A Chinese highway becomes a vibrant, community-centered ‘livable street’

May 16, 2019 by  
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London-based design studio WallaceLiu has given the residents of the southwestern Chinese city Chongqing a new “livable street” to enjoy. The firm was recently tasked with converting a half-mile long, 65-foot-wide highway into a  serene linear urban park , now named Yannan Avenue Park. The green space comes complete with an open-air promenade lined with ample lounge areas, playgrounds and a series of vibrantly colored canopies that light up the area with playful pops of color. The city of Chongqing has experienced rapid growth over the last decade, and as such, the city has been developing at a breakneck pace. Unfortunately, the city’s green space has been quietly disappearing to make way for new property developments — until now. Thanks to the WallaceLiu team, local residents now have a new linear park that has something for just about everyone. Related: A disused railway will become a sustainable green corridor in Taiwan According to the architects, the inspiration behind the design was to reclaim some of the city’s urban space for the residents, replacing asphalt with greenery and a welcoming public space to enjoy fresh air. The firm said, “We imagined the entire highway to be transformed into a walkable and playful place, where the elements of a highway-dominated urban landscape — curbstone, road markings, traffic signage, pedestrian fences, hedge boundaries and limited pedestrian crossings — would be replaced by a characterful and vibrant open promenade.” Lined with shade trees, seasonal shrubs and flowers, the serene walkway includes several “nooks” that were designed to encourage neighborhood interaction. Ample benches and seating are located throughout the park, with most configured as sociable places that foster conversation. Additionally, there are more than a few spaces for children in the linear park , including a rock-climbing wall. To add a sense of whimsy to the design, the firm installed six colorful canopies that provide respite from the searing summer heat as well as reflect colorful plays of light onto the landscape. + WallaceLiu Images via WallaceLiu

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Phoenix Earthship features a food garden and jungle in off-grid fashion

May 16, 2019 by  
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An earthship is an accommodation with low environmental impact. The design of an earthship incorporates natural and recycled materials in the architecture and decor. It is built with conservation of natural resources in mind so that it produces its own water, electricity and food. Most earthships reuse discarded tires, cans and bottles for wall construction, and mud is common for wall plaster and floors. The energy savings through self-heating and cooling properties are remarkable. Most earthships rely on solar and wind energy as well as rain and snow harvesting for water needs. The Phoenix Earthship is a prime example, located completely off the grid with its own garden. Available as a short-term rental through Airbnb , the Phoenix sleeps up to eight people in the 5,300-square-foot structure near Tres Piedras, New Mexico, so you can try out earthship living. Like most homes, the Phoenix has three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a large kitchen and a living room, and then there’s a jungle — inside. Related: Couple builds an ‘Earthship’ tiny home for less than $10K The architectural and decorative details are incomparable with the building creating its own microclimate. That means plants and animals thrive in a space that is basically a greenhouse surrounded by the dry, sage-brush covered mesa surrounding it. The greenhouse and jungle areas feature a fish pond, birds, turtles, a food garden, banana trees and even a chicken coop that can provide fresh eggs during your stay. The water process functions as a semi-closed unit, beginning with water runoff collection . After use, gray water feeds into the indoor plants that both drink and filter it, where it is stored and then pumped to the toilets as needed. From the toilet, the water heads to a traditional sewer where overflow is consumed by outdoor plants. The entire structure looks like it was carved out of a hillside, with rounded walls and alcoves making up each space. Natural glass, clay, wood and rock can be found in every nook and cranny. Dubbed a “work of sustainable art,” the Phoenix Earthship provides plenty of opportunities to enjoy the actual nature outside the glass with a fire pit and seating, views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and spaces for unparalleled stargazing. In contrast to the remote feel and off-grid design, the Phoenix provides solar-powered modern amenities such as Wi-Fi, television and a cozy indoor fireplace with a water fountain feature. + Phoenix Earthship Images via Earthship Media

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Phoenix Earthship features a food garden and jungle in off-grid fashion

OMA unveils designs for zigzagging residential towers in Brooklyn

March 13, 2019 by  
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OMA’s New York office has unveiled striking designs for the Greenpoint Landing mixed-use towers—two dramatically stepped buildings that appear to be two jagged halves of a whole. Designed to frame views of Greenpoint and vistas of Manhattan beyond, the project is “a ziggurat and its inverse…carefully calibrated to one another,” says OMA Partner Jason Long. Greenpoint Landing, which is expected to break ground in August of this year, is located in the Brooklyn waterfront neighborhood of Greenpoint in between Long Island City in the north and Williamsburg in the south. Envisioned as the catalyst for revitalizing Greenpoint’s post-industrial waterfront edge, Greenpoint Landing will expand the public waterfront esplanade and add 2.5 acres of continuous open space along the shoreline as well as 8,600 square feet of ground-floor retail. The complex will include a seven-story building plinth with two towers above that will also bring a total of 745 units of housing, 30 percent of which will be affordable. “Like two dancers, the towers simultaneously lean into and away from one another,” the architecture firm says of the project’s eye-catching design. “The taller tower widens toward the east as it rises, maximizing views and creating a dramatic face to the neighborhood and beyond. Its partner steps back from the waterfront to create a series of large terraces, widening toward the ground and the new waterfront park to the North. A ziggurat and its inverse, the pair are intimately linked by the void between them.” Related: Amsterdam is transforming a prison into a green energy-generating neighborhood To further connect the building with its surroundings, the architects will add two levels of waterfront-facing green space and terraces framed with common spaces and amenities. The facade will be lined with large windows and precast concrete panels with carved angled faces that react dynamically to the sun’s path throughout the day. A bridge housing pool and fitness programs will link the two towers together and provide panoramic views of the waterfront and Manhattan skyline. + OMA Images via OMA

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Afghanistans Chihilsitoon Garden is restored with rammed earth architecture

March 5, 2019 by  
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The Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) has breathed new life and purpose into the Chihilsitoon Garden, a historic cultural destination in Kabul, Afghanistan that was in ruins for nearly three decades. Founded in the 19th century, the Chihilsitoon Garden had once housed visiting dignitaries such as U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, but suffered looting and damage during the internecine conflict of the early 1990s. Now restored to its former glory, the Chihilsitoon Garden marks the largest rehabilitation project carried out to date by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, which has completed over 140 restoration and landscaping projects across Afghanistan since 2002. Spanning an area of nearly 31 acres, the Chihilsitoon Garden is laid out along a longitudinal spine centered on a historic formal axial garden , which is surrounded by informal landscapes ranging from open lawns to densely planted areas. The restoration project reinforced the axial relationship with the restoration of existing open-air spaces, such as family picnic areas, an outdoor amphitheater and a historic formal promenade that includes the original marble fountains. A new recreational zone includes cricket batting areas, volleyball fields and two mini-football pitches as well as an indoor facility with changing rooms and showers. New buildings totaling over 100,000 square feet were also added to the grounds. The contemporary buildings take inspiration from traditional designs and typologies, including the use of rammed earth as an earthquake-resistant structural material. Related: Barefoot solar movement empowers, employs and illuminates in Afghanistan “Found to have been used in parts of Afghanistan as far back as the 2nd century A.D., rammed earth structures are highly suitable to the climatic and ecological environment in the region,” the agency explained an a project statement. “Due to the workability of rammed earth, a range of architectural designs was explored for the various facilities. Reinforced with bamboo trees, steel re-bar and concrete frame structures, buildings constructed with rammed earth were designed to withstand moderate earthquakes.” The 15.1 million-euro  restoration project began in early 2015 and was completed in the middle of 2018. The newly formed independent “Kabul Historic Gardens Trust” will manage the garden. + Aga Khan Trust for Culture Via ArchDaily Images by Simon Norfolk via AKTC

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Afghanistans Chihilsitoon Garden is restored with rammed earth architecture

This Australian property was redesigned with a sustainable, lush garden

February 11, 2019 by  
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The Shoreham House in Victoria, Australia was designed in the early 2000’s, but was in need of an update to the overall structure and gardens. The new architects wanted to update the home with sustainability in mind while respecting the original designers and builders. According to Tim Spicer Architects, “The renovation and addition needed a sensitive, well considered approach to create unity between the old and the new, without the obvious signature of new Architects. The design intent was to update what was already a beautiful house, yet make it feel like it had been built at the same time.” The new landscape takes full advantage of the lush surroundings, something that went slightly overlooked in the original design. It utilizes a deep water bore to provide water to the gardens, rather than using the local town water to irrigate. The 50-meter bore has the power to provide the landscape with 20,000 liters of water in a day. In addition to the sustainable garden, the architects also replaced the old halogen lighting in the house with new LED lighting, which is more energy efficient and longer-lasting. The new hot water system is solar-powered, and the windows have new Low-E coating which works to minimize the amount of infrared and ultraviolet light without losing visibility. They also installed new eco-friendly high R-value insulation and a new ducted combustion fireplace to make the structure more energy efficient overall. Related: A midcentury warehouse becomes a vibrant office for creatives Designers faced the difficult task of connecting the new guest wing to the master area without compromising privacy. As a result, they created a whole new staircase leading from the dining room and past the master staircase. The project was a challenging feat for the builders who used hand tools to blast through the bedrock under the house in order to construct the second staircase. To connect the master and newly-designed guest wings, the architects created a glazed bridge walkway, make-shifting a courtyard garden area with new meandering paths and green spaces. The house now has new large windows and glazed doors that allow for beautiful, sweeping views of the gardens from the inside. In the original house, the master area deck already had views of the ocean . With the intent of making the view more accessible to guests, the architects installed a “slow stair” between the master deck and ground floor courtyard. Via Archdaily Images via Tim Spicer Architects

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A new study reveals that urban green spaces may be an antidote to depression

July 23, 2018 by  
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A recent study shows that symptoms of depression can be reduced for people who have access to green spaces. Researchers in Philadelphia transformed vacant lots in the city into green spaces and found that adults living near these newly planted areas reported decreased feelings of depression, with the biggest impact occurring in low-income neighborhoods. Researchers at University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine teamed up with members of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society to transform and observe 541 randomly selected vacant lots in Philadelphia. Eugenia South, assistant professor and co-author of the study , said Philadelphia’s littered lots were an ideal environment to set-up their groundwork. “There’s probably 40,000 of them in the city” she told NPR , “but they’re concentrated in certain sections of the city, and those areas tend to be in poorer neighborhoods.” According to the study, lower socioeconomic conditions have already been proven to distress mental health states. Related: Virtual reality helps scientists plot the ideal urban green space The researchers separated the lots into three groups: a control group of lots where nothing was altered, a set of lots that was cleaned up of litter, and a group of lots where everything, including existing vegetation, was removed and replanted with new trees and grass. “We found a significant reduction in the amount of people who were feeling depressed ” South said. Her team used a psychological distress scale to ask people how they felt, including senses of hopelessness, restlessness and worthlessness, as well as measuring heart rates, a leading indicator of stress, of residents walking past the lots. Low-income neighborhoods showed as high as a 27.5 percent reduction in depression rates. South said, “In the areas that had been greened, I found that people had reduced heart rates when they walked past those spaces.” While previous research has cross-studied the beneficial effects of green spaces on mental health, experts, such as Professor Rachel Morello-Frosch from the University of California, Berkeley, are regarding this experiment as “innovative.” Morello-Frosch said that previous studies were observational in nature and failed to provide concrete statistical results as this study has offered. Morello-Frosch, who was not involved with the analysis, said, “To my knowledge, this is the first intervention to test — like you would in a drug trial — by randomly alleviating a treatment to see what you see.” Parallel research has identified indicators of crime-reduction and increased community interaction, showing that green spaces are a low-cost answer to improving many facets of a community’s well-being, now including mental health. +  JAMA Network Open Via NPR Before and After images via Eugenia South and Bernadette Hohl/JAMA Network Open

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Brooklyn’s new Domino Park features relics from the old sugar factory

June 8, 2018 by  
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Prolific landscape architecture firm  James Corner Field Operations  has managed to transform many desolate areas with its amazing park designs, but perhaps its crowning achievement will be Brooklyn’s Domino Park. Set to open to the public on June 10, the park — which was installed with reclaimed relics from the former Domino Sugar Refinery — has been converted into a quarter-mile long stretch of open green space running along the Williamsburg waterfront. Working with Brooklyn-based Two Trees Management, James Corner Field Operations (the lead architects on the beloved High Line park in Manhattan) has taken great care to convert the former industrial area into a welcoming public green space for the Williamsburg neighbors. The stretch of land from Grand Street to South Fifth Street has been desolate for years, its vacant lots blocked to visitors with chain-link fences. Now, after an extensive renovation to create a community-tailored recreational area, the project is ready to welcome the public. Related: Abandoned Lot Turned into Public Farm and Mountain Bike Course in Brooklyn First and foremost, the master plan for the park’s design included a strong emphasis on historic preservation. Reclaimed sugar refining and industrial materials, as well as various timber pieces, are just some of the relics  salvaged from the factory and placed in the park to pay homage to its origins. The 1,200-foot-long waterfront esplanade runs the length of the east bank of the East River, providing visitors with incredible panoramic views of the Manhattan skyline and the Williamsburg Bridge. For those looking to simply sit and enjoy the surrounding views, there are plenty of benches around the park, which were also made out of reclaimed wood from the factory. The park’s expansive green space  is separated into two areas, a passive zone and an active zone. For those looking for a relaxing day at the park, there is an urban beach where visitors can soak up the sun on lounge chairs. A Japanese Pine garden leads into an open lawn with a designated 100-person picnic area and a large playground. For those who love to be active, there is a full-sized volleyball court, two boccie courts, and a 6,300-square-foot playing field. Dogs are also welcome to stretch their legs in the spacious dog run. At the heart of the park is a central gathering space, “Water Square.” Like most of the firm’s work, the greenery found throughout the park includes various sustainable plantings, as well as a mix of local and exotic foliage, flowers and trees. A four-tiered seating area with a water fountain provides visitors with a meeting place to enjoy the incredible views. Next to the wooden seating, four salvaged syrup tanks from the refinery were installed as a whimsical “Syrup Tank Garden.” Overlooking the park is an elevated, five-block long walkway. “Artifact Walk” is made from various pieces of salvaged factory equipment, such as steel columns, crane tracks and tall cylindrical tanks. During the ambitious project, Hurricane Sandy forced the planners to put resilience at the forefront of the design. Accordingly, the park is raised above the 100-year flood elevation levels and pushed back 100 feet from the water’s edge. + James Corner Field Operations + Two Trees Management Via Architectural Digest Images via Two Trees Management

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Brooklyn’s new Domino Park features relics from the old sugar factory

This French art collective is building the world’s largest hanging garden

March 15, 2018 by  
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French art collective Les Machines de L’ile is embarking on plans to build the world’s largest hanging garden – which will be on the scale of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. The Nantes-based design team is currently working on what they are calling The Heron’s Tree – a massive interactive garden that will span more than 160 feet in diameter and 114 feet high. The “mechanical menagerie” will invite guests to climb the labyrinth-like branches and ride one of two mechanical herons on flights that provide a bird’s-eye view of the surrounding Loire Valley. The Heron’s Tree, which is currently under construction on the banks of the Loire Valley, is actually the third part of a massive artistic endeavor called the Island’s Machines, which the artists began back in 2007. Inspired by the works of Jules Verne and Leonardo Da Vinci, the artistic project includes The Grand Elephant and the Machine Gallery, as well as the Carousel of Sea Worlds. The concept revolves around a mechanical collection of giant wild animals that roam around the world’s landscape. The project will include a large steel tree, weighing about 1,500 tons and spanning 165 feet wide. Twenty-two wide branches will be built as walkways that will be accessible from a helix staircase inside the tree trunk. Jutting out from the trunk at various heights, visitors can explore the tree’s many greenery-lined paths, which create a lush ecosystem of hanging vegetation . Related: Calatrava’s Dubai observation tower resembles the Hanging Gardens of Babylon About 115 feet above the tree top, there will be two platforms where visitors can climb aboard two massive herons. The herons will take the passengers on a circular ride soaring over of the large tree, providing a stunning 360-degree view of the Loire Valley. Created by artists Francois Delaroziere and Piere Orefice, the interactive art installation will be located on the banks of the Loire River – a significant location for the artists. “Inspired by the worlds of Jules Verne and Leonardo Da Vinci, it is an unprecedented artistic project. After the Grand Elephant and the Machine Gallery in 2007, the Carousel of the Sea Worlds in 2012, the Heron’s Tree is the third phase of the Island’s Machines. Coming out of the minds of François Delaroziere and Pierre Orefice, it will be located along the banks of the Loire River, a few meters away from the house Jules Verne spent his teenage years in and where Jean-Jacques Audubon grew up and drew his first herons.” The Heron’s Tree is the latest phase in the art ambitious project, which is scheduled for completion in 2022. The 35 million euro project is being funding partially by public funds, but the artistic team behind the project is seeking additional funding through a Kickstarter campaign . + Les Machines de L’ile Via This is Colossal Images via Les Machines de L’ile

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This French art collective is building the world’s largest hanging garden

Green walls are great, but they need to work efficiently

March 1, 2018 by  
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You may have heard about green walls or even seen a few. Also called living walls , live walls, eco-walls and vertical gardens , these structures are essentially walls covered in vertically grown plants, and they can appear either inside or outside. The idea has been around for a while, and it’s really caught on lately due to their environmental and health benefits, as well as appealing aesthetics. But not all green walls are made equal. Read on to learn how a green wall should be designed in order to be useful and friendly to the environment. How Do They Work? There are several types of green walls. Some might consider regular walls covered in ivy as a green wall, while others would limit the definition to walls specifically designed to hold vegetation. The latter type can be constructed in various ways . They might consist of panels with pre-planted vegetation, or replaceable trays that fit into slots in the wall, enabling easy removal if necessary. Vertical gardens also vary in terms of how they function. The simpler models require hand watering, while others have self-watering pipe systems. Many green walls rely on hydroponic systems that use drip irrigation. Based on the desired aesthetics and effects, you might choose different types of plants. You can include many varieties of plants, including groundcover, ferns, shrubs, flowers and more. Benefits Green walls have become popular in urban areas where people want to make their space greener but don’t have a lot of room to do so. Vertical gardens ensure the benefits of green space without taking up too much space. They also improve air quality, which is advantageous for people as well as animals and the overall environment. Plants remove carbon dioxide from the air and produce oxygen. They also filter out various contaminants, creating cleaner air, and can remove up 87 percent of airborne toxins inside a home within just 24 hours. This helps people breathe easier, especially indoors where air quality is notoriously bad. Ecowalls can reduce the urban heat-island effect and improve thermal insulation, reducing a building’s energy costs. They can also absorb noise and provide mental health benefits. Research has shown that having plants around can reduce stress and increase productivity by up to 15 percent. Challenges Critics have identified several potential issues with green walls. If the designer doesn’t adequately plan for their project, they say, the costs might outweigh the benefits. Maintaining a green wall requires more work and resources than a regular wall, especially if it doesn’t have a self-watering system. You’ll have to manually water the plants, and even with a self-watering system, the plants will need care at some point. Green walls typically require large amounts of water, which can be unsustainable if supplies are low and the wall isn’t equipped with water recycling equipment. Operating a living wall also requires energy. Producing this energy can have a negative impact on the environment if derived from fossil fuels. How to Make a Green Wall More Efficient A green wall’s efficacy depends on how it’s constructed, operated and maintained. Drip irrigation systems appear in walls that use panels and hydroponic systems, while walls with replaceable trays use tank systems. Drip irrigation tubing is typically about 85 percent more efficient than tank systems. They connect to the building’s plumbing system, while tray systems require manual watering. Drip irrigation systems can also automatically recycle water. You could use recycled water in a tank system from an air conditioning system or another source, but you’d have to do so manually. Because tray systems require more water and use soil, they can attract bugs and form mold, fungus and even introduce pathogens. Due to this possibility, they don’t comply with strict health, safety and hygiene codes in places such as healthcare facilities. These buildings would need to use a hydroponic system. For these reasons, the soil in tray systems must be replaced about every month, which can be costly. Panel systems don’t require this and therefore don’t need as much maintenance. Another factor that can impact a green wall’s efficiency is the type of vegetation with which it is populated. Drought-resistant and local plants need less water than other types of vegetation, so they’re more water-efficient. Plants also, of course, require sunlight. Placing a living wall in an area with a lot of natural light will reduce the amount of artificial light needed and, therefore, the amount of energy it requires. The Importance of Truly Green Green Walls For a green wall to be truly beneficial, you need to use an efficient watering system, put it in the proper place (with ample natural light), and plant vegetation that’s easy to maintain and requires minimal irrigation. Anyone interested to install a green wall, as well as the architects and engineers in charge of designing them, ought to consider the efficiency of the system in addition to their benefits and aesthetics. Photos via Depositphotos , Scott Webb on Unsplash , Mike.dixon.design  via Wikimedia Commons , Kaldari via Wikimedia Commons , AlejandroOrmad via Wikimedia Commons , and Terry Robinson via Wikimedia Commons

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Green walls are great, but they need to work efficiently

Translucent ‘hugging’ towers could help clean Hong Kong’s air pollution

February 20, 2018 by  
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Architect Suraksha Acharya from Midori Architects has proposed a pair of ultra-green translucent towers for the Hong Kong skyline. The futuristic Aero Hive skyscrapers are clad in an organic facade interspersed with greenery that leads up to the towers’ expansive open-air rooftop gardens . The concept is based on creating an iconic symbol of sustainable design for the city – a unique highrise designed to adapt to the challenges of the local climate and reduce CO2 emissions in the area. Acharya’s design, which recently won the Skyhive Skyscraper Challenge , is meant to provide the bustling Hong Kong skyline with an icon of sustainability. Although aesthetically apt for Hong Kong’s profile of soaring skyscrapers, the Aero Hive is also strategically designed to withstand the local climate. The shape and size of the two towers, as well as the materials, were all chosen to adapt to the city’s subtropical weather and extreme winds. Related: Futuristic floating skyscraper ‘heals’ the effects of climate change According to the architect, the design is meant to change ideas when it comes to green skyscrapers, “Aero Hive aims to challenge the common belief that contemporary tall buildings cannot be ventilated naturally due to their ultra-heights and offers pause from typical hermetically sealed glass-boxes, serving as a model of sustainability” The curvaceous form of the towers is designed to be self-shading, meaning that the angles of the buildings are precisely aligned to allow them to mutually shade each other throughout different times of the day. Additionally, the porous cladding allows optimal air circulation throughout the building. The double glazed windows that make up the cladding are also optimized to bring in diffuses natural light to the interior while restricting direct solar radiation. Topping the twisty towers are two flared rooftops, which will be open to the public as city gardens. The greenery is two-fold – helping preserve the city’s public green space, but also address the “urban heat island” effect common in Hong Kong’s tropical climate. The lush rooftop gardens will help create a natural habitat for local birds, as well as filter pollutants and reduce CO2. + Midori Architects + Midori Architects on Facebook + Midori Architects on Instagram + Midori Architects on Twitter + Midori Architects on G+ Images courtesy Midori Architects

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Translucent ‘hugging’ towers could help clean Hong Kong’s air pollution

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