Seniors envision healthier future for Puyallup watershed


By Sylvia Kantor, College of Agricultural, Human & Natural Resource Sciences

GIG HARBOR, Wash. – If you want a diverse education in ecology, psychology, history, art, design, computer graphics, problem solving and policy, not to mention public speaking, a degree in landscape architecture from the School of Design and Construction at Washington State University is just the ticket.

Four WSU landscape architecture seniors featured the confluence of these topics in their capstone projects. They recently presented their work to stakeholders of the Puyallup River watershed and received critiques from three landscape architects who are WSU alumni.

“The capstone project is a coming together of all the ideas of one’s education and then carrying it further into another condition,” said Jolie Kaytes, associate professor of landscape architecture. “It’s about transformation, seeing the world anew after many things come together.”

Kaytes teaches The Confluence, the name of the senior capstone course. This year it focused on the watershed that encompasses three rivers that flow from Mount Rainier through forests and urban areas, including Tacoma, and ultimately to Commencement Bay and the ocean. Each student studied a different section of the river system.

The Voice of the River

Jeremy-AuerJeremy Auer focused on a section of the watershed where, in the face of rapid development, flooding is a potential hazard. His design solution centered on raising awareness of ecosystem processes and management decisions by connecting people to the Puyallup River through a pair of trail systems.

One trail, suspended above the river, would follow the straight channelized flow of the river’s past. The other would allow people to connect directly with the river system while following the meanders of a future, free-flowing river. Auer envisions a mobile app that lets visitors “view” different courses the river has taken.


Flooding and development were also the focus of Andrew Cristiani’s project. He envisions restoring natural floodplains to a channelized section of the White River that once served as a timber flume. The site is a now defunct golf course that is slated for warehouse development.

His design would create riparian wetlands – “biological supermarkets” for wildlife – with engineered log jams, strategically placed boulders, grassy river banks and deciduous trees for fish habitat. A trail system with pocket parks provides ways for people to connect directly with the river and the land.

Below the Grate

Taylor Weik’s idea for art installations at industrial, commercial and residential sites in Tacoma, paired with a park in the Foss Waterway, is meant to raise awareness about stormwater pollution.

Storm grate sculptures at different urban locations and the waterfront park together underscore the fact that pollution from different sources ends up in Commencement Bay. Design and educational features in the park engage and challenge visitors to understand the science of stormwater pollution as well as their role in solutions.

Paving Away: Tacoma to the Bay

Bryan-NavarroIf Bryan Navarro had his way, he would turn many of Tacoma’s parking lots into parks, and multistory carparks would have rooftop gardens.

His project focused on accommodating future growth and transportation challenges by getting people out of cars and creating green corridors for bicycles and pedestrians. An overpass park that spans the highway and train tracks would connect downtown Tacoma to the waterfront.

Where to from here?

Auer and Weik, who are from Bellevue and Renton respectively, hope to work at landscape architecture firms in the Puget Sound region. Los Angeles native Cristiani plans to pursue a mix of landscape design, graphic communication and sound production.

Navarro, who was born in Spain but lives in Bellevue, has a job lined up in the research arm of Shanghai Disneyland. After that, he will pursue a master’s degree in urban planning in Spain.


Jolie Kaytes, WSU School of Design and Construction, 509-335-7331,



Next Story

Recent News

WSU crop sciences graduate receives fellowship a second time

After receiving the D.W. Steiger Family Graduate Fellowship in 2023, WSU PhD student Olufunke Ayegbidun was especially grateful to receive it another time in 2024.