Solar-powered Rotterdam home wraps around an olive tree

March 15, 2017 by  
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Don’t be fooled by this Rotterdam home’s deceptively plain street-facing facade—the backside of the property reveals a strikingly sculptural home with a glazed facade that wraps around an olive tree. MVRDV designed the contemporary home, called Casa Kwantes, for a client who valued privacy and seclusion but also wanted maximum access to daylight and open living spaces. To minimize its environmental footprint, the home includes several energy-efficient systems and aims for self-sufficiency. Tucked away on the corner plot of an old hospital, the 480-square-meter Casa Kwantes is entered through an indent on its windowless, mysterious street-facing facade built with white Celosia brickwork. Upon entering the curvaceous living spaces, visitors are bathed in natural light and views of the outdoors. The full-height south-facing windows wrap around the courtyard and the focal point of the house: the olive tree . The library and the open-plan living room, dining room, and kitchen are located on the first floor, while the sleeping areas are placed on the second level. Curtains provide privacy and shade. The upper floor cantilevers slightly to provide solar shading to the living spaces. Extra storage is tucked away in a small basement and an outdoor suntrap patio at the bottom of the garden offers extra paved barbecue space. “When balancing municipality requirements for a retro style architecture, the home became a contemporary take on 1930s modernism with its long, cream, shallow brickwork, full-height glazing, and the contrasting integration of the flat and fluid, open and enclosed, flexible and defined,” wrote the architects. “As the newly built homes in the vicinity are more vernacular in their modernist approach, this variation on a more avant-garde architecture has the been subject of discussions with the municipality.” Related: MVRDV unveils futuristic Y-shaped house with a rooftop pool in Tainan In addition to ample access to natural light, Casa Kwantes minimizes its energy footprint with a ground-source heat pump , heat exchange system, and rooftop solar system. The solar panels generate enough energy for the home to run entirely on renewable energy. MVRDV expects to home to be entirely self-sufficient on energy and will monitor the home for testing over the next year. + MVRDV Images © Ossip van Duivenbode

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China approves massive new park for endangered leopards and tigers

March 15, 2017 by  
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China just approved a massive new national park to help protect endangered big cats . The 5,637 square mile park – which will be 60 percent bigger than America’s Yellowstone National Park – will serve as a sanctuary for Siberian tigers and Amur leopards. Big cats have struggled in northeast China, where the park will be built. Excessive logging deteriorated the ecosystem and caused the population of wild Siberian tigers to plummet dramatically. A field survey by scientists from the United States, Russia, and China found signs of just six to nine of the tigers in the area in 1998. A 2015 northeast China logging ban may have helped; now experts estimate there are around 27 Siberian tigers there. Meanwhile Amur leopards are critically endangered , according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), which said there are only over 60 of these animals still alive in the world. Related: Russia built a critical wildlife corridor to help save endangered big cats Small habitat areas have prompted Siberian tigers and Amur leopards to roam into residential areas looking for food, according to EcoWatch, which quoted a Jilin Forestry Department spokesperson as saying to ease conflict between humans and the big cats, they will relocate some communities and factories currently inside the area for the park. China’s new national park will be in the provinces of Jilin and Heilongjiang, bordering Russia . The park will include a monitoring and rescue center for wild big cats, along with research facilities. WWF Beijing’s Species Program Director Fan Zhiyong said the initiative could help improve cooperation between the two countries to conserve wildlife . Jilin Forestry Department Director Lan Hongliang also said they expected the national park to act as a channel for international interchange on protecting wild animals. The Jilin government said they will start preparing for national park management by the end of this year. According to Xinhua, a plan and pilot park could be finished before 2020. Via Xinhua and EcoWatch Images via Tambako The Jaguar on Flickr and PublicDomainPictures.net

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European firms eye artificial island for North Sea wind and solar farm

March 15, 2017 by  
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Of all the opponents of wind turbines , few are as vociferous as the loose collective that planners and developers deride as “Nimby,” a term that derives from the acronym for “not in my backyard.” Driven to stake out real estate further offshore, a group of European companies have devised a plan almost breathtaking in its audacity: create a vast artificial island in the middle of the tumultuous North Sea, populate the area around it with thousands of spinning pylons, and drum up enough renewable energy for millions of Europeans by 2050. The venture, born of the 2050 goals laid out by the Paris agreement on climate change , is a collaboration between Denmark’s Energinet and the German and Dutch arms of electricity firm TenneT . To solidify the partnership, the companies will be meeting with Maroš Šef?ovi?, the European Commissioner for Energy, at the North Seas Energy Forum in Brussels next week to sign a trilateral agreement. If greenlit, the proposed 2.5-square-mile Power Link Island, also known as the North Sea Wind Power Hub, will boast its own harbor, air strip, solar farm, and artificial lake, along with homes for in-residence staff. Early estimates place the price of construction in the ball park of $1.3 billion. Dogger Bank, a large sandbank about 62 miles off the east coast of England, is thought to be the ideal location for the island because it’s centrally located, has waters shallow enough for turbines, and is buffeted by constant wind. Related: China is building artificial islands in disputed South China Sea territory Underwater transmission lines, coursing with energy, could potentially power the homes of 80 million people in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Norway, and Belgium. By linking the energy markets of those countries, Power Link Island could facilitate international trading in electricity. It could even consolidate energy by serving as a connective hub for other, scattered wind farms or bud off smaller but similar enclaves. “This project can significantly contribute to a completely renewable supply of electricity in Northwest Europe,” said Mel Kroon, CEO of TenneT. There’s another upside: An island of significant scope could, through economies of scale, also whittle down costs. “Offshore wind has in recent years proved to be increasingly competitive and it is important to us to constantly focus on further reduction in prices of grid connections and interconnections,” said Peder Østermark Andreasen, CEO of Energinet. “We need innovative and large-scale projects so that offshore wind can play an even bigger part in our future energy supply.” + Energinet + TenneT Via The Next Web

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European firms eye artificial island for North Sea wind and solar farm

Chinas rival to AirBnB opens new Beijing office with cutting-edge interior design

February 15, 2017 by  
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Airbnb’s biggest rival in China, Xiaozhu , just opened their latest office in Beijing, a diverse and flexible work environment that bears similarities to an Ikea showroom. The office space, called Sliced House, is the work of People’s Architecture Office (PAO) and People’s Industrial Design Office (PIDO), and is largely inspired by the diversity of the home-sharing startup’s online listings. The office’s collection of domestic spaces creates a casual and playful setting that fosters spontaneous interactions. PAO credits Xiaozhu’s need for a flexible work environment to the startup’s rapid growth—the five-year-old startup is valued at over $300 million and could possibly be bought out by AirBnB in the near future. The office is mostly open plan but also includes private meeting rooms, a conference room, and lounge. Most of the workspaces can be rearranged into different configurations, from the jigsaw-like worktables that can break away into individual desks to the conference room that uses room dividers to transform one long conference table to three smaller tables in separate rooms. The fixed meeting rooms are built to look like cozy living rooms and kitchens. Related: Airbnb launches nature-filled Tokyo office that feels like a beautiful cozy home “Sliced House is conceived as a house that has been divided and its parts dispersed throughout an otherwise banal office interior,” write the architects. “Shared interior finishes between split spaces make apparent that adjacent portions refer to a single room. These sliced samples of domesticity include kitchen, living room, and bedroom and double as ad hoc meeting areas. Such spaces reflect Xiaozhu’s rental offerings, providing users with a wide spectrum of settings to choose from.” PIDO custom built the transforming furniture , which include workspaces and a mobile trishaw-like meeting area made from converted tricycles . This wheeled workspaces were inspired by Xiaozhu’s Tricycle House listing and the tricycle’s long history in China. + People’s Architecture Office Via ArchDaily

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Chinas rival to AirBnB opens new Beijing office with cutting-edge interior design

WOHA revamps Singapore office with lush ‘pocket parks’

February 15, 2017 by  
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Singapore’s 48 North Canal Road is a dynamic office space designed by the renowned architecture firm, WOHA . Working within local Urban Redevelopment Authority’s guidelines to guard the heritage-protected storefront on one side, the green-loving architects tacked on a vibrant addition to the rear of the building using a contemporary mix of glass, brick and aluminum, and infused the entire program with lush pocket parks . Although the architects had to work within a number of spatial restrictions, they were able to strategically maneuver new open space out of the existing layout. The plan focused on vertically “lifting up” the existing office space in order to maximize flexibility and provide optimal natural light and city views. A curtain wall made of perforated aluminum panels runs the height of the building, serving as an integrated sunscreen to shade the interior atrium space. Related: WOHA’s solar-powered SkyVille in Singapore boasts a deep-green public skypark The building’s design consists of an eye-catching “fractal, triangulated geometry”. Interestingly, this feature was inspired by local city code that requires splayed corners on certain buildings located on corner intersections. Using the requirement to their advantage, the architects carried this theme throughout the design, “chiseling” various disjointed geometric forms and creating little nooks and seating areas along the way. The flat spaces created by this method were converted into green pocket parks throughout the building, including the more spacious rooftop, which was transformed into an outdoor recreational lounge. Visitors and tenants can also enjoy a cafe, break-out areas, and meeting rooms that are all organized around the building’s central green space. + WOHA Via Architonic Photography by Patrick Bingham-Hall

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WOHA revamps Singapore office with lush ‘pocket parks’

Air pollution is the leading environmental cause of death worldwide

February 15, 2017 by  
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A new report shows that air pollution is the leading environmental cause of death in the world – and the number five cause of death overall. China and India lead the way with a combined 2.2 pollution-related deaths in 2015. These rising trends continue to put pressure on governments and industries that could make a difference. The State of Global Air 2017 report revealed how long-term exposure to harmful, small particulate matter in the air contributed to over 4 million premature deaths in 2015 – the equivalent of 103 million years of healthy life. The study, a combined effort by the Health Effects Institute (HEI) and Institute for Health Metrics and Evalution’s Global Burden of Disease Project , showed China and India as the nations suffering from the most health effects and early deaths due to air pollution. CNBC notes that UK air pollution deaths are also on the rise at 40,000 per year. Related: Beijing creates new environmental police force to crack down on smog “We are seeing increasing air pollution problems worldwide,” HEI President Dan Greenbaum said in a statement. “The trends we report show that we have seen progress in some parts of the world – but serious challenges remain.” Sadly, particulate matter tends to affect the very old and the very young, leaving the most vulnerable populations at a higher risk. Via CNBC Images via Flickr ( 1 , 2 )

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Air pollution is the leading environmental cause of death worldwide

Old watermill recycled into modern light-filled refuge in Portugal

February 3, 2017 by  
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Down on the banks of a beautiful creek sits a beautiful and modern refuge that blends in with its environment. Ansião-based architecture practice Bruno Lucas Dias designed this rentable lodge constructed with recycled materials from an old watermill . Nestled in Portugal’s Ponte de São Simão, the contemporary home, called Watermill on the Crag (Moinho das Fragas), was constructed on a modest budget and saves costs with its energy-efficient design. The Watermill on the Crag is largely constructed with natural materials that blend the home into its forested surroundings. Crafted from an old watermill, the building’s external walls are constructed of stone , matching the craggy cliff faces of Saint Simon. “This local lodging project is born out of the respect of the existing language, and aims to requalify the constructions and their context, faithfully respecting, as much as possible, its past use,” write the architects. Related: Water Pumping Mill Transformed Into Self-Sustaining Residence The watermill’s stone exterior was mostly left intact save for new double-glazed wooden window frames and thermal improvements to the roof. In contrast, the interior was largely revamped with white walls and surfaces covered with locally sourced pinewood . The building contains a bedroom that sleeps two, a bathroom, and open-plan living room, dining area, and kitchen, as well as an outdoor terrace with views of the mountains and creek. + Bruno Lucas Dias Images by Hugo Santos Silva

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Old watermill recycled into modern light-filled refuge in Portugal

Rammed earth walls form the core of this modern Australian home

December 12, 2016 by  
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Innovative, eco-friendly materials and contemporary design form the basis for Willow Grove, a modern home in the Australian farming community of the same name. Finnis Architects designed the small three-bedroom house for a couple that sought a slower pace of life away from city living. Rammed earth walls made from locally sourced materials serve as the focal point of the design, which comprises two wings that spread out and overlook views of the countryside. The rammed earth walls , which can be seen at the entrance, cut through the home and create a connection between the interior and exterior. The warm-toned and textured look of rammed earth creates a sharp contrast with the dark polished concrete floors, and that dichotomy is enhanced by a minimalist materials and color palette. The facade is clad in corrugated metal sheeting as a reference to the rural area’s corrugated country sheds. Related: 8 inexpensive earth homes almost anyone can afford The wedge-shaped entry framed by the angled rammed earth walls open up to two wings on either side. The west wing houses the open-plan living area, dining room, and kitchen. The wing to the east contains two guest bedrooms, a bathroom, laundry room, and a master suite. Large windows frame hillside views and let in natural light , while large overhanging eaves mitigate solar heat gain and accentuate the roofline’s winged shape. + Finnis Architects Via ArchDaily Images via Finnis Architects , by Nic Granleese

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Sprawling Bracketed Space House frames views of forests and rolling hills in Austin, Texas

November 28, 2016 by  
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The house is located on a sloped site in Austin, Texas. It reaches out to embrace the surrounding landscape and blur the line between the interior and the exterior spaces. The wings of the house are topped with flat roofs and are connected by a glazed volume that establishes a visual connection between the front and rear of the house. Related: Architect Miguel Rivera’s Daylit Residence in Austin is a Renovated 1917 Bungalow Open-plan interior spaces are oriented towards the c ourtyard with an infinity pool that overlooks rolling hills and forests. Cedar , steel, natural stucco , concrete and glass create a mixture of textures and colors. + Matt Fajkus Architecture Via D ezeen Photos by Charles Davis Smith, Spaces & Faces Photography

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Sprawling Bracketed Space House frames views of forests and rolling hills in Austin, Texas

19th century Belgian farmhouse reborn as a charming family-run B&B

November 22, 2016 by  
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The architects gutted two brick buildings, a former watch house and a jail, to create wooden extensions that stretch the gabled line of existing structures and adding large metal-framed openings to the facades. An underground passageway connects these volumes. The extension houses a new swimming pool and a large, open-plan living room on the ground floor, with four bedroom suites located on the upper floor. Related: Historic Belgian Windmill Transformed into a Modern Retreat The newly formed U-shaped plan, framed by the original structure and the timber-clad extension, cradles a private courtyard visible from the reading room, offices and living spaces. Cast concrete and timber dominate the renovation project, combining a modern aesthetics with rustic charm. We’d certainly stay there if we could. + Govaert & Vanhoutte Architects Via Dezeen Photos by Tim Van de Velde

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