Middlebury Hydropower Cafe

HARC 330 Intermediate Architecture Studio Project, 2018 Fall





The Middlebury Hydropower Cafe is a design proposal to transform the historical sluiceway at the end of Frog Hollow Alley to a cafe with a small-scale hydropower station. Its radiating form, embodied in its arc form, provides an architectural analogy to the function of a hydropower station, from which water power is converted to electricity and then delivered to serve the broader community. The majority of the water flows from the start of the old sluiceway and goes through turbine in the powerhouse for electricity generation, while a small of amount of water would be diverted to flow through the restaurant in a radial pattern, as shown in one of the parti below.









People enter the café from the end of Frog Hollow Alley by descending a staircase, which is shrouded by tree canopies and accompanied by the original rocks on both sides to retain the hidden and seclusive feeling of the original site. The seclusive entryway leads up to expansive views of the main dining area, in which people experience the emotional changes brought by the beautiful views of the site.



radiating form


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The hydropower cafe opens up to its surrounding nature by making the river-facing side of the building mostly glass. It also preserves rocks and a tree from the original site as a focus point of the main dining area. The building is also intentionally designed to be small-scale to avoid overwhelming the surrounding environment, and to give the illusion of growing out of the landscape. It ‘floats’ on top of a thin layer of water with support from thin pillars to give rise to the feeling of lightness and delicacy.



Floor Plan


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Section: Cafe area


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Section: Hydro-station area


The design of this cafe also accommodates people with different moods by creating two kinds of spatial experiences through adding a balcony inside and adjusting the apertures. The seatings next to the glass wall and the ones on the balcony have direct access to the expansive view of the river. These spaces are perfect for people wanting a fully-lighted environment to chat with friends or to do work. As shown in the section drawing of cafe area, the balcony also creates a quiet and meditative space underneath it. Unlike the big glass wall facing the river, the windows next to this space are specially designed to be small and regular so that the light does not dominate the space and disrupts the quietness. The windows also capture the more tranquil view of the abundant trees as opposed to the vigorous waterfalls of the other space, thus creating a space for people who do not want to be disturbed. 


Cardboard Model