Tag Archives: architecture

Futuristic planned tower in China would feature 99 floating islands

How to create a spectacular landmark for a city’s skyline while also evolving the very idea of what makes a tower? Well, a group of architects have an idea. They want to build a new structure called the “ethereal tower” comprised of 99 floating islands in the massive Chinese city of Shenzhen.

Image credit: Sou Fujimoto

Shenzhen is a coastal city in the south of Guangdong Province, just 41 kilometers from Hong Kong. Benefiting from its location, Shenzhen has grown dramatically in the past few decades, becoming a modern and international metropolis and is known as “China’s Silicon Valley”. It hosts major tech companies such as Huawei and Lenovo, as well as many emerging start-ups, and over 12 million people call it home. 

With a massive skyline, Shenzhen is China’s fastest-growing city. It transformed from a small fishing town to a bustling megacity within decades. Every year, millions flock to its city center from around the globe seek to benefit from its investment-friendly practices, while tourists admire its futuristic landscape. Shenzhen trails only Shangai and Beijing in China for overall GDP. Now, the city wants something spectacular to show for all this growth.

Renowned Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto created a design for a massive floating tower on the bay of Shenzhen’s Qianhaiwan district. He pitched his idea at a competition that was set to address the questions of “What does a new ‘tower’ mean in the 21st Century?” and “How can a tower evolve while continuing to attract attention, as the Eiffel tower does?”

The proposed tower is 268 meters tall (880 feet) and would be made up of 99 individual tower-like pieces, joined by a strong horizontal place in the top section. The pieces gradually fade away as they descend, giving the impression that they are floating in the air. It’s simultaneously a single tower and a collection of towers, symbolizing the future of societies in the age of diversity. 

Image credit: Sou Fujimoto

The tower will be built mainly from steel, carbon fiber, concrete and Kevlar rope, with a peripherally located steel truss system with Kevlar tension cables maintaining the cores’ balance. A centralized core serves as the basis for the whole tower, which is joined together by outlying tension cables that resemble water flowing down to the bay.

A mirrored inverted frozen fountain will include an observation deck, exhibition area, restaurant, and cafe within the cables. The top deck is planned to be used for exhibitions, hoping to appeal to both visitors and locals as a social center where breathtaking views of the city and the bay can be viewed all around. It’s a design hoped to fit an evolving city.  

Image credit: Sou Fujimoto

This is hardly the first futuristic project proposed in Shenzhen — architects are flocking to the new metropolis, and the city’s skyline is already starting to show its status. However, as amazing as it may look, it’s still not clear whether the construction will actually green-lighted. If it does though, it will be a sight to behold.

Image credits: Sou Fujimoto
Image credits: Sou Fujimoto.
Image credit: Sou Fujimoto

Architects urge to stop building demolitions due to their climate footprint

Back in 1970, Bob Giles, a UK architect, designed the Hammersmith & Fulham College, a redbrick building in London totaling 23,000 square meters. Now, the university wants to demolish it and instead build a newer one instead. Giles is trying to stop it, calling instead for an upgrade of the building.

But Giles isn’t alone in this fight. Architects across the UK are campaigning to protect and upgrade draughty buildings instead of knocking them down. And the reason isn’t related to architecture specifically but instead to the environment. New buildings emit a lot of carbon, they say, mostly in the production of the materials required.

Credit Flickr Suzanne Hanlon (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The campaign was started by the initiative Architects’ Journal and has already been supported by 14 Stirling Prize winners (a British prize for excellence in architecture). Their main demands are to cut taxes on refurbishment, repair, and maintenance of buildings, promote the reuse of construction material, and stimulate the circular economy. Essentially, they want to reuse and retrofit buildings more than relying on constructing new ones.

In the past, there was a debate about whether it was more convenient for the climate to demolish an old building that consumed a lot of energy and build a new, better-insulated one in its place. Today, it’s starting to be viewed as a serious mistake due to the carbon emitted during the construction of a new building.

“This staggering fact has only been properly grasped in the construction industry relatively recently. We’ve got to stop mindlessly pulling buildings down,” Architects’ Journal managing editor Will Hurst told the BBC. “It’s crazy that the government actually incentivizes practices that create more carbon emissions.”

Worldwide, the construction industry consumes almost all the planet’s cement, 26% of its aluminum output, 50% of steel production, and 25% of all plastics. Because of the way it uses energy and resources, the industry’s carbon emissions are sky-high. In the UK, it produces between 35% and 40% of the country’s total emissions.

The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) estimates that 35% of the lifecycle carbon from a typical office development is emitted before the building is even complete. The figure is even higher for residential premises, calculated at 51%. This suggests it will take decades for new buildings to pay back their carbon debt.

The campaigners argued construction is based on a wasteful economic model. It involves tearing down existing structures and buildings, disposing of the resulting material in an indiscriminate way, and rebuilding from starch. More than 50,000 buildings are demolished every year in the UK, they estimated.

Retrofitting existing buildings, on the other hand, is more cost-effective and generally less controversial as it conserves and enhances existing places and neighborhoods, they claimed. It also makes sense for carbon emissions due to the substantial energy savings made in repurposing existing buildings.

“The campaign proposes a major reduction in the consumption of raw materials and energy in the built environment through the adoption of circular economy principles. It opposes unnecessary and wasteful demolition of buildings and promotes low-carbon retrofit as the default option,” the campaign’s platform reads.

A look at the harmony of organic architecture

One of the simplest and most intuitive definitions of organic architecture is that it aims to design buildings that are in harmony with nature and their surroundings.

You hear the word ‘organic’ quite a lot these days, usually from people trying to sell you something (or from those annoying friends who shop at Whole Foods and can’t shut up about it). Architecture also uses the term. Thankfully, it doesn’t have anything to do with pesticides or fertilizers — but everything to do with function and form.

A miniature model of the Fallingwater house.
Image via Wikimedia.

The term ‘organic architecture’ has been in use for quite some time, it was probably brought to the public’s attention by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright and his spectacular works. It refers to a particular way of designing that strives to balance a space’s or building’s function and its environment, follow natural forms, and seamlessly merge buildings with their surroundings.

The style isn’t limited to playing with shapes. Organic architecture often uses local materials for the building itself and furnishings, and works to include the exterior area in the design process to create a unified whole. Like an organism, such structures are meant to take materials from their environment, grow in it, and finally become a part of it.

Along with brutalism — which is in many regards its diametral opposite — it is my favorite architectural school. Since I’m the guy in charge of the keyboard and there’s nothing you can do to stop me, strap in and let’s take a small detour into the world of organic architecture.

Wright’s Principles

The Bavinger House in Oklahoma, United States.
Image via Wikimedia.

Wright is perhaps most responsible for turning organic architecture from a quirky rarity into a full-blown style. Over the course of his career (which started around the 1880s,) he developed a group of principles that he described as “solidly basic to my sense and practice of architecture,” which he adhered to in his work. While not exactly a ruleset, some later architects were very eager to adopt them and develop on the style. As such, they’re a pretty reliable summary of the philosophy that underlies organic architecture. As per the website of the Meyer May House, designed by Wright, they are:

  • Shelter — the fundamental role of a building is to provide shelter. Wright, however, “saw a building primarily not as a cave, but as shelter in the open,” and guided his designs toward this goal.
  • Kinship of Building to the Ground — best summed up by Wright as “make the building belong to the ground”, make it fit into its environment.
  • Interpretation — that the “space outside becomes a natural part of space within the building”.
  • Addendum — because of the integration between outside and inside spaces, these buildings are “profoundly natural” and “never dull or monotonous”.
  • Form — “Arrangements for human occupation in comfort may be so well aimed that spaciousness becomes economical as well as beautiful, appearing where it was never before thought to exist.”
  • Space — Wright saw homes as both useful implements and works of art, adding that their “intrinsic beauty [makes them] more a home than ever”.
  • Tenuity and Continuity — this principle advocates for the elimination of “any constructed feature such as any fixture or appliance whatsoever,” and continuity between shapes — in essence, that the design be kept simple with shapes that grow out of and build on one another seamlessly.
  • Materials — this principle doesn’t advocate for specific materials, but it does ask that those materials stay true to themselves, in a sense; “wood and plaster will be content to and will look, as well, as wood and plaster,” Wright hold adding that “they will not aspire to be treated to resemble marble”.
  • Decentralization — Wright believed that “the natural place for the beautiful tall building – not in its present form but in its new sense – is in the country, not the city”.
  • Character is Natural — while a building’s design should follow its function, it shouldn’t focus solely on efficiency.

If they sound a bit abstract, worry not — I had a difficult time understanding what these principles meant until I actually saw them in action. Let’s take a look at some of the more famous organic architecture buildings out there, then.

Fallingwater — Frank Lloyd Wright

Fallingwater, Pennsylvania.
Image via Pixabay.
Image via Pexels.

The Fallingwater house was designed by Wright in 1935 as a private weekend getaway for American businessman and philanthropist Edgar Kaufmann, Sr. In 1963, his son Edgar Kaufmann Jr. entrusted both the house and the 1,500 of land that made up the property to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. He saw the house as a place where people can come and experience the beauty of architecture, art, and nature, or a place of study.

The Fallingwater Institute remains true to that vision even today, creating a setting for learning through classes, workshops, and residencies at the house.

View of the living room from the kitchen.
Image credits Jack E Boucher / Historic American Buildings Survey / Library of Congress.

Fallingwater embodies the design philosophies of Mr. Wright and is often seen as one of his masterpieces. It’s also the first of his works that I learned about, but it’s not my favorite one on this list. Currently, the house is listed as a UNESCO Cultural World Heritage site.

The Lotus Temple — Fariborz Sahba

Image via Pexels.
Image credits SridharSaraf / Flickr.

Designed by Iranian-Canadian architect Fariborz Sahba in 1986, the temple was inspired by a lotus flower. It’s an actual temple, which sees actual worship right now — in fact, being a temple of the Baháʼí faith, which accepts all current religions as valid, it’s open to everyone, no matter their beliefs or creed.

A model of the Lotus Temple displayed at its information center in New Delhi, India.
Image via Wikimedia.

Casa Mila — Antoni Gaudi

Casa Mila, front facade.
Image credits Ian Gampon / Flickr.

Casa Milà (also known as La Pedrera or “The stone quarry”), built in Barcelona, Spain, was designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi between 1905 and 1910. The more astute among you might have observed that there’s something unusual about this building — it’s quite wobbly.

The design is dominated by honeycomb sections and a rippled exterior and was very controversial in its early days. The city of Barcelona actually required the demolition of certain portions of the building during construction (as they exceeded allowed heights at the time) and beefed-up building codes in response to this structure. Gaudi envisioned the building as a spiritual place (he was a devout Catholic), but in the end built it for a wealthy couple returning from the US. Today, however, Casa Mila is held in high regard by locals and serves as an apartment building.

Interior yard of Casa Mila.
Image via Pikrepo.
Casa Mila, roof panorama.
Image via Wikimedia.

Casa Mila is a UNESCO Cultural World Heritage site.

Taliesin West — Frank Lloyd Wright

Taliesin West.
Image credits Artotem / Flickr.
The garden room at Taliesin West.
Image via Wikimedia.

Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Arizona, served as Wright’s winter home — and school — from 1937 until his death in 1959. It was named after the architect’s summer home Taliesin, in Spring Green, Wisconsin.

Today it houses the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and acts as the main campus of The School of Architecture at Taliesin. The building is dominated by striking terraces and walkways meant to display the surrounding desert landscape of ever-shifting sandbars. It is open to public visitation and also listed as a UNESCO Cultural World Heritage site.

The Onion House — Kendrick Bangs Kellogg

Image via Wikimedia.
Image via Wikimedia.

This delicate structure was designed and hand-built by Mr. Kellogg in Hawaii.

The buildings includes stained glass and translucent roof panels to allow as much color and light inside as possible — both during the day and during the night. The structures are surrounded by gardens, pools, and fish ponds — and it all rests on a magmatic rock terrace over the Kona Coast.

This is my favorite one on the list.

Image via Wikimedia.

Why does architecture matter?

Beyond the obvious pleasure and creature comforts these buildings promise, our environments play a big role in shaping our mood and behaviors. We spend most of our time inside buildings, so their effect on our lives is profound.

However, the field that studies the interactions between the human mind and its surroundings, environmental psychology, is still in its infancy. What we do know so far is that the way we design our buildings and cities can affect our well-being and moods, and that certain cells in the hippocampus of our brains react to the geometry and arrangement of the spaces we inhabit. On a more cultural level, architecture is an indirect representation of a culture’s values, ideals, and concepts of beauty. On a personal level, I think we can all easily tell the effect a nice home or space has on our moods.

In the end, there are still many unknowns here — but not the fact that architecture has a direct impact on our lives. In the words of Winston Churchill, as he was addressing the English Architectural Association in 1924:

“There is no doubt whatever about the influence of architecture and structure upon human character and action. We make our buildings and afterwards they make us. They regulate the course of our lives.”


The earliest monument in east Africa was built without anyone being ‘the boss’

A massive cemetery complex in the plains of Kenya shoots down the theory that social hierarchy is required to build monuments.


The site’s location.
Image credits Elisabeth A. Hildebrand et al., 2018, PNAS.

An international team of researchers has uncovered the earliest and largest monumental cemetery in all of Eastern Africa. Christened the Lothagam North Pillar Site, the monument complex was built over 5,000 years ago. The most surprising bit? Its builders were simple herders living around Lake Turkana, Kenya. They’re believed to have had an egalitarian mindset, rejecting any social stratification.

The discovery contradicts the long-standing view that a stratified society, split between rulers and ruled, is required to construct large public buildings or monuments.

Communal building

The site represents a communal cemetery built and used over a period of several centuries (between 5,000 and 4,300 years ago, roughly), the team reports.

It is comprised of a round platform about 30 meters in diameter, in the center of which the early herders dug a large cavity to inter their dead in. After this cavity was filled, they capped it with stones and placed megalithic pillars on top. These pillars were sourced from as far as a kilometer away.

The team estimates that a minimum of 580 individuals were “densely buried” in this central cavity. There doesn’t seem to be any particular individual that received special treatment — people of all ages, from infants to the elderly, were buried here. All individuals were buried with personal ornaments but nobody stands out as being poorer or wealthier than their peers. In fact, the distribution of ornaments is surprisingly even throughout the cemetery, which the team takes as an indicator of a relatively egalitarian society without strong social stratification.

Stone circles and cairns were subsequently erected at the site over time.


Ornaments and palette recovered from Lothagam North.
Image credits Elisabeth A. Hildebrand et al., 2018, PNAS.

Given the expenditure of both effort and resources required to build large structures, as well as the logistical hurdles associated with organizing the whole thing, archaeologists simply took it as a given that a group needs a political structure to be able to undertake such projects. There’s also the fact that the roles these buildings played — they’re reminders of shared history, culture, religion, or ideas — are indicative of a settled, socially stratified society with abundant resources and strong leadership.

Taken together, it made archaeologists view ancient monuments as definite indicators of complex societies that allow specialization of work — and, through it, differentiated social classes.

The people who built the Lothagam North cemetery, however, were simple herders. We have no evidence that they had a rigidly-tiered society; if anything, their burial site suggests they were all equal in their society’s eyes.

“This discovery challenges earlier ideas about monumentality,” explains Elizabeth Sawchuk of Stony Brook University and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. “Absent other evidence, Lothagam North provides an example of monumentality that is not demonstrably linked to the emergence of hierarchy, forcing us to consider other narratives of social change.”

The discovery could lead historians to reshape how we understand the emergence of complex societies.

The authors write that Lothagam North was likely built during a period of profound change. The Turkana Basin had so far been populated by diverse groups of fisher-hunter-gatherers, but now groups of herders had started settling in and around the basin. So on one hand, these new arrivals brought about massive innovation — from hunter-gathering to animal husbandry. At the same time, the area experienced a drop in rainfall levels, causing Lake Turkana to shrink by as much as fifty percent, the team explains.

It’s possible, then, that the herders constructed the cemetery as a place for people to come together to form and maintain social networks to cope with major economic and environmental change.

“The monuments may have served as a place for people to congregate, renew social ties, and reinforce community identity,” says co-author Anneke Janzen. “Information exchange and interaction through shared ritual may have helped mobile herders navigate a rapidly changing physical landscape.”

It took several centuries for pastoralism to overtake hunter-gathering as the main source of sustenance in the basin, and for the lake to stabilize. After this happened, however, the cemetery ceased to be used — further supporting the team’s hypothesis.

“The Lothagam North Pillar Site is the earliest known monumental site in eastern Africa, built by the region’s first herders,” Hildebrand adds. “This finding makes us reconsider how we define social complexity, and the kinds of motives that lead groups of people to create public architecture.”

The paper “A monumental cemetery built by eastern Africa’s first herders near Lake Turkana, Kenya” has been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Parasitic wooden cubes level up 1970s Parisian building with more space, more energy efficiency

“Parasite” wooden cubes may help extend the livelihood of old buildings by increasing available space and improving energy efficiency. The cubes were designed by architect Stéphane Malka as part of the Plug-in City 75 project and will be attached to the facade of a 1970s-era Parisian building slashing its annual energy consumption by roughly 75 percent.

Faced with gloomy, cramped apartments and poor energy efficiency of a by-gone era of building, the co-owners of a Parisian building in the city’s 16th arrondissement asked Malka to spruce up their property. It’s just one of many buildings facing these issues in Paris, but since the city’s building laws are quite restrictive and do not allow for the building to be raised to make way for better, more efficient space, he couldn’t just tear it down and replace it.

So he decided to level it up. And what better way to do that than with a class of modular add-ons that also look really cool?

Companion Cubes

Malka designed a type of “parasitic architecture” to solve both problems at the same time. The design calls for a series of bio-sourced wooden cubes to be mounted onto the structure — extending the useful space horizontally through openings in the exterior.

This extension would also reduce the total energy consumption of the building by a factor of four — its current consumption of 190KWh/sq. meter would drop significantly, to 45KWh/sq. meter.

These cubes will be made from a lightweight-but-strong mix of wood particles and chips which can be easily transported and assembled on site by workers.

Once affixed to the building, they will not only increase living space and allow more light to enter the building, but also allow for an inner garden courtyard on the first floor. The new facade will also be draped with hanging plants, which will make it even prettier.

Living in a park: Sydney’s One Central Park proves cities can be green

Sydney can boast the tallest vertical garden in the world. Completed in 2014, the city’s One Central Park is a towering residential building dressed in dazzling green plant garb.

They’re stuffy, they’re gray, they’re dusty — they are cities. To satisfy our ever-growing need for space, engineers have paved and built over green areas, leaving only a tiny sliver behind as parks. But cities and greenery can coexist marvelously, Parisian architect Jean Nouvel and French artist and botanist Patrick Blank believe. The duo’s vision was proven right in 2014 as Sydney’s 166 meter (544 feet) high One Central Park.

The residential high-rise is part of an “urban village” in downtown Sydney that houses residential towers, shops, and common spaces for artists and architects to enjoy. Cloaked in living greenery, OCP’s facade houses 250 species of native Australian plants hopping from balcony to balcony from a park at the heart of the complex. An assembly of motorized mirrors sprawls at the top to capture and direct sunlight down for the plants to enjoy. And after sunset, the building burst in LED lights designed by lighting artist Yann Kersalé to be renewably-powered.

The complex includes two residential towers atop a five-story Central shopping center. The western tower is 84 meters (275 feet) high and accommodates 240 homes, while the 117-meter-high (383 feet) eastern tower contains 383 apartments — including 38 penthouse flats with access rooftop sky garden.

Its name is no coincidence either. The spacious 6,500 square meter (69,965 sq. feet) park at the base of the complex is reminiscent of New York’s famous Central Park. With large open lawns, chessboards, an open air cinema, and spaces for festivals or concerts, it is the architects’ hope that this park will provide a respite from city life just like its counterpart in the US.

But it’s not all relax-this and enjoy-that. OCP and similar concepts serve as a blueprint for what many people hope urban architecture will become in the future. With concrete dominating skylines around the world, green-starved cities bake in their own tiny urban heat islands and smog. Combining built space with greenery could offer a healthy, environmentally-friendly alternative in the future.

“Hydroponic irrigation systems, for one, make it possible to grow a soil-less vertical veil of vegetation in planters and on walls all the way up to the tower tops. The resulting green facades trap carbon dioxide, emit oxygen and provide energy-saving shade,” said said Ateliers Jean Nouvel in a statement.

The concept has had huge success — all apartments list as “sold out” on One Central Park’s website.

Termites know more about ventilation that human architects

The humble termite only has its body, saliva and some soil to work with, and the only blueprints it has are instinctual, based on variations in wind speeds and fluctuations in temperature as the sun rises and sets. Working with such limited resources, they still erect monumental mounds that, a new study reveals, rely on a surprisingly well-tuned mechanism for efficient ventilation, something architects today still struggle with.

Led by L. Mahadevan, Lola England de Valpine Professor of Applied Mathematics, of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, and of Physics, a team of researchers that included Hunter King, a post-doctoral fellow and Samuel Ocko, a graduate student, both in the Mahadevan lab, has for the first time has described in detail how termite mounds are ventilated. The study reveals that the structures act akin to a lung, inhaling and exhaling once a day as they are heated and cooled.

Thermal images superposed on a photograph of a termite mound (photo 1). At night (left side) the flutes are cooler, so the air first moves down them and then up the central core. During the daytime (right), the warmer air reverses the process, moving air up the flutes and then down the central core. Occurring once a day, it allows CO2 from deep inside the mound to surface and diffuse through the porous walls (photo 2). Thus the mound works like a slowly breathing lung, powered by daily temperature oscillations.
Credit: Hunter King and Naomi Ocko

The study is described in an August 31 paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA).

“The direct measurements essentially overthrow the conventional wisdom of the field,” Mahadevan said. “The classic theory was that if you have wind blowing over the mounds, that changes the pressure, and can lead to suction of CO2 from the interior…but that was never directly measured. We measured wind velocity and direction inside the mounds at different locations. We measured temperature, CO2 concentrations…and found that temperature oscillations associated with day and night can be used to drive ventilation in a manner not dissimilar to a lung. So the mound ‘breathes’ once a day, so to speak.”

On a trip to the National Center for Biological Sciences in India five years ago, Mahadevan was surprised to learn that many of the theories about how exactly the termites’ mounds function had not been rigorously tested. Working with Scott Turner, an Associate Professor at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, and author of a book that examines animal-built structures, Mahadevan, King and Ocko put together a plan to set out to find more definitive answers.

“It occurred to us that the internal flow profiles predicted by different potential mechanisms qualitatively disagree with each other,” King said. “By measuring them directly, we could easily identify the right one. The hard part was figuring out how to sensitively measure these small flows in a confined space defended by glue-and-mud-excreting termites.”

Over a period of several weeks they used a series of custom designed probes to conduct a variety of tests on both live and dead mounds that included temperature readings during the day or at night, covering the mounds with tarps, blowing air over the structures and even using vacuum cleaners to test suction throughout it’s internal passages.

“After months of hard thought and preparation, it all comes down to hiking through the woods at 4am with a laptop, a lantern, custom-built electronics, and a hole saw,” Ocko said. “The ‘aha’ moment made it all worth it.”

As they found out, the ventilation mechanism is in large measure built into the mounds themselves. There is a large central chimney that spans from the gallery — the underground chamber where most of the colony lives — to the top of the mound. The interior, structural walls that make up the core of the mound are larger, bulkier and more resilient, but the exterior ones are far thinner. While impermeable to winds, these outer walls allow for an exchange of gasses with the environment.

The interior structure of a termite mound.
Image via matnkat

During the day, Mahadevan explained, as sunlight either directly or indirectly warms the mound’s outer walls, the air inside warms, causing it to rise.

“What you get is a convection cell,” Mahadevan explained. “The warm air can’t move through the walls quickly enough, but it has to go somewhere, and the only possibility is for it to go down into the interior through the central chimney. At night, as the exterior cools, the airflow reverses, and it pulls the air up from the central part of the mound.”

The end result is that while CO2 concentrations during the day can reach up to four or five percent in the center of the mound, the airflow at night pulls the gas to the exterior walls, where it can escape by diffusing through the wall.

“But what’s remarkable here is how the termites are using transients. The temperature outside the mound is oscillating, and they have developed a method to harness that to ventilate their mounds.” Mahadevan said.

While the study reveals for the first time how termite mounds truly work, it may also offer lessons human architects could benefit from.

“In a large building like the one we’re sitting in we have windows and doors that allow us a certain amount of seclusion and privacy, but that also means you have a harder time pushing air around from one part of the building to another,”

While the notion of designing buildings that can be more efficiently ventilated is not new, the principles described in the study might offer new ways to think about such passive ventilation systems.

“Could you drive large scale flows through a building like this one by cleverly opening and closing doors and windows ?” Mahadevan asked. “Rather than spending a great deal of energy for a fan and air conditioning in every room, with the end result being that some people are too hot and some people are too cold… perhaps we should think of the entire thing as a system and these new measurements suggest that if the architecture is appropriate, ventilation can occur by using environmental transients — something for us to think about.”



Stunning condominium in Italy is what you’d call an ‘urban tree-house’

Littered with over 150 trees and boasting a stunning asymmetrical architecture, 25 Verde – an apartment complex in Turin, Italy – is not your typical residence. Though its roots may be made of steel and concrete, this apartment building rises like a forest or urban oasis.

turin green apartment complex

“The streeps in solid wood that floor the terraces filter the sunlight in summer, while in winter they let the light break into the house. The wainscot in larch shingles is a sort of soft and vibrant surface. The metal structures look like trees and they “grow” from the groundfloor to the roof while holding up the wooden planking of the terraces: they become entwined with the vegetation to form a unique façade,” writes Luciano Pia, the architect behind the 25 Verde (Green) project.

turin treehouse

Additionally, another 50 trees planted in the courtyard help residents feel closer to nature, all while cutting down on pollution, producing more fresh oxygen and dampening noise.

Turin urban treehouse

If the city of Turin doesn’t ring a bell, maybe Fiat will. This is the home to one of Italy’s biggest car manufacturers, which is kind of easy to notice once you’re here. There’s an industrial feel surrounding the vicinity of 25 Verde, which is quite fitting seeing how the trees in the condo, which was completed in 2012, absorb approximately 200,000 litres of carbon dioxide an hour.

urban treehouse

“The apartments, built from steel and concrete, are clad with over one million larch shingles, split naturally along the wood’s grain to improve their resilience. It also means each shingle is unique, the product of 10 months spent setting each one individually. All but a few of the apartments have two balconies, one facing into the green oasis, the other out to the street. Inside, the layout of the rooms is left to the owner, choosing whether they want to embrace an introverted tree house or see the contrast of the gritty street below,” Jon Astbury of Architectural Review wrote.


So, what do you think of this design. Would you like to see more of this, maybe in your own town?

Singapore University Completes Spectacular Tornado-Like Building

Designer Thomas Heatherwick just completed construction on a cluster of 12 parsnip tornado-shaped towers for the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. The building, called the Learning Hub, is part of a larger project to help redesign educational architecture and make the university a more attractive place. I have to say, it seems to be working – it’s one of the most spectacular designs I’ve seen lately.

“Heatherwick Studio’s first major new building in Asia has offered us an extraordinary opportunity to rethink the traditional university building,” explained Thomas Heatherwick.

Nanyang Technological University (NTU) is one of the newer universities in Asia and in the world; inaugurated in 1991,  as an English-medium technical and teaching college, the university has since grown into a full-fledged research facility, with over 33,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students. In the 2014 QS World University Rankings, NTU is ranked 39th globally (6th in Asia), and is placed 1st in the world among young universities. All in all, it’s growing fast both in number, and in scientific results; and if you want to attract the area’s bright minds, you need some bright structures – that seems to be the reasoning behind NTU’s management.

“In the information age the most important commodity on a campus is social space to meet and bump into and learn from each other.”

The 12 towers are organized around an atrium area and include balconies, open-air corridors and gardens as informal learning spaces. There are 56 oval classrooms in the towers. The circular design was vital, to symbolize an open area where professors and students can openly interact and share ideas. The lack of corners is no coincidence, encouraging collaborative learning and highlighting the fact that everyone is equally important in the educational process.

For the project, London-based Heatherwick Studio collaborated with local firm CPG Consultants. Clad with curved concrete panels, the towers feature irregular horizontal stripes that were created using 10 adjustable silicone moulds.

As for the inside, I really like the fact that the building is naturally ventilated, saving energy and allowing air to circulate throughout all the areas.

“The Learning Hub is a collection of handmade concrete towers surrounding a central space that brings everyone together, interspersed with nooks, balconies and gardens for informal collaborative learning,” added Heatherwick.

Both the students and the professors seem to enjoy this new design:

“The new Learning Hub provides an exciting mix of learning, community and recreational spaces for NTU students, professors and researchers from various disciplines to gather and interact,” said NTU Professor Kam Chan Hin. “By bringing people and their ideas together, NTU can spark future innovations and new knowledge that increasingly happen at the intersection of disciplines.”

Photography is by Hufton + Crow.


Healthiest city designs, from best to worst (Journal of Transportation and Health)

Older, more compact cities are better for your health

A first of its kind study conducted at the  University of Colorado Denver looked at how city design affects populace health. Older cities, initially built for pedestrian traffic in mind were found to harbor less cases of diabetes and other diseases than those with broader streets and fewer intersections. While some people can stay healthy and stick to exercising habits no matter where they live in, the study suggests that in general cities which are optimized for vehicle traffic discourage walking and other healthy activities.

“Previously we had found that people drive less and walk more in more compact cities with more intersections per square mile,” said study co-author Wesley Marshall, PhD, PE, assistant professor of engineering at the CU Denver, a major center of timely, topical and relevant research. “Now we’ve been able to link these city design qualities to better health.”

Three street networks: Organic (Seville), grid (midtown Manhattan), and hierarchical (suburban Atlanta) (Frank et al., Health and Community Design)

Three street networks: Organic (Seville), grid (midtown Manhattan), and hierarchical (suburban Atlanta) (Frank et al., Health and Community Design)

A simple grid design is better for community health

The team looked at 24 medium-sized California cities with populations between 30,000 and just over 100,000. Street network density, connectivity and configuration were mapped and put against data related to health hazards like obesity, diabetes, heart diseases, asthma and more.  The study used data collected by the California Health Interview Survey for the years 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2009, sampling between 42,000 and 51,000 adults.

“We built these dense, connected street networks for thousands of years but only over the last century or so did we switch to designing sparse, tree-like networks with cars in mind,” said  co-authored by Norman Garrick, PhD.

Results suggest that increased intersection density and shorter blocks are linked to reduction in obesity at the neighborhood level and of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease at the city level. Oppositely, wider streets and more lanes were linked to increased obesity rates. The researchers explain this may be due to an inherently less amiable environment for pedestrians. The health differences are significant: “older, denser, connected cities were killing three times fewer people than sparser, tree-like cities on an annual basis,” Marshall says.

Healthiest city designs, from best to worst (Journal of Transportation and Health)

Healthiest city designs, from best to worst
(Journal of Transportation and Health)

As older cities grew and new cities came to be, street design has evolved from a simple grid, which became carelessly regarded as too simple and lacking personality, to a tree like street design we typically witness in suburbs. Garrick and Marshall have also previously found that people who live in more sparse, tree-like communities spend about 18 percent more time driving than do people who live in dense grids. And they die more readily—despite old research that implied otherwise.

Also, the researchers also observed more fast food restaurants were associated with higher diabetes rates while additional convenience-type stores across a city correlated with higher rates of obesity and diabetes.

“Over the course of the 20th century, we did a great job of engineering utilitarian active transportation out of our daily lives,” said Marshall, who works in CU Denver’s College of Engineering and Applied Science. “While they were well-intentioned design decisions, they effectively forced people to make an effort to seek out exercise and we are now seeing the health implications of these designs.”

If you’re a proactive individual, choosing a city based on these sort of demographics might not matter too much. You’d still exercise and went about your typical healthy habits. For most people, however, any additional effort that interferes with exercising or a wider exposure to unhealthy choices (fast food, liquor and so on) matter and can have detrimental effects across a city’s whole population.

“Taken together these findings suggest a need to radically re-think how we design and build the streets and street networks that form the backbone of our cities, towns and villages,” Garrick said. “This research is one more in a long line that demonstrates the myriad advantages of fostering walkable places.”

Findings were reported in the Journal of Transport & Health.


Stunning paper art drawn with lasers

Eric Standley is an usual artist who makes some of the most dazzling Islamic and Gothic inspired art out there. However, hile the old masters used chisel and hammer, Standley uses lasers.  Eric’s work consists of successive layers of intricately cut paper sheets, which when assembled together turn into a piece that is a marvel to behold.  The result is so complex and detailed that the works should be examined from multiple perspectives to be fully appreciated.

“The reverence for these structures seems to have to do with the infinite,” explains the artist. “It’s trying to project something that’s not even human.”

Indeed, sampling some of his work one gets some of the sense and reverence a massive cathedral or complex mandala might emanate. The absolute root inspiration for Standley’s work might not seem to impressive at first glance; he first got the idea after discovering a strange pattern in cereal boxes he was working with. Personally, I find the story a great example of how divergent thinking and creativity can spark amazing art. Here’s some of his work for you to enjoy.

















A zoo in Denmark wants to reverse the roles of captor and visitor. This is an artist's impression of how the central plaza from which visitors can visit the three section might look like. Image: BIG

In Denmark, a zoo will keep animals outside and humans captive

A zoo in Denmark wants to reverse the roles of captor and visitor. This is an artist's impression of how the central plaza from which visitors can visit the three section might look like. Image: BIG

A zoo in Denmark wants to reverse the roles of captor and visitor. This is an artist’s impression of how the central plaza from which visitors can visit the three section might look like. Image: BIG

One can argue that zoos have no place in a civilized society; cheap entertainment with little educational value at the expense and suffering of countless animals. But let’s face it – they’re not going away any soon. So instead of abolishing them altogether how about radically transforming them? Bjarke Ingels is set on doing just that. The architect wants to revamp the Givskud “Zootopia”, a 1960’s built zoo in Denmark, by reversing the roles: animals are free to roam in the 300-acre facility, while humans are limited to a non-interfering role, peeking through enclosed settings, undetectable.

Visitors will be able to tour the park by floating some of the artificial rivers in mirrored capsules. Image: BIG

Visitors will be able to tour the park by floating some of the artificial rivers in mirrored capsules. Image: BIG

Practically, Zootopia will only have ‘cages’ for humans, not for animals like a typical zoo.

“Architects’ greatest and most important task is to … make sure that our cities offer a generous framework for different people – from different backgrounds, economy, gender, culture, education and age – so they can live together in harmony,” says the Bjarke Ingels Group, aka BIG. “Nowhere is this challenge more acrimonious than in a zoo.”

The proposed design also changes the general zoo navigation scheme that typically causes visitors to swarm around cages and exhibits. Instead, visitors will be able to access three observational areas, designed and crafted to emulate Asia, Europe and North America, all starting from a central hub. A buried bunker allows visitors to spot lions, peep at pandas through bamboo screens or spy on bears from a little house hidden in a stack of tree-trunks.


“Don’t mind us, bear” . Image: BIG

“Instead of copying the architecture from the various continents by doing vernacular architecture, we propose to integrate and hide the buildings as much as possible in the landscape,” say the architects – keen to avoid the usual Disneyish approach of Sumatran temples to see the tigers and Chinese pagodas to view the pandas, by doing away with buildings all together.

ZME readers, what do you think? Does this sound appealing to you or would you think of something different? Is the BIG-designed zoo, in fact, just a small, enclosed safari? As always, your comments are most welcomed.

Photo credit: ICD

These architectural wonders were built by robots

Photo credit: ICD

Photo credit: ICD

University of Stuttgart’s Institute for Computational Design (ICD) is a state of the art research facility that seeks to solve complex structural problems by mimicking nature. Every year, the institute demonstrates how natural biological constructions can be used to solve design problems by building a new research wing. The results are nothing short of breath taking. This year for instance, ICD built a structure that looks like something out of the Alien movie franchise. Who wants to move into a hive? I do.

Letting nature design your house

Photo credit: ICD

Photo credit: ICD

The challenge was to build a structure out of composite materials like glass and carbon fiber without using massive molds to dictate the shape. These sort of materials are prized because of their strength and light weight, which is why they’re often used to make Formula One cars or racing sails. To be useful , however, the materials need to be layered into a mold such that they may turn shape. This is fine for mass produced parts, but not so much when buildings are concerned as using molds would increase the time of construction and cost by orders of magnitude.

Photo credit: ICD

White material is glass fibre, while dark material is carbon fibre. Photo credit: ICD

So, rather than build a mold for every component, the ICD researchers took a shortcut and went for building the components directly. To achieve this, the team took inspiration from the beetle and its elytron, a protective shield that covers the insect’s wings.  The elytron is double-layered and is made out of stiff, strong fibrous material. After carefully analyzing the elytron, the researchers built an algorithm that gave them the most optimal solution for a double woven layer of fibers without the use of a core.

[ALSO READ] First 3-D printed house looks amazing! [GALLERY]

“You can lay the fibers in exactly the direction and density that is required to satisfy the structural requirements,” says Achim Menges, head of the ICD for Wired. “That’s exactly what we see in nature.”

A six-axis robot then weaved individual fibers atop of each other. At the end, the fibers amounted to a beautifully intricate web-like structure made out of 36 woven modules that’s surprisingly stable. Design and building process below:

Last year’s project involved building a peanut-shaped pavilion from 243 geometric plates made out of beech wood.  Each plate is a mere 50-millimetres thick and were inspired by the skeletal system of sea urchins and the microscopic joints of sand dollars.  The researchers again used computational methods to solve the complex problem and came out with the optimal shape that uses the least amount of wood. Design and building process below:

While the demonstrations are definitely awesome, the end goal is far more reaching than meets the eye. The ICD researchers hope these pilot design and fabrication processes might become introduced into the real world. The methods can be used to develop stable structures that are stronger, cheaper and easier to make than through conventional methods.

Illustration: Dubai Holding

Dubai plans to build an entire city under a glass dome


The Simpsons Movie’s plot starts off with Homer adopting a messy piglet he names “Spider Pig”.  The pig, helped a great deal by Homer, made enough waste to fill a silo in just two days, so how does Homer decide to solve this problem? Naturally, being Homer (doh!), he throws away the silo into the lake, causing an environmental disaster in the process. Left with no choice by the EPA,  Arnold Schwarzenegger decides the best course of action is to put a dome over Springfield. Like the Simpsons’ Schwarzenegger, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum thought it’s a good idea to close a whole city inside a glass dome. The only difference is that we’re dealing with reality, instead of fiction this time!

Illustration: Dubai Holding

Illustration: Dubai Holding

Appropriately called Mall of the World, the city will cover an area of 48 million square feet and will set new records for various large behemoth structures: the largest indoor theme park in the world (the one actually covered by the dome), the largest mall (8 million sq. ft.), along with 20,000 hotel rooms catering to all types of tourists, and a cultural district with theaters built around New York’s Broadway, Ramblas Street in Barcelona, and London’s Oxford Street. If you ever had any doubt that Dubai has a thing for the ‘big’, here you go…

Take that, Lord of the Rings! Illustration: Dubai Holding

Take that, Lord of the Rings! Illustration: Dubai Holding

The seven-kilometer-long promenades connecting the facilities will also be covered and air-conditioned during summer. The Mall of the World will also come complete with a dedicated 3 million sq. ft. wellness zone catering to medical tourists.

“It will offer a holistic experience to medical tourists and their families, ensuring access to quality healthcare, specialized surgical procedures and cosmetic treatments, wellness facilities, and high-end hospitality options”, according to a Dubai Holding statement.

What’s it all about?

Illustration: Dubai Holding

Illustration: Dubai Holding

It’s not only about satisfying a huge ego — don’t get me wrong, it’s about that too. Dubai natives, the upper class at least, have become filthy rich as a result of their deals with big oil corporations that paid them big cash in royalties in return for permission to drill the sands like there’s no tomorrow. The UAE isn’t stupid though. The government knows that the oil will run out eventually, so they’re massively shifting their eggs into more baskets since apart from oil the country doesn’t really have any commodity it can trade – unless you can count sound.

Illustration: Dubai Holding

Illustration: Dubai Holding

So, the Sheikh and cohort have been starting to invest their (big) money in alternative means of income. One is high technology (they’re planning on building the most well-equipped and leading university in the world), and the other is tourism. The latter is where the Mall of the World fits in, as its investors hope on garnering 180 million visitors annually, joining a synthetic oasis that already is filled with the tallest skyscrapers and biggest shopping malls in the world.

While the entire project is estimated to take a period of at least 10 years to complete, the 8 million square foot mall will be ready in approximately three years. Meanwhile, though, the World Bank is already breathing up the Sheikh’s neck, reminding him of the 2009 debt crisis, snowballed exactly by a situation like this – a real estate bubble.

Fully printed house

First fully 3-D printed house looks incredible

Possibly the most exciting technological innovation of the decade, in terms of the impact it’s projected to have, 3-D printing never seems ceasing to amaze us with its unrivaled potential. We’ve seen 3-D printed titanium jaw bones for implants, nanoscale F-1 cars, an ear or live tissue by 3-D printing of stem cells. A number of architecture firms are now competing for whose to be the first to build a fully 3-D printed house.

Softkill Design seems to be on the forefront on this particular quest, putting forth a design that’s as futuristic as the technology it relies on, but which is better off left described by these photos than by words. Some have tried though and have either called it “a dinosaur head made of spaghetti” or “a giant spider cave”. One thing’s for sure, it’s definitely macabre! Buy, hey, at least it’s eco-friendly.

According to the London architecture firm, the Protohouse, as it’s been dubbed, will be made all out of laser-sintered bioplastic and can be built off-site in three weeks and assembled in a single day. To be more precise, the  3-D printed 31 truckbed-sized pieces are assembled incredibly fast simply by snapping them together, requiring no adhesive, welding or any other constructions fastening work – not even duct tape.

“It will hopefully be the first actual 3D printed house on site,” said Gilles Retsin of Softkill Design. “We are hoping to have the first prototype out in the summer.”

“These highly fibrous structures are only 0.7 millimetres thick,” he added. “It’s impossible to print those with stone, because there’s not enough structure or strength or integrity in sand. In the factory environment you can go into stronger materials like plastics or metals.”

The Protohouse is set to eight metres wide and four metres long and will be printed in sections in a factory. It’s wacky structure might seem like it came out of some artsy intentions, but it’s actually molded around structural mechanics, since it’s actual intention is that of depositing plastic only where it’s needed.

“You’re aiming to use the smallest amount of material to achieve the strongest structure,” Retsin explained. And if you push that through to the extreme  you get something that is extremely fibrous and extremely thin.”

Meanwhile, however, a Dutch architecture company, Universe Architecture, also wants to join the 3-D constructions pioneering wave, and while their project doesn’t look as extravagant, or frightening for that matter as its UK rival, it still boasts a design that inspires.

Only one problem, though, the Landscape House won’t exactly be fully 3-D printed. Instead, whole sections using the giant D-Shape printer, which can produce sections of up to 6 x 9 metres using a mixture of sand and a binding agent, will be created to form the main structure. These hollow volumes will be filled with fibre-reinforced concrete to give it strength, which then join together to create the house.

Does the house’s design seem familiar? Maybe because it’s made to look like a mobius strip -a 3D geometric shape with no beginning or end – which is why maybe the Dutch architects enlisted mathematician and artist Rinus Roelofs to develop the house, which they estimate will take around 18 months to complete. It might take a while before they commence production though since the architects still need to wait for a buyer for the project and at a $5.3 million price tag, they might have to wait a while.



Skyscrapers made out of wood: a feeble idea or a mark of the future?


(c) Green

Up until the mind XIXth century most homes and buildings were made out of wood, a readily available and cheap material. However, like we all know wood is easily flammable and caused a myriad of issues, especially in urban environments. How many times were whole cities at risk of being whipped out by flames? Rome? London? Once concrete, steel, aluminium and glass buildings came into the picture though, wood was relocated to a more gentle position: furniture.

Most regulations around the world require wooden buildings to be no higher than four stories, but here comes Vancouver-based architect Michael Green into the picture with a novel, some would say feeble, idea: erecting tall buildings, as tall as 30 stories for instance, made out of wood. Before you usher the thought right out, let’s hear a bit what he’s got to say.

During Green’s 2013 TED talk, in which he lays out his plans and ideas, he boasts a rather idealistic approach – the Earth grows our food, the Earth should grow our homes too. Wait, what? How is cutting down trees for buildings ever sustainable? Well, Green argues that during the construction of buildings, 3 percent of the world’s energy is used for making steel, and 5 percent for concrete.

[RELATED] First all-wooden wind turbine installed in Germany is more eco-friendly than steel ones

By growing wood in a controlled environment and harvesting it accordingly Green claims enough wood for a 20-story building would be grown every 13 minutes. Another point he makes, one which I agree with, concerns the millions of trees that wither, die and fall to the ground around the world each year due to climate change. The pine beetle, flourishing due to warmer temperatures, has already devastated millions of acres in the Intermountain West. When a tree falls and decomposes it releases its carbon, but preserved and treated wood used for buildings would sequestrate this carbon.

Still, how do you prevent wooden skyscrapers from catching on fire from crying out loud? Green’s design is based on super-compressed mass timber panels, like Lego assemblies. This highly dense wood is extremely difficult to catch on fire (think of a huge tree stump on a fire), and coupled with coating solutions and modern anti-fire solutions, even simple sprinklers, would make these said wooden skyscrapers safe. Safety isn’t Green’s most convincing argument for bringing wood back into fashion in the constructions world, far from it – it’s necessity. An estimated 3 billion people are expected to flock to the cities in the coming decades, people that need cheap, reliable shelter.

In Sweden, a 30-story building completely made out of wood has already been approved, while Vancouver is reviewing Green’s proposal for a structure nearly as high. Read Green’s pitch on the subject at the Wood Coalition website.

Tianjin Eco City

China’s eco-city of the future hints towards its green turnaround

Tianjin Eco City

China is the most pollutant country in the world, and as it continues to develop industrially, one can only expect greenhouse gas emissions to grow as well. The country is taking steps towards its ecological rehabilitation, however. The first step was to acknowledge that it faces a dire problem, one whose consequences reverse on the entire world. One of the most interesting green projects China is currently involved in is centered around an experimental city, which incorporates smart and green technology extensively through out its whole infrastructure, but all applied with the characteristic Chinese sense of practicality.

China is home to some of the biggest and most modern cities in the world, however at the same time these massive urban centers area beacons of pollution – its streets filled with dust, its air filled with noxious fumes, smog so thick that sunlight can barely creep in. It’s very clear that China will become a wasteland in decades to come if something is not done about it. The Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco City, the world’s largest projected eco-city, is the nation’s hope towards the future of its urban centers.

Tianjin Eco City

Just an hour away by train from Beijing, and  just 10 minutes away from the business parks at the Tianjin Economic-Development Area, Tianjin Eco City is expected to house 350,000 people when completed. The city’s designed infrastructure is set to target all of the current major hurdles Chinese urban life is facing at the moment – permanent gridlock, a lack of water and ruinous electricity bills.

One of the biggest problem green cities face at the moment, besides the huge development cost compared to the conventional alternative, is the prerequisite of having an involved populace. Tianjin, isn’t glamorous by any means, and at first glance it looks just as gray and desolate as any Chinese city, however under the hood things are a lot greener – this without any kind of effort needed from its inhabitants’ part.

“Our eco-city is an experiment, but it is also practical,” said Wang Meng, the deputy director of construction. “There are over 100 eco-cities in the world now, and they are all different. If you look at the one in Abu Dhabi, they spent a huge amount of money and bought a lot of technology. It is very grand, but is it useful?”

Tianjin Eco City

Tianjin will be a huge urban experiment, probably the largest in the world. For instance, General Motors is using Tianjin to work out if electric driverless cars can function in a normal traffic system, and road-test the next generation of vehicles: small urban cars that drive themselves but are safe in an environment full of unpredictable drivers, pedestrians and cyclists. Other interesting green projects currently discussed and most likely to be implemented are low energy lighting systems from Philips or rubbish pins that automatically clean up themselves by sucking the trash though special ducts, developed by a Swedish company called Envac. Government-owned buildings will be powered by geothermal energy, have shutters that move with the light, in order to keep buildings cool, and heating systems that use solar energy.

The area on which Tianjin is currently being built is roughly half the size of Manhattan, but what’s interesting is that only three years ago it used to be huge desolate landscape, ruined by chemical pollution from the factories that border it. By using a special process, the Chinese authorities have managed to clean-up the site and hope to implement the same solution around other sites in the country – there are countless such sites through out China.

Tianjin Eco City

The city of Tianjin is projected to be completed by the end of the decade, after a projected investment of around 250 billion yuan (£25 billion), part of a joint financial and administrative collaboration between the Chinese and Singaporean governments. Currently, 60 families have already moved in. If successful, Tianjin might be the first of many green, yet cheap and practical, cities in China, quite possibly turning the country around ecologically.

via Telegraph

LINK Solar Tower Skyscraper

The LINK Solar Tower Skyscraper: a green symbol in the middle of Italy’s most polluted area, near Venice

LINK Solar Tower Skyscraper

Just came by this architectural solution proposed by  LED Architecture Studio for revitalizing Italy’s most polluted area, the industrial town of Marghera, part of the commune of Venice, just a short distance away from one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Quite the grim contrast, however the Link Solar Power Skyscraper offers a means to finally change this situation.

A massive architecture-infrastructure project that combines state of the art renewable energy solutions with emotions, the Link Solar Power Skyscraper is seen as a crucial urban development center, tailored to Venice’s needs and ambitions.

The LINK Solar Tower Skyscraper will serve as the administrative center for the Venice and Veneto areas, however it serves a number of other functions as well, predominantely alternative energy generation. The construction’s foundation will serve as a geothermal energy hub, will the top of the tower will serve as a giant solar energy collector, receiving sunlight reflected off photovoltaic systems placed in newly-created surrounding parks. It will be energetically self-sufficient and will produce ZERO CO2 emission.

LINK Solar Tower Skyscraper

LINK Solar Tower Skyscraper

LINK Solar Tower Skyscraper

LINK Solar Tower Skyscraper

Besides its immediate practical goal, the LINKSTS will serve as a link between 21st century architecture and Renascence’s finest. LinkSPS is provided with an external breathing skin containing the structure and the vertical connections through the parts, while the containers housed inside the linear architecture are all covered in LED facades. These will individually identify each section, or can be used to recreate historical landmarks from Venice, like the Gran Canal or other ancient Venetian archetypes.

LINK Solar Tower Skyscraper

“LinkSPS is not to be considered as a new door to the ancient city of Venice. It is an urban fluid system. LinkSPS enables the new area to be connected internally and to also connect itself to the other European cities. LinkSPS expands the limits of Venice,” note the architects.

via inhabitat

Flying bots

Quadrocopter fleet to build 6-meter tall tower

Flying bots

Amazing architecture goes hand in hand with amazing engineering, and a Swiss/Italian team is showing how the pair will be used in the future to revolutionize the buildings of tomorrow.

The FRAC Centre in Orléans, France will host the first ever self-constructing exhibit – a simple, yet charming 6 meters tall tower comprised of 1,500 prefabricated polystyrene foam modules, put together by clock-work precise flying drones. The project was started by Swiss architecture firm Gramazio & Kohler and Italian robot designer Raffaello D’Andrea, with the purpose of inspiring new methods of thinking about architecture as a “physical process of dynamic formation.”

Flying bots

Flying bots

A slew of programmed quadrocopters will interact, lift, transport and assemble the final tower, set to be at a height of 6 meters (19.7 feet) and a diameter of 3.5 meters (11.5 feet). At one particular moment, the set-up will be able to handle 50 flying robots, all tracked simultaneously at a rate of 370 frames per second.

Flying bots

Flying bots

Flying bots

Each quadrocopter is masterfully fitted with control technology, which allows is to perform most of its automated flights and operations, besides allowing for manual control from a wireless panel. D’Andrea has also taken into account the genuine possibility of mid-air collision between the flying assembly bots, so a safety management solution was employed which automagically takes over and avoids any mishap.

The Flight Assembled Architecture exhibition will be on display at the FRAC Centre from December 2 through to February 19, 2012. So if you happen to be in Orleans during that time frame, don’t miss this.


Huge sustainable plan in the Incheon Free Economic Zone will unite North and South Korea via world’s longest bridge

OnJin-gun island will be transformed as a sustainable resort and the masterplan will eventually connect South to North Korea and the airport via the world’s longest bridge.

OnJin-gun island will be transformed as a sustainable resort and the masterplan will eventually connect South to North Korea and the airport via the world’s longest bridge.

The leading architectural firm Foster + Partners has recently won an international competition in which companies where supposed to come up with schemes towards developing the Incheon Free Economic Zone. Foster’s plan, the winning plan, is incredibly bold, encompassing the islands of KangHwa and OnJin-gun, to the north west of Seoul, basically connecting the the two feuding countries together. A huge project, billions of dollars and a fine stretch of land separating the two totally different countries. North and South, communism and capitalism – one bridge to fill the gap.

Oh, and it’s a pretty freakin’ long too! The longest in the world according to Foster’s press release and initial, very calculated, assessments. What really seems interesting though is the whole scale of the project, which will entirely revolve on the concept of total self-sustainability. The 300 square-kilometre masterplan will extend organically from a central transportation spine, creating a centre for green industry and serving a population that is expected to grow from 35,000 to 320,000 residents and commuters.

There will be three main sites within the free trade zone of Incheon: the north of Kanghwa will be a centre of inter-korean economic cooperation, taking advantage of its strategic location close to Incheon airport and North korea, while the south of the island will be mixed-use, combining green technology industry with community, cultural and residential buildings.

When the project will be complete, the Incheon area will become the leading national, and quite possibly south-east Asian, landmark for the sustainability industry, manufacturing photovoltaic panels and wind turbines, and developing new products and technology within a new research and development institute in the south of KangHwa. State-of-the-art measures employed within the masterplan include biomass energy generation, the use of hydrogen fuel cells and hydroponic roofs. OnJin-gun island will be transformed as a sustainable resort and the masterplan will eventually connect South to North Korea and the airport via the world’s longest bridge.

The slick design mixes modern minimalist architecture with the local oriental one, dashed with sweet green living design traits.

The slick design mixes modern minimalist architecture with the local oriental one, dashed with sweet green living design traits.

From a design point of view, like we can plainly see from the 3D modeled photos, it all looks amazing! The center theme for the Incheon project is agriculture and green living, taking inspiration from the current situation of the area, the Incheon landstrip being a monstly rural, rugged area. Foster wants to preserve this by incorporating existing elements such as irrigation channels, green spaces and roads, while the arrangement of buildings within the masterplan follows the natural topology of the site, incorporating green roofs to further harmonise with the landscape. Like the veins of a leaf, the smaller roads and pedestrian avenues extend from the central transportation spine.  There will be no structure above 50 metres, so the scheme will not extend into the foothills or mountain, thus preserving the rural landscape.

“Working at a very strategic level, we saw the masterplan as an opportunity to explore the sustainable potential of this extraordinary island, exploiting its pivotal position close to Seoul and its rugged landscape. We are delighted that the judges share our vision and, along with our collaborators at A+U, PHA and MIC, we hope to develop the project into the next stage,” said Grant Brooker, a design director at Foster + Partners.

This massive scheme layed out by Foster and Partners will require a slated 10-15 years worth of developing time. The whole thing looks superb though, and I, personally, am dying to learn more about it. A few more pics bellow.



via Foster + Partners [pics via Design Boom]