Architectural Components of Body and Brain
In keeping with NOAA’s mission to monitor and safeguard the earth, the NOAA Satellite Operations Facility integrates architecture with landscape. A field of iconic antennae crowns a bar building conceived as the brain, the mission control center, while a disk-shaped building conceived as the body, containing offices and support services, slips beneath a landscape of lofted ground. The project thus harkens back to the materialization of cosmologies in the architecture of ancient dwellings that echoed the natural forms of the surrounding landscape to align with nature’s order. So, too, the Satellite Operations Facility reflects the growing reality–and NOAA’s mandate–that our we no longer take the environment for granted but, rather, treat it with respect and strive to live with it in harmony.
Those who dwell, as scientists or laymen, among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life.
The Sense of Wonder (1956)
In light of NOAA’s mission to monitor and safeguard the earth, we reexamined the traditional relationship between building and landscape — figure and ground. A reflection of the Satellite Operations Facility’s environmental mandate, the design scheme prioritizes open space, reduces the presence of built form, and integrates architecture with landscape.
A field of antennae - the “eyes and ears” of the operation - crowns the three-story bar building, pitching and sweeping to receive information (visible data, radiance, sea surface, snow and ice cover, and moisture content of the atmosphere) from the sixteen satellites it monitors. The iconic antennae comprise the dominant visual register of the project. The departments that operate as “the brain” of the operation; mission control, launch control, and computer processing are housed in the slender bar.
Beneath the bar, lies the “body,” a disc-shaped building that slips into the thickened landscape of lifted ground. This partially submerged, double-high space accommodates offices and support services. Long swaths of interior walls are wrapped in imagery of the earth taken by NOAA’s satellites while the convex ceiling plane simulates the planet's curvature as seen from space. Slots in the traversable, undulating green roofscape admit natural light and create niches for large courtyards. A glass lobby, with a security control point, mediates between the two main architectural components of body and brain.
Primary sustainable design elements include a 120,000 square foot green roof, an efficient HVAC system with raised floor air distribution, blast furnace slag replacing 50% of the cement in the concrete mix, and extensive natural daylighting.
The green roof’s gently domed planted surface covers the disc-shaped “body” of the NOAA facility, merging with augmented ground on the northern edge of the roof structure to form a continuous sloping landscape that features a variety of perennial plantings of sedum, phlox, veronica, dianthus and mixed wildflowers. This green roof helps to reduce heat gain, allowing for a smaller HVAC system, slows and filters stormwater runoff, and is punctured by skylights and large courtyards that draw natural daylight deep into the offices below.
This project achieved a LEED Gold rating. Read more at the GSA website.