Copycat Tower Bridge in China sparks controversy

March 2, 2017 by  
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China is infamous for copying famous architecture from other countries – according to The New York Times the country boasts 10 White Houses, a couple of Great Sphinxes, four Arcs de Triomphe, and at minimum one Eiffel Tower. Now in the city of Suzhou, a Tower Bridge based on London’s iconic landmark is drawing attention, although the New York Times says it’s unclear why the bridge , which was completed in 2012, has suddenly been garnering international notice. Images of Suzhou’s Tower Bridge have drawn awe – one news outlet described the Chinese bridge as even more magnificent than the original. Suzhou’s bridge certainly is much larger; it accommodates a five-lane highway and flaunts four towers instead of two. Pedestrian walkways and observation platforms allow people to enjoy the views and architecture of the bridge. Related: China officially bans ‘weird’ architecture But not everyone is enamored with the Chinese Tower Bridge. Suzhou, which has been called the Venice of the East, has its own architectural traditions, such as whitewashed courtyard houses and ancient gardens. Some of China’s most beautiful traditional architecture can be found in the city. Li Yingwu, president of Beijing-based firm OAD Group , called Suzhou’s Tower Bridge plagiarism. He said, “I was really surprised that it got built in Suzhou, because it has preserved its culture really well. It shows that local officials lack confidence in their own culture. They don’t understand that architecture essentially is about culture. It’s not merely an object.” One news outlet, JSChina.com.cn , even suggested the copycat bridge would hinder promotion of the country’s traditional culture. Suzhou has 56 other copycat bridges, according to The New York Times, imitating international bridges like Australia’s Sydney Harbor Bridge or Paris’ Alexandre III Bridge. Architect Cheng Taining of the Chinese Academy of Engineering told Beijing News in 2015 some officials believe foreign-style structures bestow status on an area, making it look more modern or sophisticated. Via ArchDaily and The New York Times Images via CCTV Facebook

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World’s oldest fossils discovered in Canada – and they’re 4 billion-years-old

March 2, 2017 by  
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Around four billion years ago, bacteria formed tiny tubes and filaments, likely in deep-sea hydrothermal vents. An international team of scientists lead by the University College London (UCL) recently discovered those microorganism remains, preserved for billions of years, which the scientists think could be the oldest fossils humans have ever unearthed. The discovery might even hold clues to life on other planets like Mars .

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World’s oldest fossils discovered in Canada – and they’re 4 billion-years-old

Trump ignores clean energy jobs in first address to Congress

March 1, 2017 by  
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In his first address to Congress Tuesday night, President Donald Trump failed to mention the clean energy jobs boom taking place across the United States. Instead of talking up the more than three million domestic jobs that have been created in solar, wind and other renewables, Trump touted the “tens of thousands of jobs” that construction of the Keystone and Dakota Access Pipelines would create — adding that he directed the pipelines be made with American steel. Trump also boasted about ending an Obama-era coal mining rule that protects waterways from coal mining waste, telling Democratic and Republican lawmakers gathered on Capitol Hill that the regulation “threatens the future and livelihoods of our great coal miners.” Trump also failed to mention climate change in his speech, an issue that the president has been ambivalent about at best, in denial about at worst. In perhaps an encouraging sign for the majority of Americans who support the US staying in the Paris climate deal , including Trump’s Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the president didn’t talk about withdrawing from the landmark agreement to curb carbon emissions, instead discussing his withdrawing the US from the “job-killing” Trans-Pacific Partnership. Related: Trump will give architects just five days to submit proposals for a Mexican border wall Earlier in the day, Trump signed an executive order aimed at rolling back an Obama-era environmental regulation to protect American waterways. New EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is also expected to undo major environmental rules on clean water, climate change and air pollution. So it is no surprise that many in the environmental community found it a bit hypocritical when during Trump’s address he pledged to “promote clean air and clear water.” Boosting the defense budget (at the expense of domestic programs) was a major talking point during the address. Trump said that he is sending Congress a budget that “rebuilds the military, eliminates the Defense sequester, and calls for one of the largest increases in national defense spending in American history.” That isn’t good news for the environment as Trump is expected to ask Congress to  cut the EPA’s budget 24 percent, or nearly $2 billion. Related: New EPA chief Scott Pruitt’s emails reveal troubling oil-industry ties An area that could be a positive sign for the environmental community and clean energy industry is Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan . Saying that the time has come for a “new program of national rebuilding,” Trump said that he will be asking Congress to approve the massive infrastructure investment. Could new public works projects include green infrastructure? That remains to be seen, although Trump has said previously that he is a big fan of high-speed rail . At the end of his speech, Trump set a vision for what the country could achieve by the nation’s 250th anniversary in 2026. He looked back at the country’s 100th anniversary in 1876 when American inventors showed off their new technology such as Thomas Edison’s electric pen and an early attempt at electric light. But while Trump seems adamant about reviving 20th century energy sources such as coal, there is another electric revolution led by the revolutionaries of our time, including Elon Musk and his vision for electric vehicles, rooftop solar and battery storage. Will Trump embrace the clean energy future or be stuck in the dirty energy past? That is still an open question after his first address to Congress. + Transcript: President Trump’s First Address to Congress Images via KTBS

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New images reveal Google’s plans for a futuristic solar-powered California headquarters

March 1, 2017 by  
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New images submitted to the City of Mountain View in January provide our best look at Google’s proposed 18.6-acre Charleston East campus – the first the technology giant is constructing from the ground up. The heart of the new space, according to plans drafted by the design teams of Bjarke Ingels Group and Heatherwick Studio , is a two-story, 595,000-square-foot building. It’s topped by an expansive tent-like canopy that conjures up images of Bonnaroo rather than stuffy business meetings. The roof is studded with photovoltaics, plus other enhancements designed to regulate indoor climate, air quality, and sound. There will be plenty of breathing space, both within and without. The building will enclose “flexible building components” that can be reconfigured on a whim, as well as indoor and outdoor green spaces, populated by native, drought-tolerant flora, to bolster biodiversity. Google , in collaboration with city biologists, has made special considerations for the burrowing owl, once one of California’s most common birds but now a species in decline due to habitat loss. “No plants will be installed that would provide perches for raptors or hiding places for feral cats, both of which prey on the owls,” the plans read. “Grasses, forbs, and small shrubs that provide habitat for insects will be targeted to support owl foraging.” Related: New tent-like HQ plan emerges from the ashes of Google’s original vision Google’s proposal also includes a detailed “landscape narrative” featuring the so-called Green Loop, a “linearly connected canvas of trees” that bridges the Charleston Basin and the main Googleplex headquarters by way of Charleston Park. Could this make up for the planned removal of 160 trees, 100 of which have been designated heritage? We can hope. More than a place of business, Google’s new campus will apparently serve as a “destination for the local community.” Myriad small green hubs scattered throughout the site will house pedestrian walkways, and bike paths will abound in the small green hubs scattered throughout. An open plaza could host al fresco seating, food trucks, small stalls, perhaps a seniors’ tai chi class or two. “Quieter and more intimate” spaces will support collaboration and private conversation. Pulling all this together would hardly be a modest endeavor. If approved by the city, construction on Charleston East will span roughly two-and-a-half years. + City of Mountain View Via 9to5google

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New images reveal Google’s plans for a futuristic solar-powered California headquarters

Trump will give architects just five days to submit proposals for a Mexican border wall

February 28, 2017 by  
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Donald Trump is pushing ahead with his campaign promise to build a massive border wall between the US and Mexico, disregarding criticisms about the cost and physical feasibility of the project. Despite the fact that the wall will be a massive infrastructure project, the administration seems to be in a rush to begin work as soon as possible – last week, the Department of Homeland Security issued an open call for designs – but architects have just five days to submit their proposals. There’s won’t be a lengthy period to prepare for the open call period, either – submissions open soon, starting on March 6th and closing on March 10th. The administration plans to choose a set of finalists by March 20th and to make final contract awards in mid-April. In a speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference on February 24th, Trump claimed construction would begin as soon as possible, calling the project “way, way, way ahead of schedule.” Related: Mexican designers envision Trump’s border wall in “all of its gorgeous perversity” Architects and designers have, of course, already published numerous plans for the border wall online, although none of their suggestions are likely to please the new President. One Mexican design firm suggested a hot pink wall that would cut through cities, across rivers, and through mountain ranges. Another suggested building it out of recycled shipping containers . One other tongue-in-cheek suggestion involved an Ikea-style instruction booklet for building the 1,000-mile barrier. Related: Trump plans to officially order Mexico border wall Despite an estimated price tag of potentially billions of dollars , it’s still unclear exactly how the wall is going to be funded . The rush to award a contract seems a bit premature in light of the budgeting issues involved. Via Dezeen Images via Wikipedia and EdmondMeinfelder

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Trump will give architects just five days to submit proposals for a Mexican border wall

Trump plans to officially order Mexico border wall

January 25, 2017 by  
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It appears President Donald Trump is determined to push forward with a wall on the border of Mexico . Today he is set to sign an executive order to that end, but that doesn’t mean he’s fulfilled his campaign promise yet. The controversial order would direct what the New York Times describes as “already appropriated federal funds” to build the wall, and last time we checked, that money wasn’t coming from Mexico as Trump pledged. Trump tweeted on Tuesday evening, “Big day planned on NATIONAL SECURITY tomorrow. Among many other things, we will build the wall!” But his order alone may not be enough to instigate construction. Congress must authorize any new funding, according to The New York Times. Trump declared Mexico would pay for the wall but its leaders have thus far staunchly refused. The New York Times said it was not clear where money for the wall would come from. Related: Trump breaks campaign pledge by asking Congress for money to build Mexico border wall It could cost $6.5 million per mile to build the wall, according to the Government Accountability Office , and the Mexico border is around 1,900 miles long, although Trump said his wall would only cover 1,000 miles and natural obstacles could help with the rest. The BBC reports 650 miles already include some sort of fence or structure. But the wall could still cost at least $6.5 billion dollars to start, not including money that would later be tacked on for infrastructure and maintenance. The United States could have to shell out another $4.2 million per mile for other fencing and roads, say some congressional officials. Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California said as the wall could cost $14 billion, perhaps even some Republicans would flinch away from its construction. Via The New York Times Images via Wikimedia Commons and Gage Skidmore on Flickr

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Trump plans to officially order Mexico border wall

Critics outraged by UK plan to build 1.8 mile tunnel under Stonehenge

January 16, 2017 by  
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One of Britain’s most well-known archaeological landmarks could soon have a tunnel carved below it. The government unveiled plans for a 1.8 mile tunnel running under Stonehenge as part of a $2.4 billion infrastructure investment, hoping to slash traffic plaguing the area. But not everyone is happy with the government’s plan; some experts believe a tunnel could destroy undiscovered artifacts. The British government is planning a $2.4 billion investment for the country’s A303 road, hoping to upgrade it into a “high quality, high performing route” that will improve trips for millions of people, according to the Department for Transport’s statement on the project. Part of the upgrades include a tunnel passing beneath the famous site. Officials say the tunnel would slash congestion and bolster the local economy. Related: Archaeologists reveal fresh details about 4,500-year-old “New Stonehenge” English Heritage , the charity managing more than 400 historic sites, backs the tunnel. UNESCO , which in 1986 designated Stonehenge as a World Heritage Site, say they could get behind the idea, but have not yet viewed final plans. Historian Tom Holland fears a tunnel could destroy the key historical site. He told CNN, “Recent finds show this place is the birthplace of Britain, and its origins go back to the resettlement of this island after the Ice Age. It staggers belief that we can inject enormous quantities of concrete to build a tunnel that will last at best 100 years and therefore decimate a landscape that has lasted for millennia.” Local chamber of commerce president and Amesbury Museum chairman Andy Rhind-Tutt is also against the tunnel, saying it won’t even really improve traffic and will “put a time bomb of irreversible destruction on one of the world’s greatest untouched landscapes.” The public can comment on the tunnel plan until March 5, and the government plans to announce the preferred route later in 2017. Construction could start in 2020, according to a Highways England spokesperson, and could be completed in four years. Via CNN Images via Good Free Photos and Pixabay

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Critics outraged by UK plan to build 1.8 mile tunnel under Stonehenge

England is building 14 new garden villages with a total of 48,000 homes

January 3, 2017 by  
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England just announced plans to build 14 new garden villages , each of which will hold between 1,000 to 10,000 new homes. One of the villages near Cornwall named West Carclaze will offer 1,500 new homes with energy-efficient features. A solar farm and bike paths are said to be a part of the ecovillage, along with pubs and a primary school for hundreds of new students. In total, the 14 villages will add up to 48,000 new homes to the country. England’s new garden villages will operate as their own independent communities. The 14 new developments will offer a range of facilities for new residents – including primary schools and adult care centers, according to The Guardian . England’s housing ministry says the villages will boost local economies, although some locals already living near the proposed areas aren’t convinced. Related: Ecovillage at Ithaca offers sustainable living in a community setting Some see the expansion as unnecessary urban sprawl that threatens established communities and designated green belts. Some worry the villages will put stress on an already congested infrastructure , as well. The promise that the developments will be locally led, instead of federally imposed, quells some fears, though others see it as a paper-thin pledge. Via The Guardian Images via Annie Spratt , Wikimedia , Albert Bridge at Geograph

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England is building 14 new garden villages with a total of 48,000 homes

Finland is giving 2,000 citizens a free basic income of 560 Euros a month

January 3, 2017 by  
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As of January 1, 2017 Finland is providing 2,000 unemployed citizens with a basic income of 560 Euros every month for two years. The nation hopes that the experiment will improve quality of life for its citizens while opening up new jobs. Helsinki University social policy professor Heikki Hiilamo told The New York Times : “Basic income is kind of a symbol that we believe in your capacity and we think that you are actually able to do things which are beneficial to you, and also for your community. It’s built on a kind of a positive view of human beings. People want to be autonomous. They want to improve their well-being.” If you currently collect unemployment in Finland, you risk losing your benefits if you start to bring in side income. The country has discovered that the regulations behind this safety net effectively deter people from seeking part-time jobs. Starting a new company or joining a startup is also risky, and many people need the reliability of an unemployment check. In contrast, those receiving basic income under the new experiment won’t risk losing a steady income if they start making money on the side. Related: Ontario is rolling out a basic income test for citizens living under the poverty line Over two years, the Finnish government will watch how people utilize basic income. Will they take a risk in business , or will they pursue higher education to secure better jobs? Will they sit on a couch at home playing video games? The government will randomly choose unemployed citizens to receive 560 Euros, or around $580, each month. The Social Insurance Institution of Finland (Kela) will implement the experiment. Kela’s research department head Olli Kangas told The New York Times, “Some people think basic income will solve every problem under the sun, and some people think it’s from the hand of Satan and will destroy our work ethic. I’m hoping we can create some knowledge on this issue.” Via The New York Times Images via Pixabay and Wikimedia Commons

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Finland is giving 2,000 citizens a free basic income of 560 Euros a month

World’s highest bridge is now open for vehicular traffic

December 30, 2016 by  
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Acrophobes beware, the highest bridge in the world is open for business. After three years and over $140 million, the Beipanjiang Bridge in southwest China just opened. At 1,854 feet, the suspension bridge is either maniacal, or an engineering marvel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBWddXUCBsY The recently-completed bridge stretches across the Beipanjiang Valley, connecting the Yunnan and Guizhou provinces. What once was a five hour journey between the two places has been slashed to a quick hour and a half trip thanks to the new bridge. The engineering feat is an astounding 4,400 feet long, and is about the height of a 200 story building. According to CNN , the bridge is the highest due to the enormous distance between the ground and the bridge’s deck. Related: World’s tallest and longest glass bridge closes after only 13 days Beipanjiang project director Zhou Ping told CCTV, “In October 2013, the Ministry of Transport approved the Beipanjiang Bridge and gave us 8.9 million yuan in scientific research funding. Our project provided match-funding of around 6.1 million yuan, bringing the research fund to around 15 million. Many institutes, including Jiaotong University, Guizhou Highway engineering group, and the Guizhou office of transportation joined together to conduct research and development. We developed a new kind of technology called cantilever erection by longitudinal launching, and this significantly shortened construction time.” Wind affected construction, so builders had to be especially precise, assembling bridge sections on site. CCCC Highway Consultants deputy chief engineer Liu Bo said one of their main challenges was discerning where to place bridge piers, as the gorge beneath the bridge is around 1,640 feet deep. They were eventually able to work around these issues to build the bridge, which has overtaken the 1,627-foot-high Sidu River Bridge as the world’s highest. Guizhou province also boasts seven of China’s 10 highest bridges. Via CCTV and CNN Images via screenshot

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