Tower of Air and Chapel of Light

Dear friends and family;

This is our last assignment; the fifth one of this semester.

I am going to talk about my little baby; my studio project this semester. I don’t think I mentioned it before here-not completely at least, since I talked about its chapel some weeks ago. In any case, my studio project is a trappist monastery in the city of New York, next to the recently built Highline park in the Meatpacking district.

Let’s talk about specifics. My building is consisted basically into two parts. A vertical residential tower supposed to house the monks and a weird organically shaped chapel. They are the embodiment of two main themes in my project: the rational and the sacred, respectively. As follows:

The residential tower

And attached to this tower I have the chapel component – a particularly problematic part of my project:

First iteration of the Chapel

I decided to divide this assignment into 2 parts. The first one I will talk about the design strategies behind the tower and in the second part I’ll talk in depth about the chapel and all the problems involving its design.


The idea of this tower is basically a really light and permeable structure that allows air to filter through it easily, facilitating therefore natural ventilation during the hot months of summer.

Conceptual Sketch of the tower's section

My analysis starts with a close look into the New York weather. Similarly as I did for assignment 4, I started by downloading the climate information for Manhattan, (an EPW format file from the Energy System website) and bringing that information into the EcoTect weather tool.

An important lesson I learned is that it is impossible to start designing a building without taking the weather into consideration. These analysis through ecotect became a crucial and unavoidable step in my design process.

First of all, I interpreted the psychrometry of the site. I focused mainly in 2 specific parts of the year: The Summer and winter. In New York these two seasons are so drastically different that I had to come up with 2 different design strategies for this building: one for the cold months of winter and another for the summer. This is what the psychromtric chart told me:

Summer Psychrometric Chart

During the summer months, even though the confort zone (in blue) pretty much matches the actual climate conditions, I wanted to push comfort even further by means of natural ventilation (in red).

Winter Psychrometric chart

It turns out that winter was a way more problematic season. As it can be noticed in the image above, the actual climate conditions (in green) is far far away from the comfort zone (in blue). And, according to the software, the most successful « passive design » strategy that could be used to warm the building up is passive solar heating (in red).

What I want to get at is that in tempered climates like the one in Manhattan, there is no single design strategy; we must take into consideration the multiple temperature variations throughout the year and design a building that responds to that variation. This was especially challenging  for me, a student that comes from the Brazilian Amazon, a place where the climate is always hot and humid and there are no significant temperature variations during the course of a year.

Unlike last assignment, during this one I had more time to explore the Ecotect weather tool and I discovered a bunch of interesting things.  The other information that this software gives us is wind and solar position. Wind and Sun are crucial aspects for the functioning of the systems I developed in my building, so I took my time and analysed where is the wind coming from in the summer time and the also the path of the sun in the winter time:

Wind in summer time

The chart above tells me that the wind is mostly coming from the South; and it’s important to consider that the Manhattan Grid is tilted; it is not perfectly aligned with the cardinal points. Because of that, the southern wind will be able to filter through the tower more or less directly.

Sun Path on the site

The sun chart basically tells me the relationship between the position of the sun and the site of my building. I’ll take advantage of the southern surface, the one the is mos exposed to the sun.


For the summer my main idea was cross ventilation. Looking at the section below ( 1/8″ scale) one can see how it works.

Tower Section

The tower consists of 3 open lobbies, each of them are open to the elements.


for the winter strategy I wanted to create a large scale stack effect mechanism, similar to the GSW tower berlin. A metal surface wall would be placed on the southern face of the tower, so it would heat up the air in that zone and consequently suck the air from the rooms creating a ventilation system. This system also increases the solar gain in the building since it s being warmed up.

GSW building section

Below is a section I hand drafted through a part of my tower (1/4″ scale) showing the air flow through it’s spaces. It’s important to notice that there is a thickness in the floor slabs, and they are also hollow. This is because I wanted the air to also pass through the floor slabs, warming it up during the winter and cooling it down during the summer. The void in the floor slabs is also the duct from where the air  would be sucked in the stack effect process.

Section Perspective by Victor Hugo Azevedo

Section Through the tower

In this tower I also wanted to avoid the creation of thermal bridges, so notice that in that all windows are made of double panel glass.


This is a long story. You can read more about it in my last post, just follow this link:

Light studies by Victor Hugo Azevedo

Chapel Iterations

Section through Chapel


2 réflexions sur “Tower of Air and Chapel of Light

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