By: Lidija Grozdanic | July - 6 - 2011
The Graft Tower is a Parametric-designed eco-hotel and vertical farm conceived by Diego Taccioli, Sizhe Chen, and Tyler Wallace to be located on the New Monserrate Street at the intersection of the San Juan’s two arterial public transportation routes. It is a net plus resource building that provides water, food, and energy for the neighborhood. The program on the ground levels is an epicenter of commercial activity and services to support the light-rail hub. The tower has a eco-tourism hotel and living units for permanent residents. It is a design using a new language of an interlaced mesh -work of structural columns spiraling into the sky with connecting fingers spreading out to the new plazas below. The structure is literally grown by grafting in-osculate fibers around the basic skeletal frames of the commercial and housing units. Optimizing the frame’s capacity for natural ventilation and cooling, a twisting tower is created, with each unit’s shape stretching toward the west, as determined by wind dynamics. Water is collected at the bottom of each unit and then dispersed throughout the open framework into the vertical farming. The plants grow sporadically throughout the transforming building, as they are able to find water and sunlight.
While living in the apartments, residents maintain and assist the agriculture of the building. One crucial task is to maintain the hydroponic network, which also grows as the building does. Condensation, which is typical problem in the Puerto Rico environment, is managed by the yellow “vascular” system. Certain portions of the vascular system also distribute liquid ethanol, a product of the artificial photosynthesis skin panels, which fuels the energy demands of the building. The faceted skin allows a large variation in the electro-chromatic vision panels. The stewardship of the building’s structure and vertical farming is subsidized by the eco-tourism hotel. Residents and visitors access the tower through open vertical and horizontal circulation systems, taking advantage of the island’s winds for cooling and not having to mechanically manage this part of the building’s environment, as typically seen in San Juan vernacular.