New guest home in Estonia uses a weathered metal facade to blend into ancient castle ruins

February 1, 2019 by  
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Visitors to the the ruins of a 14th-century castle in Vastseliina, Estonia will now have a beautiful place to stay in this beautiful guest home by Estonian architects, Kaos Architects . The Pilgrims’ House was clad in a weathered steel to compliment the ancient ruins of a 14th-century castle. Located in southeastern Estonia, the complex is a medieval setting with the ruins of a 14th century castle and an old pub house tucked into the rolling green hills and valleys adjacent to the Piusa river. When tasked with designing a guest home for the unique space, the bucolic atmosphere prompted the architects to create something that would be modern and comfortable, but that would blend in seamlessly with the landscape as well as the older buildings on site. Related:Modern gabled guesthouse embraces passive solar in Australia Along with the idyllic landscape, the architects were also inspired by the castle’s long history . After a miracle was reported to have taken place there in 1353, the castle complex became a popular pilgrimage destination. Although in ruins today, the site is used as an “experience center” to welcome guests who would like to experience the medieval way of life. To create the new addition to the complex , the architects tucked the Pilgrims’ House into a deep slope in the landscape so that it would not block the view of the castle ruins. Partially hidden by bushes and trees, the center’s weathered metal facade was intentionally used so that it would compliment the red brick and granite of the ruins. On the interior of the building, the design went medieval through and through. High ceilings and wooden doors, brick floors and secret niches create a vibrant, fresh interior with plenty of medieval features such as the steel chandeliers. Various small windows are reminiscent of early castles, offering scenic views while providing the utmost in privacy. In one room, a jet black wall showcases white graphics that were inspired by old engravings, featuring the area’s long history. Guests will enjoy a stay in the Pilgrim’s House where the personnel is dressed in medieval clothing and serve traditional fare. Although the guest rooms are quite humble, they do have hints of modern comforts such as a claw foot bathtub and simple Scandinavian-inspired furniture . + KAOS Architects Via Archdaily Photography by Terje Ugandi and Maris Tomba via KAOS Architects

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New guest home in Estonia uses a weathered metal facade to blend into ancient castle ruins

Aquaponic gardens bring life to an unused balcony in an architects’ office

February 1, 2019 by  
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When a young architecture start-up in Vietnam went looking for office space, the Farming Architects  team, led by founder An Viet Dung, looked to the local vernacular for inspiration. The result is the Urban Eco Balcony, a 376-square-foot office designed to showcase how it’s possible to bring new life to the empty and unused balconies found throughout Hanoi. The interior space is comprised of a unique steel grid system, which was installed with an aquaponic system to breathe new life and green space into the office. According to Farming Architects founder An Viet Dung, when the budding design practice decided to open its first office in Hanoi, the team realized that the city’s ubiquitous balconies were largely unused, most likely because of urban pollution , noise and even security issues. Related: New library in Hanoi aims to show young children the benefits of aquaponics in an urban setting Using this urban challenge as inspiration, the firm decided to rent a downtown office that would focus on the importance of giving purpose to these “dead spaces.” By using a number of architectural solutions, Farming Architects created an open and vibrant working space , referred to as the Urban Eco Balcony, with various multi-functional features. First, the architects installed a steel girder-tree system that helps create a strong connection between the interior and the balcony areas. Large floor-to-ceiling glass doors lead to the outdoor spaces and welcome  natural light inside. The steel grid formations also provide protection from harsh sun rays and help block the rain from coming into the office. Additionally, the steel frames are modular, meaning they can be rearranged depending on necessity. This feature adds a lot of functionality to the office, as the structures can be used as storage, book cases, mounts for additional lighting and more. Perhaps the steel grid system’s best use, however, is to support the office’s aquaponic system , which fills the balcony. Filling the “dead spaces” with plants would be an obvious choice to liven up the work space, but the architects wanted to take it a bit further by creating a system of aquaculture with plants grown hydroponically. This system requires little-to-no maintenance and creates a fresh, healthy atmosphere for the working space. + Farming Architects Photography by Thai Thach and Viet Dung An via Farming Architects

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Aquaponic gardens bring life to an unused balcony in an architects’ office

Solar protective glass gives the iceberg-like Hercule home a mirrored finish

January 31, 2019 by  
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Modern, monolithic and minimalist , Hercule is a single-family home designed like an iceberg — the bulk of the building is hidden while the visible portion emerges out of the ground like the tip of an iceberg. Named after local hero John “Hercule” Gruen for its “robust strength,” the house located in Mondorf-les-bains in the south of Luxembourg is the recently completed work of local architecture practice 2001 . Embedded into the sloped terrain, the concrete dwelling further immerses itself into the landscape with a massive wall of solar reflective glass that mirrors the surroundings. Located on residual land between an old farmhouse and a suburban villa, the project site had a sloped terrain that the architects decided to turn into a design attribute rather than an obstacle. The natural context determined the layout of the home’s three floors, which step down the slope from west to east. Covering a built footprint of 446 square meters, the home appears deceptively compact from street level because of the spacious basement level. The main living spaces as well as the technical rooms are all located on the basement floor, which includes a two-car garage, a fitness and spa area, a wine cellar, storage and the open-plan living room, kitchen and dining area that open up to an enclosed outdoor courtyard through full-height glazed sliding doors. The dimensions of the open-plan living area — measuring 14 by 6 meters — is repeated on the two floors above ground that house the bedrooms and bathrooms. Related: Mirrored pavilion all but disappears into nature Minimalism is stressed throughout the design, with the main structural elements visible and enhanced through formwork and sanding.  Solar protective glass clads the east and west facades, which are oriented toward the street and the garden. To the south, a blind béton brut wall serves as a beam for the upper two floors to ensure a column-free living area below, while the north side is punctuated with garden-facing openings. + 2001 Photography by Maxime Delvaux via 2001

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Solar protective glass gives the iceberg-like Hercule home a mirrored finish

A new Polish film has exposed the illegal trafficking of sick cattle

January 31, 2019 by  
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After a film broadcast on Polish TVN 24 revealed that a slaughterhouse was illegally trafficking sick cattle , Polish police have launched an investigation into the matter. The film showed secret footage of cows too sick to stand being dragged into the plant, as well as slaughterhouse workers cutting carcasses at night “to avoid official supervision.” With no way of knowing where the meat went, the scandalous footage could end up being as serious as the 2013 EU horsemeat scandal that exposed Europe’s complex meat market and triggered product recalls. As first reported by the BBC, a statement issued just days after the movie premiered on TV, Poland’s chief veterinary officer said his inspectors and Polish police received a tip about the possible illegal slaughter at an abattoir in northeastern Poland near Ostrow Mazowiecka. On the night of January 14 eight sick cows were found at the facility and it was decided their suffering must come to an end and were ultimately killed. “During the check, the owners of the animals were identified, along with an animal dealer who transported cattle unfit for transport, and abattoir staff responsible for animal welfare there,” the statement said. Related: ChimpFace could help fight the illegal trade in chimpanzees The inspectors are continuing their investigation by attempting to identify buyers and sellers of meat from sick animals and are also checking other slaughterhouses in the region. According to Eurostat, an EU statistics agency, Poland is the EU’s seventh-largest producer of cow meat behind Ireland, Spain, Italy, the UK, Germany and France. In 2017, the country produced over 558,000 tons of beef and beef products, and each year they slaughter approximately two million head of cattle. However, just two percent of Poland’s meat consumption is beef, which means nearly all of Polish cow meat is exported. Data from UK Revenue and Customs (HMRC) shows that in 2018, the UK imported $85 million worth of Polish beef. Many are hoping that this latest revelation will lead to regulatory action that should have happened after the first scandal. The designated veterinarian for the slaughterhouse and his county supervisor have already been fired. “I think the police, which is at this moment already engaged in this issue, will be trying step by step to explain what has been the role of the supervisory authorities in this illegal, reprehensible, and downright criminal procedure,” says journalist Tomasz Patora of TVN 24’s Superwizjer. Via BBC Image via Shutterstock

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A new Polish film has exposed the illegal trafficking of sick cattle

Toxic smog causes school closures in Bangkok

January 31, 2019 by  
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Officials in Bangkok have closed schools for the rest of the week amid growing concerns of toxic smog . The Ministry of Education in Thailand announced the closing of around 450 schools in Bangkok and the surrounding area this week as the government tries to deal with a massive pollution problem. The air quality in the city of Bangkok has dipped to unacceptable levels. The amount of dust particles — also referred to as PM2.5 — deemed dangerous to health has far exceeded acceptable standards. This fine particulate matter is hazardous to health , because it is tiny enough to enter the body and do considerable damage to organs. Related: Scientists find air pollution leads to a significant decline in cognition According to The Guardian , the massive amount of pollution is caused by poor construction standards, car exhaust, factory fumes and crop burning. The pollution is so large in scale that it is unable to escape the city, leaving people trapped in a toxic environment. To combat the situation, residents in Bangkok have been wearing respirator masks to avoid inhaling the fine particles. The government, which has been under considerable criticism for not actively fighting pollution , has attempted to make it rain in the city by seeding clouds. The rain helps fight pollution by trapping the toxic particles. Officials have also sprayed water in strategic locations to help decrease the amount of dangerous particles in the air . Residents have been avoiding burning incense, which is a popular activity over the Chinese New Year. Despite their efforts, authorities were forced to close down 437 schools in Bangkok. They also declared a “control area” around the city that is over 580 square miles in size. Officials hope that closing schools will help alleviate some of the traffic and reduce vehicle emissions. “The situation will be bad until February 3 to 4, so I decided to close schools,” Aswin Kwanmuang, the governor of Bangkok, shared. School authorities plan to look at the situation next week to determine if the closing should be extended. The air quality index in Bangkok was measured at 171 this week, which is the highest it has been in more than a year. Via The Guardian Image via Shutterstock

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Toxic smog causes school closures in Bangkok

Minimalist tiny cabin is a secluded retreat in a Brazilian forest

January 30, 2019 by  
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São Paulo-based architect Silvia Acar Arquitetura has unveiled a minimalist tiny cabin tucked into a remote Brazilian forest. Elevated off the ground to reduce environmental impact, Chalet M is one-room cabin with a large glazed facade that connects its humble interior to it stunning surroundings. Located in the heavily forested region of São Lourenço da Serra, the incredible natural setting was the primary inspiration for the design. Wanting to create a refuge that would respectfully blend into the surroundings, the architect decided to create a minimal structure comprised of mainly wood, corrugated metal and glass. Related: One-room tiny cabin is a minimalist refuge deep in the Brazilian forest Although the setting is certainly idyllic, the remote location and rugged landscape provided quite a few challenges for construction. In this area, there is no room for large trucks to pass through. This meant that all building materials had to be lightweight and durable enough to be carried by hand. Accordingly, the entire construction process took place completely on site. Lightly elevated off the ground to reduce its impact on the environment , the tiny cabin is comprised of various thin sections of hardwood and panels of corrugated metal. The dark exterior is virtually camouflaged into the lush forestscape. At the heart of the refuge is the front facade, which is made up of sliding glass panels that open up to a wooden platform, the best place to take in the views of the mountains across the valley. On the interior, the walls are clad in a soothing plywood with thermoacoustic insulation. The simple furnishings, which include a small bed and custom cabinetry, were made out of the same plywood  for a cohesive, minimalist finish. + Silvia Acar Arquitetura Photography by André Scarpa via Silvia Acar Arquitetura

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Minimalist tiny cabin is a secluded retreat in a Brazilian forest

Sustainable pencil stubs Sprout into plants

January 28, 2019 by  
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Have you ever stopped to think about where your pencil came from or what it’s journey will be once it hits the trash? It’s okay if you haven’t, because one company has made it their mission to not only produce eco-friendly pencils that are available in a variety of colors, but also to give new life at the end of the pencil’s functional usability. Sprout World began as an idea from MIT students on the lookout for a more sustainable pencil and has resulted in over 10 million pencil-to-plant product sales. The Sprout pencil starts with sustainable materials such a cedar casings, clay and carbon-based graphite. At the end of the pencil (where you would expect an eraser to be) is a biodegradable capsule that holds plants seeds. So once you’ve sharpened your way through that much awaited manuscript or copious to-do list, your pencil brings new life in the form of plants. Related: These incredible sea creatures are made from dangerously sharp colored pencils As businesses are pushed towards environmental responsibility, Sprout offers a product they can use to their advantage— and that of the planet. The Sprout pencil sketchpad of clients includes notable companies like Toyota, Disney, Marriott and Coca-Cola. Although the private market is noticing the product, around 90% of Sprout pencil sales are currently to companies for use in marketing promotions— which is a major earth-friendly step in the right direction over landfill -clogging disposable pens or magnets. An appealing selling point is the personalization on the pencil shaft along with the additional marketing bling for the pencil sleeve. The seeds packed into the pencil range from colorful flowers to herbs and even vegetables, and buyers can select their preference. The pencils are available in a traditional grey color, as well as colored-pencil packs. Sprout feels that it is their duty to inspire sustainability through their products as well as their own corporate initiatives. With that in mind, they keep production facilities local in Minnesota for the U.S. and Canadian market instead of shipping manufacturing overseas. This not only minimizes the carbon footprint produced by transporting materials, but also provides American jobs. So what’s next for Sprout World? You won’t have to wait long to find out as the world’s first makeup pencil that also sprouts into plants instead of heading into the trash can is due to hit the market any day. Related: Cindy Chinn carves a tiny family of elephants into pencil tips New Sprout CEO, Sidsel Lundtang Rasmussen says, “The idea behind the plantable makeup pencil – like our other sprouting pencils – is to inspire to make small steps towards a more sustainable lifestyle. If you can plant a makeup pencil, what else can you do to recycle and give your belongings new life? The makeup pencil is also especially good as a gift because the receiver will enjoy it for a long time, as it signals originality and consideration from the giver.” + Sprout Images via Sprout

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Sustainable pencil stubs Sprout into plants

Studio Roosegaarde wants to turn space waste into shooting stars and 3D-printed housing

January 25, 2019 by  
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At the Space Waste Lab Symposium in Almere, Netherlands, artist and innovator Daan Roosegaarde of Studio Roosegaarde announced his creative new solutions for reducing space waste. The main project of his ambitious proposals will be Shooting Stars, a collaborative effort between Studio Roosegaarde and the European Space Agency that will pull floating space waste through the Earth’s atmosphere to create a sustainable alternative to traditional fireworks. The second solution will explore repurposing space waste as the building blocks for 3D-printed structures to house future space societies. Space waste includes natural debris generated from asteroids, comets and meteoroids as well as man-made debris generated from artificially created objects in space, particularly old satellites and spent rocket stages. In a bid to solve the space waste problem — Studio Roosegaarde estimates there are approximately 8.1 million kilograms of space waste — the team has worked together with experts from the European Space Agency and students to launch the Space Waste Lab, a multi-year program to capture and recycle space waste into sustainable products. Streamed live in Dutch , the Space Waste Lab Symposium that was held on January 19 put forth two sustainable proposals for eliminating the currently 29,000 objects larger than 10 centimeters floating in space. The first, called Shooting Stars, would pull the waste through the Earth’s atmosphere, where it would burn and create artificial shooting stars in a new spectacle of light and sustainable alternative to polluting fireworks. The second project aims to design and 3D print innovative structures made from space waste for operation in-orbit and on the moon. Related: Studio Roosegaarde’s laser light art tracks floating space waste in the sky “Although the Netherlands is small, we can make a huge impact in playing a role to clean up the space waste, with new innovations and offering opportunities,” Adriana Strating, executive director at KAF (Kunstlinie Almere Flevoland), said at the symposium. The Space Waste Lab will travel next to Luxembourg . + Studio Roosegaarde Images via Studio Roosegaarde

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Studio Roosegaarde wants to turn space waste into shooting stars and 3D-printed housing

Concrete home perched on Greek island cliffside designed with large cut outs to frame the amazing sea views

January 25, 2019 by  
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When Stockholm-based firm, OOAK Architects were tasked with building a beautiful home for two windsurfing aficionados on the Greek island of Karpathos, they created a design completely driven by the incredible surrounding nature. The Patio House is a beautiful concrete home with large open cutouts that sits gently on the landscape, cantilevering over the rocky cliff to provide breathtaking views of the Aegean Sea. According to the architects, the design and orientation of the home was driven by the rugged landscape, which is comprised of two stepped plateaus. Due to the nature of the terrain, the architects decided to cantilever the home from the higher ledge, a decision that would optimize the amazing sea views. Related:This off-grid home on a Greek island provides ‘cinematic frames’ of the sea “The question became how to introduce a foreign object– a house –into this spectacular landscape, enhancing its qualities without altering its character,” said OOAK. “Rather than trying to mimic the landscape, the house is gently placed on the site as an object, leaving the surrounding landscape as untouched as possible.” The natural terrain not only influenced the home’s overall design, but also its materials. To install the home into the rocky cliffside, the architects built the home with reinforced concrete , clad in a board-marked finish that gives the home a strong Mediterranean aesthetic. Additionally, the home’s roof was covered with gravel to blend in with the surroundings. The home’s volume is a fairly simple horizontal silhouette that stands out due to its various distinctive cutouts. These large apertures, some windows and some left completely open, were strategic to provide breathtaking views of the Aegean Sea from virtually anywhere in the home. The interior design , which includes Scandinavian-inspired furnishings and all white walls, is bright and airy, giving the design a fresh, modern aesthetic. Located high above the sea, the home is often exposed to strong winds, which prompted the architects to add a sheltered open-air patio at the heart of the living area. This space is a usable outdoor space, with a small dining area and plenty of greenery, that the family can use to enjoy fresh air despite the severe winds. For entertaining, the homeowners can also enjoy a large terrace that was placed on the lower plateau and accessed by a large staircase. + OOAK Architects Via Dezeen Photography by Yiorgos Kordakis and Åke E:son Lindman, via OOAK Architects  

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Concrete home perched on Greek island cliffside designed with large cut outs to frame the amazing sea views

Light-filled, sustainable office in the Netherlands produces all of its own energy

January 25, 2019 by  
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Dutch firm Team Paul de Vroom + Sputnik has just completed work on a beautiful, light-filled office in the Netherlands. Built around an open-air patio, the Big Green Egg’s new European office is designed to foster an inspiring work environment. Additionally inspiring, however, is the building’s sustainable profile, which includes solar panels that make the building 100 percent self-sufficient, a gray water collection system, natural building materials and a large green roof. The architects worked closely with the Big Green Egg Europe team to create an office environment that was vibrant and healthy. The volume of the building is quite humble, a square, two-story volume clad in brick. However, the combination of natural building materials such as stone and wood offer a strong connection to the environment. Massive glazed facades flood the interior with natural light . Related: A London office boasts biophilic design for a healthier, happier workplace The office space generates its own electricity as well as energy for heating and air conditioning thanks to a rooftop solar array. Additionally, a green roof runs the length of the building and is installed with a rainwater collection and storage system that is used to irrigate the building’s landscaping. At the heart of the design is the open-air central patio . This space was designed to offer employees an outdoor area for casual meetings or simply to take in some fresh air under the massive tree that sits in the middle of the space. Additionally, the patio is designed for entertaining and is the perfect place to highlight the company’s famous high-end ceramic barbecues. On the interior, each room is tailored to a specific use but with flexible features. There is ample space for formal conferences as well as smaller offices for teamwork sessions or private phone conversations. Natural flagstone flooring runs throughout the interior to give the space continuity. The smaller rooms also have custom-made dynamic wall furniture that provides optimal versatility depending on desired use. Within the walls, there is a pull-out desk and bench that can be extended depending on the number of seating spaces needed. To add a bit of whimsy into the interior design, there are fun animal statues throughout the space and even a boardroom wall covered in soft felt. + Team Paul de Vroom + Sputnik Photography by Ossip van Duivenbode via Team Paul de Vroom + Sputnik

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