Design Studio: Technology & Performance "The Seed Bank at Cahokia Mounds"

ARCH 573 | Spring 2019
Associate Professor Scott Murray

Project/Course Objectives:

In this studio, students were challenged to design architecture that engages with the land and the sun in pursuit of a high-performance building for botanical research. We studied different strategies for integrating a building with its surrounding landscape and for designing with the sun to maximize daylighting and reduce energy consumption. In addition to these quantitative performance criteria, we explored how engagement with landscape and sunlight can enhance the qualitative experience of architecture and lead to new, innovative design approaches. The project was also informed by the study of a unique site with historical importance: Cahokia Mounds, a National Historic Landmark and a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in southern Illinois, which the studio visited early in the semester.

Following initial research on site, climate, and precedents, students completed one semester-long design project: The Seed Bank & Research Center at Cahokia Mounds.  The center is designed to provide facilities for long-term storage and study of seeds, for both agricultural research and preservation of indigenous plant species and biodiversity. It also includes laboratory and office spaces for researchers, as well as spaces for public engagement, including an exhibition gallery and auditorium.

The studio emphasized mastery of technical principles in combination with more intangible qualities such as spatial experience and the creation of unique architectural character, while also integrating comprehensive design principles of accessibility and sustainability. Projects were developed and presented in multiple media: detailed plans and sections, digital 3D modeling, physical models at a range of scales, and diagrams and details of structure and enclosure systems. Throughout the process, students worked with a range of design tools, including software such as Sefaira for energy analysis and Rhino/Grasshopper/DIVA for solar studies.