Autotroph + Studio Limited: NM meets CO for an Architectural adventure by Alexander Dzurec


We recently had the great pleasure of spending a day with Christian Butler of Studio Limited, a firm Christian founded in Denver. Christian first met Autotroph's Principal, Alexander Dzurec at Taliesin when Alexander was a guest critic there, and was gracious enough to give us a tour of his designs between the Five Points neighborhood and RiNo (River North Arts District).

We started at Christian's current home, a design that incorporates three separate units. It's shapes and color pallet of warm woods and Corten Steel create a dynamic juxtaposition with the rest of the neighborhood.  

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One design feature we loved was the "hollow" stair armature at the base. Climbing the stairs, you are immersed in the shadows and shapes created by the cut-out feature walls separating the stairwells from the second and third floors. Definitely a "wow" factor. 

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The skyline views from the rooftop patio were fantastic, and was a great way for us to get an overview of the surrounding neighborhoods that we would soon be exploring. 


From there, we walked down the street to a site where Christian is building two homes (one of which will be his future home). While it's currently under construction, walking through the spaces gave us an elaborate picture of his soon-to-be finished designs.  We can't wait to see the final product! 


Our next adventure was to one of Christian's designs that resides in a historic district - so, he blended and mimicked nearby historic elements by utilizing brick to emulate the surrounding cornices. Christian stayed true to his sense of design, and also went for modern lines and the same Corten steel detailing we saw in his first home. 


Heading further towards the Five Points district, we stopped quickly at twin residential homes that playfully mirrored each other not only in shape, but also in color and tone. Note the black frame on the left and the white frame on the right - with corresponding light and dark wooden shingle facades. 


After stopping for coffee in Five Points, we walked back to RiNo Arts District to check out Central Market - a great building and design that houses many food and beverage vendors. Close by, we walked through the mural covered alleyway of the Crush Street Art Festival 2017.  There was some amazing street/mural art here and one of our collaborators and clients Meow Wolf was a sponsor of this year's event. RiNo is a super hip, up-and-coming area with innovative design and things to enjoy everywhere you turn. This part of Denver is truly a gem, and rapidly progressing!


Many thanks to Christian from Studio Limited for showing us around! We loved getting to know the Five Points and RiNo neighborhoods, and seeing some really innovative things happening in such a progressive area of Denver! 

Solar Decathlon Highlight 5: THE WINNER! by Alexander Dzurec


That's right folks - it's time for us to highlight the winning team: Team Swiss! 

This design was unlike any of the others, and was also one of our favorites. In fact, before we knew that they were to be the winners, they were on our list of teams to highlight, as their structure truly stood apart from all the others. 


Team Swiss' entry was designed less as a private home, and more for a community, and therefore is dubbed "Neighborhub". They created an environment that promotes collaboration, while implementing some of the most impressive sustainable ideas and technologies we had seen that day. Their ultimate goal was to "create a shared space that helps to build and sustain the community around it." 

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NeighborHub ultimately was interested in "renewable energy, water management, waste management, mobility, food, material choices, and biodiversity." Each space was designed to be multi-functional in order to be adaptable and  to meet the needs of the community "from a dining space for a community meal to a conference room for educational workshops to a bike-repair shop or local market." Team Swiss even included a menu for meals - as working together as a community and creating a new future was really their priority.


The building was raw, in that they used laminated veneer lumber, which is unstained and unpainted, seemingly inviting each member of the community to not have to worry about  damaging a finish when working on a project. This lumber was also used for much of the furniture, and it appeared, also the planter boxes (which housed some of the most radiant and lively greens we had seen all day). The gardens were hydroponic, and we were impressed to learn that they had also created a green roof that housed vegetation for food, and was also built to collect water. There were two vertical greenhouses inside, and one included an aquaponic system for breeding fish (which you could see and enjoy through viewing windows in the floor). 

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One of our favorite features, was their "productive building envelope surface" which consisted of walls that have solar electric photo-voltaic panels and corresponding system. These walls of panels were quite beautiful inside the space, bringing in beautiful variations of light, but, also produces energy from the sun for water and space heating. They also had "dye-sensitized" solar cells to generate electricity. The Swiss team even built their own solar thermal panels for hot water and space heating. 


There had a zero-water toilet, the only one we saw that day, that uses worms to treat and recycle waste. And, we absolutely loved their solar drying system! With sliding panels, you hang your clothes or dishrags, and vents and solar heat does the rest! 


Congratulations Team Swiss and Neighborhub, for winning the 2017 Solar Decathlon! We loved your presentation, the flow through the house, and the entire building and concepts as well. Truly, well done. 


Solar Decathlon Highlight 4: Missouri University of Science and Technology by Alexander Dzurec


SILO was one of the most stunning designs we saw; incorporating "traditional farmhouse design, smart home technology, renewable energy storage, and sustainable technologies". 

SILO, "Smart Innovative Living Oasis", proved to be a sustainable solar-powered house that the Autotroph team spent a little extra time immersing ourselves in.


SILO targeted "empty nesters", adults whose children have left home and are moving forward into the next stage of their lives. The house had technologies that allowed future inhabitants to monitor the interior of the house, control all systems through voice commands, and truly create a comfortable, open, and clean living environment. 

They implemented systems that utilized grey water in a feature wall that aerates it to eliminate algae and elongates it's life cycle; just one of their sustainable designs. They also treated grey water to help feed their landscaping and green wall. 


One thing we didn't learn about inside of the house, but rather, after the fact - was a recycled material based clay plaster that was used to paint the walls and actually implemented to clean the air and regulate humidity. Yes, we agree, that's pretty cool! 


Two features we loved were the corner of windows, and the kitchen doors that open fully onto the front porch - bringing in light and connecting the outside environment (in this case, the mountain ranges of Denver) into the already open, indoor space. 


It was so comfortable feeling, many of us would've loved to have sat down and enjoyed a nice cup of tea or a nap! Kudos Missouri! 



Solar Decathlon Highlight 3: University of Washington - St. Louis by Alexander Dzurec

We saved this home design for later in our day, as it was one of the most intriguing exteriors, and turned out to be one of the most interesting in terms of resiliency and self-sufficiency. 


Team Crete created a facade made of standard concrete, insulation, and Ultra High Performance Concrete that was not only appealing visually, but that was manufactured to sustain the impact of tornadoes and debris carried by strong winds (along with many other natural elements and changes such as fire). The demonstration of how their walls could withstand harsh impacts was highly impressive and innovative. 

The beautiful casting of the cement had little LED lights installed within the 3D pattern, presumably lighting up the whole facade at night. 


Their concrete exterior also included a modern and contemporary integration of scuppers (drainage from the roof) that fed water to beautiful green walls on the face of each cement feature. This team's hydroponic system integrated both horizontal and vertical ground planters, providing water through a drip. Their design concentrated on self-sufficiency including solar energy, water, and food production and their team explained to us that their garden was also considered to be something that promoted collaboration within communities. 


Engaging and innovative; thanks for drawing us into your design U of Washington! 


Solar Decathlon Highlight 2: Team Las Vegas - The University of Nevada by Alexander Dzurec

The final scores of the Decathlon are officially posted! However, we're not quite ready to skip over some of the awesome designs we witnessed in Denver - so, we'll come back around to the finalists later (stay tuned!).

That brings us to Team Las Vegas from The University of Nevada with their "Sinatra Living" design. This was definitely one of our favorites!


Their target audience? Aging citizens of America and Vegas who need a home that is energy efficient, functional, comfortable, and safe. We loved that they started by looking to the history of home design in Las Vegas, and used many inspirations from mid-century modern and contemporary homes in Las Vegas. This was apparent the moment you walked into the kitchen that was beautifully accented with warm wood finishes and a "wow" red back splash. 


Paying ode to the past allowed Team Vegas to focus on incorporating the technology of the future. Their design included an open flow space utilizing modules that support a healthy and active lifestyle. They continued to cater to their target market with handicapped accessible features like a big open (slip-preventative) bathroom and shower, adjustable shelving, fall detection sensors, an Alexa system that syncs with the house, and many other technologies and features that make the home safer and more accommodating to the 65+ market.


This design was indeed luxurious, comfortable, and beautiful; though, it did not lack in terms of energy-efficiency concepts and design. Architecturally, they created a structure that produces shade in the summer and passive heating in the winter. Their solar technologies heats water to use daily, but also to fuel the radiant floor heating, and stores the clean solar energy in an onsite battery. Their wireless integrated technology optimizes energy use, but is not the only energy-efficient technology they implemented.


To learn more about their features and technologies, check out their page on the Solar Decathlon site. Thanks for making us all ooh and ahh Team Vegas! 


Autotroph featured on front page of The New Mexican: "Satellite imaging firm Descartes expands in Santa Fe" by Alexander Dzurec


The partnership between Descartes Labs and Autotroph is creating an innovate, permanent location for Descartes office, and, is helping establish an exciting and rapidly growing start-up community in Santa Fe! 

Featured on the front page of this weekend's New Mexican, this article reviews the upcoming location of Descartes new Santa Fe HQs, as well as how it is being transformed into one of the coolest, state-of-the-art places to work in town. We've focused on productivity and progressive workflow for every employee, incorporating technology and design, while also the community - bringing Santa Fe a leap forward into the future. 

Rendering created by Autotroph's Project Manager, Luca Baker. 

Rendering created by Autotroph's Project Manager, Luca Baker. 

This is truly just the beginning, as Santa Fe continues to attract businesses and people from all over the world, Autotroph continues to innovate within the growing Santa Fe community. In the words of Walter Gropius "To build is to create events". 

To learn more about Autotroph and how we work collaboratively alongside our clients, click here. 

Contact us directly to learn more about how we could help you with your design today. 

Solar Decathlon: University of Maryland's "reACT" by Alexander Dzurec


The office is still buzzing from our Denver weekend, so we’ve decided to share our Solar Decathlon excitement with you!

Today we’re highlighting the University of Maryland’s entry: reACT (Resilient Adaptive Climate Technology).


This design had it all! It was obvious that this team thought through every element of their self-reliant and efficient home. Their focus was to create homes that integrate native environments by utilizing solar energy, water, and food. Maryland looked to the native traditions of their local tribes for inspiration; resulting in a building system that is adaptable and responsive to diverse communities and ecosystems. Built in a modular assembly structure, their design was customizable and reconfigurable to suit specific needs of each family.


The home implemented a solar energy system, but also included systems that recycled heat as a resource, gray and rain water to produce clean water, enabled residents to use less water, and supported self-sufficiency, clean energy and off-the-grid living through many additional “reACTive” systems. 


We particularly loved their indoor and outdoor garden spaces and green walls, as well as their food drying rack that retracted from the ceiling!

Two thumbs up team Maryland!!!!!! 

The Solar Decathlon 2017 by Alexander Dzurec


What an incredible time at the Solar Decathlon in Denver! We took a company trip to check out the technologies these National & International University/College teams have implemented into their Solar Design submissions. It was educational & inspirational - now we're back; refreshed and excited to dive into all of our new ideas!

If you're in Denver soon, definitely don't miss this opportunity!  

Click here to learn more about Autotroph and our team.


Village in the Bosque is LEED Platinum by Alexander Dzurec

We are pleased to announce that our Village in the Bosque has received LEED-H Platinum certification! This affordable housing community not only provides residents with an affordable rental home, it also provides them with significant savings on energy bills and healthy homes for families and seniors. Thank you to our client, the Santa Fe Civic Housing Authority; Contractor, Pavilion Construction, LEED-H provider, Green Insight; Energy Modeler Steve Onstad; and our own Project Manager Brett Linker for an amazing job


Last weekend was the Grand Opening of the MEOW WOLF Art Complex in Santa Fe – a combination art installation and multi-use arts facility – And it was AMAZING!  It was great to see so many people, of all walks of life, come out to experience this innovative arts complex.   This is a true community arts project that involved over 200 artists, fabricators, technicians and volunteer laborers.  It features exhibit space, a makers’ space, youth learning center, an art gallery, a gift shop and a 300 person performance space.  The main component is the HOUSE OF ETERNAL RETURN, an immersive Art Installation that will blow your mind.  

Our firm has been fortunate to be involved in this project from its inception through to the design, permitting and build-out.  We worked closely with the core creative team from Meow Wolf, the general contractor Constructive Assets, exhibition space contractor Ragano & Careccio Inc., City of Santa Fe staff and our excellent consultant team to help make this project a reality. 

We viewed our role as a design facilitator.  We listened to all the great ideas and worked with our team members to translate these into design documents. We were brought in early in the process when Meow Wolf decided to transform the old Silva Lanes Bowling alley into an innovative arts center in the Siler-Rufina District of Santa Fe.

Firm Principal Alexander Dzurec worked closely with the Meow Wolf Core creative team, about a dozen visionary artists, to translate their dreams and ideas into reality with floor plans, elevations, and infrastructure improvements.  A complex task indeed for the variety of spaces envisioned, not to mention the center piece installation: The House of Eternal Return.  This installation features an intricate maze spaces that allows visitors to become immersed in an alternate reality.  Over 135 artists, along with numerous volunteers, technicians and fabricators worked tirelessly to create this fantasy environment.   Throughout the process, we simultaneously incorporated their ideas into the plans and drawings needed to move forward and ensured that all the nitty gritty issues like fire protection, emergency exits, accessibility, restrooms, lighting and so on were all addressed in the plans submitted to the City of Santa Fe for approval. 

We are grateful to the City of Santa Fe for their support of this project - the Mayor’s endorsement and City’s Staff timely approvals and inspections not only benefited this project but also the entire community by generating employment across many sectors, supporting the youth in the arts, and perhaps most importantly, being a catalyst to spur additional cultural and economic revitalization of the Siler-Rufina district.

We encourage anyone who lives in, or is visiting, Santa Fe to come visit Meow Wolf, over and over again. Tickets are available through the Meow Wolf website. 

Learn more about our involvement in the project here.



Village in the Bosque - Grand Opening by Alexander Dzurec


Our Village in the Bosque project is nearly complete! We celebrated the Grand Opening in November and residents are moving in now as landscaping and park improvements are finalized. This 98-unit affordable housing project in downtown Bernalillo involved the design of new and renovated dwellings and public areas. The project features a community-focused master plan to improve connectivity to the adjacent street grid, internal pedestrian-oriented streets, a park, play area and community building. The community includes duplex and stand-alone single family homes comprised of both one and two story structures, varied roof forms and front porches to promote architectural variety in the community. Thank you to our client, the Santa Fe Civic Housing Authority, the Town of Bernalillo and all the members of the design team for all your hard work to make this a success!

Autotroph Places in the B-More Resilient Competition! by Alexander Dzurec

Autotroph, in association with Renata Southard, were honored to win the Honorable Mention award for the "Best Resilient Concept for and Existing Community" in the B-More Resilient Competition last week!  Our entry, DIRT, focused on a big picture idea to re-make Baltimore's infrastructure network into  a a distributed and interconnected infrastructure and technology system.  It utilizes the concept of interconnected micro- grids to ensure resiliency in the event of catastrophe, but also to maintain stability in day to day usage of utilities and services.  We had the pleasure of working with Renata Southard on the Entry.  She is an M. Arch Candidate at the University of Maryland and was an exceptional team member and resource.  You can learn more about Renata on her Blog:  Many thanks to Renata and to the competition Jury.  Here is a link to the Baltimore AIA Website featuring our entry: 

Autotroph proposes an innovative approach for renewable energy production & storage for waterfront communities. by Alexander Dzurec

With the carbon age coming to an end, humanity will transition to a new human epoch powered by the natural elements of wind, sun and water.  To this end, Autotroph has conceived a radical approach for green energy & infrastructure on waterfront sites .  Developed as a submission to the 2014 Land Art Generator Initiative Competition, Battery H2O is an innovative take on a pumped storage hydroelectricity system.  The site is a waterfront property in the Refshaleøen development in Copenhagen, Denmark.  Utilizing sun and wind power, water from Copenhagen Harbor is pumped into elevated storage tanks, made from re-purposed oil tanker hulls.  The hulls act as a giant battery, storing potential energy in the form of water, and generating power through hydroelectric turbines.   The water battery system is tied into a mico-grid in Refshaleøen and a control center monitors & controls the flow of energy (water) to the local grid.  Battery H20 has enough storage capacity to power the nearly 2,000,000 SF development for 2.5 days of no solar or wind energy input.

Battery H20 is also a public park to anchor the redevelopment of Refshaleøen, a former shipyard in Copenhagen, Denmark.  In this park, people will come to gather, recreate and wander amongst a series of monoliths made from re-purposed oil tanker hulls, the most recognizable symbol of the Carbon age.  However, the hulls are now filled with water as a medium to store electrical power.  A regenerative site plan re-introduces a Baltic Sea coastal ecosystem and acts as a filter to cleanse the water of Copenhagen Harbor.  Additional program is added to the site, creating attractions to draw visitors to this far-flung corner of the harbor and spur the redevelopment of Refshaleøen .

For more info on Battery H2O click here


Autotroph collaborated with the following people in the development of Battery H2O:

James Stodgel of Only Green Design

Daniel Martinez of Martinez Design Group

Brian Combs of Santa Fe Community College Sustainable Technologies Center

Erin English of Biohabitats



Embudo Valley Library by Alexander Dzurec

Autotroph is pleased to introduce the Embudo Valley Library.  Opened in 2014, this new facility is the result of years of work with the community, library board, Executive Director Felicity Fonseca and Paragon Construction.  This 3,000 SF facility is a community gem, providing residents with access to its 20,000+ volume collection, meeting space, computer resources, children's and teen collections.  The building features passive solar features including ventilated trombe walls and adobe construction.  Abundant daylight and natural ventilation further contribute to the aggressive energy conservation targets.  Also included in the project was the renovation of the former library (an historic house) into a community center.  For more info on the project visit the project page here.

Our Re-Barn concept was just featured in the Chesapeake Current Magazine by Alexander Dzurec

Autotroph is pleased to announce that our Re-Barn Concept is the focus of a recent article in the Chesapeake Current.  The Re-Barn is an innovative approach to the preservation and adaptive reuse of Southern Maryland tobacco barns.  With the decline of tobacco as a cash crop, many of these structures are being lost to neglect and sprawl development.  This concept adapts & preserves a barn's skin while inserting a energy efficient panelized home inside the barn structure.  A series of operable flaps, panels and shutters are inserted into the barn's skin allowing the residents to control openings for solar gain and privacy considerations.  When closed the home appears as a traditional tobacco barn and when open, it takes on the appearance of a contemporary home.  Please see the below link to the article or click here for the project page.