This serene family home is connected by glass hallways

May 5, 2020 by  
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Tucked into the foothills of California’s beloved Laurel Canyon, the Laurel Hills Residence by Assembledge+ is an exquisite example of modern, sustainable home design. Comprised of three cedar-clad volumes with massive glass panels, the house features interconnecting pavilions that are topped with a broad overhangs to shield the interior spaces from extensive sun exposure. Lined in warm Western Red Cedar cladding, the family home consists of three pavilions connected by a series of glass hallways. The entrance to the one-story home is the first sign that the project is intended to foster a strong connection to the outdoors. Made out of concrete pavers and lined with wild grasses , the walkway weaves through an open-air courtyard with olive trees. Related: Cool, California ranch house in San Francisco is a sustainable gem The Laurel Hills Residence’s three boxy volumes are clad in a warm blend of cedar panels topped with an oversized, charcoal-colored board. In addition to creating an attractive contrast with the wooden cladding, the black overhangs also offer protection from harsh sun exposure . By preventing solar heat gain, the family can rely less, if at all, on air conditioning to keep the home cool. As a third element, glass is found nearly everywhere in the design, melding the indoors and outdoors. The glass entrance leads to the main living room on the western side or the private sleeping areas to the east. Many of these glass walls open completely to the backyard, which comes complete with a swimming pool. The multiple windows, skylights and sliding glass doors also allow the interior spaces to enjoy ample natural light and air ventilation, further reducing the home’s reliance on artificial energy. The interior design is centered on bringing a sense of serenity while maintaining focus on the nature surrounding the Laurel Hills Residence. Modern, minimalist furnishings and art fill the rooms, enhancing the white walls and wooden flooring that run throughout the home. + Assembledge+ Photography by Matthew Millman via Assembledge+

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This serene family home is connected by glass hallways

Distinctly modern net-zero home sits in harmony with its woodland surroundings

May 5, 2020 by  
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Chapel Hill-based firm Arielle Condoret Schechter is known for its commitment to building sustainable homes that don’t sacrifice elegance or comfort. The company’s latest work includes the spacious Haw River House, which was built with several efficient features to create a net-zero energy home that is seamlessly linked with its natural surroundings. Tucked into a pristine woodland overlooking the Haw River, which runs through central North Carolina, the beautiful Haw River House sits in harmony with the landscape. Using this natural setting as inspiration, the 2,600-square-foot house is outfitted with several energy-efficient features that make it completely energy-neutral. Related: Net-zero home is designed to blend in with its natural, protected landscape According to the architects, the thick forest of towering deciduous and evergreen trees that soar out of the rocky landscape inspired the unique volume of the home . To mimic the dreamy, natural silhouettes, the home has a butterfly roof and various outdoor spaces. First, a cantilevered screen porch that nearly stretches the length of the home allows the family to enjoy a seamless connection to the outdoors. There is another deck off of the main volume and a private outdoor deck cantilevered off of the master bedroom. To achieve its net-zero energy status, the home includes many sustainable features, such as a 13 KW solar panel system and a geothermal heating and cooling system. To maintain comfortable indoor temperatures year-round, Haw River House has an air-tight envelope and triple-glazed windows and doors, including a 20-foot-wide sliding glass door that looks out over the beautiful river rapids. The abundance of glazing provides the entire living space with optimal natural light, air circulation and, of course, views. Despite all of that glass, the extended roof overhangs shelter the interiors from harsh sunlight. Additionally, the roof has an integral water collection system . The strategically designed gutter system leads to downspouts on each end of the home, funneling all rainwater into two 5,000-gallon above-ground cisterns. The water is then processed into clean drinking water via a triple-filtering system that includes a state-of-the-art UV method that kills 99.9% of bacteria. + Arielle Condoret Schechter Photography by Tzu Chen via Arielle Condoret Schechter

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Distinctly modern net-zero home sits in harmony with its woodland surroundings

Office building uses 112 ‘smart’ chimneys to regulate light, air and energy

April 10, 2020 by  
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Mario Cucinella Architects has created a sustainable public building that uses several active and passive elements to lower its environmental footprint. Specifically, the new timber-clad headquarters for the Regional Agency for Prevention, Environment and Energy (ARPAE) uses a soaring rooftop made up of 112 smart chimneys to regulate its air, light and energy so that the building relies on minimal technical systems. At more than 53,000 square feet, the immense public works building features a central courtyard. Its cladding is made up of thin timber panels that top a ground floor with floor-to-ceiling glass panels, creating a natural harmony with its woodland surroundings in the small city of Ferrara, in northern Italy. Related: 3D-printed home inspired by a wasp’s nest is made of local clay The architect chose the building’s materials based on their ability to help the structure reach a “maximum level of environmental sustainability.” Mario Cucinella explained, “The building in Ferrara explores the relationship between form and performance, that makes it the first hybrid public building in Italy.” The stand-out characteristic in the design is, without a doubt, its eye-catching rooftop, which is comprised of 112 chimneys. An essential element in regulating the building’s energy use, each chimney features a skylight that lets natural light and air filter down into the spaces below. Some of the chimneys feature solar panels that generate ample energy for the building. The passive building system also acts differently in the summer and winter months. During the hotter months, the chimneys constantly move air through the interior, creating a healthy working space for employees and visitors. In the winter months, they operate more like a greenhouse, where they accumulate solar heat to keep the spaces warm. All in all, the unique system helps the building enjoy a comfortable temperate year-round all while reducing energy demand. + Mario Cucinella Architects Images via Mario Cucinella Architects

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Office building uses 112 ‘smart’ chimneys to regulate light, air and energy

Los Angeles air quality improves amid pandemic

April 10, 2020 by  
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There is one positive impact of the tragic coronavirus pandemic — Los Angeles is experiencing its longest stretch of good air quality since 1995. On April 7, Swiss air quality technology company IQAir cited LA as one of the cities with the cleanest air in the world. While the notoriously smoggy city is on lockdown, highway traffic has dropped 80% throughout the entire state of California, which probably accounts for much of the improvement. “With less cars on the road and less emissions coming from those tailpipes, it’s not surprising to see improvements in the air quality overall,” Yifang Zhu, professor of environmental health science at UCLA, told CNN. Zhu and her team of scientists measured a 20% overall improvement in southern California’s air quality between March 16 and April 6. They also recorded a 40% drop in PM 2.5 levels. This microscopic air pollutant is linked to both respiratory and cardiovascular problems, especially in the very young and very old. A recently released Harvard study linked PM 2.5 exposure to an increased likelihood of dying from COVID-19 . Related: Coronavirus and its impact on carbon emissions All over the world, scientists are noting that cleaner air is a side effect of the pandemic . Satellite images have revealed much lower concentrations of nitrogen dioxide over industrial areas of Europe and Asia in the past six weeks. The drops in nitrogen dioxide levels over Wuhan — a city of 11 million — and the factory-filled Po Valley of northern Italy are especially striking. “It’s quite unprecedented,” Vincent-Henri Peuch, director of the Copernicus Atmosphere Service, told the Guardian. “In the past, we have seen big variations for a day or so because of weather. But no signal on emissions that has lasted so long.” Alas, when lockdowns lift and Angelenos return to the highways, the pollution will likely return. Zhu hopes that this glimpse of clear, blue skies will inspire people to work for better air quality post-pandemic. “From the society level, I think we need to think really hard about how to bring about a more sustainable world, where technologies and policies come together to bring us cleaner energy ,” she said. “So that the air that we’re breathing will stay as clean as what we’re breathing today.” Via CNN and The Guardian Image by Joseph Ngabo

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Resurrected greenhouse to honor father of modern genetics

April 10, 2020 by  
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International architecture and urban design practice  CHYBIK + KRISTOF has unveiled designs for an energy-efficient greenhouse to commemorate Gregor Mendel, a scientist and Augustinian friar regarded as the founder of the modern science of genetics. Set on the foundations of the 19th-century Brno greenhouse where Mendel conducted his pioneering experiments, the new greenhouse will pay homage to the original architecture and Mendel’s teachings. The greenhouse is slated for completion in 2022 to commemorate Mendel’s birth 200 years ago.  Born in 1822, Gregor Mendel spent eight seasons, from 1856 to 1863, cultivating and breeding pea plants in a 19th-century greenhouse that had been built in the St. Thomas Augustinian Abbey’s gardens to cement the monastery as a leading center for scientific research. In 1870, however, a storm destroyed the building, leaving only its foundations intact today. The experiments that Mendel had conducted within the greenhouse are now widely recognized as the foundation of modern genetics .  CHYBIK + KRISTOF’s resurrection of the historic greenhouse begins with the preservation of the foundations that will be integrated into the new structure and left visible. The foundations will inform the orientation and shape of the greenhouse, which will be reminiscent of the original building. “While the trapezoidal volume is identical to the original edifice, the reimagined supporting steel structure seeks inspiration from Mendel’s three laws of inheritance – and the drawings of his resulting heredity system,” explained the architects. “Likewise, the pitched roof, consisting of a vast outer glass surface, reflects his law of segregation and the distribution of inherited traits, and is complemented by a set of modular shades.” Related: Kuehn Malvezzi tops a brick office building in Germany with an energy-efficient greenhouse In addition to celebrating Mendel’s work, the revived structure will primarily be used as a flexible events space that can adapt to a variety of functions, from conferences and lectures to temporary exhibitions. The flexible design will also be entirely exposed to the outdoors. For energy efficiency, the architects have integrated a concealed system of underground heat pumps  into the greenhouse, as well as adjustable shades and embedded blinds to facilitate natural cooling and ventilation.  + CHYBIK + KRISTOF Images by monolot and CHYBIK + KRISTOF

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Solar-powered home in Maine stays warm with passive design

April 6, 2020 by  
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As one of the most beautiful states in the country, Maine offers an infinite number of advantages. But the state’s notoriously frigid winters often leave new residents desperate to find some respite from the long, cold months. After spending a few years in a drafty home where she and her family lived in multiple layers of clothing, author Jessica Kerwin Jenkins and her husband decided to build their own energy-efficient home. The result is an incredible barn-inspired structure that uses solar power and multiple passive features to keep the stunning interior living spaces warm and cozy throughout the year. Once they set out to build a new home, the couple researched passive house concepts that would suit their family’s needs, which included a comfortable living space where they wouldn’t have to dress in 10 layers of warm clothing for six months out of the year. With the help of a local architect, the couple set out to build an extremely airtight structure that used solar power and passive strategies to create an energy-efficient home with a minimal carbon footprint. Related: Beautiful Maine home uses passive solar principles to achieve near net-zero energy Located in the quaint community of Blue Hill, the beautiful home is tucked into an old blueberry field just minutes away from a secluded cove. The incredibly idyllic setting set the tone for the design, which focused on creating something that would fit the region’s style but also reap the benefits of modern sustainability. As for aesthetics, Jenkins explained that she and her husband were both intrigued by the traditional Japanese practice of shou sugi ban . But they ended up cladding the home in something that would pay homage to the local seaside community — pitch tar. Typically used to weatherproof ships’ masts, the material is durable, low-maintenance and highly insulative. Additionally, the jet-black exterior allows the home to both stand out and blend in with its natural surroundings. “We always wanted to do a black house, which seems really dramatic — but there are so many evergreens here that it disappears into the tree line,” Jenkins said. The house is topped with a 26-panel, 7.8 kW solar array on the pitched roof, generating more power than the home uses. The exterior is punctuated with an abundance of triple-paned windows that, thanks to the home’s southern orientation, provide optimal solar gain to keep the interiors warm. At 2,288 square feet, the four-bedroom home is quite spacious. Plentiful windows and high ceilings add to the modern feel of the living spaces. For an extra touch of warmth, the home is equipped with a radiant floor heating and an air exchanger that pulls in air from outside and passes it through a filter. This stunning, eco-friendly home set in an unbelievable location, not far from Acadia National Park, can be all yours for just $585,000 , as it is currently listed for sale. + Christopher Group Via Apartment Therapy Photography by Bruce Frame Photography via Christopher Group

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Solar-powered home in Maine stays warm with passive design

Solar-powered home in Maine stays warm with passive design

April 6, 2020 by  
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As one of the most beautiful states in the country, Maine offers an infinite number of advantages. But the state’s notoriously frigid winters often leave new residents desperate to find some respite from the long, cold months. After spending a few years in a drafty home where she and her family lived in multiple layers of clothing, author Jessica Kerwin Jenkins and her husband decided to build their own energy-efficient home. The result is an incredible barn-inspired structure that uses solar power and multiple passive features to keep the stunning interior living spaces warm and cozy throughout the year. Once they set out to build a new home, the couple researched passive house concepts that would suit their family’s needs, which included a comfortable living space where they wouldn’t have to dress in 10 layers of warm clothing for six months out of the year. With the help of a local architect, the couple set out to build an extremely airtight structure that used solar power and passive strategies to create an energy-efficient home with a minimal carbon footprint. Related: Beautiful Maine home uses passive solar principles to achieve near net-zero energy Located in the quaint community of Blue Hill, the beautiful home is tucked into an old blueberry field just minutes away from a secluded cove. The incredibly idyllic setting set the tone for the design, which focused on creating something that would fit the region’s style but also reap the benefits of modern sustainability. As for aesthetics, Jenkins explained that she and her husband were both intrigued by the traditional Japanese practice of shou sugi ban . But they ended up cladding the home in something that would pay homage to the local seaside community — pitch tar. Typically used to weatherproof ships’ masts, the material is durable, low-maintenance and highly insulative. Additionally, the jet-black exterior allows the home to both stand out and blend in with its natural surroundings. “We always wanted to do a black house, which seems really dramatic — but there are so many evergreens here that it disappears into the tree line,” Jenkins said. The house is topped with a 26-panel, 7.8 kW solar array on the pitched roof, generating more power than the home uses. The exterior is punctuated with an abundance of triple-paned windows that, thanks to the home’s southern orientation, provide optimal solar gain to keep the interiors warm. At 2,288 square feet, the four-bedroom home is quite spacious. Plentiful windows and high ceilings add to the modern feel of the living spaces. For an extra touch of warmth, the home is equipped with a radiant floor heating and an air exchanger that pulls in air from outside and passes it through a filter. This stunning, eco-friendly home set in an unbelievable location, not far from Acadia National Park, can be all yours for just $585,000 , as it is currently listed for sale. + Christopher Group Via Apartment Therapy Photography by Bruce Frame Photography via Christopher Group

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Solar-powered home in Maine stays warm with passive design

DIY yurt could be the answer for true social distancing

April 2, 2020 by  
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In these trying days when social distancing seems to be so hard for so many, perhaps a change of living space is the key to finding some alone time. Designed by the team from  Woodenwidget , the Plurt is a lightweight yurt  that can be assembled quickly with just a few simple tools. What’s more, the round yurt offers a sustainable and highly insulated home that can be built in just about any landscape. While we’ve seen some pretty impressive DIY yurt designs over the years, the Plurt is designed to take the guesswork out of the process. The entire set up includes six curved wall panels, 15 flat roof panels and a door frame. Enabling an easier transport process, the panels, which are made out of exterior grade wood, weigh less than 45 pounds each. In fact, the entire yurt weighs only about 550 pounds. Additionally, the interchangeable panels are custom cut to ensure that the project is as low-waste and low-impact  as possible. Related: 7 cozy tipis and yurts that make you feel right at home Once put into place, the  wooden panels are bonded together through several adjustable clasps and sealed with waterproof wood glue. According to the team from Woodenwidget, the round yurt structure can be assembled by just one or two people using basic power tools in about 200 hours. About 16 feet in diameter and just under 9 feet high, the interior of the yurt is a fairly compact size, but the living space seems quite spacious thanks to an abundance of  natural light . Curved walls made out of plywood add a cabin-like feel to the living space. In addition to the large windows, a central skylight covered by a plexi dome can be raised or lowered for natural air ventilation. Besides the resiliency naturally achieved by its  circular design , the Plurt also offers several sustainable features. Unlike most yurt designs, the structure is constructed using the insulating layer as a structural element, which in return, reduces the project’s overall number of building materials. Additionally, the design’s highly-insulated system and natural lighting mean that it can be used in almost any climate. A Neoprene seal stops water leakage and a simple gutter system helps redirect rainwater from the roof. + Woodenwidget Images via Woodenwidget

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Where to order vegetable seeds online

April 2, 2020 by  
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My grandfather always liked to garden, but he ramped up his vegetable production during World War II. Many folks at the time grew what they called “ victory gardens ” to supplement food shortages and ration cards. Nowadays, with COVID-19 raging on, people are similarly starting pandemic gardens. If you’re thinking of starting a garden or adding to your existing plots, here are some tips on buying seeds online. “There’s a huge number of people looking for planting information right now,” Melody Rose, an editor at Dave’s Garden , told Inhabitat. “We’ve seen an uptick in members who have slipped away coming back.” Related: New gardener advice and suggestions So far, supply chains are holding. While toilet paper may be scarce, there’s still plenty of food. But why not start a garden? If you’re sheltering in place anyway and you have some outdoor space, this healthy habit will connect you with the earth, get you safely outside and provide food in the coming months. Rose talked with Inhabitat to share tips for starting a garden and finding the best places to buy seeds online. What to plant If you’re new to gardening , you might not know what to plant. My early gardening attempts involved grandiose dreams of winning county fair prizes with exotic vegetables, none of which wanted to grow in my yard, as it turned out. That’s because you have to know your turf. Thanks to a neighbor’s enormous oak tree, I get less than the ideal amount of afternoon sun. So after some trial and error, I know to stick to kale , peas, beans and lettuce. Lucky enough to have more sun? “Beginning gardeners will have good luck with squash and cucumbers if they have a sunny spot outdoors and the seeds can be planted directly in the ground,” Rose said. “Beans are easy to plant outdoors, you just need at least a dozen plants to do much good, and probably more. Lettuce and radishes are quick and easy, and you can plant seeds several weeks apart to ensure a crop for a longer time.” Vegetables grow best with at least eight hours of full sun every day, Rose advised. “Afternoon sun is preferable to morning sun. I plant my vegetables where they get full sun all day, but I know that isn’t an option for some. Lettuce, radishes and spinach will do okay with a little more shade, especially when the summer temps get really hot.” Some plants are more high-maintenance than others. “Tomatoes and peppers are a bit tricky to start since they require several weeks under lights indoors,” Rose said. If you’re new to gardening, it’s better to minimize start-up costs and see how your new hobby goes. If it turns out you constantly forget to water and weed, you’ll regret buying a bunch of lights. Garden choices also come down to taste and whether you have enough space to grow a sufficient number of plants. What good is a bountiful bean harvest if you hate beans? And what good is one plant if you can’t harvest at least a single meal’s worth of vegetables from it? “Being Southern, I like okra,” Rose said. “It needs warm summers, but grows well and few pests bother it. Each plant will provide one or two pods every day all summer . You’ll need between one and two dozen pods for a family of four, depending on how they like it.” Where to buy seeds online Toilet paper companies aren’t the only ones experiencing increased demand. Seed companies are feeling it, too. “Good companies are having a huge surge in mail orders,” Rose explained. “I know that Baker Creek had to shut their portal down over last weekend just to catch up with orders.” Rose recommended a few vendors she’s ordered from herself. “I have nothing but good things to say about them,” she said. “I think all of these companies are having a good sales year.” Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds , based in Missouri, began in 1998 and now offers about 1,200 varieties of heirloom vegetables, herbs and flowers. Try the purple lady bok choy and atomic orange corn. Iowa-based Seed Savers Exchange started with tomato and morning glory seeds brought by the founder’s grandfather from Bavaria. Johnny’s Seeds , which is 100% employee-owned, began in the attic of a New Hampshire farmhouse in 1973. Kitazawa Seed Company , founded in 1917, is the country’s oldest seed company specializing in Asian vegetables. People who start seed companies are a special breed. It takes a lot of passion and perseverance for small, organic companies to go up against huge, conventional seed growers. I recently ordered seeds from Wild Mountain Seeds in Colorado, after sharing an Uber Pool ride with the one of the owners, who was en route to an organic seed growers conference. Wild Mountain specializes in heirloom tomatoes and sturdy seeds that can withstand colder climates. Because of the pandemic-related upsurge in seed sales, keep in mind that these and other companies might be slower than usual in delivering, out of stock and/or might have to temporarily close ordering to catch up with demand. Rose recommended checking out any unfamiliar seed company in the Garden Watchdog rating database on Dave’s Garden. You can even narrow your search to specific plants. Beginner gardening tips Rose suggested starting small and properly preparing your soil . Too much ambition and too little knowledge could put you off gardening forever. “One of my husband’s employees decided that he and his family would plant a garden last year and he had a huge plot tilled up,” she said. “They battled weeds, bugs, raccoons, rabbits and deer. The ground wasn’t prepared properly and they chose a location that was shaded in the afternoon. Needless to say, it was a huge disaster.” If possible, test your soil before planting. The Old Farmers Almanac offers DIY testing advice . Otherwise, Rose recommended incorporating well-rotted manure or a commercial fertilizer with a 10-10-10 rating. Even if you don’t have a proper plot, you can still container garden. Just be sure not to pick containers that are too small or shallow. “A tomato plant needs the minimum of a five-gallon bucket and a gallon of water every day to produce,” Rose said. “A squash plant is similar.” Microgreens are an option for people who have no outdoor space and/or lack green thumbs. Microgreens are nutrient-packed plants that require only a tiny container, a handful of soil and a sunny windowsill . “I think microgreens would be an easy and nutritious option for lots of people,” Rose said. “Easy, very little equipment and fast turnaround.” Whether you’re an indoor urban gardener or have an acre of land, there’s never been a better time to get your hands in some cool dirt and grow something nutritious to eat. + Dave’s Garden Images via Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat and Eco Warrior Princess

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A cluster of serene bungalows is tucked into Vietnamese rice fields

April 1, 2020 by  
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When it comes to serene vacations, the hospitality sector is finally realizing that true luxury comes in different forms. For those looking to enjoy peace and quiet while being completely immersed in nature, the beautiful Ruong resort in Vietnam, designed by studio H.2 , features an intimate complex of bungalows built with natural materials  and tucked behind miles of expansive rice fields. Located near a popular beach resort in the Phuoc Thuan commune, the Ruong complex is set off the beaten path into expansive rice fields that have been harvested by generations of local families. According to the architects, the idyllic location set the tone for the project’s design, creating a tranquil “place to return, rest and escape from the smog, noisy, hustle and bustle life in the city.” Related: Solar-powered eco hotel in Portugal offers surfers ocean views from green-roofed bungalows The small-scale resort features several individual bungalows arranged around a central area. Although the bungalows vary in size, they are all crafted from natural materials, such as wood and iron truss frames covered with tile and straw roofs, that have been used in traditional Vietnamese constructions for generations. H.2 collaborated with local workers to construct the buildings. Each bungalow is positioned to provide stunning views of the surroundings. Most of them have sliding glass doors that open up to wooden decks. These outdoor areas, as well as the glass walls that line the bungalows, create a seamless connection with nature while also welcoming natural light into the guest rooms. The duplex suites, which are directly connected to the rice fields via elevated decks, feature slanted roofs that mimic the silhouettes of kites soaring over the landscape. When guests can finally manage to pull themselves away from the spectacular views and comfy rooms, they can enjoy the resort’s communal spaces. At the heart of the complex is a thatched-roof restaurant and a large swimming pool. + H.2 Images via H.2

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