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Homestead Environmental Center

The proposed Homestead Environmental Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania steeps visitors in the hidden natural wonders of the Monongahela River, whether directly or indirectly. Directly, the building hugs the river, which occasionally floods the basin of the marshy, leveled terracing. Indirectly, the visitor experiences cool river breezes along the tiered levels while dining or simply sitting to watch a presentation or see an exhibit. Finally, the structure frames views from both the interior and the exterior, of the water and the surrounding natural elements while carefully excising the “big box” stores across the river.The structure is protected by earth yet immersed in its natural surroundings and embraces nature. While the entrance abuts the soil and landscaping, the rest of the structure gently flows with the topography. Green roofs on most main areas insulate the building naturally during the winter, and trombe walls facing the sun absorb heat during the day in the summer.

The form of this building is influenced by the existing topography with an added focus on the eroding effects of water on the landscape; the contours are smoothed and simplified, as if the river had eroded them away over time.

During a storm, the natural drainage of the site rides along the embedded structure until it reaches a sharp drop off. Thus in a heavy rain, the exterior circulation is delineated and sheltered by walls of water.