Barcelona set to double tree population in major urban greening push

May 18, 2017 by  
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You may think there isn’t much space for a centuries-old, built-out city like Barcelona to radically greenify itself with double the amount of trees and expanded green space. But that’s exactly what the city aims to do. They recently rolled out a Plan of the Green and Biodiversity Barcelona 2020 , including ambitious goals that could offer ideas to other dense cities needing greenery too. Air pollution , heat, and climate change are among the reasons Barcelona needs to become a greener city. But they have a plan – their 2020 goals could see twice the number of trees flourishing in the city, alongside park space increased by two thirds. Overall each citizen could receive nearly 11 square feet of extra green spaces . The plan aims to provide Barcelona with 108 acres of new green areas by 2019 and more than 400 acres by 2020. Related: Paris allows anyone to plant an urban garden How will the city accomplish this feat? First, they’ll plant five new gardens , which will later be connected to open spaces already in place to form thriving plant-filled corridors. Green roofs will also help keep the city cool. Creepers will snake across bare walls. And in spaces waiting for construction, the city will plant temporary gardens. CityLab reports some of the new gardens are already being built, and their designs reveal how to find space in a city where one might think space would be lacking. For example, the largest garden will be planted around a city square once filled with cars. That traffic will now be diverted to tunnels. Another garden is more controversial – the city will clear out a courtyard block filled with squatted 1920’s workshops to make way for greenery. One garden will green up a scrap of ex-industrial semi-wasteland. Slowly the city is filling up with new flora and fauna – local architecture firm JORNETLLOPPASTOR drew up many of these images around five years ago. Green corridors planted in the past have been successful; a 2000 one restored life to a stream formerly dirty. As climate change raises temperatures, a city that already reaches around 90 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer stands to benefit greatly from the air-cleaning, cooling plants. Via CityLab Images via Ajuntament de Barcelona

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See Chihulys dazzling glass art take over the New York Botanical Garden

May 8, 2017 by  
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A magical garden of glass has bloomed at the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG). In more than a decade, world-renowned artist Dale Chihuly brought his breathtaking glass art installations back to New York with a major new exhibition called CHIHULY. With over 20 installations, the dazzling exhibition’s bright colors and organic forms are an incredible sight to behold—and even more so when illuminated at night. Unveiled late April, the new CHIHULY experience celebrates the artist’s process and legacy with over 20 installations as well as drawings and early works. The larger-than-life sculptures are seamlessly integrated into the garden’s many backdrops and include a new monumental work set within the Native Plant Garden water features and the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory Courtyard’s Tropical Pool. Chihuly’s artworks are all made from hand-blown glass , plastic, and water inside a Seattle workshop and draw inspiration from organic shapes found in nature. Their whimsical charm and dynamic appearance imparts an atmosphere not unlike the fictional worlds of Alice in Wonderland or Willy Wonka. The exhibition took two years of coordination between the NYBG and Chihuly. Related: Ray Villafane’s Crazy Zombie Pumpkins and Ghouls Return to the New York Botanical Garden The dramatic sculptures will be open through to October 29, 2017. The botanical garden also offers select Chihuly Nights when visitors can see the installations lit up in the evening and enjoy special performances, themed cocktails, and concerts. + NYBG Images via NYBG

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See Chihulys dazzling glass art take over the New York Botanical Garden

Man creates spectacular topiary garden with plants saved from a compost pile

May 4, 2017 by  
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When Pearl Fryar bought his home in Bishopville, South Carolina forty years ago, his neighbors worried he wouldn’t be able to maintain the expansive grounds. Since then, Fryar’s gardening skills have put those fears to rest – he’s created a stunning topiary garden made up of plants rescued from a local compost pile . When Fryar was looking to buy his current house, he was met with resistance because some neighbors assumed that, as a black man, he wouldn’t be able to keep up the yard. Fryar took those words as a challenge, aiming to disprove the local racists with his talented green thumb, “I figured that if I won Yard of the Month, then the person who made that statement could understand that you can’t judge people by one person.” Related: This mobile transforming prep station helps urban foragers turn weeds into tasty meals Recently featured on CNN’s Great Big Story , Fryar began to collect his plants from the compost pile of a local nursery. Over the years, he has rescued over 300 trees and shrubbery – including a few trees that were over 30 feet high. The ambitious man tends to his garden every day, but he doesn’t use fertilizer, sprays, or any type of chemical in the upkeep. In fact, he doesn’t even use water. He says that the plants are all natural and grow organically. The amazing home garden became so popular, that Fyar opened it up to the public in 2006. Today, the Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden sees an estimated 10,000 visitors a year from all over the world. Fryar enjoys the attention, explaining that his garden is all about love. In fact, the last thing visitors see as they leave the grounds are the words “love, peace, and goodwill” mowed into the lawn. + Pearl Fryar garden + Great Big Story Via Boing Boing Images via CNN video

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Man creates spectacular topiary garden with plants saved from a compost pile

Vietnam’s "Forest in the Sky" apartment building is topped with 50,000 trees

April 27, 2017 by  
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This lush residential complex in Hanoi takes green living to the extreme. More than 50,000 trees, shrubs and colorful flowering vines were used to cover the Forest in the Sky building, virtually camouflaging it into the surrounding forest. Along with the ample greenery, the building is equipped with various advanced green technologies and uses 20 percent less energy, and water than a traditionally-constructed building. The green “jungle” building is a prime example of green living and will set a new sustainability standard for Vietnam building practices. Besides its green exterior, which helps insulate the building, the tower is equipped with numerous sustainable features. Under the lush greenery, the interior and exterior walls are made of eco-friendly cellular lightweight concrete blocks that offer optimal insulation from extreme heat and cold as well as sound. Related: Posh new Vietnamese hotel with a lush green facade brings guests closer to nature The building also uses high-efficiency hot water boilers, low-flow plumbing fixtures, and energy-efficient lighting to reduce energy usage. Future residents will not only be able to enjoy the amazing greenery and stunning views of the location, but will also enjoy the benefits of green living such as low utility bills. The Forest in the Sky project has recently been awarded the preliminary EDGE certificate from SGS Vietnam , which is awarded to buildings that achieve a minimum standard of 20 percent less energy, water and embodied energy than traditional buildings. + Coteccons

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Vietnam’s "Forest in the Sky" apartment building is topped with 50,000 trees

Flexible Garden Modules make it easy to build your own green wall

April 27, 2017 by  
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Architects and twin sisters Luisa + Lilian Parrado are on a mission to make it easy to add a stylish splash of green to your walls. The designers created Garden Module, a customizable modular wall system with a minimalist appearance. Made of steel tubes strung together with polypropylene string, these simple and three-dimensional wall modules can support up to two potted plants at a time and can be expanded to create a sprawling wall of green. The Garden Module was recently recognized at the 2017 European Product Design Award , where it received bronze. The modules are built of either white or black carbon steel tubes that are easily assembled into triangle formations. Each module comes with two triangular concrete bases that fit inside the steel tube frame and are strong enough to support potted plants without the need of screws. Related: Flower Tower: 380 Potted Plants Line Parisian Apartment Facade “This project was born from the necessity of creating a green wall without the complexity of the traditional one,” write the designers. “From a single module you can create a three-dimensional panel with most varied combinations. Its irregular shape allows flexible compositions according to taste, purpose and destination: aligned, mixed, spread or contained.” + Luisa + Lilian Parrado Images by Bruna Hosti

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Flexible Garden Modules make it easy to build your own green wall

Tiny indoor vertical garden grows micro-veggies on its own in 10 days

March 23, 2017 by  
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You don’t need green thumbs to grow microgreens with this EcoQube Frame. The tiny indoor vertical garden grows micro-veggies in 10 days with only fertilized water, doing all the work for you. Compact and low-maintenance, the design is suited for apartments, homes and offices of all sizes, and allows you to grow nutritious food sources quickly, without worrying about watering and feeding your plants . Aqua Design Innovations (ADI) launched EcoQube Frame on Kickstarter , and it has been a smashing success. The group tripled their goal and raised over $30,000 in the first 40 minutes of crowdfunding. Learn more about this amazing design after the break. The EcoQube Frame contains two sections with one plant pad for each section; each plant pad has hundreds of small pockets that hold seeds in place so that plants can sprout evenly. The reservoir below contains fertilized water that provides all the necessary nutrients for successful germination. “It’s really the simplest, easiest and most compact way to grow indoor plants vertically without soil,” said the designers. “It’s also great for those who don’t feel like they have a green thumb. Since the reservoir waters the plants automatically, you don’t have to worry about over watering or root rot – which is a common problem when growing plants or micro-veggies.” Related: Smart Taiga Tower is like having an 80 square foot garden right inside your home EcoQube’s seed pads are all made from natural, 100 percent compostable fibers, and provide just enough water to allow the plants to grow. The designers claim that EcoQube can grow up to $25 worth of micro-veggies in a little over a week, and pays for itself after only one month of growing. + EcoQube Frame Kickstarter + Aqua Design Innovations (ADI)

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Why this city is waging a war on shamrocks

March 17, 2017 by  
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St. Patrick’s day is here, and with the plastic shamrocks popping up in stores everywhere, it got me thinking about the real plant, which grows everywhere around the world, and is under attack with a vengeance by the city government in San Francisco. Oxalis, Sourgrass , Wood Sorrel , Bermuda Buttercup , Shamrock , and False Shamrock – these are just a few names for a genus of wildly prolific edible plants (aka “weeds”) which grow everywhere around the world. Even if you aren’t familiar with the name of this plant, you’ve likely encountered the clover-like leaves and pretty yellow wildflower of oxalis in a lawn before; it infiltrates grassy areas everywhere, street medians and even sidewalk cracks in cities ranging from New York and Cape Town to Sydney and San Francisco. Children love to eat it and play with it, and most school kids are familiar with “sourgrass”. In January and February, entire hillsides in San Francisco burst in vivid yellow bloom with Oxalis flowers . Whether this is a problem or not depends on who you ask. Many San Francisco residents see the hillsides of bright yellow flowers as a beautiful first sign of spring, whereas others, especially those who espouse a nativist point of view, see this plant as an “invader” that must be stopped at all costs – even when that environmental cost includes dousing entire hillsides in dangerous pesticides such as glyphosate and triclopyr . It’s oxalis season in San Francisco right now, which means that many San Francisco gardeners are waging a war against this prolific little weed in their backyards. It also means it is Garlon season for San Francisco’s Park and Rec Department. Garlon (chemical name Triclopyr ) is a broadleaf pesticide weed killer that is used by San Francisco’s Recreation and Parks department mainly for the purposes of killing oxalis. Very little research has been done on this chemical, but it is known to be toxic to mammals and possibly carcinogenic – specifically correlated with breast tumors in rats . Glyphosate (Monsanto’s Roundup), another popular herbicide for killing oxalis, has been classified by the WHO as a probable carcinogen . In the past few months the city of San Francisco has sprayed Garlon on hillsides in public parks several times to try to eradicate oxalis; below are a few videos of these most recent offensives taped by the San Francisco Forest Alliance: Native plant advocate Jake Sigg (former president of the California Native Plant society and spokesperson for the San Francisco Natural Areas Program) recently spoke at a public hearing on pesticides about how he thinks San Francisco needs to use much more herbicide to try to eradicate oxalis, simply because it is such a challenging task:   “Yellow oxalis is almost unstoppable –you have to kill that corm, that bulb, the only way you can do it is with herbicides. It’s impossible to do it manually. I wished I’d brought pictures of San Bruno Mountain where they sprayed the entire mountainsides of oxalis. That’s the only way they got rid of it there. I hate to hear all this unwarranted fear about herbicides. I was a gardener all my life, and I’ve used herbicides and I’m 88 now. I’ve used a lot of them, and it would seem if they’re really that bad I would have problems by now!”   What Sigg doesn’t mention in this quote is that there are many pollinator species, including honeybees, bumblebees, and other types of butterflies , that forage on oxalis nectar during the winter time of year when no other flowers are blooming, and could be harmed by the herbicides sprayed on these flowers. So, in the interest of trying to protect one butterfly species (the Mission Blue Butterfly ), San Francisco’s Park and Rec department has apparently decided it is an acceptable tradeoff to poison other pollinators that are important to local ecology and human agriculture. In a Bay Nature Magazine article , Doug Johnson, executive director of the California Invasive Plant Council says there is just no point in trying to wage war against oxalis. “It’s not a target for landscape-level eradication because it’s just way too widespread,” he said. photo of a coyote in a field of oxalis in San Francisco, by Janet Kessler   In oxalis’s case, the benefits that would accrue from fighting it on all fronts aren’t quite enough to justify the costs—there’s just not enough time or people to dedicate to the effort. (Not to mention that eliminating oxalis takes a doggedness that even Sigg describes as “fanatic.” He managed to eradicate it from his garden, but it took him five to six years, and he sometimes had to comb through his plants by hand.) Instead, Cal-IPC focuses its efforts on the battles that can be won: new, potentially dangerous weeds that can be stopped, or existing weeds that threaten valuable resources.   I visited some of the areas that had been sprayed with Triclopyr recently and the results were not impressive. The fields of bright yellow flowers were not gone, just missing in little patches here and there. It is easy to see how it will immediately grow back. California native Oxalis Oregana, growing right next to “invasive” yellow oxalis on a San Francisco city street. The question around what is “native” and “non-native” seems like an arbitrary and potentially slippery debate as it often taps into deeply held xenophobic sentiments about what is valuable, and what should be allowed to thrive in a given location. That said, I find the discussion around “native plants” versus “invasive species” to be particularly fascinating and confusing when it comes to oxalis. It is often the claim of native plant advocates in any location, that oxalis is an non-native invader that needs to be eradicated. The truth is that oxalis grows all around the world, and there are many species of oxalis that are native to California, including Oxalis Californica (Yellow Wood Sorrel) , and another forest-dwelling species with whitish lavender flowers called Oxalis Oregana (Redwood Sorrel) . Oxalis has been growing in California for thousands of years, and the original native people of this country – the American Indians – widely ate both its leaves and bulbs . There is a species of oxalis from South Africa (Oxalis Pes Caprae) , which is the invader that native plant advocates will tell you that they are doggedly fighting in San Francisco parks, but to an untrained eye (like mine), this plant looks exactly the same as the native yellow oxalis. When I was living in New York City, we had a yellow flowered oxalis “weed” growing everywhere that looked pretty much the same as both of these other species, but naturalists in that area called it Oxalis Stricta , which is native to North America. Different species of native and non-native oxalis – can you tell the difference? And does it matter? I suppose plant experts can distinguish between these different types of oxalis, but can your average gardener or pesticide applier? And what specifically makes a native plant “a weed”? It seems there is no scientific definition of the word “weed” – it is just a term used to designate prolific plants that reproduce quickly and sprout up in locations where they are not wanted. And in public lands – who determines if a plant is wanted or not? That is the heart of the fierce battle now waging between native-plant advocates and anti-pesticide activists. Oxalis Pes-Caprae (South African Oxalis) reproduces underground with little teardrop shaped bulbs, so just killing one plant doesn’t kill the underground bulb, which just spreads and pops up somewhere else – much to the dismay of gardeners who like to keep their gardens oxalis free . This plant is literally everywhere – including sidewalk cracks and highway medians, so it really is impossible to get rid of. And is that necessarily really a bad thing, I would ask? Wood Sorrel doesn’t just have aesthetic value with its sunny yellow flowers, but is also useful as an edible plant. I first learned about this cute little weed from renowned New York City foraging guide Wildman Steve Brill , and then discovered my kindergartner was picking and eating it every day at school in New York City. “Oh that stuff? We call it sourgrass, mom” he told me. Now that I live out in San Francisco, both of my children are very fond of oxalis and encounter it every day; in our backyard, surrounding sidewalks and parks in our neighborhood, and at their outdoor schools. We see both the native lavender variety (Redwood Sorrel) and the yellow flowers. Both of my kids are in an outdoor forest school in San Francisco’s parks, so they spend their all of their days playing in nature. Kids are naturally drawn to the vivid yellow flower, and I’ve found them making buttercup daisy-chains, using sourgrass as currency in some complicated grade school game, and, of course, chewing on it. I am personally concerned about pesticide use on oxalis, mainly because San Francisco’s “sourgrass” is in my children’s hands and mouths on a daily basis, and I don’t want them ingesting cancer-causing pesticides. As soon as the weather gets warmer than about 70 degrees, which happens by April, the Oxalis withers and dies back until next season. So, what is the point – I would argue – of wasting money, time, and damaging our local ecosystem with poison, in order to wage a futile war against this useful, beautiful and clearly unstoppable plant. What are your thoughts on oxalis? Experience with this plant? I’d love to hear about it in the comments! + Why it’s okay to love oxalis and to stop poisoning it + A history of the little yellow flower that is everywhere

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9 booze inspired designs to ring in St. Patricks Day

March 17, 2017 by  
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St. Paddy’s Day is definitely an homage to Ireland, but there’s no denying that it also pays tribute to something a little more universal – booze. And while you may be thinking “What the heck does alcohol have to do with green design?” there are actually a keg’s worth of hooch-related eco innovations out there that you might not know about yet. From a man that recycles his own pee into whisky to a machine that turns beer brewery waste into power , read on to see the best boozy green stories we have on tap. This tiny Irish pub on wheels wins St. Patrick’s Day When Irish cabinetmaker John Walsh decided to convert his rusty old caravan into a tiny pub, the world’s most charming St. Patrick’s Day hotspot was born. The Shebeen is literally translated into “an illicit bar where alcohol is sold illegally.” The mobile booze cruiser was so popular in Ireland, the people of Boston commissioned another one to be brought to the states. Aspiring Chinese architect built his office out of 8,500 recycled beer bottles This brings new meaning to the song 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall . Aspiring architect in Chongqing city, China designed and constructed his very own office with 8,500 recycled beer bottles. The impressive upcycled structure gets its sturdy foundation from 40 layers of beer bottles. The entire construction took four months and $11,000 to complete. PISSKY: Gilpin Whisky is Recycled from Diabetic’s Urine James Gilpin has a bit of a different interpretation of the adage “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Gilpin, who has Type 1 Diabetes got to thinking about elderly patients with diabetes, like his grandmother, who secrete tons of unprocessed medicine and sugar in their urine and had a cool – albeit a little gross – breakthrough. His Gilpin Family Whisky project is a high end line of single malt whiskey made from the sugar-laden urine of people with diabetes – Pissky! We’ll drink to that! HEINEKEN WOBO: A Beer Bottle That Doubles as a Brick Have your brick and drink it too? Famed beer brewer Alfred Heineken and Dutch architect John Habraken came out with their Heineken WOBO (world bottle) brick all the way back in 1963, but the principle behind it still rings true today. As you probably already guessed, the idea behind the boozy brick was that thirsty people could drink their fix of beer from the WOBO and reuse it to build structures. Cheers to that. Intoxicating Pavilion Made of 33,000 Yellow Beer Crates It must have taken a lot of frat parties to empty out the 33,000 yellow beer crates that architects SHSH stacked atop one another to create this intoxicating pavilion . Using the crates like giant legos, the design features interesting architectural touches like columns, arches and even domes inside. Beer Can House Has 50,000 “Bottles of Beer” on the Walls 99 bottles of beer is already quite a few to have on your walls, but how about 50,000?! Well, that’s about how many John Milkovisch used for his Beer Can House. He drank many of the cans himself (not his least favorite part of the job, we’re sure) and they’re on the walls, swaying from the front porch, and pretty much everywhere else! PurposeEnergy Turns Beer Brewery Waste Into Clean-Burning Biofuel We’ve seen everything from ice cream to 4Loko being used as fuel and now we can add beer to the list of alternative energy sources – well, beer waste, that is. PurposeEnergy Inc. has created a device that recycles the waste from brewing beer into a functional natural gas. World’s Greenest Whisky Distillery Unveiled in Scotland Okay, so we know today is supposed to be all about Ireland, but Scotland has been greening their booze game too so we need to give them a shoutout. Scottish drinks giant Diageo recently unveiled their £40 million environmentally friendly Roseisle Distillery in Elgin. The innovative project by Austin-Smith: Lord Architects infuses traditional distilling with modern environmental technologies and was even awarded a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ award. DIY (Drink-It-Yourself) Xylophone Made From Beer Bottles! Up until we say this crazy contraption, the only music we thought could come out of beer drinking was awful karaoke. Designer Sam Gensburg’s creation is a lot less painful on the ears and features a special packaging for beer bottles that allows them to be transformed into a tone-accurate xylophone after you’ve drunk ’em. + Click through our gallery to see more booze-related green design

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9 booze inspired designs to ring in St. Patricks Day

Lucid releases details about new electric car – including $60,000 price tag

March 17, 2017 by  
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Lucid has released new details about its much-anticipated electric car , including an extremely affordable starting price tag for a fully featured luxury electric car. Unveiled at a recent VIP event in California, the Lucid Air comes in at just $60,000 for a base model—a figure that drops to a very-palatable $52,00 after the $7,500 federal tax credit for EVs gets factored in. And while we’re talking about a base model here, the performance and features boasted by the Air are far from Spartan. The car has a 240-mile range powered by a 400-horsepower, rear-wheel electric motor—along with equipment for autonomous driving, 12-way power front seats, four interactive touch screens, and more. You can get even more if you get in on the ground floor, as the first 255 Lucid Airs manufactured will be special Launch Editions priced at above $100,000 with a unique trim, 21” wheels, boosted audio, and up to 315 miles-worth of range at 1,000 horsepower. The company will also offer other configurations and options that include a battery with up to 400 miles of range, a twin-motor configuration with all-wheel drive, a glass canopy roof, rear executive seats that recline up to 55 degrees, 22-way power front seats; a 29-speaker audio system, and more. Related: New York will give you a $2,000 discount to buy an electric car According to TechCrunch , the company recently released its pricing information in an effort to quell speculation that its vehicles would start at more than $100,000. Now they’ve revealed that you can not only get a luxury electric car for less than $60,000, but also one that’s high performance with great equipment; it’s getting harder and harder not to dump the gas guzzler and switch to electric. If you’re raring to get one of the first Airs off the line, you can reserve yours here –with a $2,500 deposit. Via Lucid and TechCrunch Images via Lucid

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Cactus Park in Taiwan draws architectural inspiration from prickly succulents

March 15, 2017 by  
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Cacti may not excite a lot of people, but in Taiwan the plant is so highly respected the island community of Penghu built the Qingwan Cactus Park to celebrate its existence. The beautiful complex was created by converting an old military complex into various greenhouses that store a staggering variety of cacti in all shapes and sizes. To protect the site and the plants for the strong winds associated with monsoon season, the project implemented a number of resilient features around the park. Located in the Qingwan district of Penghu’s Fongguei Peninsula, the site’s old military structures were built during the Japanese Colonial Era. Abandoned for years, the site became covered with cactuses and white popinac. Cacti thrive on the island’s dry, windy climate because they are resistant to drought, strong winds and high salinity in the soil. To protect the beloved cactus population , the locals decided to give the existing buildings a thorough facelift in order to create a protected area for the plants to thrive. Related: Cactus Gum Can Purify Water Cheaply and Effectively At the heart of the complex is the teak and glass dome shaped like a cactus that “glows” at night. This main building, along with the other refurbished structures, was constructed to make as little impact on the surrounding basaltic landscape as possible. A teak wood frame and basaltic masonry walls support the dome’s large prismatic windows that provide ventilation and light on the interior. The complex consists of various greenhouses and an artists village, all surrounded by a “green belt” that connects the buildings and leads out to hiking and biking paths along the coastline. Although the cactus plant is known for its ability to thrive in dry climates, a rainwater conservation basin collects rainwater for irrigation and cleaning purposes. To protect the complex and the plants from the island’s strong winds, which carry salt that interferes with plant growth, numerous landscape architecture features were implemented in the complex.  Various windbreaking earth berms, inspired by the same design used by local farmers, form a protective barrier around the site. Although the park is geared to attract more ecotourism to the area, cacti are deeply respected by the locals, who express hope that visitors will enjoy a stroll around the greenhouses as well as spend time viewing the local wildlife. Additionally, visitors are encouraged to try their cactus-centric cuisine, especially the local favorite, cactus ice cream. + Qingwan Cactus Park + CCL Architects & Planners Via Archdaily Photography via Lin Fu Ming

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Cactus Park in Taiwan draws architectural inspiration from prickly succulents

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