Fifth year diploma Architectural Association student Yi Yvonne Weng has recently won the 2012 Foster + Partners Prize for her project “The 6th Layer – Explorative Canopy Trail,” which addresses the theme of sustainability and infrastructure by seeing the Brazilian Amazon forest as a natural infrastructure to work with and not against.

Her design utilizes an ultra lightweight, self-sustaining and versatile architectural system located above three tree canopies. This new space above the trees triggers new ways to interact and perceive the forest. Intended for scientific research, ecotourism and harvesting of the Amazon’s unique medicinal plants, Weng’s system is an environmentally conscious solution to exploring the biological gems of the forest without harming it.

Containing a research lab, production processing, ecotouristm, and two living units, occupation of the trail allows a type of surveillance that could simultaneously protect both the forest and indigenous populations. Hanging raindrop-shaped units contract at different lengths for plant collection, accessed through an internal latter system. Each unit is comprised of a three-layered mesh grid of different densities: a low density of metal rods for structural support, a medium density for ventilation and bird passage, and a high density layer for a walkable surface. Collection of products and research crew would be set forth by air vessels from environmental nonprofit organizations and the pharmaceutical industry.

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