American Society of Landscape Architects ASLA 2007 Student Awards
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Prairie Roots: Site Design for Solar Decathlon Project Solar Home
Mark Ruzicka, Student ASLA and Celine Andersen, Student ASLA
Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS
Faculty Advisors: Stephanie Rolley, FASLA, and Tim Keane

"Excellent work! These students changed scale beautifully and showed real awareness of what a residential program means. It displays in-depth environmental considerations, context, and seamless integration with the architecture. This will have a big impact. "

— 2007 Student Awards Jury Comments

Project Statement

Our charge was to design the site the for a university entry into the 2007 Solar Decathlon using sustainable site elements to symbolically represent Kansas.  The success of the design relies on a dichotomy of elements that satisfy the site on the Washington National Mall and the Kansas landscape.  The project unites sustainable landscape systems with the site, the home, and the people they impact. 

The project site is 67’ x 82’ temporary plot located on the Washington National Mall and will be located there during the Solar Decathlon Competition in October.  The Solar Home will be placed in a rural Kansas landscape yet to be determined after the competition is finished. 

Our concept was to integrate house to site by celebrating the Kansas landscape. 

The design takes the following six sustainable elements and integrates them with the site and house. 

  • Greenroof
  • Native plants
  • Greywater harvesting
  • Rainwater harvesting
  • Kitchen garden
  • Sustainable Agriculture

The design uses recycled and reclaimed materials, native plants, and best management practices as an expression of sustainable ideals. 

Project Narrative

Each element is given appropriate position on site: merging circulation, outdoor rooms, and sustainable elements with the visual identity of the house and its systems. 

A prairie band acts as the major site element, swiping through the site and home using the greenroof and native plantings as a strong visual element.  The experience of circulating through the site and into the home was based on the principles of path, portal, and place, as described by the book of the same name by Edward T. White.  The outdoor rooms are defined by the linear paths, compressive portals, and space-forming planes that create a transition from the hectic Decathlon streets to the Solar Home.  

As a temporary site installation built by students, the design focused on transportability and construction feasibility as defining constraints.  Though we focused on the design of the National Mall site, we also worked within the bounds of placing the house in a native Kansas landscape.


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