Hunter Ruthrauff

Hunter Ruthrauff

San Diego, CA, US


Cloud Forest Research Center

The driving idea behind the research station was zero impact but there were three specific parameters that affected the design of the station: portability, biodegradability, and sustainability. Given the remote
location of the site the station has no choice but to be completely self sustaining supplying 4 field biologist with water, food, and energy. Aside from the lab there are three other pods one of which is a social gathering pod housing the kitchen and lounge while the other two are residential pods connected to compost systems which separate waste and methane over a six month period allowing them to reuse the gas and release nutrients in the form of phosphorus and nitrogen to the forest floor. Conventional construction and materials had to be disregarded because of the need for light weight ultra strong structure that would not deform the tree or kill it. The station is essentially an eight way segmented monocoque shell made of a composite bioplastic matrix laced with jute reinforcement. The station attaches to the tree with a ferrule -like clamp able to adjust as the diameter of the tree grows.

The project walks a thin line between product design and architecture and its strength lies in its ability to be universally used in various ecosystems so long as there is a water source (rain or cloud), energy
(solar, algae, or wind), and large tree hosts. The pod components are then put together in 8 different segments and from there they are flown in by helicopter to the edge of the deforestation line before
finally being raised by crane into place, temporarily situated before the last segment is in place and the pre-tensioned arms can sustain the weight themselves. Disconnected the trees are vulnerable to deflection making the individual pods unstable, however, when connected via the net bridges the tree culture functions as one system strengthened by tension. If one moves it must then pull on the other six and visa versa. Since the Andes are the result of two tectonic plates colliding the area is a hot spot for earthquakes. Thus the water storage tanks function dually as active dampers similarly used in skyscraper design.

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Status: School Project
Location: Wayqecha, Peru