Architecture studio Perkins&Will has placed a series of greenhouses on top of a concrete structure to create this agricultural research centre in California.

Called Riverside Plant Research One 1, the two-storey structure was created for the College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences (CNAS) at the University of California Riverside campus east of Los Angeles.

The facility is designed to support agricultural innovations such as drought-resistance crops and gives the university the ability to test novel agricultural techniques year-round.

Greenhouses on second floor of facility in California with a truck
Perkins&Will created a research facility at University of California, Riverside

“It’s really a machine, a tool for research,” said Perkins&Will Los Angeles design director Yan Krymsky.

“But beyond that, we wanted to create a structure that spoke to the legacy of the university,” continued Krymsky.

Agricultural research has been taking place at the university since the early 20th century. The building sits amongst a cluster of greenhouses that have been in operation since the 1960s.

Greenhouses on top of concrete structure
It features labs and greenhouses for agricultural innovation

The 30,000-square-foot (2,787-square-metre) facility comprises a ground floor with serrated concrete walls. These help stabilise the temperature of potting rooms and growth chambers inside, located alongside staff amenities including a lobby, breakrooms and restrooms.

A series of narrow floor-to-ceiling windows are recessed into these walls to allow light in while not sacrificing the stable temperature inside.

Riverside Plant Research One 1 by Perkins&Will
Its concrete base helps to maintain consistent internal temperature

The upper level consists of 16 greenhouse “modules” arranged horizontally, each with a gabled roof and cladding made from double-pane polarized glass.

Each module can operate its own specific climate, allowing for a diverse range of experiments to take place at any one time. While some of the units have air conditioning, much of the facility’s temperature is controlled by an evaporative cooling system, which Perkins&Will said allows “temperatures lower than other research greenhouses on the campus”.

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Riverside Plant Research One 1 opened in 2021. Since then, experiments that have taken place there include the testing of bee pollination in different climates, the cultivation of drought-resistant rice and the potential for certain plants to decontaminate soil.

“We are anticipating placing priority on projects that need more specialized environment, things that need humidity and more accurate temperature control,” said CNAS director of agricultural operations Peggy Mauk.

Greenhouse workers with young plants
Researchers at the site have been developing drought-resistant crops

Riverside Plant Research One 1 has been shortlisted under the education category of the 2023 Dezeen Awards in architecture.

Perkins&Will was founded in 1935 and has dozens of offices across the United States, as well as studios in the UK, China and Brazil. Its other recent projects include a multi-generational community centre in Dallas and a proposal for a low-income housing complex in Los Angeles.

The photography is by Here And Now Agency.

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