|For the final project of my graduate degree, I chose to focus on a program and site specific to St. Louis. In this project, I investigated the phenomenon, which is relatively unique to St. Louis, known as the BioBelt. The BioBelt is actually a collection of corporations and institutions involved in plant and medical sciences, many of which have their headquarters in St. Louis. Although the BioBelt plays an important role in the life and economy of St. Louis, many are unaware of its existence. This is especially true of agricultural engineering, which is an important facet of the BioBelt. Currently, agricultural engineering firms, such as Monsanto, operate on the periphery of the city, away from the urban center. Though their work is both ground-breaking and controversial, it remains relatively unnoticed by the masses.
My proposal was to create a facility that would serve as the home for agricultural engineering closer to St. Louis' urban core, along an emerging BioBelt corridor on Forest Park Parkway. This facility would combine the neccessities of a agricultural research laboratory with those of a public resource center in a highly visibile and accessible format. I chose to design this facility on a site just off of Forest Park Parkway, between Vandeventer Avenue and Sarah Street. The site straddles highway 64/40 and rests adjacent to a large operational grain elevator, creating a location that is both highly visible and relative to an existing agricultural landmark.
The faciltiy itself is made up of three splines which wrap through the site. In addition, a series of cores project through these splines and serve as points of circulation, observation, service and structure. On the ground level, the public spline is made up of a restaurant / cafe, theater / gallery space, a library / resource center, and administrative offices wrapping through a landscape of test crops. The space underneath the highway was utilized for parking. The second level is composed of a series of greenhouses and growth rooms, while the top two levels house all of the laboratories and related support facilities.