John E. Johanson | Life & Age: Design Development
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Life & Age: Design Development




Portland, Oregon

About This Project

Almost the entire top level of the center has earth deep enough to plant large vegetables, brush and even small trees, so although it looks minimal in model form, the center would be covered in greenery like an overgrown ruin. The relationship between what’s built and what’s natural is vague here – exploring the center is more like exploring a network of glens, clearings, outcroppings, and caves than it is like moving through a building. Many of Oregon’s plant species, mainly ferns and moss, grow in low light situations because they are overshadowed by evergreens; the center also has a subsurface plantable level for growing this subset of species.

In perspective sketch (B), notice the columns are not arranged in rows, but in a field condition, which helps to give the feeling of trees in a forest. Offices, labs, and classrooms have windows facing out over this glen. In the center of perspective sketch (A), you can see the ramp to the upper level and the column-glen below. Notice how the columns feel like a continuation of the tree trunks in the entry glen.

The horticultural center resurfaced years later when I chose it as my focus project in an unrelated Design Development studio. The design was dis- and re-assembled in the beginning of the term, largely as a result of the diagrammatic studies to the UPPER LEFT above. Diagram [B] was crucial in understanding and rearranging the programmatic elements and their relationships to one another and external forces. Diagram [A] shows a redesign of the comfort systems, which use a series of vertical tunnels, thermal masses, reversible fans, and the Bayliss autovent capped “green house” [C] to coax air through the plantable areas (where is it pre-conditioned) into the various degrees of interior space. The comfort system is designed to adapt to the various seasons using minimal conventional mechanical systems. The protruding elements (D) are a combination of light cannons, ventilation stacks, sculptural elements, and structural supports – each protrusion is a unique blend of these.