Branching Structure
KES 03 - 29 - 2010

Located along the lakeshore and park area of my town, I have been designing an Environmental Center that will provide a place for wildlife observation, lake recreation, and social gathering. One of my design concepts is to create a smooth transition between land and water. I have been experimenting with different structural forms that will fulfill this idea. As my environmental center is mainly surrounded by woods, I have developed a structure that plays off of the trees (right image). This idea creates a "branching" technique. The steel beams and columns branch out of the forest, through the building, and toward the lake. It draws the natural essence of the forest to the interior of the building. In addition to this structure, the pattern may be used on facade details or window mullions. I found a great example of this structural design in the Jewish Museum in Berlin, Germany (left image). The ceiling of the atrium looked as though it was held up by trees. These "trees" were white, steel columns that meshed with the ceiling and provided an overhead covering of branches. It created a nice visual on the ceiling plane and a gradual transition into the nearby courtyard. It was a great precedent study for my concept, but I only wish that the tree forms would have had more interaction with the ground and the people. At this point, the structure of the Jewish Museum is only able to be seen by viewers and inhabitants of the space, not interacted with. I think this is where I will take a different approach. Currently working with this complex structure, I have lowered the branches to actually interacting with the ground. Beams will provide definition for walkways and allow the visitor to wind in and out of the trees, as if they are in the woods. The frequency of trees and number of branches will gradually decrease as the structure slowly emerges from the forest and approaches the lake. I also have the idea that some of the structural pieces will continue into the ground and form different layers within the landscape. Also on my mind, not only am I drawing the forest out, but trying to pull the lake in. Mixing these two elements is the main drive behind my building structure and will hopefully create the natural form and feel that I am looking for.

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