2020 Research Studio: Building Integrated Agriculture for Circular Cities

During a fully remote spring quarter 2020, Gundula Proksch and Robert Pena led graduate students from the UW College of Built Environments Masters of Architecture program through a research studio + seminar focused on integrated building systems for sustainable circular cities. Thirteen graduate students worked in groups to develop six hybrid-program projects that explored the synergistic opportunities of building integrated aquaponics with various urban industrial, commercial, and residential programs. These studio projects include a ceramics workshop in a mixed-use building, a brewery co-op, a water taxi transit and market hub, a learning center, an ethnic food market, and a biophilic medical clinic. 


Each studio project explored site opportunities and local place-based potential for transforming industry by-products into resource flows while addressing the Food-Water-Energy Nexus. The resulting work of the studio synthesized sustainability research and explored a future-oriented interdisciplinary creative design process that pays careful attention to resource flows in our environment, and opportunities for synergistic relationships. Students explored new building typologies with hybrid programming strategies which redefined the intersection between our built environment and food systems by envisioning how aquaponic agriculture could be integrated into cities. Led by Gundula Proksch and Robert Pena, the CITYFOOD research studio leveraged complementary expertise in funded urban sustainability research and high-performance building.


Over the course of the quarter, outside experts gave virtual lectures and seminars on topics related to the studio research:

  • Kamal Patel is a Seattle based civic designer who is interested in principles of the circular economy and the Food-Water-Energy Nexus. During his workshop Kamal discussed his work with the ÜbrLocal Project, BASYN, a vision for creating a “just circular economy” in the Seattle area. This vision centers on how anaerobic digesters can close resource loops by producing biogas energy from food waste. The BASYN project worked closely with Impact BioEnergy, a company in Auburn, WA that fabricates bioenergy systems, to establish a circular bio-energy economy on Vashon Island, the Vashon Bioenergy Farm. More information can be found here!
  • Seth Connell, founder of Anything Aquaponics, is a specialized consultant in aquaponic system design and fabrication. Seth has experience in both home and commercial aquaponic production techniques and shared his hands-on knowledge of these systems with the studio during his virtual lecture. During his lecture, Seth was able to place aquaponic growing systems in the context of building integrated agriculture and answer questions as to how these aquaponic systems could be sized and better integrated into our design methodology.



Gundula Proksch, associate professor, UW Department of Architecture

Rob Peña, associate professor, UW Department of Architecture


Student Work