Institute of Sustainability & Urban Agriculture

New Magnet High School \\ Cambridge, MA \\ Spring 2014 \\ Critic: Brian Healy

The goal for the studio was to design, develop, and detail a new magnet high school for grades 9-12 on the site of an existing parking lot along Church Street. In December 2013, Boston passed Article 89, a progressive series of measures that legalized and provided rules for commercial agriculture. A neighborhood analysis of Cambridge showed that community gardens and farmers markets were available, but only seasonally and spread throughout the greater Boston area.

The Institute of Sustainability and Urban Agriculture (ISUA) is a magnet high school that offers programs for pursuing professions in the burgeoning urban agricultural industry. Concentrations such as Agribusiness, Environmental Studies, and Health Science & Policy, are paired with core high school classes such as literature and chemistry to give students a complete and specialized education.

The new building responds to the site in support of agricultural activities such as aquaculture (fish farming), hydroponics (water cultivation), and aquaponics, a combination of the two. The spiraling form was created to provide maximum solar exposure for rooftop farming as well as indoor planting. Courtyards are interspersed throughout the building: the first floor courtyard connects to the cafeteria to provide students and staff with a tranquil space and opening at the third floor, a three-story courtyard immerses students with the foliage from the neighboring “Old Burying Ground.” The rooftop opens up on the fourth and sixth floors to give students access to terraced rooftop farming. Optical glass bricks are perforated at key moments to maximize natural lighting into the building. Circulation runs along the inner arm of the building, where personal, portable planters are integrated into student lockers. At the joints, breakout spaces provide a view of centuries old trees.