As winter quarter wraps up and the light of Spring Break appears at the end of the tunnel, I thought I would take the opportunity to share my studio project as it exists halfway through our two-quarter studio. I have been developing this project over the course of 9 weeks. At this stage of the design process, the project is still very conceptual. (Also – this is my first ever post, I apologize for any weird formatting issues).

The initial prompt for the project called for a 60,000 square foot mixed use residential development that would house an institution modeled on Autodesk’s “Pier 9 Artists in Residence” program. We were asked to develop a thesis.

For the first time in history, 50% (3.5 billion people) are living in urban areas. This comes at a crucial point in our history where climate change is beginning to have dramatic effects on global agricultural output. Hazard risks associated with climate change are at all time highs as desertification, drought, disease, and increased frequency and severity of natural disasters are having measurable impacts on crop yields around the world, particularly in equatorial and subtropical regions. This trend is only expected to be exacerbated, where many regions could see 15% to 50% decreases in crop yields by 2080, according to a Peterson Institute study.

One of the important short-term issues the project addresses is the energy intensive and costly transportation processes of getting food to people and people to food. My project condenses the often complex transportation process of many types of produce and herbs down to a one step process where these products are grown in the same place where they are consumed.

So…how does architecture play a long-term role in creating an integrated source of sustainable food production within the context of an urban community?


Our site is located in the Dogpatch neighborhood of San Francisco, California. Dogpatch is a quirky former industrial area that has recently experienced a swift revitalization into one of the most sought-after neighborhoods in San Francisco. Straddling 3rd Street between I-280 and San Francisco Bay, it is booming with multifamily and mixed use residential construction.

We took a class field trip to San Francisco to visit the site and explore Dogpatch. The neighborhood still has a very distinctive historic and industrial character and this identity is actively maintained in new construction through material choices and form. Countless warehouses, factories, piers, and shipyards are being renovated into housing, tech offices, museums, design firms, and public/private workshops. Most of the new construction is occurring within the realms of adaptive reuse and urban infill development. The former industrial shipyard across Illinois Street will be turned into a large park called Crane Cove Park. Nearby Pier 70 will be renovated into housing and retail, all while respecting the neighborhoods rich maritime and industrial history.

Our Site

Here are some photos I took while exploring Dogpatch on foot:


The mission of the project is to create an architecture that:

– Supports the development of various growth systems and methods of sustainable urban agriculture and horticulture.

–  Encourages efficient plant growth and productive yields while shielding plants from environmental uncertainty, all while encouraging interaction between vegetation, residents, and the public.

– Provides a measurable community benefit through integration of a neighborhood public market, self harvesting “u-pick” style labs, and street level cafes.

– Cuts down on transportation costs by growing produce/herbs on site while encouraging alternative modes of transport to the market (walking, biking transit)

– Forges a strong sense of community between residents through large communal kitchens and collaborative spaces.


We have been developing the design almost entirely through section. I have yet to draw any plan other than a very rough schematic program diagram. Its certainly an interesting approach, one that I believe has pros and cons. It forces us to think spatially but it is difficult to develop a building without knowing what the plan looks like, and fighting the urge to draw even a basic floorplan was surprisingly hard. I guess that is the habit that they’re trying to get us out of.

Longitudinal Section.png
Longitudinal Section – Looking North

Notice that light wells have been incorporated to allow light to penetrate deep into the lower levels. The communal kitchen areas are locate don the urban edge condition on the western side of the site along third street. Housing units have been positioned away from noisy 3rd street and are pulled back to allow light to reach the growing tower behind. In doing so, I created rooftop outdoor space in the form of terraces that take advantage of views to the future Crane Cove Park and San Francisco Bay.

In the transverse section, the building’s form has been informed by sun angles in order to maximize growing conditions within the growing tower. The southern face of the growing tower has been tilted at a 75 degree angle to increase southern exposure for optimal interior daylighting conditions.


The process of design began very pragmatically with a series of 15 models, each of which responded to one specific environmental or contextual factor. In the process, the studio collectively developed nearly 300 individual strategies to a variety of design informants.

We began by developing our own custom entourage which was predicated on the type of institution we were designing. We then developed a variety of ideograms, which are quick, messy collage style renderings meant to quickly convey a character or experience through which a program can be interpreted. The ideograms became a very important step in the visualization process and really allowed me to develop a sense of identity within the project before I had even really started doing any designwork. The primary benefit of doing it this way forced me to design towards the experience I created in my ideograms. I will be using the ideogram approach in future projects.

View my ideograms below.

Public Market Concept
Outdoor Growing Area Concept
Growing Lab Concept
Collaborative Space Concept
Communal Greenhouse Kitchen Dining SPace
Communal Kitchen Concept A
Communal Kitchen
Communal Kitchen Concept B
outdoor space
Outdoor Space
Atrium Concept

Climatic Response

My response to the various climatic design informants were generally done through form. Due to the uniqueness of typology of the growing tower, where plentiful amounts of southern daylight is required, many of my initial energy use numbers came out skewed and were not useful. So I decided to ignore the growing tower when formulating my EUI so I could receive accurate feedback on my housing and public spaces and focus on the correct strategies for thermal comfort and energy efficiency.

I decided that it was necessary to block the prevailing winds in order to maintain a comfortable courtyard condition. San Francisco is a very windy place and is often quite cold. Winds can make outdoor spaces with northern and western exposure virtually unusable for much of the year. The wind, however, due to its consistency in direction and strength, can effectively be used as a source of natural ventilation thanks to the incorporation of operable glazing on the east, south, and west faces of the building. The light wells seen in the longitudinal section double as stack ventilation where the prevailing winds, in a controlled manner, are allowed to enter the building and push hot air through openings at the top of the wells. During stagnant periods, heat’s tendency to rise pulls cool air off the street through the ground floor facade and allows the heat to escape through those same openings at the top of the wells.

In order to maximize southern exposure for the growing tower, its southern face has been tilted 75 degrees towards the north. The housing portion of the project is tilted 75 degrees towards the south in order to keep direct summer sunlight out. Horizontal shading devices are used to keep afternoon heat down during the spring and fall, and daylight is allowed to flood into the housing spaces all winter. The housing spaces also enjoy plentiful southeastern light throughout the year. As I mentioned earlier, housing areas have been pulled back to allow for light to reach lower levels of the growing tower. These terraces created by this move are blocked from the northwest winds, making them comfortable spaces to use even during the winter or on cold summer days common to San Francisco.

The terraces also serve as a medium to collect rainwater. These terraces, plus the roof and tilted face of the growing tower, divert stormwater runoff into natural greenwall filtration systems integrated into the project in several places, and then are mechanically purified and stored in a subterranean cistern for future use. Because the project is centered around agriculture and growing plants, and efficient water use is important, a closed loop graywater reclamation system has been incorporated for irrigation of growth labs in the growing tower. The graywater is infused with nutrients such as nitrogen from the waste products of fish through the process of aquaponics. Excess water filters through the planting beds and returns to the system to be used again. Supplemental graywater is added as needed and any excess is used to irrigate green roofs and sidewalk vegetation.

Whats next?

The next steps in my project includes diving deeper into more technical detail by developing a structural system and an integrated environmental control system, as well as generating a facade strategy and exploring what kinds of on site energy sources are available (I might look into microalgae and biomass harvesting as a source of energy, as well as photovolatics and composting of waste material). I will likely be specifically looking at growing exotic spices and herbs with high profitability and high energy consumption during the process of transporting them to the United States.

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