in love with it and just wanted to do their best," Channel Islands spokeswoman Peggy Hinz said. "As soon as we are able, we want to start construction. We just need to spark interest in supporting the courtyards."

Now that the contest is over, university officials plan to ask each of the winners to submit proposals outlining the costs for doing a more intricate level of design. Fernandez and Kottler plan to pursue that opportunity.

"We just want to make sure our ideas are fleshed out so that our vision is realized," Kottler said. "I know the university realizes how important this is. They've got a little gem out there and they definitely want to enhance it and keep it going."

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