Couple converts 16-year-old van into a compact solar home on wheels

February 24, 2017 by  
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An increasing number of digital nomads are replacing their conventional houses with practical, mobile homes powered by renewable energy technologies . Freelancer photographer Norbert Juhász and his fiancée Dora, a writer, have joined the fray with a 16-year-old van they transformed into a solar-powered home on wheels, and they’re driving it from Budapest to Morocco. While the exterior of the van is unremarkable, its interior packs all the amenities the couple needs on their journey. A multifunctional seat turns into a bed for two and includes a storage space and electrical system underneath. Opposite the bed is a small kitchen unit with a gas cooktop, gas cylinder, sink and a large water tank with a pressure-sensing pump. The tank is connected to an extra hook-up that leads to the rear of the van, where the water is used for quick showers. An L-shaped cabinet accommodates a refrigerator and more storage spaces, and features another section that doubles as a seating structure. Related: How this photographer escaped the grid with her tiny Teardrop Trailer The vehicle is powered by a 12-volt electrical system charged by either the 250-watt solar panels mounted on the roof, or the engine’s generator. Excess energy can be stored in 200-Ah batteries attached to an inverter. The couple spent around $7,200 for the van’s transformation, including its custom-made furniture. They will travel through Southern Europe all the way to Morocco, and document their journey on the Rundabella website and Facebook page . + Norbert Juhász + Rundabella Via Treehugger Photos by Norbert Juhász

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Couple converts 16-year-old van into a compact solar home on wheels

Fallingwater Institute adds four timber ‘portals’ to Frank Lloyd Wright landmark

February 15, 2017 by  
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Students participating in the Fallingwater Institute’s summer residence program will now have a beautiful new home-base from which to study the iconic Frank Lloyd Wright design and national monument. Architecture firm Bohlin Cywinski Jackson designed four “modest wood portals” to provide updated lodging to the rustic 1960s teaching facilities. Wright completed work on the iconic Fallingwater home in 1939. The stunning design, which was built for the Kaufmann family, sits over a waterfall in southwest Pennsylvania. Today, the home is a National Historic Landmark run by the Fallingwater Institute, which has been offering summer residency programs to architecture lovers of all ages for over 20 years. Related: Frank Lloyd Wright’s unbuilt Trinity Chapel brought to life in vivid renderings Now, students will be able to live a bit more comfortably as they study thanks to four new cabin-like structures built on the High Meadow farm next to the main home. The new residences are made up of four wooden cabins clad in a cedar stained shale gray. On the interior, built-in shelves and most of the furniture were constructed out of simple plywood, and cork flooring is used throughout the cabins. A horizontal pine screen, which was harvested and milled on site , connects the four cabins, which all have stunning views of the surroundinga. The angled nature of the design was strategic to provide shade in the summertime while also optimizing air ventilation throughout the cabins. Bill James, project architect from Bohlin Cywinski Jackson’s Pittsburgh office, explains that the four new cabins were designed to be subtle, but comfortable additions for summer tenants: “The building’s main entry welcomes visitors into a central screened porch, which joins the new architecture to an existing cabin and serves as the outdoor gathering and dining space,” he said. “A horizontal screen, made of Norway Spruce harvested and milled on site, extends from the main cabin and continues along the walkway leading to the dwellings.” + Fallingwater Institute + Bohlin Cywinski Jackson Via Archinet Photography by Nic Lehoux

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Fallingwater Institute adds four timber ‘portals’ to Frank Lloyd Wright landmark

Mecanoo to update Washington’s MLK Library with massive green roof

February 9, 2017 by  
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Renovating historic architectural landmarks is no easy task, but Dutch firm, Mecanoo , will be taking on the responsibility of breathing new life into the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Washington, D.C, originally designed by modernist master Ludwig Mies van der Rohe . Although the plans certainly call for retaining the original design’s most prominent features, the new version will include contemporary touches focused on adding more public space, such as an expansive green rooftop terrace . https://youtu.be/BUORTgTKBkg The library is a massive 37,000 square feet landmarked building that opened in 1972. The original design was focused on transparency and light, metaphors for the pillars of freedom and knowledge so often referenced by Dr. King. Related: Cedar Rapids turns tragedy into triumph with new LEED Platinum public library Working in collaboration with local firm Martinez+Johnson Architecture , the building will soon be getting a fresh new makeover that still pays homage to Dr King’s legacy. The main entrance and two adjacent cores will become the focal point of the space, opening them up to more light and community interaction. A Great Hall will be at the heart of the building, serving as a central area specifically setup to host cultural and informal events. The design also calls for new spacious stairwells to add a more fluid motion of traffic to the interior. The distribution of the library’s various departments and functional areas will also be rearranged to make the space more people-friendly. The glazed perimeter, previously lined with books shelves, will be converted into public areas. Visitors will be able to enjoy a new café on the ground floor and an expansive green rooftop terrace with beautiful views of the urban surroundings. + Mecanoo + Martinez+Johnson Architecture Via World Architecture News

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Flexible trailer-office tucked into an old ambulance garage in Portland

February 8, 2017 by  
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Designers are constantly coming up with new flexible solutions for urban office spaces– from multi-use backyard structures to road-ready office pods  . Exploring this concept further, Portland-based studio LOS OSOS teamed up with Coroflot , a website that connects designers with clients and peers, to design and build a mobile trailer -office which can be installed on any unoccupied urban lot. Their first Mobile Work Unit (MWU) is located inside an old ambulance garage in downtown Portland, and functions as a workspace for the retail shop Hand-Eye Supply. The team wheeled a trailer into the space and built the structure in place using a post-and-beam structural system, which limits the wall’s structural role. The designers used polycarbonate as siding in order to allow natural light to reach the interior while functioning as an acoustic barrier. Locally-sourced, custom-milled, and kiln-dried wood from Douglas fir trees was used for the walls, while modular furniture systems, specially developed for the project, define different personal spaces. The new office space can be repurposed and adjusted for different work scenarios. It can be easily adapted and expanded to accommodate a growing company. Related: Tiny workplace on wheels can make each day at the office different! “I see the next version in so many different flavors—office, retail, showroom , home,” said Laurence Sarrazin, principal of LOS OSOS. “And each has its own challenges and parameters that would determine what the skin would be, the size, how much light is let in, how much storage, all those fun design problems. It would be exciting to find manufacturers.” + LOS OSOS + Coroflot Lead photo by Josh Partee

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Flexible trailer-office tucked into an old ambulance garage in Portland

China’s first vertical forest is rising in Nanjing

February 2, 2017 by  
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Stefano Boeri Architetti is bringing the vertical forest concept popularized in Milan to Nanjing, China with the Nanjing Towers . The two green towers could provide the city with a breath of fresh air, producing around 132 pounds of oxygen every day as they absorb carbon dioxide. They’ll accomplish this air-cleaning feat with 1,100 flourishing trees from 23 local species and 2,500 cascading shrubs and plants . The two towers at 656 feet and 354 feet tall will rise above the Nanjing Pukou District, which Stefano Boeri Architetti’s press release describes as an area that will likely lead modernization efforts in the south of China’s Jiangsu province and help develop a Yangtze River economic zone. Nanjing Yang Zi State-owned Investment Group Company Limited is promoting the towers and is listed by Stefano Boeri Architetti as an investor in the project. Related: Vertical forest Mountain Hotel will clean the air in Guizhou, China The taller tower will hold offices, a museum, a green architecture school, and a rooftop club. The second tower will host a 247-room Hyatt hotel and rooftop swimming pool. A podium 65 feet high will include shops, restaurants, and a conference hall. Balconies on the buildings will allow inhabitants to get up close to the nature thriving on the building facades. 600 tall trees and 500 medium-sized trees will grow on the towers, and Stefano Boeri Architetti says the trees and cascading plants will help regenerate biodiversity in the area. Not only will the green towers be the first in China, but in all of Asia . And they probably won’t be the last – the ambitious architecture firm aims to design vertical forests in Shanghai, Guizhou, Shijiazhuang, Liuzhou, and Chongqing. Stefano Boeri Architetti aims to continue to popularize the concept with a book edited by their China office and published by Tongji University Press, A Forest City . The book is scheduled to come out in April. The Nanjing Towers are slated for completion in 2018. + Stefano Boeri Architetti Images courtesy of Stefano Boeri Architetti

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China’s first vertical forest is rising in Nanjing

8 inspiring tiny Airbnb homes for a taste of living small

January 26, 2017 by  
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Even if you could never imagine living in a tiny house , you have to admit there’s something inspiring about them. In about 400 square feet, with some clocking in much less, these mini dwellings challenge inhabitants to think big about how to live small. We’ve rounded up 8 tiny homes , cottages, and cabins we found on Airbnb  that manage to accomplish two things: they satisfy our wanderlust and our curiosity for tiny living. From a family-friendly cottage in Norway on its own private island to an A-Frame cabin nestled in the woods of an off-grid village, there’s a range of options depending on your definition of “roughing it”. Whichever compact getaway you choose (even if it’s only to put on your wishlist for now), these retreats may encourage you to live more simply and explore the bigger picture, including the gorgeous natural surroundings.   1. “Half-Moon” Cabin in California It may be tiny, but there’s a lot to tiny living love in this off-grid cabin nestled deep in the woods of Northern California. The rustic half-moon shaped structure was hand-built as part of an off-grid village which counts chickens, dogs, and frogs, as well as a few humans hard at work, as its neighbors. Located in the Six Rivers National Forest, the cabin includes a lofted bed and a wood stove. Despite the dwelling’s high coziness factor, you probably be spending most of your days exploring the national forest beyond the cabin, hiking over mountains and streams, or perusing the organic gardens for ingredients for a meal in the shared outdoor kitchen. Just make sure you bring a flashlight-the cabin doesn’t have electricity. 2. Industrial tiny house near Seattle The owner of this tiny house is an artist, designer, and welder, who brings those sensibilities together in a sleek space located a few miles from downtown Seattle . Industrial touches such as a steel ladder leading up to the lofted bed, metal shelving in the kitchen area, and lockers for stowing your stuff are warmed up by the wood floors and bright walls. The house feels surprisingly spacious and can accommodate three people for sleeping, with a high ceiling that keeps the home from feeling cramped. It also has a bathtub with wooden planks instead of fussy claw feet. 3. Writer’s Cabin near Stockholm For travelers who want to get away from it all but still have the security blanket of a city nearby, this cozy Swedish writer’s cabin may be the answer. Located in Trolldalen (which means “Troll Valley”), about a 15 minute drive from Stockholm, this basic cabin with a cheery exterior is ideal for either holing up when those Scandinavian days are short or serving as a place to collapse after a full day’s adventure in the city. Or just explore nearby: depending on the season, there’s hiking, blueberry picking, ice skating and cross-country skiing nearby. The writer’s desk does look like the perfect place to complete the finishing touches on your own masterpiece, or simply for catching up on the works of some Swedish masters. If you find your muscles are cramping from being hunched over your laptop, head on down to the property’s sauna to melt away the tension. 4. Atlanta treehouse This trio of rooms connected by bridges is the ultimate treehouse fantasy, and we’re not the only ones who think so. It’s been featured in magazines and TV shows as well as being Airbnb’s “#1 Most Wished-For Location Worldwide”. It certainly checks off a lot of boxes: minutes from downtown Atlanta , a living room, a bedroom, and a deck, and plenty of windows for admiring the lush natural surroundings. Twinkling lights on the bridges and a hammock add to the rustic chic vibe. RELATED: 7 exotic off-grid Airbnb rental homes for adventurous travelers 5. A Norwegian cottage on its own island Because everyone should feel like the king or queen of an island at least once. Another example of Scandinavian ingenuity and tiny house charm, this waterside cottage is located in the Hvaler archipelago in Norway . The cottage can be a getaway for two or a family that doesn’t mind tight quarters: a seat in the dining doubles as a convertible bed for two and the attic can sleep up to three kids or two adults. Cottage renters also have the use of a boat ; swimmers can take advantage of the area’s safe waterways and a floating dock. A marina and several restaurants and stores are only minutes away by boat, but we doubt you’ll make it that far. Pretending you are shipwrecked or pirates is just too much fun. 6. Mushroom Dome in California Steal away for a few nights to a cottage with a geodesic dome loft and a deck that overlooks a grove of redwoods. Part-treehouse, the mushroom dome is compact, yet light-filled: even the bathroom (with self-composting toilet) has a skylight . This unique retreat tends to book up months in advance given its ideal location for stargazing. It also makes a great temporary home base for hiking or heading out to the nearby beach. Hummingbirds, goats, and chickens will anticipate your arrival. 7. California A-Frame cabin In the wise words of Emerson, “Simplify, simply.” Staying in this off-grid A-Frame cabin will certainly inspire you to minimize even if just for a night or two. There’s just enough space for a futon mattress and a candle or two to light the way at night. Located in the same village as the Half-Moon Cabin , it has a shared outdoor kitchen, wood stove sauna , and acres upon acres of surrounding natural beauty. 8. Garden Caravan The owners of this 200-square-foot Garden Caravan on wheels squeezes a lot in without creating a cramped environment. The property has RV appliances, a kitchen stocked with pots and utensils, a toilet, and a shower. Situated on the hosts’ 5-acre plot, the caravan was built by hand with plenty of recycled materials by a boat builder accustomed to making the most of tiny spaces. The tiny home is located just a few miles from Sandpoint, Idaho , so you can sip your morning coffee while watching the ducks, head into town for some shopping or to the nearby lake for a swim, and be back in time for an evening cocktail. All images via Airbnb. Lead image by Lindsay Appel

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A series of cantilevering cubes make up this French social housing complex

January 18, 2017 by  
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Bordeaux-based firms, More Architecture  and  Poggi Architecture, have collaborated on a ultra-contemporary design for a social housing complex named White Clouds. Located in town of Saintes in western France, the 1,886-square-meter complex holds 30 apartments made out of cantilevering white boxes with perforated balconies, which serve to let in optimal natural light while providing privacy. The architectural team designed the social housing complex layout to maximise outdoor space. For the building itself, the design called for a series of stacked boxes that slope with the natural landscape. Each of the apartments was equipped with gridded metal balconies that jut out past the main volume. Along with the extra benefit of having a balcony, the architects avoided a central facade so that the eye-catching complex could emit a strong cohesive nature. Related: Social housing project with two “faces” channels Parisian duality The gridded metal balconies that jut out of each apartment serve dual functions: they let in an optimal amount of natural light into the living spaces, and offer a sense of protected privacy to the tenants. According to the architects, it was of utmost importance to provide a sense of personal space within the design, “Exit conventional balconies, terraces and loggias with their separating walls and shields of varying transparency, used to hide unsightly objects or provide a modicum of intimacy.” According to the design team, the unique features of the complex were based primarily on the needs of the tenants, “The harmonious association of setting and architecture makes way for a design which, rather than closing in on itself and looking inwards, opens out to embrace the neighbourhood as a whole while still providing protection from direct line of sight and noise thanks to its perforated cladding.” + More Architecture + Poggi + More Via Dezeen Photography by Javier Sevillas Callejas

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A series of cantilevering cubes make up this French social housing complex

Italian woman restores old van to travel the world with her rescue dog

January 17, 2017 by  
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Marina Piro is a woman on a mission to travel the world, but she wouldn’t dream of leaving her precious rescue dog, Odie, behind. So, the Italian world traveler took matters into her own hands by completely restoring a 2001 Renault Kangoo Van into the lovingly named Pam the Van , a roaming tiny home on wheels, fully equipped to take her and beloved furry fido on plenty of worldly adventures. Piro’s adventures started early in life when she realized she wanted to be a “self sufficient forest fairy.” Her second goal? To travel the world with Odie. So the Italian-born traveler mixed her two goals and bought the 15-year-old van in order to convert it (completely on her own) into a compact, but comfy home on wheels . Related: Traveling family renovates old school bus as both solar-powered home and hostel Piro’s first step in the renovation process was to completely gut the old vehicle from top to bottom. She then began to create her living quarters by replacing the floor and building a kitchenette and her bed. For lighting, she installed LED lights . After adding a few homey touches like curtains and house plants, the old van was reborn as Pam the Van. Although she is enjoying her nomadic lifestyle , she does admit that van life with a dog has its disadvantages, including restrictions on her own freedom, inability to leave Odie “at home”, and the overall messiness that comes with living in close quarters with a furry dog. She explains that, “Despite being the most practical solution, van life with a dog can be difficult at times and you must consider various aspects of it before throwing yourself into it.” Despite the drawbacks, she and Odie are loving their adventures, which she posts on her Instagram account. + Pam the Van Via My Modern Met Images via Pam the Van

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Italian woman restores old van to travel the world with her rescue dog

Italian farmhouse transformed into exquisitely sustainable summer retreat

January 17, 2017 by  
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Minimalist sophistication may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of Italian farm houses, but designer Andrew Trotter’s first architectural project, Masseria Moroseta, is full of surprises. Renovated with locally-sourced materials, the contemporary Italian summer retreat, located on the coast of Puglia, is a stunning example of how to infuse sustainable elements into historic structures without forsaking the original character. Tucked into five idyllic acres of olive groves, the renovation process spanned three years. Using local materials and guided by traditional techniques, Trotter focused on retaining the masserie’s (‘farm’ in Italian) original character as much as possible. A subtle contemporary aesthetic was carefully infused into the home’s open layout. Using the central courtyard as the heart of the retreat, the process naturally geared towards building a “kinship of community” through open communal spaces such as the rooftop terrace and sea-facing veranda. Of course, there are plenty of quiet nooks for those seeking solitude. Related: 700-Year Old Italian Farmhouse Renovated with Delicate Filigree Screens The relaxing retreat now consists of six guest rooms, some with private gardens. As for the project’s energy needs , the renovation called for enhancing the natural efficient nature of the original structure and the implementation of modern technology. Vaulted ceilings and stone floors were used to keep the interior cool on hot days and cross ventilation windows help with natural air circulation. Thick walls were installed with recycled insulation to reduce the dependence on artificial cooling and heating. Solar panels provide the building’s energy and heating needs. Going local was also part of the guest amenity strategy; 100 percent of the food and drink served at the retreat are either produced on site or sourced from the local community of farmers, artisans, and manufacturers. Guests can enjoy over 40 types of fruits and vegetables from the organic garden, roasted on a 200 year-old stone oven and drizzled with the retreat’s own stone-pressed olive oil. + Andrew Trotter Via Ignant Photography by Salva Lopez Andrew Trotter, masseria moroseta, solar power, green design, italian farmhouse renovation, summer retreat puglia, sustainable renovation, sustainable design, organic farms, recycled insulation, reclaimed materials, locally-sourced materials, eco-friendly designs, beach retreats

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Italian farmhouse transformed into exquisitely sustainable summer retreat

French schools create extra classrooms with Lego-style PopUp Houses

January 11, 2017 by  
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Two savvy private schools have just upped their learning space by almost 4,000 square feet with Multipod Studio ‘s incredible prefab Pop-Up Houses that snap together like LEGO bricks. Located in Indre-et-Loire, France, both schools went with the low-cost option not only due to budget restrictions, but also because of the structures’ sustainable materials and optimal energy performance. Low-cost and energy efficient pop ups are becoming the go-to solution for those with limited budgets in need of additional space. The PopUp House system is easy to assemble, lightweight and made with breathable materials. Constructed with insulating blocks and wooden panels, the design is a very practical system that provides optimal thermal insulation, reducing dependence on additional heating and cooling. Related: Multipod Studio’s Affordable Pop-Up House Snaps Together Like LEGO Bricks The staff at Rollinat High School and Alfred de Vigny High School worked with Multipod Studio to design the most efficient version of the structures to meet their needs. The popup building for Rollinat High School is 1614 square feet and includes two connected classrooms, while the three classrooms at Alfred de Vigny total about 2422 square feet. Once the materials were on site, the actual construction process happened (with just a screwdriver as the only required tool) in about two weeks. The final building was completed in December, 2016 and students began using their new classrooms in early January, 2017. + Multipod Studio + Arc A3 Sud Touraine Via Business Insider

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French schools create extra classrooms with Lego-style PopUp Houses

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