German architecture students and refugees build a beautiful timber community center

February 22, 2017 by  
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Architecture students from Germany’s University of Kaiserslautern teamed up with 25 refugees to build a timber community center for a refugee camp in Mannheim, Germany. Completed as part of the “Building Together—Learning Together” program, the 550-square-meter structure breathes new life into the bare-bones surroundings with a beautiful new gathering space. The design/build project prioritized ecological and cost-effective design without compromising construction quality. The timber community center was created in response to the desolate conditions of the Mannheim refugee camp located on the former American Spinelli Barracks. To aid in the refugee crisis , 18 architecture students teamed up with 25 refugees to design the new building, from concept to final build. The students lived at the refugee camp and worked intensively for six weeks from mid-August to the end of October to realize the project and help teach their new coworkers basic building skills and German. Related: Self-shaping shelters that could revolutionize emergency housing The community center is made almost entirely of lightweight untreated timber , with the larger components prefabricated in a hangar of the former military facility and later assembled onsite. The main walls are clad in Douglas fir while the latticework walls are used as structural support, allowing for natural ventilation and light while also creating a beautiful dappled play of light and shadow. The center wraps around a small garden courtyard as well as a large outdoor events space. Built-in seating is arranged around this area, shielded from the elements by a two-meter-wall canopy and partitions. The center also includes a pair of storerooms that can be adapted for different uses in the future. + Atelier U20 Via ArchDaily Images © Yannick Wegner

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Earth, air and fire inspire deep green interior of Ecuador’s twisted tower

February 22, 2017 by  
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Design firm Arquitectónica transformed an 18-story tower in Quito, Ecuador into a slender urban sculpture that twists upwards to meet the sky. The building’s animated exterior is matched by a deep green interior designed by Marcel Wanders , and belongs to a larger scheme comprising four major developments conceived in collaboration between leading experts in real estate development, industrial design and architecture. The architects achieved the twisting shape of the tower by displacing the floor plates, generating the impression of movement. Nestled between two orthogonal buildings, the Oh Residences introduce an element of playfulness and surprise to the neighborhood. Related: Marcel Wanders Unveils Plant-Sprouting Swing for Droog The interior design, inspired by Ecuadorian flora and fauna , offers diverse spaces that reference three classical elements–earth, air and fire. The areas referencing earth use authentic natural materials , while sensations of serenity, softness and tranquility dominate the spaces where air is the main motif. Contrasts that combine crafts, patterns and colors mark the spaces with fire as the thematic guide. + YOO + Marcel Wanders + Arquitectónica + Uribe & Schwarzkopf

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Earth, air and fire inspire deep green interior of Ecuador’s twisted tower

New silicon nanoparticles could finally make solar windows commercially viable

February 22, 2017 by  
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The trend toward integrating solar into homes and buildings seems to be taking off. First Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveiled his rooftop solar shingles that are invisible when viewed from the street. Now, researchers at the University of Minnesota and University of Milano-Bicocca have developed technology that could usher in a future with photovoltaic windows harvesting renewable energy from the sun. The research, published Tuesday in the journal Nature Photonics, demonstrates that high-tech silicon nanoparticles embedded into luminescent solar concentrators (LSCs) can make the performance of solar windows more efficient, comparable to flat solar concentrators. “In our lab, we ‘trick’ nature by shirking the dimension of silicon crystals to a few nanometers, that is about one ten-thousandths of the diameter of human hair,” said University of Minnesota mechanical engineering professor Uwe Kortshagen, one of the senior authors of the study. “At this size, silicon’s properties change and it becomes an efficient light emitter, with the important property not to re-absorb its own luminescence. This is the key feature that makes silicon nanoparticles ideally suited for LSC applications.” Related: Revolutionary new solar windows could generate 50 times more power than conventional photovoltaics Photovoltaic windows could be a game changer in the race to power cities with renewable energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions causing climate change. Modern glass office towers could be retrofited with photovoltaic windows that wouldn’t change the aesthetics of the building and yet would be able to meet the structure’s electricity needs. According to the US Department of Energy, turning the windows at One World Trade Center into solar collectors could power more than 350 apartments. The researchers say that silicon nanoparticles could make solar windows commercially viable for the building-integrated photovoltaic market. The silicon nanoparticles, which are produced using a plasma reactor and formed into a powder, could realize flexible LSCs that efficiently capture more than five percent of the sun’s energy. One day soon the sun shining on skyscrapers in cities around the world could also be the source of their energy. + Highly efficient luminescent solar concentrators based on earth-abundant indirect-bandgap silicon quantum dots Via Phys.org Images via University of Minnesota

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Penda unveils temporary nature-filled village for the Beijing Horticultural Expo

January 20, 2017 by  
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Architecture studio Penda’s love of modular, timber architecture will make waves at Beijing’s International Horticultural Expo 2019 in the form of a stunning, village-like exhibition space. Commissioned by property developer Vanke , the 30,000-square-meter complex is remarkably different from the typical expo pavilion, which is usually designed as a single large building where visitors must queue to enter and are guided from place to place. Instead, Penda created a sprawling exhibition space, called Thousand Yards, that’s filled with plants and winding paths to encourage individual exploration and discovery. Selected as the winning design in Vanke’s invited competition, Thousand Yards features a series of color-coded timber modular units massed in organic, asymmetrical patterns around a central plaza. “The pavilion was designed as a network of small scale units,” said Precht. “It was a core feature to avoid a large, iconic structure that covers a majority of the land. Rather, we wanted to create a village-like typology that can be explored by the visitors.” The modular units will be prefabricated using cross-laminated timber and constructed using an eight-by-eight-meter configuration inspired by an ancient Chinese measuring system called Li. Related: Penda’s Low-Impact Modular Bamboo Hotel Reconnects Visitors with Nature Greenery will be woven throughout the site on multiple levels, from the ground floor to the rooftops. Visitors will also be given a packet of seeds when they enter and asked to plant them on the roofs. Winding pathways, hidden views, and the unpredictable placement of architecture offers visitors the chance to make discoveries of their surroundings, from unexpected playgrounds and vegetable gardens to a teahouse and food court. + Penda Via Dezeen

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Penda unveils temporary nature-filled village for the Beijing Horticultural Expo

Off-grid eco-retreats reconnect you to serene nature in Brazil

January 4, 2017 by  
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Couples looking for a romantic escape can unplug in comfort at these off-grid eco-cabins hidden away in the remote coastal mountains of Brazil. Surrounded by nature and captivating views, these solar-powered getaways are the latest installments of Minimod , a prefabricated modern home designed by MAPA Architects. Cozy and dreamy, these Minimod Catuçaba dwellings are the first of their kind in Brazil and are even available to rent on AirBnB. Located on the five-hectare estate of a former coffee plantation that dates back to 1840, the two Minimod Catuçaba cabins border the Serra do Mar State Park and overlook a verdant landscape of trees and mountains. The two 45-square-meter units are placed 1,000 meters apart and were built with different viewpoints and different layouts—one is cross-shaped while the other is rectangular. Both cabins were prefabricated offsite in a factory using cross-laminated timber and are equipped with solar panels and full-height glazing. “We invited Minimod to join the Fazenda Catuçaba community because we believe it is a revolutionary concept in Brazil, that shares in our vision of natural living,” write Casas de Catuçaba , the operators of the eco-cabins. “The Minimod is a primitive refuge with a modern twist. It´s not just a living space, it is an experience. It is a technological experience applied to the natural landscape, an invitation to live on the border between of the natural and the man-made. The Minimod incorporates a silencing system to enhance the experience between the inhabitant and the landscape.” Related: MAPA Architects’ Tiny MINIMOD House is a LED-Lit Prefab Home for Off-Grid Living Each cabin accommodates four and includes two beds, bathroom, kitchen, and living area with an indoor fireplace. Guests have access to trails through the woods that lead to a lake and floating deck, as well as an outdoor fire pit. The cabins are available to rent on AirBnB for $267 per night. + Minimod Catuçaba Via ArchDaily Images via Minimod Catuçaba and © Leonardo Finotti

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Off-grid eco-retreats reconnect you to serene nature in Brazil

Giant timber periscope tower offers lakeside views to everyone even those with disabilities

July 8, 2016 by  
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Commissioned by the City of Seinäjoki, the Periscope Tower was created in collaboration with SWECO Seinäjoki and constructed by students of the local vocational school SEDU. The observation tower is built entirely of wood and comprises three prefabricated modules stacked together vertically and topped with a roof. The large-scale periscope forms the inner core and is constructed with cross-laminated timber . Stairs made from larch circle around the periscope to reach the raised viewing platform. The external wooden frame, also made of larch, serves as the load-bearing structure. Related: Accessible sail-shaped viewing tower hovers over the edge of Denmark’s Aarhus harbor “The idea was to create a simple wooden structure of high quality in a way that supports learning and reflects a commitment to empowering and strengthening the local community,” write the architects, “One can either climb up the stairs to enjoy the view over the lake and into the surrounding landscape from the viewing deck, or simply stay on the ground and get the view through the periscope mirror.” The Periscope Tower was created as part of a larger landscape design project to revitalize the area around Lake Kyrösjärvi, a man-made lake that helps with flood control and generates energy for an electric power plant. The observation tower opened today to the public. + OOPEAA Via Dezeen Images via OOPEAA

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New timber office building will be among the tallest of its kind in London

March 24, 2016 by  
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Architecture firm Waugh Thistleton designed an office block in London’s Shoreditch district meant to be built entirely out of wood . Five vertical slices separated by deep voids within the floor plates will be constructed using glulam and cross-laminated timber. When its completed, the nine-story office building will be among the tallest modern timber-framed structures in the British capital. Read the rest of New timber office building will be among the tallest of its kind in London

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Starbucks brews up new program to donate unsold food to local charities

March 24, 2016 by  
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The love-hate relationship between environmentalists and Starbucks gets a new twist this week, as the monster coffee chain unveils a new policy to donate unsold food to charity. The Seattle-based company has been researching ways to rescue its prepared foods from the trash when they aren’t sold by the expiration date. The new food donation program is starting small, but Starbucks has big plans to expand the program over the next several years until every last bit of unsold food ends up in the hands and mouths of people who need it. Read the rest of Starbucks brews up new program to donate unsold food to local charities

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Your cat may be giving you road rage

March 24, 2016 by  
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Could cats be to blame for road rage? A new study has discovered a potential link between Toxoplasma gondii , a parasite carried by cats, and intermittent explosive disorder (IED) in humans. But don’t give up your cats for adoption just yet. Read the rest of Your cat may be giving you road rage

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The innovative Canopia tower in Bordeaux will be one of the tallest timber frame structures in the world

March 21, 2016 by  
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