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Henry Ford Center  for Sustainability

Designed for an envisioning and feasibility study for the Henry Ford Hospital System in Detroit, the Center for Sustainability is part recycling center, and part environmental education facility. The design approaches both its program and site with adaptability in mind: rather than a single fixed building footprint, layered bars created from standardized truss framing grows and shrinks to accommodate a range of hard to soft activities. 

Project Year: 2020

1+1+ Team Members: Laura Peterson, De Peter Yi

Center for Sustainability Street Approach
Center for Sustainability Overhead View

1. Fertilizing the Soil

Our design process started with brainstorming on how a more directly actionable approach to sustainability can inform all scales of an institution. We proposed a shift from linear to circular thinking, inspired by principles of circular economy and cradle-to-cradle. We expanded circular thinking to include making existing processes more efficient and interconnected, keeping resources in use for as long as possible, and building reciprocal relationships between activities and people. These ideas were explored through three facets that form a framework for a Center for Sustainability: operations, community, and building.

Center for Sustainability Diagram

2. Planting a Seed 

The foundation of the building design is a 50′ wide modular bay that can grow or shrink according to programmatic needs and the constraints of the site. Rather than defining expansion as purely built structure, we imagine this relationship playing out as a gradient between soft landscaped areas and hard covered areas. The in-between zones can either be read as partially dismantled or partially built structures, anticipating the continuing transformation of the Center’s programming and recycling capacity.

View Inside Structure
Ground Material
Plan Drawing

3. Cultivating a Building

The building’s transformation never ceases upon construction – it is always growing or shrinking – but always just enough to support the balance of human activity, material processing, and natural systems occurring on site. The landscaped and covered areas both play important roles in the site’s multifaceted function. On one side, a nature park manages storm water for the site, captures solar and wind energy, and acts as a display of low and high-tech sustainability measures. On the other side, the building accommodates the constant in and out-flows of recycled material, along with elevated classrooms that overlook the activity below. 

Plan Diagram
Recycling Center Interior
View from Education Center
View from Park