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Algorithmic Art: Dynamic Display ‘Paints’ Surreal Scenes & Melting Cityscapes

17 February, 2018 - 20:00
[ By WebUrbanist in Art & Drawing & Digital. ]

Abstracting views of the city, this huge installation uses computer algorithms to deform local everyday footage on a massive 14-by-23-foot display canvas.

Ordinary wall art can get old, especially when one passes it every day. In this case, hours of film can become thousands of unique compositions, slowly deconstructed into impressionist-worthy pieces on the screen.

ESI Design developed this trippy solution for the lobby of 515 North State Street in Chicago, a structure design by Pritzker Prize–winning Japanese architect Kenzo Tange built back in the 1990s.

As a contextual work,  it features shots of the Chicago River, city trains and waterfront amusements, all devolving dynamically. The designers created the logic and intent, but don’t actually shape the outcomes — this is done programmatically.

“Custom software analyzes each video for moving objects, so moments like a person walking, or a car driving become the ‘brushstrokes’ that slowly create each abstraction. As each video collides with the next, new compositions unfold in real time, literally creating thousands of possibilities.”

Meanwhile, the “display itself uses LED modules that are covered with a layer of vinyl diffusion, removing the harsh digital glare of bare diodes and giving the imagery a soft material quality instead. The entire display is framed with a painted metal molding, with the intention of referencing traditional canvas paintings.” Except even more so than paintings in galleries, each experience of this work is one-of-a-kind.

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[ By WebUrbanist in Art & Drawing & Digital. ]

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The Empire Has Collapsed: Miniature Scenes Illustrate the Post-Apocalypse

16 February, 2018 - 20:00
[ By SA Rogers in Art & Sculpture & Craft. ]

Nature begins to take back New York City after all the humans are gone in this series of artfully photographed post-apocalypse miniatures. A collaboration between artists Lori Nix and Kathleen Gerber, ‘Empire’ is the duo’s second series on this theme, the first focusing on interiors while the latest depicts exterior scenes. Living in New York provides all the inspiration the artists need, particularly subway rides between Brooklyn and Manhattan, and all of the architectural detail that can be appreciated if you just look up.

Nix is the architect of these tiny structures, while Gerber is the sculptor. The work is labor-intensive, with a single diorama taking anywhere from three to fifteen months to complete. They start each piece in their apartment, and then move to the outside studio when it’s close to being finished to set it up for documentation. The lighting and the tiny details are what give each one its realistic edge.

The materials used include basswood, extruded foam sheets, acrylic, polymer clay and epoxy. The most challenging aspect of the work is making those materials look like something else – for instance, turning a tiny piece of foam and wood into a leather and steel office chair.

“I don’t really have a death wish, it just seems that way,” says Nix. “For the last eight years my photographs have highlighted a fictional urban landscape ‘after’. An aquarium after a flood, a church after a fire, a beauty parlor after…who knows what. Mankind is gone and what remains are vacant fragments of buildings, a few slowly being reclaimed by nature.”

“‘The City’ imagines what New York City and Brooklyn would look like if suddenly mankind had disappeared. The exact cause for the desertion is left vague. Was it a natural disaster, a virus, global warming, war? A few images hint at the destructive history of the space – a library dome crushed by a tornado or a subway car filled with sand. To me, imagining something so globally catastrophic is both chilling and exciting. I often wonder about my own survival instincts when pondering an emptying city.”

Empire, on the other hand, “presents a world transformed by climate uncertainty and a shifting social order as it stumbles towards a new kind of frontier. These places are eerily beautiful but also unsettling in their stillness and silence. Long ago, man entered the landscape and forced nature to his will. Once grand and emblematic of strength and prosperity, these landscapes now appear abused and in decay, and it is uncertain how they will continue to (d)evolve.”

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[ By SA Rogers in Art & Sculpture & Craft. ]

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Architecture with a Twist: Installation Artist Knots Columns & Flips Facades

15 February, 2018 - 20:00
[ By WebUrbanist in Art & Installation & Sound. ]

In his latest work dubbed Birth, Death and Midlife Crisis, artist Alex Chinneck is back at it again, exploring the limits of seemingly solid structures (and observer imaginations). This latest work in Germany deforms a structural column, calling its conventional neighbors into question. “The columns are the prominent feature in the 450-year-old museum and this intervention took an opportunity to defy logic and distort history.”

A lot of the artist’s other work operates along similar lines, undermining our expectations for physics, engineering and built environments. “I like to give fluidity to typically inflexible things,” he explains, “transcending their material nature.” This approach can range from pealing up pavement like a giant carpet to breaking windows in an impossibly precise fashion on an abandoned building.

The idea, in part, is to achieve these effects seamlessly. In the case of his latest piece, he says: “I wanted to create the impression that we had only changed what was already physically present in the museum and the work was born through the manipulation, rather than introduction, of material. With this approach, the objective was to produce something sculpturally bold but contextually sensitive.”

Aiming to go even larger with Onward & Upward, his next plan is to install a series of tall brick chimneys in the UK, each built from 20,000 custom bricks and likewise featuring knots in the middle. For now, the above looks like an impossible rendering, but soon it will be a uniquely bizarre architectural reality.

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[ By WebUrbanist in Art & Installation & Sound. ]

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FELIXX + CITYFÖRSTER win New District Freiburg / Dietenbach competition

15 February, 2018 - 07:00


The team of CITYFÖRSTER architecture + urbanism and FELIXX Landscape Architects & Planners, supported by freiwurf LA and R+T Traffic Planning, is selected for the development of Dietenbach, a new urban district of Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany. This new district – currently one of the biggest urban developments in Germany – is located at the edge of the city center, covering an area of 100ha, supposed to house up to 14.000 inhabitants in 5.500 new dwellings.

Out of 28 high-profile international teams, 4 teams are selected and commissioned to elaborate their plans. The other selected teams are Studio Wessendorf with Atelier Loidl Landschaftsarchitekten, K9 Architekten with Latz + Partners, Hosoya Schaefer Architects with Agence Ter.

Freiburg consists out of a collection well-defined districts with a distinct identity. Many of them are surrounded and separated from each other by linear landscape structures, such as the Dreisam River or major infrastructure routes. The proposal of CITYFÖRSTER + FELIXX aims to reverse this principle in Dietenbach. Instead of adding a new independent piece of a city surrounded by green spaces, the landscape structure is pulled right through the heart of the new district. This creates various small, diverse neighborhoods, organized by powerful green corridors. Together with a new tram line and excellent bike and pedestrian routes, the green lifelines connect Dietenbach to the surrounding quarters and the center of Freiburg.

The new urban district should not be understood as a residential settlement at the outskirts of the city, but as an interconnected urban district. Therefore the plan of CITYFÖRSTER + FELIXX builds on an ambitious integrating spatial system, to create a spectacular variety of urban conditions: high and low density areas, mixed-use city blocks and landscape related housing areas, vivid mix of housing types and apartment sizes, a miniature river delta, a compacted agriculture corridor, a lush yet monumental boulevard, a collection of distinctive district squares, interconnected slow traffic networks and an integrated school campus providing shared sport- and play facilities. Condensed and superimposed, all these structures create a lively urban district. A diversity of relations between built and outdoor program generate an enormous variety of environments to live, work and recreate. Dietenbach gets very pronounced character, while deliberately integrating itself into the overall urban structure of Freiburg.

Urban design competition for the new urban district of Freiburg/Dietenbach

Location | Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany
Client | City of Freiburg im Breisgau
Status | won tender; in progress
Team | Cityförster architecture + urban design, felixx landscape architects & planners, R + T engineers Traffic planner, IMG+ visualizers

Images © Felixx/Cityförster/IMG+

The post FELIXX + CITYFÖRSTER win New District Freiburg / Dietenbach competition appeared first on World Landscape Architecture.

Graffiti Artists Awarded $6.7 Million from Landlord Who Destroyed Their Work

15 February, 2018 - 04:00
[ By SA Rogers in Art & Street Art & Graffiti. ]

Prior to 2013, a warehouse in Queens known as 5Pointz was a graffiti mecca packed with murals and other work by hundreds of artists, many of whom rented space inside the building. That is, until owner Gerald Wolkoff suddenly and without warning whitewashed the entire facade under a messy coat of paint. Wolkoff had been planning to tear the building down for a while, and the artists were in the process of trying to stop him under the Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA), which protects “works of recognized stature.”

5pointz

@ 5pointz

Jake Thomashow

The court had no time to make a decision before Wolkoff’s drastic action, and a showcase of graffiti art was instantly destroyed. Perhaps Wolkoff wasn’t expecting the judge to deem the graffiti of ‘sufficient stature’ to protect, much less grant a significant monetary value, but clearly he was wrong. In November 2017, a jury ruled in favor of the artists, and this week, a federal judge in Brooklyn delivered the final blow: Wolkoff, a real estate developer, owes 21 artists a combined $6.7 million.

5 Pointz Art

5Pointz

5 pointz

“Rathe than wait for the court’s opinion, Wolkoff destroyed almost all of the plaintiff’s paintings by whitewashing them during that eight-day interim,” said Judge Frederic Block in his 100-page decision. “The sloppy, half-hearted nature of the whitewashing left the works easily visible under thin layers of cheap, white paint, reminding the plaintiffs on a daily basis what had happened.”

When the Skies Came Out

5 Pointz Art

X Men

Trash or Treasure?

“Since 5Pointz was a prominent tourist attraction the public would undoubtedly have thronged to say its goodbyes during those ten months and gaze at the formidable works of aerosol art for the last time. It would have been a wonderful tribute for the artists that they richly deserved.”

Top image: iamNigelMorris/Flickr Creative Commons

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It’s in the Bag: 13 Ultra-Functional Backpacks for Busy Urban Lifestyles

14 February, 2018 - 20:00
[ By SA Rogers in Design & Products & Packaging. ]

A bag is definitely not just a bag when you’re commuting in all weather conditions, biking to work, carrying a lot of expensive gear and trying to look professional and stay organized all the while. These next-level backpacks, tote bags, duffels and briefcases are full of all kinds of cool features, like built-in solar chargers, bike safety lights, crash sensors, theft-proof locks, access from virtually any angle, extra durable materials and every manner of pocket, compartment and gear tie-down you can possibly imagine.

Aster: The World’s Safest Commute Backpack

Aiming to improve visibility, reduce accidents and save lives, the Aster commuter backpack features rear, front and profile lights as well as automatic brake lights and integrated turn signals. Not only will drivers in vehicles see you from all angles, you’re less likely to end up with a door in your face, too. The backpack includes a USB-rechargeable built-in battery that powers the lights for 10-15 hours of commute time. It ships with an app called Lumos Aster for additional functionality like low battery alerts and anti-theft protection features. A crash sensor inside the bag will alert your emergency contacts if something happens to you. Plus, it’s got a helmet holder, lock strap, whistle buckle, bottle pockets, shoe compartment and a rain cover. The bag opens completely so you can grab whatever you need without pulling everything else out.

SlingFin Honey Badger Backpack and Bicycle Pannier

Wear it as a backpack or a bicycle pannier. The SlingFin Honey Badger backpack is as tough as its name suggests with a semi-rigid external skeleton made of recyclable high density polyethylene that helps carry weight more comfortably than a fabric bag. The back and straps are made of padded mesh for airflow between the wearer and the pack, and the lid is magnetic. Throw an LED light or even your phone with the flashlight on inside, and it dramatically increases your visibility at night. It comes with a 25-liter dry bag that can be used to protect your belongings inside, or alone as an ultralight pack. The exterior is as customizable as you want it to be – you can draw right on it.

12L Cargo Motorcycle Tail Bag

If you get around on a motorcycle, you need tough waterproof gear that won’t bulk up your silhouette. The 12L Cargo Tail Bag by Shaun Lee is great for both everyday use and overnight trips, compressing down to a packable size that sits low on your seat.IT’s made of waxed canvas and metal attachment hardware with a waterproof zipper, hidden pockets and a removable cargo net for outerwear and water bottles. When it’s empty, it rolls down to a quarter of its size secured with clips. Attachment straps secure the bag to your bike without a specialized rack system.

The NOMATIC Travel Bag

Designed for a 3-7 day trip, the NOMATIC combines the best features from a backpack, duffel bag and luggage in the bid to be “the most functional travel bag ever.” It fits a whole lot more than you’d imagine, especially since it comes with a vacuum compression bag for your clothes. Other features include a laundry bag, shoe compartments, an RFID safe pocket, laptop and tablet slots, water bottle pocket, roller bag sleeve, TSA-approved lock, built-in cord management, a valuables pocket, notebook pocket, easy access pocket for boarding passes and other essentials, and more. It’s also water resistant, and meets carry-on size requirements.

The Everyday Backpack, Tote and Sling

The ‘Everyday’ set by Peak Design includes a backpack, tote bag and sling packed full of features that will please both professional photographers picky about their camera bags and everyday users. Available in 20L and 30L sizes, the backpack includes easy-access side zippers, a dedicated laptop sleeve, subdivided interior side pockets, outer side pockets, built-in expansion and lots of straps for bulky items like tripods. The tote has similar pockets and external carry abilities as well as dual side access and a flex-fold interior divider system. Need something even smaller? The Everyday Sling is super compact, but has many of the same features as the other two bags.

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[ By SA Rogers in Design & Products & Packaging. ]

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From Chaos to Creative Compositions: The Anamorphic Art of Bernard Pras

13 February, 2018 - 04:00
[ By SA Rogers in Art & Sculpture & Craft. ]

It takes a special kind of creative brain to sort a pile of random junk into an anamorphic arrangement that looks like complete chaos from most angles, but comes together into a work of art from the right perspective. These compositions are like visual puzzles, requiring the artist to select objects of just the right size, shape and color and place them very precisely within a three-dimensional space to get the right result. French artist Bernard Pras has mastered this unusual medium, creating found object installations that morph from messes to masterpieces.

View post on imgur.com

A painter, sculptor and photographer, Pras has spent twenty years refining his methods. He starts each project with a sketch, and then builds the outline in three dimensional space. His ability to intuitively choose which objects to place in the frame comes from all those years of practice, he says, making it almost subconscious.

“I consider that my painting work became the current form of my work,” he says in an interview with Age of Artists. “I see it as a logical development of what I was doing in painting. It is an evolution and not a change. It was a reflection and a process that brought me to it naturally. Around thirty years old, I had an insight of what I wanted to do in regard of what I was painting. I realized that what I was interested in was nearly what I was doing between two paintings. This empty space, this kind of area… This mysterious link that ties together different paintings I painted consecutively. So I looked for a way to express that in a single element. It took me around twenty years to succeed roughly in what I was looking for.”

View post on imgur.com

Pras’ most recent work includes portraits of pop culture icons like Andy Warhol, Bob Marley, Salvador Dali, Vincent Van Gogh, Albert Einstein and many more.

You could easily spend hours gazing at each work, identifying all the little bits and pieces that make up a portrait subject’s facial features, hair, body and clothing – and they’re often tailored to the subject’s identity. For example, a portrait of David Bowie heavily features miniature musical instruments. These installations would be really fun to see in person.

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[ By SA Rogers in Art & Sculpture & Craft. ]

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Raised in a Barn & Proud: 15 Farm Buildings Converted to Modern Homes

12 February, 2018 - 20:00
[ By SA Rogers in Architecture & Houses & Residential. ]

They could be so dilapidated they’re practically ruins, but old barns have both historical value and rural charm, and when architects dramatically rescue them, they become incredible modern homes, offices, galleries and artist studios. Even an old potato barn, or goat barn, or teeny-tiny barn, or ugly barn that got an unfortunate 1980s makeover. Not buying it? Check out these amazing barn conversions. There’s even a legit party barn!

Converted Barn in Lormes, France by Frank Minnaërt

Architect Frank Minnaërt was tasked by a Parisian couple to turn an old stone barn in Lormes, France into a country home. In addition to a dramatic new concrete-framed glass entrance, the architect transformed the interiors with rustic yet graphic and dynamic timber elements, including slatted storage and a staircase that doubles as a ramp.

Haus P by Gangoly & Kristine Architekten

An old traditional wooden barn in the mountainous landscape of southern Austria becomes a light-filled contemporary home in this renovation by Gangoly & Kristine Architekten. Many of the exterior wooden beams formerly making up the walls of the structure have been removed, leaving behind a screen-like envelope protecting large expanses of glass. Inside, the home retains its barn typology in some areas, like the bathroom, while feeling like a completely different sort of structure in others.

Party Barn Rescued from Collapse by Liddicoat & Goldhill

Who wouldn’t want a party barn? This 18th century structure in Kent, England was almost completely done for when architects Liddicoat & Goldhill were approached by a fashion designer and digital designer couple to give it new life. They wanted it to be equal parts home and gallery, with the artifacts they’ve collected integrated throughout. Two huge rotating windows replace the barn doors to open the interiors to the outside, and they can be covered by a bifold door that becomes an awning. A skylight runs along the pinnacle of the roof. Inside, a spiraling metal staircase wraps around a columnar fireplace chimney.

A Barn in the Countryside by Kwint Architecten

An existing vernacular structure on a farm south of Eelde in the Netherlands becomes a striking wood and glass home as Kwint Architecten transforms it into ‘A Barn in the Countryside.’ The horizontal wooden blinds make it easy to ventilate the new home while also shading it and framing views of the surroundings.

Old Belchers Farm in Oxford by Studio Seilern Architects

A 17th century farmhouse and its outbuildings making up ‘Old Belchers Farm’ in Oxford, England has become a contemporary art gallery that help support the upkeep of the protected historical property. Studio Seilern Architects created exhibition space, offices and a dining room wrapping around a hidden central library containing four secret doors that allow entrance to the surrounding spaces through the bookshelves.

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Creature Comforts: 12 More Animal-Shaped Buildings

11 February, 2018 - 20:00
[ By Steve in Architecture & Cities & Urbanism. ]

See the creature, be the creature… live in the creature? These animal-shaped buildings take the concept of surreal estate to a newer, wetter-nosed level.

Whose necks? Youse necks! The Giraffe Childcare Center in southwestern Paris’ Boulogne-Billancourt district certainly stands out amongst the French capital’s classic architecture.

Then again, the design by Paris-based Hondelatte Laporte Architects would probably stand out just about anywhere.

The giant yellow giraffe appears to provide support to the building’s cantilevered roof while creating visual interest for students and staff who pass by its tree-trunk-sized legs as they come and go. Flickr member Inter- snapped the shots above in the summer of 2013.

See Food

Café Fish (also known as the Fish Dance Restaurant) in Kobe, Japan was designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry and was built in the late 1980s.

Located in Kobe’s gritty docklands district, the four-story-tall sculpture sits cheek-by-jowl (do fish have jowls?) with the actual restaurant, so don’t expect to dine Jonah-style. Flickr member Jacome (jacomejp) captured the metal-scaled eatery in November of 2013.

World’s Coilest Tower

Who knew Thailand had kaiju too? The coral-hued Wat Samphran Dragon Temple near Bangkok towers 16 stories into the sky.

The dragon is hollow and features an internal stairway. Flick member Serg Brandys visited the temple complex in late 2014.

Terrapin Stationary

The Kura Kura Ocean Park on Kartini Beach in Jepara, Indonesia opened in February of 2011. The park combines the attractions of a water park with those of an educational aquarium.

The main building is cast in the shape of an enormous sea turtle (“kura-kura” in the Bahasa Indonesia language) and is divided into two floors. Flickr member Diza Abdulloh (Diza5) visited the park in April of 2016.

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[ By Steve in Architecture & Cities & Urbanism. ]

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Link Rot: ‘Social Decay’ Renders Tech Media Giants as Urban Abandonments

10 February, 2018 - 20:00
[ By WebUrbanist in Abandoned Places & Architecture. ]

Physical businesses that fall on hard times often leave signs in the built environment, like the distinctive facades of deserted or adapted Pizza Huts, but what might social media sites look like in a post-apocalyptic, non-digital world?

For that matter, many giants, from Yahoo! to MySpace, have already crumbled and been replaced. But in this series, graphic artist Andrei Lacatusu imagines the still-strong and thriving leaders of the pack in a future state of disrepair.

Like abandoned offices, retail stores, gas stations or movie theaters, signs for Google, Instagram, Facebook, Tinder, Twitter and Pinterest are seen withered, cracked and eroded by the elements over time. 404 Error: Business Not Found.

The result looks like gloomy snapshots of a ghost town with boarded-up storefronts and rusted-out metal security doors. And the details are quite convincing, with faded paint, chipped light-up signs and missing signage lettering.

This photo-realistic ‘Social Decay’ series was created with a combination of Adobe Photoshop and 3D rendering programs, Autodesk 3DS Max and V-Ray.

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[ By WebUrbanist in Abandoned Places & Architecture. ]

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Could the Useless Gas Stations of the Future be Used as Gyms Instead?

8 February, 2018 - 04:00
[ By SA Rogers in Architecture & Cities & Urbanism. ]

The electric vehicle revolution is accelerating faster than anyone expected, with many experts predicting at least 100 million electric cars hitting the roads by 2035 – making up 85% of new car sales. That’s less than two decades away. Cheaper battery costs are set to make these cars far more affordable for the average person, so before long, they’ll be a lot more enticing to consumers than gas guzzlers that cost much more to run. That, of course, could leave us with a whole lot of empty gas stations. There are currently about 150,000 of them in the U.S., a decline from the 1994 peak of 200,000.

Within the blink of an eye, gas stations are going to seem as quaint and outdated as soda fountains and VCRs, more curiosities than anything else. But that doesn’t mean we have to knock them all down. Many of the buildings could be reused almost as-is, and research firm Gensler has teamed up with Reebok to envision what that might look like. Their ‘Get Pumped’ partnership repurposes the gas stations of the year 2030 as community fitness hubs, giving them green roofs, walking paths and workout equipment.

First of all, they explain, gas stations are usually centrally located, and the ones located alongside major highways could become dual electric car charging stations and gyms. Reebok calls them “the power grid of the future.” Some are set up as networks surrounding highway interchanges where multiple stations are usually located. ‘The Oasis’ transforms a larger station into a nutrition center with juice bars, farm-to-table restaurants, yoga and meditation. At ‘The Community Center,’ smaller local gas stations become hubs for car charging, nutrition classes, an auto repair shop, a minimart and popup workout centers run out of trucks.

“Reebok believes that we’re always training to be our best,” says Austin Malleolo, head of Reebok fitness facilities. “This design work with Gensler allows us to imagine a future where there is zero barrier to entry for an opportunity to work out and be healthy. Consumers may not need gas stations anymore, but instead of wasting them, we’re recycling them, and maximizing the space so that they become places of community.”

“We envision our cities of the future to have a network of fitness oases between home and work where you could stop and recharge more than just your car. Imagine an option to leave the traffic jam to unwind with yoga, get your Crossfit Fix, or pick up a green juice and your weekly farm share all in one place!” said Alfred Byun, designer at Gensler.

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A Guide To Smart Home Automation In 2018

7 February, 2018 - 22:57

As 2018 gets into gear, many are predicting that this year the smart home revolution will enter the stratosphere. Domestic automation has never been more advanced or more affordable, so what are some of the devices and systems that are set to define the next 12 months?

The Hubs To Watch

Fashion Swatch

Back when Apple first introduced Siri with the iPhone 4S in 2011, the idea of talking aloud to a voice-controlled virtual assistant seemed faintly preposterous. Cut to seven years later and people are much more at home with the concept, not least because the rise of smart speakers and hubs has helped to eliminate a lot of these inhibitions.

By far the most prominent product range in this niche at the moment is offered by online shopping stalwart Amazon. The Echo family of smart speakers, including the full sized model, the more compact Echo Dot and the touchscreen-toting Echo Show, have brought Alexa into millions of homes worldwide. And in doing so, expectations about what smart home hubs should offer have skyrocketed.

From allowing users to order their groceries and play tracks from Spotify to integrating controls with home cinema systems and a slew of other connected tech, Echo in combination with Alexa is giving the masses a glimpse of a smarter future. Amazon’s solution is by no means perfect, but it has the benefit of a huge public profile that could help it to steamroll the competition.

Discerning fans of home automation who are looking for a hub that goes a little deeper and leans towards the premium end of the price scale will probably turn to the Wink Hub 2 in their droves this year. It lacks the brand recognition of the Echo range, but packs a huge list of features and impressive compatibility capabilities, allowing it to work with everything from the smart light bulbs sold by Philips to the voice-controlled Home speaker championed by search giant Google.

Critics have raved not only about the Wink Hub 2’s excellence when it comes to interoperability with other devices, but also its consistency. While some hubs might suffer glitches and ticks, this is solid as a rock and the gold standard for unobtrusive operation. Furthermore its sleek looks lend themselves to being displayed in contemporary living spaces.

The Cameras to Consider

Cameras to Consider

A big part of the growing interest in smart automation has been driven by the superior security and surveillance capabilities that homeowners can access without having to splash out vast sums on complex, wired CCTV setups. Being able to monitor a property remotely via a smartphone is another asset offered by modern devices. But the upcoming crop of cameras kicks things up a notch.

Netgear is arguably ahead of the pack with its Arlo range, encompassing outdoor cameras that are built with smart home functionality in mind. The Arlo Pro 2 is the current flagship, and this is reflected in its fairly steep price point. But with a beautiful design ethos, 1080p video capture, cloud storage and compatibility with Amazon’s Alexa for streamlined voice control, it goes a long way to justifying this.

The less wallet-punishing options around today include the Secure Lynx Indoor from Tend Insights. The brand name may not carry much weight, but it more than makes up for it with its wealth of baked-in features. Impressive after-dark performance means that it is great for overnight in-home surveillance, while its extremely compact form factor makes it easy to install almost anywhere without being intrusive or unsightly.

For those who have already started out on their smart home journey by committing to the systems offered by Nest, the firm’s latest Cam IQ Outdoor may be at the top of the wish list this year. It can record video at full 4K resolutions and goes above and beyond the call of duty in terms of both security and convenience by having the ability to distinguish between humans and wildlife. This means that it is less likely to alert owners unnecessarily if the only thing intruding on their property is next door’s tabby cat.

The Quirky Outliers

Amazon Alexa

Smart home tech makes sense to most people when it comes to things like controlling the heating, providing access to entertainment and delivering remotely accessible surveillance. But as the Internet of Things continues to expand, there are some new devices on the horizon which you might not expect will be joining its ranks.

The Precision Cooker from Avona is amongst the most intriguing of these outliers, with its latest iteration offering built-in Wi-Fi connectivity so that it can be monitored and managed wherever you happen to be. Whether you are in the other room or on the other side of town, this immersion circulator lets you rustle up some succulent grub using your smartphone to check on its progress. Its boil-in-the-bag approach might not be for everyone, but its futuristic design is hard to ignore.

Even fitness is finding its way into the smart home scene, with the new QardioBase 2 connected scale system able to collect a vast amount of data on a user’s body, letting them keep tabs on their progress through a mobile app.

More than anything the QardioBase 2 manages to get its aesthetics right. It is slim, circular and subtle, seeming to float above the floor and almost begging to be left on display to be used daily, rather than tossed in a cupboard and neglected. It is just another example of how home automation is making life easier while keeping us safer and healthier in one fell swoop.

 

Hamlet Writ Large: 100 Huge Fiberglass Skulls Haunt Melbourne Museum

6 February, 2018 - 20:00
[ By WebUrbanist in Art & Sculpture & Craft. ]

A curious curatorial decision marked the inaugural National Gallery of Victoria Triennel, featuring 100 artists from 32 countries, including an installation of 100 massive skulls (note: not those of the participating artists).

Amidst other artists, designers, technologists, animators and architects, Australian sculptor Ron Mueck’s largest ever work to date still stands out, providing a chilling ambient atmosphere for more conventional museum pieces.

Titled Mass, it represents “a somber study of mortality, and an extension of [the artist’s] hyperrealistic sculptural practice, [drawing] from the biological structure of the skull, regarded by him as extraordinary facets of humanity.”

Made of fiberglass and resin, the skulls are around three feet (or: one meter) tall, but many are piled up on top of one another, reaching toward gallery ceilings above.

This exhibition in Melbourne is free and open to the public and will continue through late April — images by Tom Ross and Sean Fennessey.

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Brutalist Style Lightens Up with Lots of Glass at Japan’s Oriel Window House

6 February, 2018 - 04:00
[ By SA Rogers in Architecture & Houses & Residential. ]

Brutalist buildings are known for their heft, often described as ‘monstrosities,’ demonized for their apparently intrinsic inability to relate to us on a human scale. They’re blocky and oversized, nearly always made of concrete, and almost mythical in their iconic simplicity whether you love them or hate them. The Oriel Window House in Yokohama, Japan might be described in those terms if not for a simple deviation from the norm: layers of glass that look lighter than air interspersed between the heavy concrete floors.

From outside, what you see is what appears to be a solid concrete core punctuated by three belts of glass: a narrow one on top, a wider one in the middle, and another narrow one at the bottom. This glass wraps around the sides of the building, creating transparent enclosed verandas that completely change the character of the building, inside and out.

Step inside and you’ll find that the building isn’t nearly as solid as it looks. A cutout stretching from the first floor to the third creates a sort of atrium around which the various levels are organized, so inhabitants can benefit from all three glassy light wells no matter where they are in the house. The daylight penetrates the blocky structure, giving it a surprisingly bright and airy feel.

“Besides being able to effectively utilize the space by using the bay windows as a work desk and dining bench, it also functions as an eaves, making shadows in summer and delivering sunlight to the back in winter and warming the concrete floor,” say Shinsuke Fujii Architects. “At the lower part of the bay window, small windows can be provided to obtain constant ventilation even on a rainy day. It is also used to water the flowers between bay windows.”

“In addition, the hanging walls and waist walls at the upper and lower sides of the bay window function structurally as cantilevered beams, ensuring a frameless opening for capturing outdoor environments such as cherry blossoms and autumn leaves on all floors.”

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Love Your Work: Patterned Hammerhead Leaves Heart-Shaped Impressions

5 February, 2018 - 04:00
[ By WebUrbanist in Design & Products & Packaging. ]

We all want to make a good first impression then leave a mark when we’re done, particularly when it comes to a labor of love, and what better way than with this custom-designed hammer?

This device turned an off-the-shelf hammer into a lovely gift for that special someone by “using the industrial mold-making technique of electro-erosion (EDM),” explains its creator, Dog Ganchrov (images by Moti Fishbain).

The “steel hammering head has been reshaped into a heart, and the hammer has been transformed into a tool for leaving a mark” when you’re hard (or heart?) at work.

“Anything struck by it will now have a signature ‘heart’ shape indented on it,” he explains, “be it a tree, wall or hood of an ex-lovers car. The hammer is a tool for constructing but it can also destroy.”

And anyone who has worked with a hammer knows that even the best and most experienced folks can mess up from time to time, missing the mark or slipping off the head of a nail — but it usually just leaves a semi-circle.

This so-called Love/Hate Thing evolved from the idle musings of its maker: “Is the urge to leave a mark a curse or blessing? How much of a mark? How much of [our] selves? How much of a mark on the ecological system, cultural trend, design students, human well-being?” It is on display at the Periscope Gallery in Tel-Aviv.

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Going In Style: Cute Creative Public Restrooms Of Okinawa

4 February, 2018 - 20:00
[ By Steve in Architecture & Public & Institutional. ]

We all want to be smiling when we go but if you’re “going” at one of Okinawa, Japan’s cute and creative public restrooms, grinning comes with the territory.

Flickr member Okinawa Soba (Rob) has a thing for public restrooms – not that there’s anything wrong with that – and he also has a camera. The combination is unexpectedly serendipitous, though the photographer deserves full credit for employing the latter with great discretion when exploring the former.

Based in Okinawa, a southern Japanese island prefecture rich in culture, history and tragedy, the photographer snapped most of his posted public restroom shots over the past decade. Take the so-called “Tangerine Toilet”, photographed in late 2015 and located in the mountain village of Izumi. Some say the restroom is modeled after a pumpkin but unlike our familiar Halloween jack o’lantern squash, Japanese “kabocha” pumpkins are only orange on the inside.

Angler of the Dangler

That’s NOT water under the bridge – it just sounds like it. This decidedly fishy public toilet is located in Nago, a city of just over 60,000 in northern Okinawa. Like many of the island’s mimetic public restrooms, this koi-shaped toilet appears rather sun-faded and soot-streaked, indicating appreciable age. Like most of Japan’s public restrooms in general, however, it’s well-maintained and surprisingly clean on the inside.

The Write Stuff

Situated near a small park in Okinawa City, this pencil-stub-shaped public restroom reflects some of the cultural norms of the island in that the urinal is doorless while the toilet (an old-fashioned “squat” model) lies behind a stout metal door. Photographer Okinawa Soba (Rob) snapped the literary loo in April of 2015.

Smells Finny

This gorgeous public restroom located in Okinawa’s Awase district is THE place to pee, er, be if you’re in the neighborhood and hear nature’s call. Heck, we’d visit it whether nature’s calling or not! Designed with color-coded entrance ways for each gender, this bright and beautiful public toilet features both traditional and modern commodes to suit any preference.

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ORIGIN Tree House: Modern Wooden Hotel Room in a French Forest Canopy

2 February, 2018 - 20:00
[ By SA Rogers in Boutique & Art Hotels & Travel. ]

Encircling a 100-year-old oak – the tallest tree on the Château de Raray hotel property in France – the ORIGIN tree house by Atelier Lavit is envisioned as a tailored wooden ‘dress’ to make the oak stand out even more. This modern timber pod functions as a tree house hotel room, providing surprisingly spacious and comfortable lodgings accessed from a hanging bridge. Each facet of the geometric structure intersects the other, creating dynamic overlapping lines.

The effect is that of an abstracted bird’s nest – which is exactly what the architects were going for. “The design of the cabin, coupled with the construction techniques, led to a rationalization of the assembly logic of the branches collected by the birds to create their impregnable shelters,” they explain.

Measuring just under 250 square feet, the room includes a small sheltered patio from which the interiors are entered. Keep climbing the ladder set beside the tree’s trunk instead, and you’ll find yourself on the tree house’s rooftop terrace. Inside, the tree house is lined in pale wood with matching custom furniture. Guests enjoy a generously-sized bed looking out a large operable window to the branches beyond the glass. The room also includes a sitting area and a private bathroom.

 

Atelier Lavit recently took this same aesthetic in a different direction with a floating eco-hotel on a lake near Avignon, France. The series of buoyant suites on Lac de la Lionne are enveloped in criss-crossing timber slats, creating a semi-private outdoor area complete with a hot tub, while the beds inside are placed directly beneath skylights for a view of the stars.

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ORIGIN Tree House: Modern Wooden Hotel Room in a French Forest Canopy

2 February, 2018 - 20:00
[ By SA Rogers in Boutique & Art Hotels & Travel. ]

Encircling a 100-year-old oak – the tallest tree on the Château de Raray hotel property in France – the ORIGIN tree house by Atelier Lavit is envisioned as a tailored wooden ‘dress’ to make the oak stand out even more. This modern timber pod functions as a tree house hotel room, providing surprisingly spacious and comfortable lodgings accessed from a hanging bridge. Each facet of the geometric structure intersects the other, creating dynamic overlapping lines.

The effect is that of an abstracted bird’s nest – which is exactly what the architects were going for. “The design of the cabin, coupled with the construction techniques, led to a rationalization of the assembly logic of the branches collected by the birds to create their impregnable shelters,” they explain.

Measuring just under 250 square feet, the room includes a small sheltered patio from which the interiors are entered. Keep climbing the ladder set beside the tree’s trunk instead, and you’ll find yourself on the tree house’s rooftop terrace. Inside, the tree house is lined in pale wood with matching custom furniture. Guests enjoy a generously-sized bed looking out a large operable window to the branches beyond the glass. The room also includes a sitting area and a private bathroom.

 

Atelier Lavit recently took this same aesthetic in a different direction with a floating eco-hotel on a lake near Avignon, France. The series of buoyant suites on Lac de la Lionne are enveloped in criss-crossing timber slats, creating a semi-private outdoor area complete with a hot tub, while the beds inside are placed directly beneath skylights for a view of the stars.

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Jobs that Don’t Exist Yet: Art Based on World Economic Forum Predictions

1 February, 2018 - 04:00
[ By SA Rogers in Art & Drawing & Digital. ]

The automation of many of our jobs – even those that have long seemed safe – is fully inevitable at this point. One study predicts that about 38 percent of American jobs will be at high risk of automation by the early 2030s, which is not that far away. We’re asked to trust that future work could be ‘liberating,’ but considering the way corporations tend to operate, it’s not hard to see why the masses are terrified that robots will soon leave us unemployed and unable to provide for ourselves and our families.

But at the recent World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in January 2018, experts imagined the kinds of jobs that will be around – and now we have visualizations of what they could look like. In fact, those experts stated that 65% of children in school today will have jobs that don’t currently exist.

In a scene that definitely looks straight out of a sci-fi movie, a worker sits in a glass pod high over a city, overseeing a 3D printer in the midst of building a superstructure. A ‘landfill recycler’ salvages existing materials from landfills to be integrated into new products while sitting atop something that looks like a gigantic vacuum hose. On serene turquoise waters, a ‘blockchain banking engineer’ fine-tunes a floating machine that will give people in remote locations access to secure banking.

It might be a robot operating on this woman in a rural setting, but he’s got the holographic head of the real surgeon who’s carrying out the procedure from thousands of miles away. A ‘public technology ethicist’ evaluates new technology before it goes live to determine its benefits to the public. And finally, the operator of a 3D scanning machine captures entire historically significant buildings to ensure that even if they’re demolished, they’re preserved in perpetuity.

These illustrations were produced by AKQA London together with Salt and Pepper Creative Studio based on the World Economic Forum panelists’ predictions. Concept artist Florian de Gesincourt created the first sketches, and London retouching studio Happy Finish colored and perfected them. The series was produced in a mere 120 hours in the midst of the forum so attendees could see them. They’re a pretty good reminder that the future is closer than we think.

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Architects Broke a Sweat Designing These 13 Striking Gyms & Fitness Facilities

31 January, 2018 - 20:04
[ By SA Rogers in Architecture & Offices & Commercial. ]

Your sweaty neighborhood gym has nothing on these beautifully designed fitness facilities full of multi-story climbing walls, skybridge pools, dramatic boxing rings, nightclub-style lighting and cool typographic murals. It looks like the architects and designers had as much fun dreaming up these beautiful modern fitness centers as clients get to have using them. Do yoga in a glass box overlooking Manhattan, lift heavy in a former communist monument, test your arm strength in the world’s largest bouldering gym or kickbox in a room that looks like a sci-fi movie set.

Wellness Sky in Belgrade, Serbia by 4of7

‘Wellness Sky’ is a pretty good name for a glassy triangular building cantilevered over a river and pedestrian esplanade in Belgrade. The building began as a communist monument known as the ‘Danube Flower,’ but lay abandoned throughout the 1990s during the Yugoslav wars. Today, its exterior looks much the same, but the interiors by firm 4of7 are transformed, with the backlit, faceted semi-translucent Barrisol stretched ceiling brightening up a fitness facility.

Brooklyn Boulders Coworking Space in Somerville, Massachusetts

Doesn’t this look like fun? Graffiti from local artists encourages you to find your strength at the Brooklyn Boulders facility in Somerville, Massachusetts – which is actually an unusual take on the co-working environment, seeking a balance between work and play. The facility hosts the usual work tables, but they’re a pretty minor feature compared to the 40,000-square-foot rock climbing wall that reaches all the way to the ceiling.

American Copper Gym in NYC by ShOp

What’s inside the skybridge connecting America’s tallest copper towers? A double-height fitness center with enviable views of New York City. This skybridge at SHoP’s residential towers, known as the American Copper Buildings, contains a 75-foot lap pool overlooking the East River, a climbing wall and a fitness center as well as a hot tub, bar and lounge.

The Burrow: Boxing Gym in Kuwait by Lab 100

Sabhan, Kuwait gets its first commercial boxing gym in the form of ‘The Burrow’ by Lab 100, a beautifully designed facility full of semi-private workout halls, a huge boxing room and an elevated crossfire area. “While designing the space, the key factor was in emphasizing a natural flow of movement and the element of surprise,” say the architects. “In order to reach the workout area, members have to take a narrow corridor, passing by the locker area and into the main workout hall. In contrast to the corridor, the spacious workout area embraces an elevated boxing ring in its center. The boxing ring is dramatically lit with nine pendant lights to highlight its importance in the facility.”

Rock Gym in Polur, Iran by New Wave Architecture

The striking exterior of this facility in Iran sort of looks like a rock cracked open to reveal a geode inside, a fitting aesthetic choice for a huge climbing gym with boulder-like interior walls. New Wave Architecture found inspiration in the large-scale movements and tectonic forces of the earth’s crust for the design, which also enables climbing up the exterior.

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