The Dichotomy of Atmosphere and Nature



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The Ship Channel acts as a life line for the petroleum industry on the Texas Gulf Coast. It is ranked 1st in the U.S. for foreign waterborne tonnage, 6th largest U.S. Container Port by total TEU’s, and the largest Gulf Coast container port handling 69% of U.S. Gulf Coast container traffic. Nearly 200 private and public industrial terminals line the 52-mile-long ship channel. In a year, nearly 8,200 vessels and 215,000 barges pass through the port. Amidst all the chemical industrial complexes and gas guzzling barges are residential neighborhoods. In 2019, according to the Houston Chronicle, Houston ranked 9th worst city in the country for ozone pollution, and the water is polluted with dioxins from unregulated dumping and multiple brown sites along the waterway. The Port of Houston is in need of a research center that investigates and addresses the issues that have persisted from the oil and gas industry. Alexander Island, a dredge waste island in the center of the Houston Ship Channel, is the ideal location for this research center. Facilities on the island will include research laboratories, dormitories, vertical farms, solar farms, wildlife habitat, and remediation. The first step in understanding how to create a research center as an architectural solution in the context of the Port of Houston is to investigate the mechanization of architecture over time. Starting with Willis Carrier; then “Mechanization Takes Command”, by Siegfried Giedion; “Architecture of the Well-Tempered Environment”, by Reyner Banham; “Projective Ecologies”, by Nina Marie Lister and Chris Reed; and finally, “After the City”, by Lars Lerup. Further analysis of the layers of Houston revealed the layers Sky, Smog, Highway, Canopy, Ground, and Water. Utilizing the layers of Houston as a guidline for designing and organizing a research center creates a building that is well grounded and suited for its site specifically and to monitor, filter, and clean the soil, air, and water.



Layers of Houston, Atmosphere, Nature, Architecture