Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden Shade House Prototype

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Building on the success of the STEMLab (2015) for the Million Orchid Campaign, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden is supporting a new project to build a shade house prototype for the Miami-Dade County School System to ‘grow out’ seedlings first propagated in the mobile STEMLab. The resulting native orchids can then be planted in the ground or attached to trees to complete the process from lab to landscape. The program for the shade house is designed to form a kit-of-parts from off-the-shelf components that when disassembled could fit into an automobile for distribution and could be re-assembled by middle school program teachers and students.

The design is based on a module of 5' x 9' bays, with the largest pole no bigger than 6'-2" long and accommodates 2' deep tables capable of holding 24 standard nursery trays in a variety of configurations.  The walk-through plan allows for additional work space, a portable sink, and rain-fed irrigation that flanks either side of central circulation aisle. After mocking up components for the structure, tables and irrigation, the final design provides the correct combination of shade and proper air circulation to protect the fragile plants from the sun and discourage mold, within a pleasant space for instruction and independent work.

Finally, the lightweight structure is anchored to the ground with water containers, (from the rainwater collection system), providing the weight needed to prevent uplift and overturning of the structure. The frame is situated on a foundation of adjustable carriage bolts connected to disks of Western Red Cedar that allow the structure to negotiate different topography and surface materials and remain level. Most importantly, the design can be assembled and disassembled with an Allen wrench and plastic ties, making it user-friendly and portable. This project takes the goals of modularity and portability found in previous Design/Build Studio projects to a new level and hopes to restore a decimated landscape of native orchids that once was a notable feature of the sub-tropical landscape of south Florida.


Client: Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

Students: Noor Alhazeem, Feras Almadhi, Mohammed Alwadie, Bernute Augustin, Xuan Bo, Emily Elkin, Marina Engel, Luke Gardner, Chesney Henry, Shannar O'Connor, Nahar Rushdi, Davin Stancil, Justin Tehrani, Kaidi Wei (KD), Jingchao Wu

Faculty: Jim Adamson, Rocco Ceo