Learning Landscape

Objective: Design a center for the study of the environment on a disconnected water-side site in New Haven, CT

Response: This project explores how architecture can function as a didactic tool. Located on a riverside, Learning Landscape combines a series on environmentally educational activities and public space. It challenges the generally accepted notion of simple preservation-based urban environmentalism by enriching both the built and natural ecologies.

This project explores how architecture can take an active role in both ecological preservation and environmental education.  Designed as a center for the study of the natural environment, Learning Landscape uses public space as a vehicle for sustainability. The general idea is centered around the demarcation of two systems; activity (program), and circulation.  Firstly, the program is organized according to it’s educational qualities.  Those activities that use passive learning are consolidated into a single path.

This includes things that require simple observation - the ‘nature walk’.  The educational programs that involve active participation form what are called ‘the dots’.  These programs include fishing, a waiting pool, agricultural centers, a market, a bird watching tower etc.  These are arranged according to the two predominant types of architectural circulation.  The prescribed (a single route that offers only one way) and the voluntary (allows for wondering, encourages user involvement, ie a grid).  Each one of these was than coupled with a educational type - the prescribed, or, nature walk, with the passive learning, and the active, or participatory dots, with the voluntary.  This can be seen in the plan; One begins the nature walk and can only follow a single path, observing the highlighted qualities of the environment around them.  One must choose to venture off towards the various dots which are accessed via the nature walk.

The general amenities are located directly underneath the nature walk.  The entire structure attempts to make a minimal impact on the land by having a very thin footprint, while the location actually aids in the redevelopment of the natural landscape.  The shoreline has long been damaged by invasive species and general misuse. Learning Landscape rebuilds this and provides a vertical shoreline and eliminates the shallow waters that were causing the problems.  This project is an exercise in the production of not only environmentally sensitive, but ecologically beneficial architecture.

Completed: November 2014

Course: Graduate Studio I at the Yale School of Architecture

Critic: Eeva Liisa Pelkonen