An urban wetland springs to life among Bogotas high rises

March 12, 2019 by  
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An open plaza in Bogota’s northeastern business district has been radically transformed from a place of pure pavement to a vibrant urban wetland . Colombian architecture firm Obraestudio completed the project in 2016 in the Santa Barbara business center to revitalize the outdoor common space shared by the Torres Unidas Building, Scotia Bank, Samsung, AR and W Hotel towers. Covering an area of over two acres, the architects injected a lush aquatic landscape into the public-facing plaza, creating a striking contrast between wild nature and the sharp geometry of the surrounding high-rises. Winner of an open national design competition sponsored by The Colombian Architects Society, the Usaquén Urban Wetland has become an iconic, privately-owned public space in northeast Bogota . The design draws inspiration from the wetlands of the Bogota Savannah, a rich, biodiverse area located in the southwestern part of the larger Andean plateau, the Altiplano Cundiboyacense. To recreate the wetland appearance, a large recycled rainwater-fed pool was carved out from the heart of the plaza and planted with native aquatic vegetation. “A natural ecosystem — half aquatic, half terrestrial — is recreated by the geometry, colors and textures of the overall design,” Obraestudio explained in a project statement. “Existing buildings and the exterior common areas are a provocative, clear contrast to the wild, free-growing landscape elements. A recycled rainwater garden over the main square creates a native urban wetland that blends harmoniously with the surrounding Andean hills backdrop and preserves the native vegetation in its natural habitat.” Related: Triangular windows bring light and drama to a stunning Bogota bakery Moreover, the parking area was replaced with a linear park that has also been lushly planted and designed to “inspire slow and meditative walks.” Pre-existing green roofs were preserved while the old elevator and stairs structures have been re-engineered so as not to visually detract from the new landscape design. + Obraestudio Via ArchDaily Photography by Daniel Segura and Andres Valbuena via Obraestudio

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An urban wetland springs to life among Bogotas high rises

These 5 animals are being consumed into extinction

March 12, 2019 by  
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Humans have a long history of wiping out animal populations, and we continue to do so even to this day. According to a new study published in the Royal Society Open Science journal, people around the world are eating hundreds of animal species into extinction. If we don’t make some changes, the authors of the study warn that the food security of hundreds of millions of people could be threatened. Currently, we are in the middle of mass extinction that rivals the wiping out of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. But this time, it isn’t a giant meteorite doing all the damage — it’s humans. Over the past century, we have accelerated extinction rates 100 hundred times greater than what would naturally occur without human impact. As we continue to destroy habitats with construction and invade wild areas for hunting, 301 species of land mammals are now critically endangered and have made their way to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List. The list includes 168 primates, 73 hoofed animals, 27 bats, 26 marsupials, 21 rodent species and 12 carnivores. There are also 1,414 species of fish on the Red List. “There are plenty of bad things affecting wildlife around the world, and habitat loss and degradation are clearly at the forefront, but among the other things is the seemingly colossal impact of bushmeat hunting,” said David MacDonald, professor at the University of Oxford and part of the international research team. Bushmeat is a traditional food source for rural people in societies across the globe. That is starting to change because of large-scale commercial hunting and road construction in remote areas. MacDonald said that the number of hunters continues to increase, and the roads are being built in the most remote places, so there is no place left for wildlife to go. Not only does this mass extinction threaten food security, but it also upsets ecosystems. To reverse this problem, the researchers in this new study have a few ideas. They recommend greater legal protection for the endangered species, empowering local communities to prioritize wildlife conservation , providing alternative foods and family planning to reduce the rate of population growth. The list of endangered animals is long, but here are a few highlights. Bluefin tuna One of the fastest fish on Earth, bluefin tuna can hit speeds around 40 miles per hour when they are hunting, can grow up to 15 feet long and weigh as much as 1500 pounds. However, with the growing demand for sushi, overfishing is becoming a huge problem, and the bluefin tuna numbers are dropping. Related: Endangered bluefin tuna sold for $3.1 billion to sushi tycoon Whale shark The largest fish in the sea, the whale shark has been on the critically endangered list for three years, because the population has dropped more than 50 percent in the last 75 years thanks to both legal and illegal fishing. According to National Geographic, fishing for whale sharks is extremely lucrative, because they can be “harvested for their meat, fins and other parts used in traditional medicinal products.” Of course, they are also in great demand for shark fin soup. Pangolin These nocturnal mammals have keratin scales, emit a harmful chemical like skunks and eat ants and termites. In Africa, they are a major source of food and medicine, but in China and Vietnam, they are a delicacy. This has led to the pangolin becoming the most trafficked animal in the world. Related: Zimbabwe hopes to bring attention to trafficking endangered species with the Pangolin Project There is an international trade ban on all pangolin species, but this has only resulted in rising prices as the population declines. Chinese giant salamander As the largest amphibian on Earth, the Chinese giant salamander has been around for more than 170 million years, and it can grow to be 6 feet long and weigh over 100 pounds. The species is currently on the critically endangered list, because it is a Chinese delicacy. It is also used in traditional Chinese medicine. In just three generations, the population has plummeted by 80 percent. Sturgeon With fossil records dating back 200 million years, we know that sturgeon have survived two — maybe three — mass extinctions . This time, the species might not be so lucky. The beluga sturgeon is being overfished, because the eggs are needed for caviar. They take 20 years to reach maturity, but we are killing them to harvest the eggs at massive rates. You can learn more about the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species on the organization’s website. Images via Danilo Cedrone / UN Food and Agriculture Organization , Aruro de Frias Marques , A.J.T. Johnsingh / WWF-India , Petr Hamerník , USFWS and National Marine  Sanctuary

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This sleek lamp provides light and grows food

March 12, 2019 by  
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As the population of the planet continues to grow, the ability to produce enough food is a continual discussion. Not only are we busy finding ways to make enough of the right kinds of foods to sustain the masses, but we’re simultaneously investing in opportunities for the backyard (or living room) gardener to grow their own foods. With an urban lifestyle in mind, start-up Benditas Studio has created a lamp that doubles as a vegetable garden. Brot, a dual functioning lamp and garden, made its inaugural appearance at the Stockholm Furniture Fair in February in the “Greenhouse” category as a debut piece from duo Caterina Vianna and Ferran Gest, self-proclaimed food and design lovers. Related: This hexagonal indoor farm grows more food in less space with 90% less water “We love food, and we love design, and this is how Benditas Studio came up,” shared Vianna. “When we say we design furniture for food, we mean that we create objects/services, not only for persons but for the food itself. We wanted to play with the meaning of furniture because we saw projects of ‘furniture for public spaces,’ ‘furniture for the living area’ or ‘furniture for the contract sector’ … but we never heard about a furniture for food. We design products and services that dialogue with food; merge them in a way to spread a new message.” The terracotta material of the lamp brings a natural feel to the space and a supportive element for the growth of the seeds inside. The bottom of two pieces contains a stainless steel tray to hold the plant. Different seeds are available, but the process is the same for them all. Simply soak the seeds for the specified amount of time, and then place them into the tray and moisten them two to three times per day. Produce like sprouts are ready to eat in as little as four to six days. The heat and light from the lamp in the upper piece furnishes warmth for the seeds while providing ambient light for the surrounding space. The Brot is not yet for sale, but the company hopes to find a production facility soon. + Benditas Studio Via Core77 Images via Benditas Studio

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This sleek lamp provides light and grows food

Spectacular mountain-like Valley breaks ground in Amsterdam

September 6, 2017 by  
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A jagged mountain-like mass is turning up on Amsterdam’s pancake-flat landscape. MVRDV recently broke ground on Valley, a 75,000-square-meter mixed-use development that looks like a cluster of mountain peaks covered in greenery. Located in Amsterdam’s Central Business District Zuidas, the competition-winning design for OVG Real Estate will aim for BREEAM-NL Excellent rating and comprise apartments, offices, underground parking, a sky bar, and various retail and cultural facilities. Selected as the competition winner by the Municipality of Amsterdam in 2015, the stunning Valley project seeks to transform the quickly developing Zuidas area into a more livable and complete urban quarter. The green-terraced towers are designed as three mountain-like peaks of varied heights that soar to a maximum of 100 meters. The Valley will include 196 apartments, seven stories of office space, a three-story underground parking garage with 375 parking spots, and a variety of retail and cultural options on the lower floors. The publicly accessible Sky bar, which spans two stories, will offer panoramic views across the city. “Valley combines residential apartments with a green environment that offers panoramic views of Amsterdam”, says Winy Maas, MVRDV co-founder. “A lively plinth offering a range of commercial activities has some offices above and is topped finally with residences. The carving out of the resulting block ensures that it becomes less introverted than existing buildings in the Zuidas. There will be many terraces, both private and public, filled with people, flowers, plants and outdoor seating.” Related: BIG unveils lush mountain-like terraced building infused with nature The jagged building will be clad in natural stone and the layout informed by digital tools to optimize access to natural daylight and views, while preserving privacy. Due to the unique layout, no two apartments will be alike. MVRDV collaborated with award-winning garden designer Piet Oudolf and Deltavormgroep on the landscape design, which features an abundance of outdoor space and landscaped terraces. The publicly accessible central valley-area—from which the project derives its name—spreads across the fourth and fifth floor between the towers’ residential and commercial areas and will have an attractive year-round green appearance. + MVRDV Images via MVRDV

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Monolithic stone building springs up at the base of a Norwegian waterfall

July 10, 2017 by  
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Bergen-based architects Fortunen AS worked with Østengen & Bergo to install a compact service building at the base of the beautiful Skjervet waterfall in Granvin, Norway, using locally-sourced materials. The nature of the project required a prudent building strategy , so the team designed the structure to blend into the natural landscape and appear as though it had been there for years. The terrain around the waterfall site is steep and quite difficult to maneuver. However, the rugged landscape and lush vegetation around the site were carefully protected during the entire construction phase. A single trail made of natural stone was chosen as the central nerve of the project, and became the inspiration for the building’s design. Related: Snøhetta unveils spectacular makeover for nation’s second-largest waterfall The compact structure, which consists of two restrooms and a small technical room, is clad in locally-sourced natural stone. The remaining building materials including rebar fencing and concrete benches were also chosen to blend into the environment. On the inside, panels of warm plywood cover the walls, with various narrow glazed cutouts that look out over the river, allowing for amazing views of the Storelvi River, forest, and mountains. The monolithic building’s steep slanted roof , along with the natural stone facade, creates a jagged silhouette that, although contemporary in style, strategically blends into the solid rock surroundings, creating a subtle addition to the area, rather than a distraction. This achieved the design team’s original intention, which was to create a series of “gentle interventions that look like they have always been in this terrain – despite their modern form. The combination of contemporary form, ancient craft and local materials create a timeless dimension to the project.” The Skjervet design earned the World Architecture News Small Spaces Award in 2016. + Fortunen AS + Østengen & Bergo

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Monolithic stone building springs up at the base of a Norwegian waterfall

Snhetta unveils spectacular makeover for nations second-largest waterfall

June 2, 2017 by  
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The nation’s second largest waterfall by volume will soon reopen to the public for the first time in over 150 years. Architecture and landscape firm Snøhetta recently revealed new renderings for their designs to restore public access to Oregon’s Willamette Falls. A mix of adaptive reuse and new build, the design will renovate the 22-acre site’s existing industrial buildings and add a new ecological riverwalk. Industrial infrastructure has cut the breathtaking Willamette Falls from public access for over a century, however, a redevelopment scheme for the area sparked newfound interest in reclaiming and rehabilitating the landscape. Snøhetta, along with Mayer/Reed, inc. and DIALOG , won an international design competition to reimagine the falls and collaborated with the community to refine their proposals. “The new design treats the whole site as a single landscape, with a network of promenades and lofted pathways that lace through the physical strata of the site, immersing visitors in a tactile experience that celebrates the changing water level, the feeling of the spray on your skin, the dramatic play of light and the roar and presence of the falls,” says Snøhetta. Key to the design is the new riverwalk that will “serve as a portal to the Northwest’s collective history” and connect Oregon City’s historic downtown to the crest of the fall. The riverwalk will feature a mix of materials, from ancient basalt and wood to industrial steel, as well as layered references to the site’s natural, ecological, cultural, and geological contexts. Related: Snøhetta’s ready-made cabin can fit into any landscape In addition to restoring public access, the design seeks to rehabilitate the landscape with the removal of select industrial structures. Five unique habitats will be restored and special attention paid to endangered species. Greater access will also be provided to the five confederated tribes who annually fish the waters. The Willamette Falls riverwalk conceptual design will be unveiled at a public event tomorrow and construction is expected to begin June 2018. + Snøhetta Images via Snøhetta

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Google unveils giant green landscraper for London HQ

June 2, 2017 by  
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Google has finally unveiled plans for its new London headquarters—and it’s a beaut. Designed by the architecture studios of Thomas Heatherwick and Bjarke Ingels , the gargantuan one-million-square-foot office building is dubbed “landscraper” for its length that’s longer than the Shard is tall. Set parallel to the King’s Cross railway station, the Google building is punctuated with greenery and energy-efficient systems including rooftop solar panels and smart solar blinds. Recently submitted to the Camden Council for planning approval, Google’s “landscraper” is one of three buildings that will create a campus for up to 7,000 employees. Although BIG and Heatherwick are also designing Google’s Mountain View campus the two campuses are remarkably different. Whereas the California campus catches the eye with its tent-like design, the London “landscraper” is more demure with its 11-story tall blocky form. Related: New images reveal Google’s plans for a futuristic solar-powered California headquarters “The area is a fascinating collision of diverse building types and spaces and I can’t help but love this mix of massive railway stations, roads, canals and other infrastructure all layered up into the most connected point in London,” said Heatherwick in a press statement. “Influenced by these surroundings, we have treated this new building for Google like a piece of infrastructure too, made from a family of interchangeable elements which ensure that the building and its workspace will stay flexible for years to come.” Natural light and greenery fills the giant luxury office building, and employees will enjoy access to a “wellness center” with gyms, massage rooms, a swimming pool, multipurpose sports center, and a rooftop garden with varied landscapes, edible gardens, cafes, and lookout points. The building also includes bicycle parking for commuters, rooftop solar that amounts to nearly 20MWh of annual output, and motorized timber blinds to mitigate solar heat gain . Construction is expected to begin in 2018. Via The Guardian Images via Google

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Beautiful cliffside home ‘split in half’ by landslide rebuilt with wooden pods

March 21, 2017 by  
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Sometimes beautiful design is just fate. When AR Design Studio decided to add an extension to a cliffside home on the UK’s South Coast, the entire house ended up being split in half due to a major landslide . Fortunately, the architects stayed on to design a replacement house, resulting in a beautiful vacation home called the Crow’s Nest. This time, however, the gorgeous structure, which is made out of four wooden “pods,” was built with highly-engineered technology to stabilize the structure against future land movements. The Crow’s Nest home is built looking over a large cliff on the UK’s South Coast. To secure the new home against future natural disasters , the architects worked with engineers to create an integrated system that could resist major land movements. The system entailed installing dwarfs walls into a massive concrete slat that sits underneath the home. This was strategic to creating an adjustable raft-like structural frame where the walls absorb any major land movement. In this case, mechanical jacks installed underneath the frame would be able to re-level the house afterwards. Related: These 6 extraordinary cliffside homes will give you chills Although the original home was severely damaged by the landslide, the architects managed to use its original cabin design as inspiration for the new one. The team created an elongated structure with a series of four “twisted” pods, creating a unique contemporary cabin character . Clad in beautiful blond larch panels, the home seamlessly blends in with the surrounding landscape. The entryway is made up of the smallest pod , which leads into the main living area. The “tower pod” to the left houses the large master bedroom, along with the children’s bedroom and bathrooms. The remaining pod on the right of the living area is a guest space that can be closed when not in use. The interior comprises a light, airy design with a modern cabin feel. Bold wooden furnishings are found throughout, but the use of various industrial materials give the space a contemporary touch. Large windows offer optimal natural light as well as stunning views of the forest and coastal views. + AR Design Studio Via Design Milk Photography by Martin Gardner

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Coming soon: NYC’s first community solar project

March 21, 2017 by  
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A company based in Toronto is bringing New York City its first community solar project. UGE International , one of the world’s leading renewable-energy contractors, will be partnering with Gotham Community Solar to develop a new array at a multi-tenant commercial facility between the Park Slope and Boerum Hill neighborhoods in Brooklyn. The project, which is scheduled to be completed in early summer, will have a rated peak capacity of roughly 100 kilowatts, according to UGE. The building abuts another UGE project: the Whole Foods Market at 214 3rd Street, colloquially known as “3rd and 3rd” by locals. “It’s been a privilege to work with ConEd , the Department of Buildings, and the project’s ownership group on developing this landmark project” Tim Woodcock, UGE’s Regional Director, said in a statement. Related: UGE is building a massive rooftop solar array atop this popular Brooklyn church Woodcock anticipates selling any surplus power to nearby residents at rates lower than those offered by their utility companies. The benefits would be twofold: cheaper electricity that also comes from a sustainable source. “The solar power generated by the project will be credited to numerous residential accounts, offering access to the benefits and low cost of solar energy to those previously excluded due to their housing situation,” he added. + UGE International

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WOHA’s deep-green Enabling Village is a beacon of universal design

January 3, 2017 by  
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WOHA ‘s latest project in Singapore proves that universal design can be incredibly sexy. The team just revamped a defunct 1970’s building into Enabling Village , a verdant multi-use community center in Redhill. Designed to be both sustainable and accessible, the renovation serves as a beacon of inclusion for locals. WOHA chose to reuse the former school compound’s original structure and basic layout, but updated it with a number of accessibility features. Visitors with disabilities will find various elevators, low-gradient ramps, tactile floor indicators, as well as hearing loops and braille signs located throughout the building. Related: WOHA’s solar-powered SkyVille in Singapore boasts a deep-green public skypark The center includes six main spaces that are named for their uses: “Nest”, “Playground”, “Village Green”, “Hive”, “Hub” and “Academy.” All of the spaces feature bright wall murals specific to their use, and all are seamlessly connected for easy access. The timber-clad Nest greets pedestrians as they enter the center, and garden walkways lead out to the rest of the buildings. In addition to making the structure all-inclusive, WOHA used a number of upcycled materials throughout the building. Pre-cast concrete pipes were installed as sitting and reading nooks, old sea containers were used as bridges, and recycled oil drums have been repurposed as large planters. The architects have become known for their love of greenery , and it shows in the Enabling Village’s serene landscaping and water gardens, which were planted with a variety of native species. To bring visitors closer to nature, there are plenty of peaceful walkways, verandas and cabanas that look out over the adjacent pond. Thanks to its impressive array of all-inclusive features, the Enabling Village was awarded the Platinum BCA Universal Design Mark Award in May, 2016. + WOHA + Enabling Village Via Archdaily Photography by Patrick Bingham-Hall and Edward Hendricks

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