The interior of the proposed Biodome will be contoured like a small tropical valley.
In the north, the 14 foot high ridge has the taller of the two interior waterfalls cascading from it. The ridge is split into two sections by the canyon, which will be offset slightly west of the north entrance. Entering from the north, sunlight shining through the gap from the south provides mystique because the central area is not quite visible without rounding the bend in the trail. This central courtyard is where the high falls splash over the rocks to the pool below and is at one end of the largest continuous internal green space. The study area, overlook, upper bridge and surrounding ridge trail look into this area. Being centrally located under the dome trees in this zone will have the greatest opportunity to reach forest-like heights.
On the west end the horseshoe shaped ridge ends in a natural stone cliff face. This is the backdrop for the performance area. Underneath this end of the ridge is the study lounge, which looks into the thick of the garden to the east. The study area's entrance near the performance area allows it to double as a 'backstage' preparation area for concerts, theatrical events and a dressing room for weddings.
The east end of the ridge slopes down to the lower falls and the southern pond. Beneath this section of the ridge are the restrooms and the office and garden maintenance room.
The large southern pond and lower falls are situated below ground level, adding to the dynamic range of the contouring. By lowering this area, its separation from the encircling upward trail is increased, enhancing the out-of-the-way character for this section while still providing a vista from the main trail above. The quietness of the pond and lower fall is also maintained by the upward trail separating and screening activities at the performance area.
Distinctiveness of places within an environment adds to the impression of depth and extent. The highs and lows of the contouring in this plan create terrain features that are recognizable places. Within the interior design there are at least eight definable 'places'. These are the Upper Falls, Lower Falls, Pond, the Spring, Cliff and Performance Area, Bridge over the Canyon, Study Lounge, and Overlook. Using contouring and waterscapes to create these features magnifies the dome's interior space in a visitor's experience by adding content and separating the space into multiple places. Each unique configuration can be its own distinct experience.
The curved paths provide a 'what's-around-the-bend' quality of mystery that adds intrigue and imply an invitation for further exploration. (Kaplan, Kaplan & Ryan 1998) The layering of different levels within the Biodome provides a variety of niches and destinations to explore. Mists and fog add to the mystery of a scene, so even the misting system, planned for maintaining the plants and cooling in the summer, can add mystique to a visitor's experience.
Fish and frogs, birds and other creatures all add to the fascination people feel in a natural setting. Interest in other living things contributes to getting outside ones own daily concerns and allows mental rest and rejuvenation. Watching a placidly floating fish or the antics of a chipmunk or listening to the chirp of frogs or insects calling to each other begins the process of unwinding, lessens self-absorption and allows mental reflection, perhaps leading to a refreshed view or insight. The interior plan includes fish in the pond, birds, gecko lizards and other aquatic creatures.
Scientific research in environmental psychology has investigated meanings, attachment and defining characteristics of favorite places. (Korpela & Hartig 1996) Favorite places are often restorative environments providing a respite or break from daily concerns or a chance to find solitude or "get away". These are also frequently natural environments. Many studies have investigated landscape preferences and found mountain waterscapes, waterscapes in general and forests to be robustly preferred across cultures, classes and age groups. (Herzog 1995, Hull & Revell 1995) These have also been demonstrated to be the most restorative natural environments. The interior of the Biodome is focused on producing the best facsimile of an outdoor environment with waterfalls, stream and pond and a tall forest of trees. All of these are the most preferred aesthetic aspects of a beautiful favorite place.
The overriding design principle in laying out the interior has been accessibility. The size, depth, width and roundness of the dome are the minimum necessary to make the interior design work. The nearly 350-foot long giant S-curve encompassing the central region of the dome has a gentle slope for easy use. The length of this walkway allows the northern ridge to reach 14 feet for a significant waterfall and grand overlook. It also has adequate height to provide for required soil depth above reasonable room heights underneath. A careful balance between paving and plant space was maintained as the width of the paths was increased to four feet with the final paved area in the dome at 30 percent. The bridges are eight feet wide, so that any one who wishes can stop and look out while others can pass by without disturbance. All destinations are accessible, but stairs have been included at different levels to siphon off excess traffic on the main upward path. The grade of accessible slopes and the path length required to gain height or depth have been the determining factor in the design's contours.
Many features of the design are aimed at utilizing solar heat. The cliff face angled toward the south will intercept 90% of the day's incident sunlight during the winter. As a passive solar thermal mass over a foot thick, it will absorb heat during the day and re-radiate the stored heat overnight. The performance area in front of the cliff is both a reflector of low angle winter sun onto the cliff face and an additional absorbent storage mass. The dark shade of brown used for the trail paving stones increases their absorbing efficiency. The paths also add to the heat storage capacity. The large southern pond serves the same heat absorbing/ storing purpose, as does the rest of the water system, though the stream will be more shaded.
In the summer these same features continue to help with the thermal regulation of the Biodome interior. The pond, stream and waterfalls now become evaporative coolers. Opening inlet vents around the bottom and a large vent port at the top takes advantage of the dome's chimney-like flow pattern to cool the interior. The cliff's heat accumulating function is eliminated during the summer by having shading foliage above the cliff lean outward about five feet. At lower winter sun angles, the sun shines directly on the absorbent stone but in the summer, higher sun angles cause the overhanging foliage to shade the stone and minimize heat capture.
The Biodome's combination of beauty, efficiency and accessibility will provide a superlative garden experience. With curving paths to provide mystery just around the bend, fish in the pond and birds or other creatures, this will be a winter garden of year round vibrancy to revive spirit's on campus and in the community.