Michael Levy Bajar

Michael Levy Bajar

New York, NY, US


Potomac Ecological Research Lab

How can we creatively produce an architecture that provides a didactic environment for students, efficient labs for scientists, and a community hub for public users? How can we allow the design to not only be inspiring but also responsibly integrate climate control, local community/site sensibilities & ecological notions within the overall design?

After spending the first week examining the site, I became interested in understanding and learning about the impact that our project would have in a new urban development like Belmont Bay.

My intention proposes a series of spaces that establish a network of interactions between the given program, the local ecology, an emerging community and the surrounding site. Both fixed + floating structures have been designed as a set of [land and water] beacons dislocated from a common source. Each one frames not only interior activities through the use of translucent facades but also outdoor zones that generate and encourage interaction between building users and the neighboring community through visual and physical connections.

Categories for the design strategy:

- Building orientation and form in respect to site and climate conditions such as wind direction and seasonal sunpaths.
- Material language in connection with structure, skin and experience
- Relationship between exterior spaces [including floating component], the site, programmatic elements and the urban community
- Integration of building systems to develop an efficient model for construction in a sustainable approach (storm water management at basement level)

In order to minimize the impact to the site and maximize program placement, the fixed building is sited with its longest sides facing east and west.

The building’s bent shape frames a relationship between itself and the floating component to the north east and the Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge to the south east while allowing for the exterior spaces to take advantage of the site edges for different program as well as controlling climate interaction more efficiently.

As you move into the building from the marina street front, the building changes from public to private not only laterally but also vertically. It was important for me to distinguish between the proportions of public and private programmatic elements by controlling the scale of the rooms: public program focuses on the experience of the space while private ones focus on maximizing function. Public spaces direct your attention outwards visually, experientially and materially and private spaces pay close attention to efficiency and placement of functions within each room and become more disconnected from the exterior.

The floating component is intended to be the catalyst that allows for the collection, gathering and studying of local species and ecology to occur by providing an outdoor classroom that is sheltered from the elements and a remote laboratory for storage of locally found ecologies.

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Status: School Project
Location: Belmont Bay, VA