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Zero-Carbon, All Bamboo Sports Hall Features Organic 50-Foot Trusses

19 September, 2017 - 19:00
[ By WebUrbanist in Architecture & Public & Institutional. ]

A new sports hall in Thailand highlights the aesthetic power and physical strength of bamboo, a flexible and fast-growing natural material. In total, more carbon is captured in the bamboo than was used to treat, transport and use it for construction, rendering its carbon footprint neutral.

Located at the Panyaden International School in the Chiang Mai province, the new building was designed by Chiangmai Life Architects, a firm specializing in natural materials like bamboo and rammed earth.

The symbolic design was inspired by the lotus, an important Buddhist and Thai symbol. Its natural materials tie it to scenic surroundings while open sides allow for passive ventilation for cooling purposes.

Despite its organic appearance, the structure is engineered to resist earthquakes, high-speed winds and other forces of nature.

The complex is able to accommodate 300 students, spanning over 8,000 square feet, and is used to host games of basketball and futsal, a variation on soccer that takes place in a court. It can also be used for student gatherings and visiting speakers.

Like wood, bamboo is becoming an increasingly appealing material for architectural construction thanks to its rapid growth rate and ability to sequester carbon — the natural look and feel are a nice touch, too.

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Like a Music Festival, Minus the Dirt: Social Hostel Offers Indoor Camping

19 September, 2017 - 03:00
[ By SA Rogers in Boutique & Art Hotels & Travel. ]

If you love the sense of community at multi-day outdoor music festivals like Glastonbury, Coachella and Bonnaroo but hate the mud, dust, noise and filthy porta-potties, this hostel was designed just for you. Cao Pu Studio designed ‘Together Hostel’ as an indoor camping experience, with guests staying in translucent individual ‘tents’ under a common roof. The experience emphasizes socializing, with lots of shared interactive spaces, but provides a tad more privacy than the average hostel bunk room.

The tents are organized in groups of four or five, making the hostel ideal for small groups traveling together, or for travelers prioritizing making new connections with strangers. Each tent is equipped with power sockets, extension cords and reading lights. Each of the timber-framed structures is finished in frosted polycarbonate, which doesn’t offer total privacy, but at least gives occupants a sense of their own personal space within the larger hostel without shutting them off altogether. If you’re backpacking, you can even roll out your sleeping pad in the theater area at night instead of sleeping in a ‘tent’ for a lower rate.

There’s a food court with lots of seating, a shop, a bar, a small theater space, a kitchen, offices and plenty of private showers and restrooms in addition to the tents, which come in single or double sizes. Modular tables in the central hall fit together like puzzle pieces, creating larger or smaller surfaces depending on whether you want to sit with a big group or dine alone.

The concept capitalizes on growing trends (voluntary or not) toward living in smaller spaces and in closer quarters with others rather than spreading out in suburban-style homes. People who travel on the cheap are accustomed to giving up space and privacy in exchange for a good deal, and this design makes the experience feel cleaner and more intentional. Would you stay at the ‘Together Hostel?’

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[ By SA Rogers in Boutique & Art Hotels & Travel. ]

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Pop-Up Pavilions: 15 Playful Temporary Architecture Installations

18 September, 2017 - 20:03
[ By SA Rogers in Architecture & Cities & Urbanism. ]

Pavilions are like playgrounds for architects and designers, allowing them to show off what they can do when they really set their imaginations free. Unfettered by the typical limitations of a permanent structure, they can experiment with new materials and processes, potentially producing innovations they can apply to other structures. These pavilions are often subversive in the urban environment, too, taking over public spaces and giving them back to the people or creating micro housing that falls within grey areas of the law.

Transforming Street Cinema in Venice by Omri Revesz

Created for a V-A-C Russian contemporary art foundation exhibition at the Venice Film Festival 2017, this pop-up cinema celebrated the 100th anniversary of the start of the Soviet Revolution. The modular wooden structure is collapsible, its design inspired by the logic of Russian constructivism. Its wooden frame is on wheels set into rails so it can expand to make more space for performances, or contract to create a darker, more intimate setting.

Algae Dome in Denmark by SPACE10

IKEA’s ‘Future living lab,’ known as SPACE10, debuted its ‘Algae Dome’ in Denmark a couple weeks ago, demonstrating how we might be able to grow “the supercrop of the future.” Designed by a team of engineers, the dome-shaped structure supports a network of transparent hoses, regulating their sun exposure so algae grows in the water inside them. The dome produced 450 liters of microalgae in just three days of its demonstration, which SPACE10’s chef crafted into such foods as ‘spiraling chips.’

Super Hot Pavilion in Bucharest by Morag Myerscough

Designed for the 7th edition of the ‘Summer Well Festival’ in Bucharest, Romania by artist Morag Myerscough, the ‘Super Hot’ pavilion is envisioned as a fun and whimsical place to stage and take in performances. There’s space within the structure to hang out, dance, play or zoom down a slide.

Wave of Buckets in Mexico City by Factor Eficiencia

Hundreds of painter’s buckets are connected into a walkable structure that curls up into a wave at either end, occupying the central Alameda Park in Mexico City. Designed by Factor Eficiencia and 5468796 Architecture, the installation uses the bucket as a symbol of liberation of public spaces. In Mexico, it’s common for entrepreneurs to use buckets to block off certain areas of the city so they can aggressively charge for parking.

Urban Camouflage Pavilion in London by PUP Architects

PUP Architects wanted to disguise their pop-up, entitled ‘H-VAC,’ as ordinary rooftop mechanical equipment. Do you think they pulled it off? The designers are taking advantage of UK building legislation that makes it legal to install rooftop equipment without planning permission; they believe that if you can sufficiently disguise rooftop addition as infrastructure, thousands of new micro dwellings could be added to London and other cities. The temporary structure is clad in waterproof tetra-pak shingles and includes two rooms.

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The Key Elements of a Perfect Master Bathroom

17 September, 2017 - 09:51

It may seem beyond your reach right now, but creating the perfect master bathroom is something you can definitely have if you put your mind to it. And in fact, it only requires a few must have features to make your master bath ideal for just about everyone in your family.

Doing a beautiful master bathroom is usually done when you buy your own house and want to do something special for your family. If you are, however, undertaking this for your house you are planning to rent to another family, you may want to monitor if they are subletting it and potentially risking the remodeling you just invested in.

If you’ve been dreaming about revamping your master bathroom for a while, we’d like to tell you about a number of incredible features that we feel should make your ultimate wish list.

Hidden Storage Spaces

For some reason, we never seem to have enough storage space in our bathroom. We always need additional room to put things like towels, toilet paper, additional bars of soap, toothpaste, tooth brushes, and anything else that you might need to store in this room.

If you plan on redoing your entire bathroom, you have to consider your storage options.

And since bathrooms have definitely evolved since the days of the double vanity, there are certain things that you can add that you may have never considered.

Some fantastic options include: recessed niches, pullout shelves, and wall cubbies.

By adding them to your bathroom, you’ll have more than enough room to store everything that you could ever possibly need in your bathroom.

A Bathroom with a View

For some of you, having a bathroom with a view is unfortunately going to be a pipe dream if your neighbors live really close to you. And that’s unlucky because it’s always nice to peer out the window at a gorgeous view while leisurely soaking in the tub.

On the other hand, if you have a home with a lot of privacy, you should definitely add large bathroom windows so you can enjoy the view outside. It’s a lot more pleasant to have a great view that you can enjoy and appreciate as you look out your window in the bathroom.

How about Adding a Sauna?

Every bathroom needs a sauna, right?

Some people love to build up a great sweat. Others live in a really cold climate and could benefit from the heat on those cold winter days and nights.

The great thing about saunas is that they really aren’t even that expensive. And typically, they do not need to take up a whole lot of space.

You can put one right in your bathroom and it would be very effective.

So, if you’re afraid that it’s going to cost an arm and a leg to put a sauna in your bathroom, think again. This inexpensive option is something that just about everybody can afford.

Adding a Japanese Soaking Tub

If you are adding a bathtub to your bathroom, instead of just having a shower, we highly recommend choosing a Japanese-style soaking tub instead of a traditional full-size version.

Why do we recommend this?

It’s the ideal type of bathtub for smaller spaces, for starters, but this kind of bathtub is perfect because it allows the bather to fully submerge under the water.

These Japanese soaking tubs can help remove the stress and strain from your day as you soak in the tub and let all your worries float down the drain.

How about Live-Edge Wood?

This excellent feature is perfect for modern and rustic bathroom interiors alike. It really helps bring your bathroom to life and makes it look absolutely amazing.


When you are looking for luxury bathroom fixtures, make sure to choose the best for your bathroom, such as gorgeous bathroom accoutrements that are designed and handmade in Italy.

At the end of the day, you know better than anyone what your key elements should be for the perfect master bathroom. Please use our guidance and add features and amenities as you see fit to make your bathroom divine.


Swiss Army Bed: The Ultimate Modular & Multifunctional Furniture Design

16 September, 2017 - 19:00
[ By WebUrbanist in Design & Furniture & Decor. ]

It’s hard to imagine a more flexible and functional piece of furniture to spend a third of your life in than this one from Singapore, featuring an array of creature comforts and high-tech customizations.

USB ports and plugs tie into charging and speaker systems for lounging around with tunes and devices, while an optional massage chair can help relax the restless before sleep.

An array of benches and loungers lets users lay down or sit up in any number of positions, while a fold-out desk attachment allow for laptop use as well. Storage options include a linen-and-pillow trunk beneath the bottom-of-bed bench and a built-in safe for valuables, plus a bunch of shelves and cabinets.

Perhaps the best part: all of these features can be swapped out because the modules around the bed itself are not permanently fixed. Buyers can choose which ones they want to prioritize then surround themselves with choice luxuries accordingly.

At $500 to $1000 depending on options, materials and finishes, they are pretty reasonably priced, too, though be sure to check the measurements: they are designed for the Asian market and shorter individuals, so tall people may want to consider them inspiration rather than potential purchases.

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Cooling Cities: L.A. is Painting Streets White to Combat Heat Island Effects

14 September, 2017 - 19:00
[ By WebUrbanist in Architecture & Cities & Urbanism. ]

Thanks in part to heat-absorbing materials and colors, cities tend to be warmer than their natural surroundings, and in hot places with lots of dark roads like Los Angeles that can prove a serious public health hazard.The mayor has pledged to reduce temperatures in the city by 3 degrees over the next 20 years, in part by dealing with urban heat island effects in new and different ways.

As part of this promise to help make bring down temperatures for its millions of residents, LA is trying something that could dramatically change its urban landscape: repainting roads in white. The aim is to reflect rather than absorb heat and so far the results are extremely promising.

“We found that on average the area covered in CoolSeal is 10 degrees cooler than black asphalt on the same parking lot,” said Greg Spotts, the assistant director of the Bureau of Street Services for San Fernando Valley, an area with particularly severe heat problems.

It’s not just about open public spaces either: reducing exterior temperatures has impacts on adjacent interiors. Heat reductions outside and mean cooler spaces inside area homes and businesses. In turn, this can help residents and owners save on cooling costs. It also isn’t just a daytime problem: heat captured during the day is released into the night air, keeping things hotter around the clock.

The process doesn’t come cheap, however: each coat lasts for around seven years but prices out around $40,000 per linear mile. If it works, though, the cost could be offset in part by savings on other fronts, in addition to making for a more healthy metropolis all around. Meanwhile, other strategies are also in play — the city is looking to make roofs brighter, for instance, and bring more green into the mix. (via Inhabitat and L.A. Times, images by Greg Spotts and Giuseppe Milo).

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3D Printed Furniture?

14 September, 2017 - 13:14

3D design opens new doors for interior designing

A look at today’s interior design, specifically in the furnishings and supporting décor will show that there is a leaning to the unusual and luxurious. For designers coupling a client’s taste, personality, and budget may be a daunting task, especially if any of these elements do not correspond with another. Often, one will find that the demands of the design are either too high for the allotted budget, or simply do not exist. And here is where 3D printing can help in your furnishings.

Create Concepts

If you can draw structurally sound furnishings which do not exist in the real-world, you can pass that design off to a 3D artist to have it modeled out to scale. A good 3D artist will note that the fabrics will need to be on a separate layer and that the framework should be isolated and will produce a 3D model which reflects this. Because 3D printers can print complex shapes, the design of the furniture is mainly limited by the scope of your imagination and the size of the printing box in which the furniture will be fabricated.

Keep in mind that you will need to make the cushions and the fabric additions to the furniture post fabrication. While 3D printers have come a along way, they have not yet designed a machine to create hard interior framing and plush cushion exteriors. That being stated, chairs have been printed and had standard sized cushions added, fixtures have been designed and had electrical elements added post-fabrication as well. It really is just a matter of getting your concept into 3D and then tweaking and printing the concept out.

Quicker Staging

A room which requires specific furnishings (without cushions and fabrics) such as tables, chairs, fixtures, etc. may find that it is more expedient to use a 3D print than to search around for the specific furnishings. All that one must do for a printed staging piece of furniture is go to a 3D model site such as CGTrader, find the model of the furniture needed, ensure that it is available in a .stl or similar format and send that to your 3D printer.

Should you have your printer on site, you will find that the process can be accomplished in a matter of hours or a day rather than days or weeks. If your furnishing is layered and requires assembly, you could order the part in multiple colors and materials and have the shipped to you direct. And while you could overnight stock furnishings for your staging, this method (that being the 3D printing method) allows you to present potential clients with something they have never seen before, giving you the edge over the competition.

Supporting Elements

Perhaps the best way in which the 3D printer can help the interior designer is in the supporting elements of existing furniture. As many of the supporting elements are rather small, but many, being able to have a 3D printer constructing these elements while one’s focus is on the larger elements and necessities of the room, such as the lighting and the carpets, drapes, and artwork, maximizes the flow and design process.

Since the 3D printers can print in multiple colors and in multiple materials including metal (for the higher ended commercial grade printers), one does not need to worry about finishing on the print. A focus only needs to be made to the size of the design and to the materials to be used in the printing process. Purchasers should note that 3D printers work primarily off of CAD based designs. If purchasing your design, or if creating your own design for 3D printing, ensure that you have it in a format supported.

Is realistic?

One may wonder if the 3D printing process for furniture is an ideal or if it is an actual solution. For this I would state that one needs only to look at the progress of the 3D printer as it pertains to architecture. Full size houses are being printed within 24 hours. Steel and concrete are being fabricated using the 3D printer. Considering this, furnishings should not be an issue. When considering the 3D designer, mobile devices, tablets, and the availability of various software has opened the door for several aspiring artists to make creations and post them to 3D model sites. While not every model is to scale, there is an overabundance of furniture designs available.

Interior Design websites have shown a number of 3D furniture prints including end-tables, chairs, beds, standing light fixtures, bookshelves, etc. The information and the technology is present for the designer. The question is not whether or not 3D printing is realistic but rather is 3D printing feasible for your company’s needs. The writer would argue that any company which has substantial demand for interior design has the means and the demand for such technology.

Keep Your Home Safe with Wireless Cameras

14 September, 2017 - 07:42

It’s important to make sure that your home is secure, and that you feel secure in it. Our homes will no doubt hold many invaluable things, from possessions to pets, and security is something that should be on everyone’s minds. Whether it’s full-scale CCTV or other smaller forms of surveillance, you’d be surprised at how security cameras can ensure peace of mind and convenience as you go about your daily business.

Security cameras in your home allow you to watch over everything and keep tabs on the protection of your property. With so many uses for cameras, especially as technology continues to develop, you could benefit from installing them even if you don’t require home security.

Popular uses for security cameras

The obvious use for cameras is to catch any wrongdoing and to protect your home from theft; they allow you to see what happened, or more often they act as a deterrent for potential thieves. Allowing you to relax knowing that your home is being watched over, smart security cameras can be fitted both indoors and outdoors to watch over your property day and night, including the garage and garden areas.

Other uses for cameras in the home are to keep your eye on your pets and even children. Letting you be in two places at once, cameras can act as a second pair of eyes. The beauty of wireless cameras is that they can be placed in any room and almost any position; just don’t forget your security camera batteries to get started!

A recent use for cameras in the home is to check on carers for elderly relatives; this has proven to be popular in monitoring care.

Benefits of using wireless cameras

Having security cameras fitted in and around the house can help you to stay in control; whether you have prized possessions or you simply don’t feel confident about the area you live in. Creating a worry-free world for you and your family, wireless cameras let you be the first to know if something’s not right.

Modern security cameras will usually work through an app which you can access from your smartphone or tablet. This means you’ll be able to view a live feed, receive notification alerts and watch recordings back.

Invest in just one camera for a blind spot, or connect a series of cameras for both inside and out; it all depends on your needs. The benefit of a wireless camera is that it’s a hassle-free solution without unsightly wires or temperamental connection.

If you’d rather use camera for your business, most security cameras are now designed to be very discreet, allowing you to stop trouble in its tracks. Installing cameras can help you to run your business, or household, much more efficiently. Keeping tabs on visitors such as delivery men and even the arrival of your babysitter, security wireless cameras can prove to be incredibly helpful.

For the Love of STEM: 20+ Edible Creations Inspired by Math & Science

13 September, 2017 - 19:00
[ By SA Rogers in Art & Sculpture & Craft. ]

Science, technology, engineering and mathematics rarely get more delicious than this, illustrated and replicated in the form of solid chocolate, sugar crystals, fondant icing, pancakes and even bagels. Wouldn’t you want to take a bite out of an anatomically correct life-sized human skull, a 3D representation of kinetic movement, a Rubik’s cube, a Hubble Telescope photo or gory veterinary surgery in cake form?

Kinetic Tarts & Geometric Cakes

3D-printed molds allow pastry chef Dinara Kasko to make pies, tarts, cakes and other treats with shapes unlike anything you’ve ever seen in a dessert case before. Her latest is a collaboration with artist Jose Margulis, a series of delicious-looking cakes inspired by kinetic waves. They’re made of ingredients like almond sponge cake, yogurt mousse, mascarpone and streusel. Older works include ‘Triangulation,’ a lime-basil cake for SoGood magazine, and ‘The Bubbles,’ which take their inspiration from cells. For the latter, she explains, “I used such geometric constructing principles as triangulation, the Voronoi diagram and biomimicry.” Intrigued? You can buy silicone cake molds from her website and try to recreate these desserts at home.

Geometric Patterns Inside a Cylinder of Chocolate

Geometric patterns hidden within a solid cylinder of chocolate are slowly revealed by a blade on a mill. Studio Wieki Somers teamed up with chocolatier Rafael Mutter to create this installation for Vitra Design Museum, displayed at Art Basel in 2012 for a retrospective of dutch furniture designer and architect Gerrit Rietveld. The patterns continuously change the deeper into the cylinder you go, more complex at times and simpler at others, but always mathematical in nature.

Gory Veterinary Anatomy Cakes

This one’s for the veterinarians out there. One student at the Nottingham Veterinary School created this semi-realistic model of a canine’s superficial head muscles in cake form as part of a fundraiser; another rendered a dog testicle, while a third portrayed a leg amputation in edible form. There’s also equine surgery, and an ‘ascarid impaction colic,’ a procedure to get rid of a severe worm infestation in horses. Looks tasty, huh?

Rubik’s Cube Pastries

French pastry chef Cedric Grolet offers a unique edible spin on the Rubik’s cube in the form of 27 individual pastries. Though he’s spurned the handheld puzzle’s usual primary colors for muted pastels, the object remains recognizable in form. You can purchase one of these cakes at Le Dali, a restaurant inside the Le Meurice Hotel in Paris.

Galaxy Eclairs

Looking like something straight out of NASA’s stunning satellite imagery of space, these cosmic eclairs by Musse Confectionery in Ukraine are truly out of this world. The glaze swirls together hues of blue, purple, pink and white for results so beautiful they’d almost be hard to eat (except that they look delicious.) The chef took inspiration from Hubble Space Telescope photos, offering the eclairs in flavors like raspberry, vanilla, pistachio, salted caramel and chocolate. They’re available in the confectionery’s shop in Kiev.

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A Toddler Peers Over the US-Mexico Border Fence for JR’s Latest Installation

12 September, 2017 - 03:00
[ By SA Rogers in Drawing & Digital. ]

Set on scaffolding just across the rust-red fence marking the border between Tecate, California and Mexico, street artist JR’s latest installation is a towering statement on immigration issues in the United States. A one-year-old boy named Kikito peers over to the other side with all the innocence and naiveté of childhood, just days after the current U.S. administration announced its intention to end the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) immigration program.

The site-specific work is precisely angled to create the illusion that the child is grasping the top of the fence, looking out onto the Californian terrain. Like most of JR’s works, the 70-foot-tall image is rendered in black and white; the child is from the local community on the Mexican side of the border. Curated by Pedro Alonzo, the work asks onlookers to consider the fate of the 800,000 ‘Dreamers’ whose parents wished them a better future.

“Some people dream about fantasy worlds, I dream about walls,” JR told The New York Times in a phone interview. “I wonder, is this kid worrying about what will happen? What does he think? At one year old, you don’t see the frontier or which side is better… people will always migrate. When we built walls, people built tunnels. When we closed places, they went by water. The history of humanity is the story of people migrating.”

“For this little kid, there are no walls and borders.”

The installation will remain in place through October 2nd, and you can pinpoint its exact location at JR’s website.

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LG Goes Architecture

11 September, 2017 - 19:20
Before heading to work this morning I caught a glimpse of a commercial on TV for LG Signature. What stood out was the way the LG products – refrigerator, television, washing machine, air purifier – were positioned in front of some fairly notable, if not all widely known, works of architecture.

There's Johan Otto Von Spreckelsen's La Grande Arche in Paris:

Fumihiko Maki's Four World Trade Center in New York:

James Stirling's State University of Music and Performing Arts in Stuttgart:

And Norman Foster's 30 St. Mary Axe in London:

The commercial ends with the lines, "All great things are alike. They are built on essence." More than other spot covered in my architectural advertising posts, this commercial explicitly equates the products being sold with the architecture on display; the latter are not merely backdrops. Unfortunately, the comparisons are strictly formal, geometric; such as with the round openings of Stirling's building and the round front of the washing machine. More superficial than essential.

See for yourself in the 30-second short version:

And the one-minute long version:

A Few Steps Higher: 14 Unusually Artistic Modern Staircase Designs

11 September, 2017 - 19:00
[ By SA Rogers in Design & Fixtures & Interiors. ]

Stairs are inherently utilitarian, but some architects choose to really step up their interiors with highly sculptural designs that make you want to walk up and down a bunch of times. Cantilevered creations, floating stairs, spirals made of stone and zig-zagging graphic designs add both literal and figurative movement to these apartments, museums, offices and shops.

Stone and Wire in London by Groupwork + Amin Taha

During the completion of a renovation on a terraced house in central London dating to the 1950s, Groupwork + Amin Taha created a gorgeous centerpiece with this stone staircase, spiraling around a central cylinder-shaped wire cage, which acts as a balustrade. The load-bearing cantilevered travertine staircase extends from the basement to a skylight in the apartment’s roof.

Atrium Stairs at Moscow’s Dominion Office Building by Zaha Hadid

There’s something very futuristic-looking about the stark, graphic black-and-white stairs zig-zagging through the atrium of Zaha Hadid’s ‘Dominion Office Building.’ Each level is slightly offset from the next, producing a disorienting effect when looking down at the stairs from the edge of any of the balconies.

Mirrored Staircase at Kaleidoscope House by Paul Raff Studio

Sometimes, all it takes is a little creativity to produce a stunning effect, rather than a large space and expensive materials. The staircase ascending through Paul Raff Studio’s Kaleidoscope House features mirrored side panels on the balustrade which continue onto the landings of each level, reflecting each other so you can’t quite tell what’s real and what’s reflection. This piece is the heart of the home’s ‘kaleidoscope effect.’

Plywood Puzzle Stairs in London House by Tsuruta Architects

This staircase in a London Home renovated by Tsuruta Architects consists of nearly 2,000 plywood pieces slotted together like a puzzle. Replacing a larger staircase with a more compact design, this new creation connects all four stories without visually obstructing the transitional spaces between them, allowing light to filter through.

Smooth Staircase at Singapore Apple Store by Foster + Partners

It’s not unusual for Apple stores in larger cities to function as showcases for architecture nearly as much as they do for electronics. In this case, internationally renowned firm Foster + Partners augmented “the greenest Apple space yet” with two hand-carved spiraling staircases made of Italian Castagna Stone. The architects describe them as “warm and beautifully sculpted bookends” in an “homage to craftsmanship and materiality.”

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Book Box Bonanza : 12 Freaky Little Free Libraries

10 September, 2017 - 19:00
[ By Steve in Architecture & Public & Institutional. ]

Since 2009 over 50,000 Little Free Library book exchange boxes have sprung up on lawns worldwide, though some are worthy of a surprised second glance.

You’ve probably passed a Little Free Library during a recent walk, ride or drive though your neighborhood. Odds are you passed it off as a personal project of some local do-gooder or over-achieving parent but the so-called “Little Free Library Movement” is bigger, broader and more organized than anyone could guess.

The first Little Free Library was created by Todd Bol of Hudson, Wisconsin as a tribute to his mother, a former schoolteacher and lifelong book-lover. Bol’s pioneering concept was meant to look like a miniature one-room schoolhouse but that design isn’t mandated, even for those who register with the non-profit Little Free Library Ltd. website and receive an official sign they can affix to their box. Size isn’t de rigeur either though the above Tardis library box is larger than most… especially on the inside. Flickr member ap^ snapped the example above from Bloomington, MN on April 27th of 2013.


If you’re calling your Little Free Library “Headless Books“, it follows that your book box be decorated to display that fact. Crafted from a disused bREADbox and topped by a headless (and topless, at the risk of being redundant) mannequin torso scrounged from a local garage sale, The Headless Library can be found in NE Minneapolis.

Since September of 2012 the torso-topped library shared yard space with Penny’s Childrens Library – another ex-breadbox topped with a plastic lawn-ornament penguin because why not? Sadly, this library was trashed and the penguin stolen by unknown assailants during a spring blizzard in April of 2013… at press time the penguin was still missing. We suggest looking for it on top of a British woman’s TV set.

Book To The Future

Dubbed the Little Free Library 3D X, this futuristic little library comes to us courtesy of designer and Flickr member Robert Sekula (ethno folk funk architects) in cooperation with Andrej Poliak. Never thought you’d see the words “futuristic” and “library” in the same sentence, did you?

Morel Of The Stories

What is it about Minnesota and odd Little Free Libraries? Flickr member Marie Janssen (jamuraa) snapped the above “Little Tree Free Library” in New Brighton, MN, on August 11th of 2012. Another source states it’s modeled on a mushroom of the morel family.

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Mobile Micro-Lending: 17th-Century Book-Shaped Library Hides 50 Tiny Books

9 September, 2017 - 19:00
[ By WebUrbanist in Technology & Vintage & Retro. ]

Back in the 1600s, long before science fiction authors dreamed up digital e-readers, this Jacobean traveling library was making the rounds, housing dozens of small books in a larger book-shaped case. Bound in leather like a large folio volume, it is thought to be one of the first of its kind.

The handcrafted wooden shell was purpose-built to house a collection of littler volumes that could in theory be swapped out for different journeys, much like loading up a modern device with novels (or torrents).

Located at the University of Leeds Library, this case is presumed to have been commissioned by a lawyer and politician named William Hakewell in 1617 as a holiday gift (as the recipient’s and giver’s coats of arms are both found on the case). The case is quite compelling — it looks a lot like a book upon casual inspection — while the contents are neatly arranged in similar-looking bindings.

The gift included classics by Ovid, Virgil and Cicero among others, spanning a range of philosophical and theological subjects. Hakewell commissioned several similar cases over the years, which would also have facilitated trades across collections of friends if they were so inclined. Each case also contained a list of original books that came with the commission, which in turn have numbers corresponding to the list

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Lego’s Largest and Most Expensive Kit Ever is an $800 Millennium Falcon

8 September, 2017 - 19:00
[ By SA Rogers in Design & Products & Packaging. ]

You don’t get a sense of just how large and complex Lego’s latest kit really is until you see it someone’s arms, or taking up the entire table surface in front of them. A gift for true enthusiasts of both the toy brick company and Star Wars, the Ultimate Collectors Series Millennium Falcon is the single largest and most expensive Lego kit ever sold, presented in a huge box full of 7,541 pieces. In fact, the box is so heavy that Lego teased on Twitter that they’d have to add wheels and a handle so customers can get it out the door.

The LEGO @StarWars Death Star fits in our yellow bag, but we have to apply wheels so shoppers can carry the next #LEGOStarWars set! ?

— LEGO (@LEGO_Group) August 29, 2017

An update on the last Ultimate Collector’s Millennium Falcon, which was released in July 2007, this new set expands it by over 2,000 pieces, adding a stunning range of details that will delight discerning fans. You can even swap out the deflector dishes to either look as they did in the original Star Wars trilogy or in The Force Awakens.

It comes with 10 minifigures, including Leia, C-3P0, Han and Chewbacca from the trilogy and Finn, Rey, BB-8, ‘Old Han’ and two porgs from The Force Awakens. You can even spin the original Han and Leia’s heads around to reveal optional faces outfitted with air respirators.

Fans who missed out on the 2007 model still pay up to $3,000 in the rare occasion that one pops up on eBay, and Lego expects the new set to sell out, so if all of this news has you swiping everything off your dining table in anticipation, you’d better run out and get one as soon as it goes on sale October 1st.

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

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Mobile Urbanism: Wheeled Benches & Planters Let Public Reconfigure Square

7 September, 2017 - 19:00
[ By WebUrbanist in Design & Furniture & Decor. ]

A former parking has become a Green Oasis in front of Poznan, Poland’s city hall, but beyond providing seating and greenery the redesign adds another key element: effectively endless flexibility.

Custom-created benches and planters (filled with an array of taller trees and shorter flora) create a system of mobile street furniture that can be configured in an infinite variety of ways.

Normally, independent islands allow small groups to gather. As needed, though, the benches can be matched up for anything from public speeches to in-the-round performances — the modular geometry of the 14 benches and 20 planters allows them to befit together like pieces of a puzzle.

Developed by Atelier Starzak Strebicki, this modular courtyard serves as a gathering space, open-air amphitheater or auditorium — the street furniture elements can also be moved out of the way entirely if the entire square is needed.

The seats are also doubled-up, allowing people to sit on a higher or lower tier (or both simultaneously for crowded events). At the same time, the furnishings are sufficiently heavy that no one need worry about someone walking (or rolling) away with them at the end of the evening.

These fairly simple but robust steel-and-wood designs provide a nice industrial-style contrast with their historic surroundings, and suggest another way of thinking about public furniture, one which allows it to serve different functions on demand.

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[ By WebUrbanist in Design & Furniture & Decor. ]

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Somewhere Outside of Time: 13 Classic Retro-Futuristic Architectural Visions

6 September, 2017 - 19:00
[ By SA Rogers in Architecture & Houses & Residential. ]

Retro-futuristic architecture seems to exist outside of time, perhaps in parallel universes where the versions of the future envisioned by their creators actually became reality. They combine design elements from the decades in which they were built with futuristic elements as the architects imagined them, recalling the science fiction of their respective eras, often seeming like remnants from movie sets. Many still stand in a rapidly changing world, feeling like portals to somewhere very far away.

Walden 7 by Ricardo Bofill

Built in 1975, this housing structure by Ricardo Bofill located outside Barcelona, Spain takes inspiration from the science fiction novel Walden Two by B.F. Skinner. It originally included 446 residences in 18 towers, resulting in a labyrinth organized around seven interconnecting interior courtyards. Bofill imagined that this structure would be a utopian urban residence addressing many of the problems of urban life, with space for gardens and social interaction as well as two swimming pools. The high rise still stands and functions as an apartment building, with some units combined to create larger spaces.

Palais Bulles by Antti Lovag

The strange and bulbous Palais Bulles, or Palace of Bubbles, was built in 1989 on a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Though it’s often used as a setting for fashion shoots and film festival parties, architect Antti Lovag emphasizes that how the structure is inhabited is its most important aspect. “Whether for economic reasons or lack of technical solutions, human beings have confined themselves to cubes full of dead ends and angles that impede our movement and break our harmony.”

Monsanto House of the Future by Monsanto

Did you know that infamous agrochemical giant Monsanto (known for creating Agent Orange during the Vietnam War) built a ‘house of the future’ at Disneyland in 1957? Located at the entrance to Tomorrowland, the house was designed by Monsanto in collaboration with MIT and Disney Imagineers, showcasing their vision of what life would be like in 1987. Made of fiberglass, the house was elevated on a pedestal with the intention of allowing it to rotate. Everything was modular and made of synthetic materials. Monsanto’s House of the Future closed in 1967, and though it was scheduled to be demolished in one night, the wrecking ball bounced off its tough facade, and a 2-week demolition job was ultimately required to take it down.

Habitat 67 by Moshe Safdie

First built as a pavilion for the World’s Fair in 1967 after architect Moshe Safdie conceived it as his master’s thesis, Habitat 67 remains one of the most unusual buildings of its kind, featuring 146 residences and a network of interlocking forms and walkways. The architect wanted to maximize the amount of private space and natural environments within a small urban footprint, enhancing the quality of life with gardens, fresh air and views. It was intended to be the first phase of a much larger complex, but Safdie’s vision for futuristic affordable housing failed to proliferate due to the high per-unit cost of his design.

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Pencil Art: 50+ Sculptures Explore the Hidden Beauty of This Utilitarian Object

4 September, 2017 - 19:00
[ By SA Rogers in Art & Sculpture & Craft. ]

A pencil is usually a tool, but what happens when artists subvert its common usage, transforming it into a medium for sculpting instead? Extraordinary sculpting skills paired with a steady hand and a magnifying glass make it possible to carve amazingly tiny figures out of the pencil’s lead. Some artists see flowers or portraits in cast-off pencil shavings, or glue masses of the writing instruments together to sculpt and sand them into new forms punctuated by the graphite or colored pigments inside each pencil’s core.

Pencil Lead Carvings by Salavat Fidai

HBO Asia recently commissioned an incredible set of Game of Thrones-themed pencil lead carvings from Russian artist Salavat Fidai, including the sigils of each House, a White Walker, the dragons and the Iron Throne. It takes Fidai about 6 to 12 hours to sculpt each one using a craft knife, a magnifying glass and a microscope. The artist says the most challenging piece in the collection was the throne, which took over three weeks to perfect. Of course, the Game of Thrones pieces are just the latest works from Fidai, who has also carved tiny architecture, superheroes and other fictional characters, and much more.

Vases Made of Pencils by Studio Markunpoika

Hundreds of pencils are glued together into a solid mass and then carved on a machine lathe to create vases and other decorative objects, revealing the insides of the pencils. Studio Markunpoika describes their process: “‘Amalgamated’ is a collection which explores the relationship of a mass produced ‘tool’ and its individual purpose. The beauty of the pencil as an object seems to go unnoticed if utilized only for their primary purpose. ‘Amalgamated’ is a visual and tactile investigation using pencils as a raw material. This holistic principle has been the fundament for creating this set of vases; let the pencils become a thing themselves.”

Pencil Lead Carvings by Dalton Ghetti

The most impressive works by Dalton Ghetti are undoubtedly those which turn single pencil leads into chains. You can’t help but stare at each one for a while, wondering how he managed to pull them off. The fact that the artist has been refining his process since childhood might tell you a thing or two about how he’s able to pull pieces like these off – or that some of his pieces can take months or even years to complete. He also carves his tiny sculptures without the aid of a microscope or magnifying glass, using sewing needles and razor blades.

Pencil Sculptures by Jennifer Maestre

The colorful bristling creatures of Jennifer Maestre seem to have come from the depths of the sea, their appendages recalling the natural shapes of urchins, anemones, coral, octopi and jellyfish. The artist uses colored pencils as a medium for her unusual sculptures. “The spines of the urchin, so dangerous yet beautiful, serve as an explicit warning against contact. The alluring texture of the spines draws the touch in spite of the possible consequences. The tension unveiled, we feel push and pull, desire and repulsion. The sections of pencils present aspects of sharp and smooth for two very different textural and aesthetic experiences. Paradox and surprise are integral in my choice of materials.”

Pencil Lead Carvings by Cindy Chinn

Cindy Chinn takes advantage of the length of graphite contained within a pencil, tunnel-like inside the wood, and translates it into lines of marching elephants or trains. Her ‘Elephant Walk’ series was commissioned by the California-based Epiphany Elephant Museum. Of the train piece, Chinn says “This piece was designed using straight lead pieces for the rails, with the tiny carved train placed and securely glued on top of the rails. The train engine is only 3/16” of an inch tall. The pencil is 5-5/8” long and mounted in a wood shadowbox frame as shown in the photos.”

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Grand Slammed: Closed & Abandoned Denny’s Restaurants

3 September, 2017 - 19:00
[ By Steve in Abandoned Places & Architecture. ]

Denny’s has been a powerhouse of fast-casual family dining for over 60 years with over 1,600 restaurants but even Denny’s has to close some time.

More than just a slogan, Denny’s famous “we never close” policy was put to the test in 1988 when all but six stores closed for Christmas. Several restaurants were unprepared by the corporate-wide closing: some had lost their keys while others – rumor has it – were built without lockable doors.

Contrast that open-door policy with the fate of closed and/or abandoned Denny’s restaurants and diners like this one in Dayton, Ohio, snapped by Flickr member vistavision in the fall of 2010. Stores like this one will never open again, at least not under the classic Denny’s hexagonal sign.

Shoreline Scar

The above abandoned Denny’s was snapped by Flickr member Curtis Cronn in early February of 2015. Looks like the crew charged with removing visual references to expired businesses, crashed airliners and so on neglected to erase the labelscar lingering on the Shoreline, Washington restaurant’s sun-blasted exterior wall. Guys, you had ONE job.

Laurel Turpitude

Denny’s wasn’t always “Denny’s”… the chain opened in 1953 with a single store in Lakewood, California named Danny’s Donuts. In 1959, the growing company changed its name to avoid any conflict with Coffee Dan’s, a Los Angeles-based chain of coffee shops. Known since 1961 as just plain “Denny’s”, the company expanded exponentially… by 1980 there were over 1,000 restaurants and diners spread across all 50 U.S. states.

The store above, located just off Route 73 in Mount Laurel, New Jersey dates from the 1970s, back when the corporate color scheme was heavily into pinks and oranges… no doubt a hangover from the psychedelic Sixties. Will the succeeding Chinese restaurant carry on that lurid theme? Flickr member John (JSF0864) captured this still-sharp-looking abandoned Denny’s in June of 2011.

Sign In Stranger

Now here’s something unusual: all that’s left of this former Denny’s restaurant in Lorain, Ohio is its main sign – the building was demolished in early 2011. What’s more, the sign (displaying Deny’s “new” logo instituted in 2001) appears to be in excellent condition having escaped the attentions of the de-branding crew. Maybe they forgot to bring a ladder. Kudos to Flickr member Nicholas Eckhart, who captured this rather bleak scene in December of 2014.

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[ By Steve in Abandoned Places & Architecture. ]

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World’s Largest Bicycle Parking Garage Stores Over 6,000 Rides in the Netherlands

2 September, 2017 - 19:00
[ By WebUrbanist in Architecture & Public & Institutional. ]

The Netherlands, where bikes outnumber citizens, is well known for its cycle-centric transportation infrastructure. In Utrecht, over 100,000 cyclists ride through the city every day, connecting between home, school, work and public transportation. Now open, this newly-built bicycle parking lot can already house 6,000 rides at a time, but is aiming to more than double that capacity by the end of the year.

It actually looks a lot like a conventional parking lot, filled with ramps and arrows pointing cyclists through the structure, crisscrossed with walking paths for people traveling to and from their personal vehicle. Dense stacking allows for layered storage across the multiple levels of the structure.

Eventually, the parking structure will store a remarkable 33,000 bicycles by 2020, which, to most people, might sound like a lot of bikes. But the design, patterned after Tokyo’s amazing underground bike parking station, has people worried — not because it could be overbuilt, but because the capacity might not match the demand.

As popular as cycling already is in the region, the number of people on bikes continues to grow and the Netherlands has long had storage space issues related to this growth. One cycling organization quoted John Lennon to make the point: “life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” They say politicians are still being too slow to make decisions and implement plans to increase bike-supporting infrastructure. Still, too many riders and fewer seems like a good problem for a city to have.

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