Located in an industrial site in the Strip District of Pittsburgh, the eco-machine housing units propose a new understanding of the intersection between architecture and ecology. Through the use of parametric rule-sets to test and explore different formal morphologies, the design creates a feedback loop that seeks to establish a symbiotic relationship between inhabitants, site, and environment. 

housing Eco-morphologies

Fall 2015

In collaboration with Catherine Zanardi

Advised by Christina Ciardullo and Eddy Man Kim



"Eco-Machines are designed to capture a response to flows of energy and information. The machines are able to respond and react to changes in the environment and human feedback, creating a new understanding of urban ecology. In a larger sense, these eco-machines are meant to support interactions between various systems, including social, infrastructural, architectural, and environmental."

-Marco Poletto


Formal Design Strategy


An adaptable atrium space implemented to the standard apartment building tower introduces a strategic element with the possibility to respond to virtually any site condition. The form of the central space is manipulated to accommodate for flow of light, air, and water. The geometry of the atrium can bend and open to receive the sun's rays and diffuse them through the space, allowing apartments to receive solar benefits from the interior of the building. The experience of the atrium culminates at the bottom by spurring a feeling of compression through the tunneled entrance and eventual expansion when exposed to the oculus and activity within the building.

Given the freedom of the atrium eco-machine, the units are permitted to be more regularized. Their regularity is articulated by a more rigid design to define them acting as a separate system from the atrium. Each individual unit, by nature, has an outside and inside face, the former to which engages through the slits of the atrium's shell design. The exterior face becomes the more private exposure the unit with excess space becoming garden living space as an addition buffer. The way in which the atrium's organic geometry punctures each floor plate naturally fluctuates the unit type throughout the building.


Eco-Machine Strategy


The central void of the building is the host for the eco-machine functions. It naturally cross-ventilates the building through tunnels that reach out to the elements to cool off the units during the summer. In order to prevent infiltration loss during the winter months, the air is trapped by compartmentalizing the atrium and preventing warm air from rising too far too quickly. Vegetation growing in the inside the atrium as well as the tunnels keep the air within this space fresh and healthy throughout the year.

As part of the eco-machine strategy, living machines were implemented as means of water processing. First, rain water is collected and distributed in the form of potable water to each apartment unit. Discharged black water is then sent through the living machine process, and the resulting water is recycled within the units: starting the cycle all over again. The last exposed tank of this process, being the wetland, is placed at the bottom of the void in order to further beautify the space and enhance the atrium's micro-climate.


Urban Context Strategy


 The site's program creates a slow transition between the commercial urban condition and the residential zone. The site aims to expand the culture of the market district by extending the main courses of circulation of the neighborhood to a market on the site which receives and redistributes the pedestrian flow. Paths from the market extend toward a single destination, allowing visitors to wander through collaged experiences of diverse landscapes and buildings' atrium lobby spaces. The path destination wraps around a man-made wetland lagoon to process river water for crop fields adjacent to the water's edge. Providing agriculture on site aims to supply a local source for produce sold at the market. The placement, contextual relationship, entrance, circulation flow, and interior typology differ as distinct conditions for each building on the site.