Advancing the Education of Young Architecture Graduates through Foreign Travel-Study
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Mt. Lowe Preservation Center: Networked Ecologies

by Thomas Schmidt — Finalist

The Mt. Lowe railroad was not only a technological marvel when it was built but it also had a profound effect on the way people related to nature. This concept for the Mt. Lowe Preservation Center and Museum seeks to build upon the rich history while embracing the best of current and future technology in sustainability. Similar to the way that the railroad linked a series of villages and destinations along its route, this proposal links pieces of the community and natural process together. On the grand scale, the neighborhood around the museum becomes an eco-district with several nodes containing composting and aquaponics (fish + vegetable farming). These nodes are designed to serve about 10 households each and are positioned along the pedestrian routes that lead to the museum, allowing for interaction with visitors.

Stormwater is handled by removing the concrete drainage channel and reverting to a much wider, shallower constructed wetlands that will be able to handle a larger capacity of water while discharging it slower. A boardwalk made of salvaged railroad track and ties carries visitors over the wetlands to the museum.

The building form is designed to maximize solar access and provide daylight to all of the spaces. The two main building masses are connected by a glass atrium that houses an aquaponics research and education system. A courtyard, roof deck and stair seating allow opportunities for outdoor learning. The building is clad in weathered steel panels that echo the steel used for rails and equipment. Gabions (rock filled metal cages) form the exterior of the lower level walls. These provide excellent thermal mass to mediate temperature swings and can also be constructed from materials on site.

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