Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico, 2023
CoDesign with Schwartz/Silver Architects
Summary Concept Statement
The Marine Business, Research, and Innovation Center (MBRIC) marks the beginning of a new era for Puerto Rico and the Caribbean and the transition of Roosevelt Roads into a force for change in the Blue Economy. Our design seeks to turn Bluetide research inside out, making MBRIC’s mission visible and accessible to all. MBRIC will become a Puerto Rico Destination where INNOVATION is showcased, at minimal added cost, by creating an Atrium surrounding the Main Entrance and Vertical Circulation. An elliptical volume on the north side of the building reveals itself as visitors arrive. The volume turns into a Vertical Research Theater connecting all floors and, through a narrative of visual and audio presentations, introduces the inner workings of the Innovation Center. Visitors who want a more comprehensive experience can view the creativity, research, and innovation within the circulation around the labs and where visitor activities can occur within the facility’s conference, co-working, and presentation spaces
User Function and Visitor Experience are different but symbiotic in nature. Both are critical to Bluetide’s mission and to MBRIC. The Building is designed for the User to function. It is designed to the program. Yet the Building is also designed for the Visitor to experience. It is designed to be an Ambassador of the Waters. This role generates MBRIC’s architecture, which creates MBRIC’s audience, which in turn ensures MBRIC’s future.
Adjacent to the Coast Guard Pier, the building will be an icon and a beacon, its form expressing maritime qualities that connect to its users and its location. MBRIC’s mission is made tangible by its design: making marine science accessible to wider audiences. The building puts operational research and innovation on display in its labs and circulation spaces, drawing visitors naturally up into and through the structure. In addition, the design supports teaching and learning programs and brings opportunity and jobs to the Ceiba and Naguabo communities.
A Model of Eco-tourism and Job Creation
The building’s unique role as a monitor of the local aquatic and terrestrial realms makes it ideal as a teaching and learning facility. The visual appeal of the design can be used to recruit young adults as guides for visitors. Teachers could book a stay at the building for intense training in Puerto Rico’s ecosystems. The design of the building fully supports STREAM education and is a destination for Accessible Eco-Tourism.
Vertical Research Theater
The five-story building takes advantage of its main vertical circulation space by creating an elliptical multi-sensory “theater,” which showcases an array of research activities within Bluetide’s research laboratories. Here visitors are oriented to MBRIC’s mission, introduced to current lab research, encouraged to explore the facility further, and invited to participate in MBRIC’s pursuit of knowledge through research and discovery.
The building is scaled to the site and for human use. To relate the building to the scale of the sky, the Bay, and the island, large elements – the ellipse and the base – are at the scale of Ensenada Honda Bay, to be appreciated as one would a large marine vessel. The secondary, more minor elements – the windows and floors – define the human, more typical scale of a building. Our understanding of the FAA regulations allows for the proposed height of the building to be 99 ft.
The base of the building elevates the upper floors twenty-two feet above grade, anticipating sea level rise and protecting the main spaces of the building from storm surges and flooding. During such events, the elevators can be “parked” on the first floor, above high water.
On the north, the building rises from grade in a gradually ascending triangle, holding a stair that takes visitors to the first-floor entry. Atop the stair is an elliptical form that rises five stories to the roof. The ellipse contains elevators and is conceived as a “vertical research theater.” The ellipse and the base act as a frame for the five-story building, which hosts the balance of the programmed spaces. The second, third, and fourth floors form a “band” in the center of the building’s horizontal massing.
Access to MBRIC takes place both at grade and on the first floor. The entry at grade is accessible to the main dock, vehicles, and busses and provides universal ADA access. It leads to the elevators, which ascend through the vertical research theater. The entry at the first floor is accessed by a series of steps, which create a promenade up into the ellipse from the ground. The steps gradually ascend, four at a time, to landings serving as rest stops for observation of the Bay. The rise and run of this stair are designed to feel more like walking than climbing. Both entry points take the visitor to the first floor, previewing the facility and orienting visitors to its mission.
The first floor holds MBRIC’s largest public spaces, including the easily accessible auditorium, visitor’s center, and workshops; within the central band are the facility’s labs and office spaces, and the residences are located on the fifth floor. The cafeteria serves as a relaxing gathering spot for scientists, other users, and visitors. Photovoltaic panels occupy the roof. A boom crane is located on the northeast corner of the building, and the southeast and southwest “corners” of the building are curved to simplify the massing of the floors as they attach to the elliptical “theater” space.
The ground-floor level includes secure material, equipment storage, and a large open working area with an interior overhead crane and elevator access. At the ceiling, platforms are provided for the placement of mechanical equipment. The ground floor is open and accessible through the south side of the building with direct access from the pier, wet and dry dock for vessels, and a loading/unloading area, as well as from the access road.
On the first floor, a 14-foot-high passageway provides views of the Bay and mangroves and surrounds the visitor center and auditorium, as well as the electronic, machine, and procedures workshops.
On the second and third floors, the wet and dry laboratories are organized around the perimeter of the building, allowing them to take advantage of the surrounding views. The lab spaces are enclosed with floor-to-ceiling glass to encourage visitors to view the scientific activities and engage researchers with each other’s work. In addition, the experience our team brings to laboratory design will help make the labs visually interesting. Two kitchen labs are also provided. On each of these levels, a conference/multipurpose room with a capacity for 100 people is located facing the north side of the building with views of the Bay. In addition, open co-working spaces are provided around the lobby area of each floor to foster collaborative interaction among tenants.
The fourth level is where the office space is grouped to accommodate a mix of users. The offices have views of the Bay and are designed with movable partitions that can be easily reconfigurable for different uses or group sizes. In addition, conference/classroom space is provided. Finally, the communications and computer room are located at the center of the layout of this floor to maximize their connections to the open co-working spaces.
The fifth floor is the residential level where the 12 living studios are located. The extra height of this floor allows the units to be designed in a loft-style arrangement, with extensive views of the Bay from a double-height living area with private balconies and with the upper bedroom overlooking the living space. Open co-working spaces are also provided around the lobby area of this floor.
At the rooftop level, the cafeteria and lounge are located in the center of the building, with the observation spaces at the perimeter. This location provides 360-degree views of the site by all.