The interior of the Biodome will be contoured like a small tropical valley.
In the north, the 14 foot high ridge has the taller of the two interior cascading waterfalls. The ridge is split in two by the canyon, which will be offset slightly west of the north entrance. Entering from the north, sunlight shining through the gap from the south provides mystique because the central area is not quite visible without rounding the bend in the trail. The central courtyard is where the high falls splash over the rocks to the pool below, at one end of the largest internal green space. The community room, overlook, upper bridge and surrounding ridge trail look into this area. Being centrally located under the dome, trees here will reach forest-like heights.
On the west end the horseshoe shaped ridge ends in a natural-stone cliff face. It is the backdrop for the Ecological Communications Theatre. Underneath this end of the ridge is the community room, which looks into the thick of the garden. Its position behind the theatre allows it to double as a 'backstage' preparation area for concerts, theatrical events and a dressing room for weddings.
The east end of the ridge slopes down to the lower falls and the southern pond. Beneath this section of the ridge is the conference room, the office and garden maintenance room.
The large southern pond and lower falls are situated below ground level, adding to the dynamic range of the contouring. By lowering this area, its separation from the encircling upward trail is increased, enhancing the out-of-the-way character. The quietness of the pond and lower fall is also maintained by the upward trail separating and screening activities at the theatre.
Distinctiveness of places within an environment adds to the impression of depth and extent. The highs and lows of the contouring create terrain features that are recognizable places. Within the interior design there are at least seven definable 'places'. These are the Upper Falls, Lower Falls, Pond, Spring, Cliff, Bridge over the Canyon, and the Overlook. Using contouring and waterscapes to create these features magnifies the dome's interior space in a visitor's experience by adding context and separating the space into multiple places. Each unique configuration can be its own distinct experience.
The curved paths provide a 'what's-around-the-bend' quality of mystery that adds intrigue and imply an invitation for further exploration. The layering of different levels within the Biodome provides a variety of niches and destinations to explore. Mists and fog add to the mystery of a scene, so even the misting system, planned for maintaining the plants and cooling in the summer, can add mystique to a visitor's experience.
Fish and frogs, birds and butterflies all add to the fascination people feel in a natural setting. Interest in other living things contributes to getting outside ones own daily concerns and allows mental rest and rejuvenation. Watching a placidly swimming fish or the antics of a chipmunk, listening to the chirp of frogs or insects calling to each other, begins the process of unwinding, lessens self-absorption and allows mental reflection, perhaps leading to a refreshed insight. The interior plan includes fish in the pond, birds, gecko lizards and other aquatic creatures.
Scientific research in environmental psychology has investigated meanings, attachment and defining characteristics of favorite places. Favorite places are often restorative environments providing a respite or break from daily concerns or a chance to find solitude or "get away". These are also frequently natural environments. Many studies have investigated landscape preferences and found mountain waterscapes, waterscapes in general and forests to be robustly preferred across cultures, classes and age groups. These have also been demonstrated to be the most restorative natural environments. The interior of the Biodome is focused on producing the best facsimile of an outdoor environment with waterfalls, stream and pond, and a tall forest of trees. All of these the aesthetic aspects of a beautiful favorite place.
The overriding design principle of the interior has been accessibility. The size, depth, width and roundness of the dome are the minimum necessary to make the interior design work. The nearly 350-foot long giant S-curve encompassing the central region of the dome has a gentle slope for easy use. The length of this walkway allows the northern ridge to reach 14 feet for a significant waterfall and grand overlook. It also has adequate height to provide for required soil depth above rooms underneath. A careful balance between paving and plant space was maintained with the final paved area in the dome at 31 percent. The bridges are ten feet wide, so that any one who wishes can stop and look out without disturbance while others can pass by unimpeded. All destinations are accessible, while the stairs allow various winding paths. The grade of accessible slopes and the path length required to gain height or depth have been the determining factor in the design's contours.
Many features of the design are aimed at utilizing solar energy. The cliff face angled toward the south will intercept 90% of the day's incident sunlight during the winter. As a passive solar thermal mass over a foot thick, it will absorb heat during the day and radiate warmth into the community room behind and overnight. The stage in front of the cliff is both a reflector of low angle winter sun onto the cliff and an additional absorbent storage mass. The dark shade of the brown Ohio sandstone on the cliff face increases the absorbing efficiency. The large southern pond also serves a heat absorbing/ storing purpose.
In the summer these same features continue to help the thermal regulation of the Biodome interior. The pond, stream and waterfalls now become evaporative coolers. The cliff's heat accumulating function is limited by shading foliage above the cliff leaning outward. At lower winter sun angles, the sun shines directly on the absorbent stone but in the summer, higher sun angles cause the overhanging foliage to shade the stone and minimize heat capture. By opening inlet vents around the bottom and a top vent, the dome's chimney-like air flow pattern will cool the interior.
The Biodome's combination of beauty, efficiency and accessibility will provide a superlative garden experience. With curving paths to provide mystery just around the bend, fish in the pond and birds or other creatures, this oasis of year round vibrancy will revive one's spirit.