Graduation Year

2008

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.Arch.

Degree Granting Department

Architecture

Major Professor

Steven A. Cooke, M.Arch.

Keywords

Applied Ecology, Habitat Creation, Coastal Construction, Sustainable Site, Biomimicry

Abstract

Applied ecology has been used to design communities around the world; however suburban neighborhoods in west central Florida do not usually utilize existing or potential ecological function as a modeling parameter or success measure. Since the end of the great depression, developments in the Tampa Bay Area have displaced many wetland and upland natural communities. Private ownership and development of sensitive natural lands have restricted their use and hampered the functional longevity of important ecological systems in this area. These displaced areas have historically functioned as habitat for many types of animal life, have passively conveyed nutrient loads, and have facilitated the succession of organisms. They have also been used as recreational opportunities for local residents and visitors, children and adults. Applied ecological design usually occurs at a community or master plan scale, or separately at a singular building level, but rarely both simultaneously.

This design proposal was the investigation and formation of an ecocentric architectural design methodology for coastal environments; from master plan to conceptual building design. The scope was the synthesis of a recreational tourism facility with the existing ecological communities of Rattlesnake Key, a barrier island in northwest Manatee County, Florida. The program included an ecological education center, where visitors could learn about their relationship with the ecological communities present on the island, and a group of cabins, where inhabitants could interact with each other and the surrounding natural communities intimately. Master planning strategies were outlined using extensive ecological mapping overlays, in-field observation, and feasibility analysis. Building forms, means of construction, and structural systems were created by integrating biomimicry methods, habitat restoration techniques, and sustainable practices into a programmed, built environment.

The results of the investigation were a series of physical models and graphic representations of spaces that manifest the sensitive relationship between human inhabitance and ecological function; where both processes coexist and support the longevity and persistence of one another through habitat creation. By analyzing the existing ecological functions present on a site, a designer could propose a typology that strengthens the relationship between man and his environment; where development is no longer displacement.

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