The Big Picture


The studio has broken up into six groups of twos to start designing for our assigned regions.  My partner Alex and I are designing for the Heartland Region, which spans Massachusetts, Nevada, and Oregon. Because this region contains the most diverse terrain and climate of any US region, we struggled to find a site that would represent the conditions of the entire region. As we got too focused on researching and zooming in on the site level, we lost sight of the big picture.

Our goal is to design a Crop Stop that could work in any region and yet specifically be regional. But how? It had to be modular for affordability, easy assembly, and transportability. However, it also needed to be expandable and adaptive in various climates. We asked ourselves, what is the variable that could change?

A few months ago, I came across a book, In Praise of Shadows, by Tanazaki, Jun’Ichiro that changed my perception of thinking about light and darkness. Jun’Ichiro conveyed that in “Western” building culture, buildings are built to let light in.  We have thin walls, and big windows to let in direct sunlight. Buildings in Japan are built using a massive roof to cast a shadow, and the rest of the house is built under the shadow. The Japanese found a profound beauty in building in shadows. They believe that there is beauty in the reality of life. People in the past without electricity were forced to live in darkness, and in the darkness, one learns to find beauty in shadows. In Japanese architecture, light is defused into the room with tranquility, and the room is transformed by the different light and shadow produced throughout the day. This produces a unique experience from room to room.  The walls become a beautiful canvas for shadows painted with light

After we started considering a different concept for our roof it sparked a conversation about the roof being the element that would have to change and adapt to various climates. Then we had to think about transportability. How would the roof be constructed and brought on to site? One of the two methods we discussed was having the roof pre-built and transported to the site where it would be attached to columns and footings on-site. Then, modular panels would be latched on to the columns, making the walls. However, in this method, a crane would have to be used to transport the roof making it expensive, so we ruled it out.

The other method is insulating the modular volumes where they are independent from the roof and each other and then, put them under the roof’s shadow. We discussed that the roof could be a shed roof that could be mounted to the independent volumes on-site using an attachable structural system. These volumes would be standard and roof would be different depending on climate. Part of the roof could be adjustable to maximize the sun angle of the region for passive cooling and heating.  My partner and I are excited to develop this idea further.

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