cornell university / spring 2021 / 1.5 months
in collaboration with: lily jantarachota
instructors: prof. leslie lok + prof. martin miller
Our project aims to create a central hub for the Philadelphia community to learn about urban farming techniques and strategies, and how to implement these in their own homes. The history of Philadelphia is deeply rooted in horticulture - the founder, William Penn, originally dreamed that although the town would grow to be an urban area, Philadelphia would remain a green country town. The spacing of the roads in the city planning allowed for enough room to ensure all homes had enough area for their own garden.
Around our site, there are a few existing vertical farming locations and farmers markets, as well as numerous green spaces such as parks and the high line that borders our site on 3 edges.
Our building concept is a closed loop system of energy. The first loop revolves around the system of the vertical farm, where excrement from local chicken farms is transferred to our aquaponic fish pond. The excrement from the fish then fertilizes the vertical farm. The fresh produce grown in the farms is served to the community through the restaurant. 
The library program ties into this closed loop system through connection with the community. The library is not just a repository of books, but a hub for knowledge. Community members can learn about urban farming techniques at the learning center. 
Additionally, grey water from the library is filtered back through the vertical farm, which is further reused in the fish ponds. The solar panels power the library, as well as the aquaponics and hydroponics in the building.
Finally, the language of the vertical farming infrastructure and the book stacks of library programming echo each other.​​​​​
The sun path at the building site and the resultant shadows from the railway informed the placement of books and plants throughout the building.
As books deteriorate in direct sunlight, our building employs two solutions to prevent this. Firstly, as plants obviously thrive in sunlight, this is used as a device to protect the bookcases on the south facade. Books are organized primarily on the north facade due to this reason.
Overhangs of the upper floors also deflect the sun away from directly hitting any books on the southern facade. ​​​​​​​
Our previous carrel design was employed throughout our building as seating. This system was also further developed to negotiate the boundaries between the plant program and the library program. The varying porosity of the system allows for moments of distinct boundary between the two, or the blurring of the boundary.
The building sits in the centre of the site, with the main entrance at the crossroads of the major roads at the northeast, and the service entrance at the opposite corner. Going with the concept of the continuous flow of energies throughout the farming and library systems, the building is organized around a central core that opens to a skylight.
It is built upon four layers of vertical stacks, that begin at the innermost core and build outwards, extending and shifting upwards to create a structural facade that holds the perforated skin to shelter the top 3 levels. ​​​​​​​​​​
The building is organized around 3 main rings that house plants, bookshelves, and a gradient of the two. The central core is also where the koi fish pond is located, which feeds into the central plant growing core. The visitor circulates up the stairs, with platforms that extend beyond the structural core for viewing.
The main program of the second floor is the restaurant, which serves food made from the vegetables grown in it’s own growing lab. The floor plates on the second and third floors are punctured to allow for the required verticality of the grow lab on the northwest side. The third floor also houses a larger grow lab space on the south facade, and is connected to the railway. Media rooms and conference rooms are situated on the fourth level, as well as circulation paths to view the double height grow lab. Finally, the fifth floor houses administrative office space.
​​​​​​​The upper three floors, situated above the cover of the railway, are enclosed with a perforated skin facade to diffuse the direct sunlight. 
Interior view of the central stair core. The book stacks are accessible to the public, whereas the vertical farming core is enclosed with glass to allow the public to see but also protects the books from humidity. 

View from the railway entrance on the 3rd floor.

View looking down onto the koi fish pond from one of the extended platforms from the central staircase.

This wall section shows the connection of the skin, structural facade to the outermost structural stack. Outside path conditions are created in the interstitial space between the skin and the stacks.

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