Kathleen Bridget Stranix
The OPNA Institute
This studio project is for an institute and advocacy center dedicated to issues of digital transparency, internet privacy and free speech. The Institute and a fully functional data center coexist in an effort to reveal the physical space of data to the public. By uncovering these ordinarily inaccessible spaces, humans have the opportunity to physically interact with the essential infrastructures they virtually engage on a daily basis.
The OPNA Institute brings the infrastructure of data to the forefront as a didactic effort to increase public awareness of the physical ramifications of digital activity. The user of the building is exploiting the nature of the data center architecture rather than be exploited by it.
Why is this project a sustainable design?
Tourism is one of the major energy-consuming sectors, placing a heavy burden on local economies, cultures and environments. I was interested in alleviating this problem by creating a self-sustaining bodega/hotel complex whose architecture is strongly rooted in the physical and cultural context – a place where tourism meets production.
The process of wine-making generates an enormous amount of waste and I wanted to find a way to make this waste productive – especially given the number of neighboring bodegas surrounding our site and throughout the Rioja region (225 within 45km). The inclusion of a biogas plant would be profitable, reduce climate impact, contribute to energy independency as well as provide employment opportunities throughout the region. If we, Bodega Aldea, were to use our waste alone, we would have 600 tons of grapes producing 80,000 kWh of electricity and 40,000 kWh of useable heat. This would only serve about half of the energy needs of the complex, forcing us to build relationships with neighboring wineries in order to acquire more waste. A stronger network among the bodegas would result. In addition to using the waste for energy, about 5% of the pomace would be used for the manufacture of spa related products and treatments.
My overall sustainability approach includes a combination of active and passive strategies. The mass of the building steps to allow natural light and views into the winery spaces below. The storage components of the winery are housed underground, taking advantage of the Earth’s constant subterranean temperature. Daylight is heavily controlled by overhangs and clerestory lighting on the southwest side and by light scoops and shading devices on the southeast. Punched windows with rebates of various sizes occur through the meter thick stone walls, diffusing light into different spaces.
The spine walls that structure the back plaza spaces perform a number of different functions depending on which spaces they engage. The wall that unites two rows of stacked hotel rooms contains all of the plumbing for the rooms as well as a series of ventilation shafts. The walls that frame the pool and face the predominant valley breezes at the north end of the site house a series of earth tubes for heat recovery ventilation. This modern take on a Roman murocaust wall system would supplement the air-conditioning system of the complex. Operable vents and ventilation stacks act as an additional supplement, allowing for displacement ventilation within the lecture hall and kitchen in the tower portion of the bodega as well as within the barrel storage. The remaining spine walls act as thermal masses for the public terraces, absorbing heat during the day and releasing it at night allowing people to occupy the spaces comfortably at all times of the day.
Next to these public terraces are swatches of landscape for recreation, food production and water treatment. The hotel rooms of the south side have green roofs of sedum which provide added insulation and mitigate water runoff. The sedum also provides an added aesthetic benefit – changing color with the vines each season, further tying the building to the surrounding landscape. The roof of the restaurant houses a vegetable garden filled with widely used Riojan vegetables such as red peppers, asparagus, and cauliflower. All of which have earned PGIs or protected geographical indications and can only be grown the Rioja region. An herb garden next to the spa provides herbs for the restaurant as well as for the production of spa soaps and lotions. An area in front of the tasting room and restaurant will be replanted with displaced vines in an effort to remediate the effects of construction on the site. By dispersing these planted areas, I was aiming to further tie the building to the surrounding landscape as well as mitigate its demand on local resources.
Lastly, the project will be constructed of local materials from within a 100km radius. There are a number of critalerias (glass manufacturers) surrounding our site as well as a few canteras (quarries) providing both local limestone and sandstone. There are also a number of companies who specialize in aggregates and concrete, which would be used for floor slabs, ceilings, and spine walls. Inclusion of these companies in the process will support the local economy and showcase its natural resources.
To summarize, my project is a sustainable design that responds to its physical and cultural context in a variety of ways. It attempts to meet the needs of both the hotel and the bodega and positively impact the surrounding environment and economy. It is a new typological condition of a combined bodega hotel and can therefore serve as a positive example and precedent for future sustainable designs and emerging ecotourism projects around the world.
For this project, we decided that assuming the scenario of sea level rise, Coney Island as we know it is going to “die” if we do nothing. That by the year 2080, much of it will be partially or completely under water. The question we were interested in investigating was, would Coney Island be able to salvage its identity during the coming years as the island slowly disappears? We proposed a compact form of development that maintains the key aspects of Coney Island’s identity while sacrificing other parts of the city to the rising sea levels.
As a method of analysis, we chose to study the city through the lens of the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, and acceptance. With each stage, we have identified key elements of the island that are both problematic and integral to its survival.
Currently the city is comprised of a depressed commercial spine, a concentrated area of amusements, segregated zoning and building types, and voids within its built fabric. By taking advantage of these existing voids, we proposed to fortify the commercial spine, create a network of amusement parks, and redistribute existing and new building types across the island. We focused our study on Mermaid Avenue, proposing interventions over time that were specific to the existing conditions and their projected development in response to sea level rise.