Prefab open-air theater pops up with speed in a London park

August 6, 2018 by  
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Completed in just seven months, the Regent’s Park Open Air Theater in central London is yet another example of how prefabrication can be a fantastic solution for site-sensitive projects strapped for time. Local architecture firm Reed Watts Architects designed the theater using a lightweight cross-laminated timber (CLT) panel system. Set amidst protected Royal Parks trees, the cultural institution houses new rehearsal studios and a catering kitchen, marking the first time in the theater’s 86-year history that its operations have been brought together onto one site. Spanning an area of over 5,000 square feet on the far corner of the site, the Regent’s Park Open Air Theater is designed to host over 1,200 people every night during the summer season. The architects installed the building during the winter season, when the Theater was closed, atop relatively small foundations to minimize site impact. The building exterior is clad in dark-stained larch at its base with more textured cladding higher up; the overall effect helps the structure recede into the landscape and makes it look like a natural extension of the existing Theater buildings. “Reed Watts have succeeded in delivering a significant new rehearsal facility for the theatre, as well as a state of the art kitchen to support the commercial catering arm of our business,” said William Village, Executive Director of Regent’s Park Open Air Theater. “Efficiently utilising every inch of the available footprint, the sense of scale when entering the building is impressive, and yet the design is sympathetic to the magical ambience of the Open Air Theatre. Realised with an acute understanding of the natural environment and the importance of our location in the heart of Regent’s Park, one might be forgiven for assuming that these new buildings have always been a feature of the theatre’s infrastructure.” Related: A prefab chapel’s sculptural form amplifies the landscape in Uruguay Most of the programs are located on the first floor; however, a floor above provides extra room for rehearsal spaces and a green room. The new studio is double-height to provide added flexibility for dancers, actors and acrobats. The space is illuminated by roof lights and tall windows, heated with underfloor heating and mechanically ventilated (and cooled) from upper-level ductwork. + Reed Watts Architects Via ArchDaily Images by Simone Kennedy and David Jensen

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Prefab open-air theater pops up with speed in a London park

Former businessman bicycles down the Thames River to stop plastic pollution

July 31, 2018 by  
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Dhruv Boruah, a former management consultant turned environmental hero is cleaning up the Thames River in London on a floating bicycle. The endeavor, named The Thames Project , is more about striking up conversations with passersby and raising awareness than it is about removing all of the plastic waste from the canals — an impossible feat for the one man show that is Boruah. The self-constructed rig, made up of a bamboo bicycle with yellow floats on either side, a rudder and a pedal-powered propeller in the front, has retrieved thousands of kilograms of plastic waste since beginning the project in 2017. “It’s a great conversation starter, and then I can tell them about my work, the plastic and how it all starts here in the canals,” he told CNN while on one of his “off-road cycling” missions. Related: A massive five-ton plastic waste whale breaches in a Bruges canal The 35-year-old philanthropist was impassioned by a yacht racing expedition from London to Rio de Janiero that left him thinking a lot about the dangers of plastic pollution . It was on this undertaking that Boruah had learned of the fortunate rescue of two turtles who were tangled in plastic in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. “Plastic is now in the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat,” he explained. “You have to care because it’s about you, your health and the health of your children. Why are we destroying this planet for them?” Boruah’s bicycle nets are often filled with single-use plastic items such as styrofoam containers and water bottles. These get broken down into tiny microplastics over time that not only pollute the oceans, but also affect our air and food. When he is not striking up conversations with curious onlookers, Boruah is working with councils, businesses and communities to educate and encourage them to take action against plastic pollution. + The Thames Project Via CNN Images and video via Dhruv Boruah

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Former businessman bicycles down the Thames River to stop plastic pollution

This gabled home wraps around an existing pine tree in Mexico

July 31, 2018 by  
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The magnificent pines of Mazamitla, Mexico are more than just scenic background for this single-family home—one of the trees has been integrated into the architectural design itself. Architects Alessandra Cireddu and Carlos M. Hernández of Barcelona-based design practice Espacio Multicultural (de) Arquitectura (EMA) crafted the ‘House Around a Tree,’ a single-story abode punctuated by a mature pine tree. The house further embraces the landscape with its use of natural materials and an outdoor, cantilevered terrace that opens up to northwest-facing views of the village below and forest and mountains beyond. Set on a steeply sloped site, the House Around a Tree matches its narrow and linear plot with its rectangular mass. Measuring over 65 feet in length and nearly 20 feet in width, the home has an introverted appearance at first glance—a thick, nearly 10-foot-tall wooden door marks the entrance and, along with the opaque stone side wall , insulates the home from outside street views. The home interior, however, is an entirely different story. Stepping past the entrance takes visitors into an airy void punctuated by the mature pine tree, while large glazing on the southwest side of the home brings sweeping landscape views into the living spaces and bedroom. Related: A cypress tree grows through this hillside home in Los Angeles “The gable roof evokes the geometry of the traditional houses of the region, which is trimmed by a void which contains the pine,” explain the architects. “The natural location of the pine divides the house into 2 areas: the first one on the east side where the main room with bathroom and dressing room is located and separated from the rest of the house; the second one on the west side where we find the public areas, two bedrooms and a wooden volume containing the wet areas (laundry, half bath and full bathroom) that breaks with the constant linearity of the project both inside and outside.” + EMA Images by Patricia Hernandez Fotografia

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This gabled home wraps around an existing pine tree in Mexico

Colorful raised gardens bring greenery and shelter to the Thames riverfront

July 27, 2018 by  
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Cities across the world are reclaiming their waterfronts – and that includes London, where a series of verdant gardens are sprouting to reconnect the populace with the Thames River. As part of the Nine Elms Riverside Strategy to revitalize the waterfront in South West London, local architecture practice Studio Weave was tapped to design a landscaped pavilion that draws inspiration from the bygone industrial era. Raised on timber-clad steel columns, the pavilion—called the ‘Nine Elms Thames Walk Pavilion’—combines copper-coated water tank panels with a lush and elevated garden that provides habitat for wildlife and shelter for passersby. Completed this month in collaboration with Churchman Landscape Architects , the Nine Elms Thames Walk Pavilion is part of a larger scheme to beautify the Thames Riverside Walk. The ground-level planters and the raised pavilion are both constructed with the same proprietary metal panels—typically used for water tanks—that have been sprayed with a copper finish in reference to the area’s industrial legacy. Over time, these panels will develop a natural green patina as they weather the elements. “Fabricated from copper coated water tank panels, the pavilion cradles a medley of rich foliage that acts as a honey pot for creatures great and small,” explains Studio Weave in a project statement. “Hawthorn trees, and a rainbow of grasses and perennials will create a home for wildlife as well as a splash of seasonal colour to the thoroughfare. Habitat is also created by the cladding to the water tower forming House Sparrow terraces. The area is known to host the House Sparrow, ‘Passer Domesticus,’ a species undergoing severe population decline.” Related: Magical new classroom reconnects children with nature in the UK To bring an extra splash of color to the structure, print artist Linda Florence was invited to design the colorful pattern on the screen-printed timber columns. The rope-work and abstract motifs also add interest to the installation. The Thames Walk Pavilion also provides furniture and equipment for use at Bourne Valley Wharf. + Studio Weave Images by Ollie Hammick

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Colorful raised gardens bring greenery and shelter to the Thames riverfront

The origami-like monocoque pavilion in London is shaped by its environment

July 25, 2018 by  
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A striking prefabricated  monocoque pavilion has popped up in London, bringing with it a social-enterprise cafe and multifunctional community space. Developed as part of the City of London Corporation’s transformation of the Aldgate gyrator into one of the largest public spaces in London’s Square Mile, the Portsoken Pavilion is a striking sculptural landmark that’s distinctive in its contemporary form yet sensitive to its heritage surroundings. Local architecture practice Make Architects designed the sculptural structure with a Corten canopy featuring large overhangs to provide solar shading and channel rainwater runoff. Spanning an area of nearly 3,500 square feet, the Portsoken Pavilion comprises a single light-filled level above ground as well as a basement area — reclaimed from former underground subway space — that houses plant, back-of-house facilities, kitchens and toilets. Local social enterprise Kahaila will run the pavilion’s cafe and multifunctional community space, which opens up to a new landscaped and pedestrian-friendly area. The origami-like roof is built from Corten cladding panels and folds down to touch the ground at three triangular support points; full-height glazing wraps around the exposed sides. Weathered steel was chosen as a nod to the brown brick of the Grade I-listed St. Botolph Without Aldgate church and the red brick Grade II-listed Sir John Cass’s Foundation Primary school that sit on either side of the new square. “The final scheme is beautiful — distinctive, yet respectful of the heritage architecture surrounding it,” said project architect Sarah Shuttleworth. “It provides a bespoke civic amenity and the ambition and determination of the City of London Corporation to persist and deliver the square and the pavilion  — despite the challenges — in order to transform this parcel of London for the benefit of the local community, should be applauded.” Related: Make Architects unveil igloo-shaped cinema made from reclaimed cardboard in London The three glazed elevations of the parametrically designed pavilion face the three key pedestrian approaches to the square. The structure was prefabricated and weathered off site before it was reassembled and welded in situ. The underside of the steelwork was sprayed with 150 millimeters of insulation to minimize heat loss, while the constant temperature of the concrete tunnels that run below the structure help regulate the temperature in the cafe year-round. + Make Architects Images via Make Architects

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The origami-like monocoque pavilion in London is shaped by its environment

This British caf is serving to-go coffee in ceramic mugs to combat waste

July 5, 2018 by  
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A coffee shop northeast of London wants to serve its customers coffee in a mug from your home.  La Tour Cycle Café has a novel idea to stop its reliance on disposable coffee cups: pour everything into reusable ceramic mugs, even if the order is to-go. A 2017 report from Britain’s House of Commons discovered as many as 2.5 billion coffee cups are disposed across the United Kingdom every year. This equates to more than 6.8 million cups per day. To cut down the amount of waste from hot beverages, the La Tour Cycle Café has started serving everything — including to-go beverages — in  reusable mugs . Although customers sometimes choose to take their beverages with them, supplying more mugs for the next customer isn’t a problem for the café. Every day, the business puts out a collection basket for coffee drinkers to return their cups . While many choose to come back with their glassware, even more use the opportunity to clean out their cabinets and donate their unused mugs to the café. “We’ve all got mugs languishing in our cupboards that we no longer need,” Anna Matthews, the owner of La Tour Cycle Café, told the BBC . “Why not donate them to your local coffee shop and allow people to actually have a hot drink in a china cup while they walk around?” Related: German city offers ingenious alternative to single-use coffee cups The unique program allows people to reduce the amount of waste destined for landfills  while still enjoying their favorite beverages. But reusing and recycling isn’t a new concept for Matthews and La Tour Cycle. Earlier in 2018, Matthews worked with a contractor team to transform a vacated building. Matthews was able to move her business into the bigger space, which features better wheelchair accessibility and public art displays. The café — and its eclectic collection of coffee mugs — only plans to be in the new space for two years;  Matthews has aspirations to move and give new life to another abandoned building by then. + La Tour Cycle Café Via BBC , The East Anglican Daily Times  and  Treehugger

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This British caf is serving to-go coffee in ceramic mugs to combat waste

An old London chapel is reborn into a modern home and artist studio

June 19, 2018 by  
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UK architect Alexander Nikjoo has breathed new life into a Victorian chapel by transforming it into a contemporary home and studio for an artist. Located in Deptford in South London, the renovation has streamlined the look of the former chapel with a fresh coat of paint and a minimalist material palette. The interior was refreshed to feel bright and airy with plenty of natural light. Although the old chapel was already being used as a studio space by the time Nikjoo was approached for the project, it was dark and uninviting. In transforming the building, the architect kept the layout and several architectural features intact, such as the exposed roof trusses. “The building was stripped back to its original form revealing features and details that had been covered through years of piecemeal extensions and additions,” Nikjoo said. “Restored using a palette of rich yet simple materials, the new interventions interweave with the existing fabric of the building.” In contrast to the black exterior, the interior is filled with light-colored materials — including oak, birch plywood , oiled pine, stone and polished concrete floors — that help create a welcoming atmosphere. Skylights and windows bring in copious amounts of natural light, while the tall ceiling brings the view upward toward the new mezzanine built with birch plywood railings. Related: Stunning chapel in Japan brings a fractal forest indoors The former nave now houses the open-plan living area, dining room and kitchen that are positioned linearly from the entrance. The stairs to the mezzanine level, which opens up to a flat roof terrace, are located behind the kitchen. The master suite and two guest bedrooms with a shared bathroom are tucked away in the rear of the home where the vestry once was. Storage is discreetly hidden away behind wooden doors to maintain the minimalist aesthetic. + Nikjoo Via Dezeen Images by Nikjoo

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An old London chapel is reborn into a modern home and artist studio

First paper straw factory in decades to open as UK bans plastic

June 19, 2018 by  
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As the United Kingdom moves forward with its planned ban on single-use plastic products, the first paper straw factory in decades is opening in Wales to meet the consumer demand. Transcend Packaging, the owner and operator of the new plant, has already reached out to 1,361 McDonald’s restaurants throughout the U.K. , as well as other restaurants, to provide them with more environmentally-friendly straws. “We spotted a huge opportunity, and we went for it,” Transcend Packaging sales and marketing director Mark Varney told The Guardian . “When the BBC’s Blue Planet II was on the telly and the government started talking about the dangers of plastic straws, we saw a niche in the market.” Because of the change in British plastic policy, that niche may soon grow into a national industry. Even before the national plastic ban, companies were moving to use more eco-friendly products, though the acquisition of these products was not necessarily sustainable. “It is great that all these businesses are phasing out plastic straws, but the problem for them was where to get paper ones from,” Varney said. “Everyone is having to import them from China , and when you look at the carbon footprint of that it kind of defeats the exercise.” Thus, Transcend Packaging’s factory was born. Varney continued, “We set up this company to give the the customers what they actually want: biodegradable paper straws made in the U.K.” Related: India plans to eliminate single-use plastic by 2022 While paper straws are marginally more expensive than plastic straws, there are numerous benefits not captured in the numbers. For example, “ McDonald’s , bless them, understood the massive difference to the environment,” said Varney, and embraced the paper straw for the company’s public image and the good of the environment. Via Gizmodo and The Guardian Image via Depositphotos

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First paper straw factory in decades to open as UK bans plastic

The City of London will be powered with 100% renewable energy by October 2018

June 18, 2018 by  
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The City of London, the historic “Square Mile” central district of London , will soon switch to clean energy in a big way. Starting in October 2018, the City of London will source 100 percent of its power needs from renewable energy sources by installing solar panels on local buildings, investing in larger solar and wind projects and purchasing clean energy from the grid. Though no longer a square mile, closer now to 1.12 square miles, the City of London is a major financial center within the city and the world. Its green energy transformation sends a clear message that London intends to take strong action against climate change. In its plans to transform the neighborhood’s energy system, the City of London Corporation will partner with several sites throughout London, such as schools , social housing, markets and 11,000 acres of green space , at which renewable energy capacity will be installed. “Sourcing 100 percent renewable energy will make us cleaner and greener, reducing our grid reliance, and running some of our buildings on zero carbon electricity,” Chairman of the City of London Corporation’s Policy and Resources Committee Catherine McGuinness said in a statement . “We are always looking at the environmental impact of our work and hope that we can be a beacon to other organisations to follow suit.” Related: London considers car-free days to fight air pollution The City of London is among the many municipalities around the world that are stepping up to fulfill the pledges made in the Paris Agreement , even when national governments are not doing enough. “By generating our own electricity and investing in renewables, we are doing our bit to help meet international and national energy targets,” McGuinness said. “This is a big step for the City Corporation and it demonstrates our commitment to making us a more socially and environmentally responsible business.” Via CleanTechnica Images via Depositphotos (1, 2)

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The City of London will be powered with 100% renewable energy by October 2018

UK government wants to ‘eliminate’ wet wipes in plastic crackdown

May 8, 2018 by  
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It’s not just plastic bottles and plastic bags clogging waterways — wet wipes are a pervasive problem, and the United Kingdom government is planning to banish them in a plastic waste crackdown. A Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (Defra) spokesperson told The Independent , “As part of our 25-year environment plan, we have pledged to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste, and that includes single-use products like wet wipes.” Many wet wipes, which contain plastic, are still flushed down toilets — and according to the BBC , are behind around 93 percent of sewer blockages in the UK. The Defra spokesperson didn’t say whether or not it would be illegal to sell or buy wet wipes. She did say, “We are continuing to work with manufacturers and retailers of wet wipes to make sure labeling on packaging is clear and people know how to dispose of them properly — and we support the industry’s efforts to make their customers aware of this important issue.” Related: Wet wipe pollution is clogging up riverbeds across the UK The BBC said manufacturers will either have to design wipes free of plastic, or people will have to live without them. They quoted Defra as saying it is “encouraging innovation so that more and more of these products can be recycled and are working with industry to support the development of alternatives, such as a wet wipe product that does not contain plastic and can therefore be flushed.” Besides congesting rivers, wet wipes are also part of so-called fatbergs , or congealed mounds of trash and fat in sewers — and the BBC said fatbergs are mainly comprised of wet wipes. The Independent said there are thought to be at least 12 fatbergs beneath London . Earlier this month, a UK environmental organization revealed over 5,000 wet wipes in a space as big as half of a tennis court near the River Thames . Tens of thousands of the wipes are sold every year in Britain. Via The Independent and the BBC Images via Depositphotos ( 1 , 2 )

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