Advancing the Education of Young Architecture Graduates through Foreign Travel-Study
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by Aaron Locke — Winner of Fellowship Competition

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The site, located just off of PCH, holds little built context and a sensitive ecosystem. The serenity of the location desires a structure which disappears into the landscape, but the subtle difference in elevation introduces a balance between hiding the building from visitors and facing possible flooding in 10 years. The solution is then to adapt to this changing environment by allowing the building to become buoyant and rise with the tide. By doing so the building is constantly at the lowest point at any given time and also mitigate the chance of damage from flood or storm surge.
The site also boasts both a mild climate and outdoor intentions from the visitors providing unique architectural opportunities to reduce the amount of needed indoor space by up to 20%. All public circulation is then free to take place outdoors. The appropriate passive and active sustainable strategies are then used to take advantage of ocean breezes, sunshine and proximity to water.

Not only is the building a tool to shape the environment to our comfort, but it can also be used as a tool to inform visitors. With such an important topic as conservation the building had to become more than a structure, but a lens in which one may take the viewpoint of a migrating loon, a polluted molecule of water or mother earth. It must become a catalyst clearly presenting a statement before stepping back and allowing change to occur. These statements are made through physical or metaphorical architectural moves which teach, inspire, or concern the visitor.

All exterior walls are either translucent, transparent, or mirrored i and fritted with every species of bird which frequents California wetlands. When viewed from afar, the building becomes a distorted image of the landscape, disappearing under its green roof. But when viewed from close, one sees his own reflection standing in the wetlands.

The mixed program of public spaces and research activities requires added separation as to not hinder the research team. The method used in Catalyst was to turn the public circulation inside-out while the research facility remains introverted. Since all public programs were not significantly tied to one another, the free distribution along a given field was possible linking no project specifically more so than mere adjacencies. Certain programs with more restricted requirements were given priority in space allocation such that natural lighting, direct gain, and cross ventilation can occur in the most appropriate of locations. A native plant garden was added to the roof of the structure providing opportunity to learn and enjoy the view.

Reclaiming onsite waste from the destruction of the existing bridge could be re-milled and reused in the exterior decking of the new visitor’s center. Abandoned or broken oil drills can be recycled for the nickel copper alloy, a common ship building material noted for its resiliency against salt water. Fly ash concrete would be used for the caissons, interior floor slabs and the retaining wall.
Much consideration was given to the proximity to Long Beach where metal can be recycled into a number of resources available for the prefabrication of parts at a distance of only 6.3 miles. This prefabrication strategy also allows for the use of cranes from a fixed location reducing the amount of land disturbance during construction. Easily replicable unit sizes were carefully designed as to streamline the prefabrication, shipping and assembly process. The prefabrication technology was also utilized in the bridge and fence design maintaining both consistency and functionality throughout.

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