Lew Bing Quan
Working Landscapes:
Vitalising buildings from within

Thesis Supervisor: A/P Ong Ker Shing

This thesis is about using working landscapes to shape healthy environments within buildings, where “green” is cultivated for its capacity to this function. In this thesis exploration, the term “green” is used to denote plants and its natural companion organisms, including soil, fungi, microbiota and more. 

Of the many benefits that plants -or greening- bring, architecture today only engages a few in the creation of spaces. These are largely centered around its two of green’s potentials. First, as an effective sun shading device due to environmental sustainability wave sweeping the industry,

and second as a visual entity that fulfils the human preference for having plants around. The latter is in part also due to innumerable known studies that link plants as creating positive effects on health, cleaning of the air and water, and more. This results in the inclusion of plants in user spaces. The correlation remains true, but the cause is false - being more microbial than plant. This ideology results in a manner of architectural planting that focuses on the plant - minimal soil depth for basic rooting, monocultural planting, and multitudes of small individually separated beds. In a system designed for microbial sterility and without the earthy infrastructure for healthy microbes, our interiors become more unhealthy than we think. How can architecture adapt in response?

To emphasize the inner working landscape’s functions, the project is sited in an industrial estate - where the “outside” air is less-than-ideal. Air intake therefore can benefit more from treatment. Sunlight, or shade, is the primary generator of massing - to retain sunlight for landscaping growth where possible, and by extension keeping the building in the shade. 

This orientation also allows the retention of numerous existing mature trees onsite to be preserved, and used as an extension of the green within. The building mass maximises the interior perimeter. By shortening the distance between user and lung, less space is needed for service and circulation, while allowing for a more effective transpiration of the probiotic good.

Operation Zones

In order for a working landscape system to operate at a localized level, the building is divided into zones for independent operation, each sustaining ahabitat for biological function. Varying strategies are applied in each zone, with the interior-exterior threshold dividing the volumes.

This seperation is key, with the divisions of volumes concentrating the capacity to remediate the internal environment. Together with a variable airflow system, it allows the biological cultivation to stay afloat through the building’s dynamic air replacement needs. 

Detox Plenum

Key objectives for designing integrated remedial growths within a degraded environment: Maximising surface area, Subsystem growths, Sustenance

Phytoremediation via air extraction requires large contact area,  both leaf and soil. Maximising this is key to effective  cleansing. Remediation via water uses a combination of species types in a simplified ecosystem, where subsystem growths provide resilience in sustaining these over the long operating duration. 

Probiotic Lung

Key objectives to designing for organic biological activity within a constructed environment: Diverse biota resevoir, Isolation, Nutrient supply chain

User spaces are elevated away from the probiotic body, which connects back to the outside earth as a continuous soil channel. Probiotically charged air is diffused to the office spaces above and ducted to industrial core below. Diffusion is aided by mechanical air movers that affect lung air pressure.