Princeton, Spring 2012

Studio Instructor: Philippe Rahm

Additional Advice: Mahadev Raman, ARUP


For this research studio students were assigned climatic or biological concepts to study and work into a design proposal. My semester’s work was concerned with the topic of digestion, which I chose to consider not merely as a physiological phenomenon but as a means of conceptualizing the process of energy transfer from one entity to another. The research was later enriched by studies on local industries in the Hesse area of Germany. The resulting project includes facilities for traditional cider production, and a high-street bank, and combines these into a new model for ethical banking. Key to the building’s design is a heat-exchange system driven by lift pressures.


Itineraries of bank staff, customers and apples through building using lifts. 


Initial research on digestion focused on food – carbohydrates, fats, proteins – as a form of fuel similar to petrol or kerosene.

The caloric content of food gives us an indication of the energy that can be obtained from a given meal. Yet, when looked at in a global context it is not just the calories contained in the food which factor into the energy equation. The energy lost in our ecosystem in the process of subsequent stages of feeding is part of the wider human digestive chain. Similarly, the fuel costs of transport, packaging, processing etc. also form part of the overall energy requirement of this ecosystem. The caloric content of the food we ingest is therefore merely a fraction of the actual energy which passed through its production chain. I therefore propose to consider digestion as a means of conceptualizing the process of energy transfer from one entity to another.

Research on cider: History, symbolism and nutritional value (left); production process (right).

Cider production makes use of many rare fruit species which are cultivated in traditional manner, and therefore comes with benefits for local ecosystems.

Studies on high-street banking, the finance industry in Frankfurt and ethical banks such as the GLS, which offers customers the possibility to choose where their money is invested from a list of companies which the bank finances

Emphasis is given to ethical business (many of which are active in the food and nutrition field.) The combination of banking and cider production is therefore less eccentric than it might initially seem: rather it exemplifies the (re-)connection of finance with industry. In its partnership with the cider factory, the bank thus ceases to be an abstract place of investment and becomes a social place of exchange.



Diagrams illustrating environmental strategies for mixed-use program of cider production and high-street banking



Illustration of heat-exchange concept

The design of the building interprets the theme of transfer and digestion in energetic terms. The building’s thermic environment relies on the efficient transmission of energy from space to space using a heat exchange system driven by lift pressures. The system permits the organisms inhabiting the building (humans and bacteria) to pass heat energy from their metabolic processes between each other. The lifts provide the fresh oxygen needed for these metabolic processes, and remove the carbon dioxide they produce. Energy is thus transferred in the form of heat in a “digestive chain” between bacteria, humans and bacteria.


Floor plans showing "exhaling" (grey) and "inhaling" elevators and wall extensions

The two walls containing lifts and services also act as primary structural support. L-shaped wall elements provide primary subdivision of floors.