A modular classroom for environmental education pops up in a Barcelona park

February 21, 2019 by  
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Flexible, transportable and cost-efficient, the modular classrooms created by local design studio Baena Casamor Arquitectes BCQ offer a sustainable new way to activate Barcelona’s public parks. Inspired by timber cabins, the prefabricated pop-up classroom is a multipurpose space sheathed in wood and crafted with a focus on environmental education for school groups and families. The architects recently installed a classroom prototype, AULA K, in the Parc de Can Zam with a built area of nearly 1,200 square feet. Constructed primarily of timber, the prefabricated classroom is designed to blend into the park surroundings with the future aim of providing habitat to certain species of animals, including insects, birds and bats. “It is a pavilion destined to give more life to the parks, complementing the offer of leisure, recreational and sports with the educational dimension,” the architects said in a statement. “It must be a space open to the outside; it is necessary that one could see the trees from the classroom, to perceive the light and feel the climate.” To create flexibility in the design, the classrooms can comprise any combination and configuration of three modules — a service module, classroom module and pergola module — so as to best meet the needs of each site. The modular architecture is prefabricated in a factory and can be installed on site in just a few weeks. The prototype at Parc de Can Zam consists of the service and classroom modules and is topped with sloped roofs optimized for solar panel installation and rainwater collection. Related: Modscape installs a prefab school building that stays comfortable year-round The use of prefabrication helps reduce the time and cost of producing the classrooms, which share a uniform wooden envelope and a large opening on the facade to let in natural light and views of nature. The classrooms can be modified to generate energy, return rainwater to underground aquifers, reuse stormwater runoff as garden irrigation or provide habitat for local fauna. + Baena Casamor Arquitectes BCQ Photography by  Marcela Grassi via Baena Casamor Arquitectes BCQ

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A modular classroom for environmental education pops up in a Barcelona park

Damage to Joshua Tree during the government shutdown could take centuries to repair

February 1, 2019 by  
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The recent month-long government shutdown may have caused “irreparable” damage to Joshua Tree National Park, according to former superintendent Curt Sauer. During those 34 days, visitors ruined trails, cut down trees and vandalized the park, and when workers returned, they found absolute chaos. “What’s happened to our park in the last 34 days is irreparable for the next 200 to 300 years,” Sauer — who ran the park for seven years — told the Desert Sun . The shutdown reduced ranger supervision, which led to increased vandalism. Officials decided to temporarily close the park on January 8. But the next day, they managed to avoid the closure and stay open with the help of revenue from recreation fees. Related: National Parks are being trashed during the government shutdown During the shutdown, many national parks were forced to operate without rangers, and volunteers helped out by hauling trash and cleaning bathrooms. Joshua Tree national park is 1,235 square miles, and the volunteer help wasn’t enough to keep people from ignoring the extra care warnings and damaging the park. Park spokesman George Land said that some visitors had created new roads with their vehicles and destroyed some of the Joshua trees. David Smith, the current superintendent, explained that there were a dozen different instances of vehicles going off-road and into the wilderness, creating two new roads inside the park. People also cut chains and locks to access campgrounds. “We’ve never seen this level of out-of-bounds camping ,” Smith said. “Everyday use area was occupied every evening. Joshua trees were actually cut down in order to make new roads.” Many locals were not happy with the park staying open during the shutdown . John Lauretig, executive director of the non-profit group Friends of Joshua Tree, said that the parks shouldn’t be held hostage. He added that having a park open and partially staffed isn’t good for the park, the public or the local community. He also believes that if the government shuts down again, the park should close completely to prevent more damage. Via Desert Sun  and  The Guardian Image via Christopher Michel

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Damage to Joshua Tree during the government shutdown could take centuries to repair

The geometric Black House captures light and views from multiple angles

February 1, 2019 by  
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When architect Benjamin Heller of Radolfzell-based architectural practice Freier Architekt designed the Black House, he took design inspiration from the project’s location near the boundary of Germany and Switzerland . Created to mimic a boundary stone cut by hand, the Black House is an angular, multifaceted building that appears to conspicuously mark the edge of the small village in which it resides on the German border. More than just an exercise to emulate a distinctive stone, the home’s geometric form is optimized to take in panoramic views of the landscape and natural light as part of the project’s embrace of nature. Located in the charming health resort Öhningen located close to Lake Constance, Germany, the Black House expresses the client’s love of nature in not only its location and framed landscape views, but also with its solid timber construction and energy-efficient technical equipment. For example, the house is sustainably heated with a system that uses a ground collector and heat pump . Spanning an area of 325 square meters, the Black House features two floors with a mix of public, semi-public and private spaces throughout as requested by the client. The home is entered from the east side, where a door opens up to a long hallway that branches off to a variety of rooms that includes sitting rooms, bathrooms and the ground-floor bedroom. Upstairs, an open-plan living room, kitchen and dining area dominate the majority of the floor plan and connect to a south-facing outdoor patio . On the east side is the master bedroom. Related: Experimental prefab home eschews fossil fuels in Geneva “The ‘Black House’ is explicitly oriented toward the landscape and the water,” the architect explained of the massing and the large expanses of glass. “The spacious areas and rooms inside the building are extended in southern direction. The clear and restrained interior design directs one’s eye instinctively to the outstanding panoramic view with the beautiful landscape. The light, polished screed and the parquet flooring of dark oak result in a harmonic but also contrasting interaction.” + Benjamin Heller Via ArchDaily Images via Benjamin Heller

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The geometric Black House captures light and views from multiple angles

National Parks are being trashed during the government shutdown

January 4, 2019 by  
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As the government shutdown continues, many National Parks are suffering from a lack of staff as well as a complete disregard for the rules by visitors. According to multiple reports, some parks — like Yosemite National Park in California — are being overwhelmed by trash, vandalism, human waste and destructive off-roading. “It’s a free-for-all,” said Yosemite worker Dakota Snider, who added that the heartbreaking situation is the worst he has seen in his four years living there. The Los Angeles Times reported earlier this week that people had seen some visitors at Yosemite dumping bags of trash from their cars, and the park closed two campgrounds and a redwood grove because of issues with human waste and a lack of staffing. Related: Air pollution levels in national parks rival those of major US cities “With restrooms closed, some visitors are opting to deposit their waste in natural areas adjacent to high traffic areas, which creates a health hazard for other visitors,” said National Parks Service spokesman Andrew Munoz. At the beginning of the shutdown, the Trump administration kept most of the National Parks open with skeleton staffs on site to make sure visitors followed the rules, like no littering and no hunting. But because there was no one to collect admission fees, the number of visitors has surged, and the skeleton crews can’t handle the park traffic. Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park has locked its restrooms and trash bins because of human waste issues, wildlife concerns and public health, according to a notice on the park website. In addition to the human waste problem, the weather has also been an issue in some locations. Arches and Canyonlands in Utah have closed because there is no money to plow the snow. The state of Utah was paying to staff all five of its National Parks , but as the new year started, it decided to staff only Zion. At Joshua Tree in Southern California , local residents and businesses are volunteering to help keep the restrooms functioning by cleaning them and hauling out trash, and private park tour companies are doing similar work in Yellowstone. In New York , the state is funding both the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island to make sure they continue to operate during the shutdown. Via Huffington Post and LA Times Images via Joshua Tree National Park ( 1 , 2 )

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National Parks are being trashed during the government shutdown

This contaminated, post-industrial site will become a massive park in Florida

October 16, 2018 by  
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New images have been unveiled of international design firm Sasaki’s proposal for transforming a 180-acre, post-industrial site in Lakeland, Florida into a privately funded park with aims of becoming “one of the greatest urban landscapes in the country,” according to the firm. Billed as a future “Central Park” for Lakeland, Bonnet Springs Park will begin with a comprehensive remediation process to heal the damaged and contaminated landscape. Spearheaded by Lakeland realtor David Bunch and his wife Jean with the backing of philanthropists Barney and Carol Barnett, the sprawling park will be a vibrant new destination for residents. It is slated for completion by 2020. Located near downtown Lakeland, the land for Bonnet Springs Park is currently underutilized and has accumulated tons of trash. More than 80 acres of land are contaminated with arsenic and petroleum hydrocarbons. With the help of a 20-person advisory committee that has helped remove 37 tons of trash from the site, the 180-acre landscape is now entering its environmental remediation phase, which includes stockpiling contaminated materials into safely capped hills, constructing  wetlands for filtering pollutants and creating stormwater management strategies. Although the park is privately funded, hundreds of Lakeland community members have been invited to add their feedback and input on the design. Sasaki’s masterplan includes heritage gardens, a canopy walk, a welcome center, nature center, event lawn, walking and biking trails, non-motorized boating activities and a sculpture garden . The new buildings in the park will be designed to harmonize with the landscape, with some of them partially buried into the terrain. A plan will also be put in place to ensure the economic sustainability and continued maintenance of Bonnet Springs Park. Related: Solar-powered POP-UP Park takes over underused Budapest square “Bonnet Springs Park, from a planning and design perspective, presents a rare opportunity to transform a significantly challenged urban plot of land in an effort to improve Central Florida’s quality of life for generations to come,” noted the architecture firm. “Sasaki’s designs will improve the site’s ecological health, foster unique harmonious architectural design and set the park up for self-sustaining , economic success.” + Sasaki

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This contaminated, post-industrial site will become a massive park in Florida

Solar-powered POP-UP Park takes over underused Budapest square

August 31, 2018 by  
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Hungarian design studio Hello Wood has teamed up with the Municipality of Budapest City yet again to revive a forgotten public space with a dazzling summer haven that’s free and open to everyone, 24 hours a day. Located beside City Hall Park, the temporary, solar-powered park is Hello Wood’s latest POP-UP Park, a short-term urban intervention with eye-catching street furniture. This year’s version is inspired by the Mediterranean with its use of olive trees and wave-shaped seating. This year’s POP-UP Park serves as both a respite from the summer heat as well as a destination for outdoor exercise. Inspired by the World Cup craze, as well as Budapest’s upcoming status as the European Capital of Sport in 2019, Hello Wood teamed up with HardBodyHang to incorporate free-to-use street workout equipment that can be enjoyed by both amateur and professional athletes alike. The summer-only intervention also includes ping pong and Teqball tables — a mainstay of last year’s POP-UP Park — and chessboards. “The park is open to all 24 hours a day, available to all walks of life: the traveling tourist arriving into the city from the airport, the businessperson eating their lunch, local elderly people meeting to relax and chat or the homeless,” Hello Wood explained. “We wanted this sense of democracy to be epitomized by the POP-UP Park, a unique, free-to-use space that was put together in conjunction with the Municipality of Budapest — who recognized the power of utilizing the space temporarily until its development is completed and supported its creation.” Related: Confluence Park’s new solar-powered pavilions collect rainwater and provide shade The designers also installed colorful wave-shaped wooden seating and structures to make the pop-up park an inviting space to linger and lounge. To warm up the otherwise drab, cobblestone-lined square, Hello Wood brought in palms and olive trees for a Mediterranean touch. Sail shades provide additional shading, while string lights add a romantic twinkle at night. Moreover, Hungarian startup Platio supplied solar panels to power charging stations, where visitors can charge their laptops and other electronic devices. The POP-UP Park will be available until October. + Hello Wood Images by BVA

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Solar-powered POP-UP Park takes over underused Budapest square

Architects transform a derelict lot into an urban oasis in New Delhi

August 31, 2018 by  
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Delhi-based firm Harsh Vardhan Jain Architect has converted a derelict lot in South East New Delhi into a beautiful vertical home clad in glass panels and topped with a lush green roof . The architects designed the Garden Roof Parasol to be an urban oasis for a pair of newlyweds. The team ensured the home was filled with natural light and vegetation to create a sense of serenity within a hectic city landscape. The architects were approached by a soon-to-be-married couple who were looking to move in after their wedding. The building site is located on an “urban fringe” lot, between a bustling urban area and a planned settlement in South East New Delhi. The compact lot presented a number of challenges for its small dimensions, which included a one room structure, a stairwell and a courtyard. Related: A lush rooftop oasis flourishes on this renovated Art Deco townhouse in Mexico City To create a light-filled urban oasis for the newlyweds, the architects decided to use a combination of glass, steel and greenery. According to the design scheme , the strategy was to create an overarching roof over the existing structures to unify the space. By taking the design vertical, the architects could add a double height volume to the home. The new building was framed from prefabricated steel beams that were also used to create a solid platform for the roof. The existing masonry walls that were on the site were reinforced and filled with insulated glazing. An exterior ramp leads up to the entrance way — a small deck with a spiral staircase that provides access to the green roof. Related: 10 essential green roofing materials The interior living space, which is flooded with natural light thanks to floor-to-ceiling glass facades, has minimal furnishings to reduce clutter. Many of the furnishings are flexible, such as the television console with built-in storage that doubles as access to the small study built into the former stairwell. The first floor houses an open-plan living area and a small kitchenette. Throughout the space, steel and fluted glass doors slide shut to separate the rooms or open to expand the space. From the bedroom on the upper floor, a small steel spiral staircase leads to the home’s vibrant  rooftop garden . + Harsh Vardhan Jain Architect Via Archdaily Images via Nakul Jain / Harsh Vardhan Jain Architect

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Architects transform a derelict lot into an urban oasis in New Delhi

Locals protest tourism development in Komodo dragon sanctuary

August 22, 2018 by  
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Recently announced tourism infrastructure plans for Indonesia’s Komodo National Park has ignited a string of protests from locals and activists. The park is part of the Pacific Coral Triangle and spans over 29 pristine islands that have been recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The area is supposedly protected from development under Indonesian law, which is why residents of the administrative region of the park, known as the West Manggarai district, are in uproar over the plans. In 2014 and 2015, developers PT Komodo Wildlife Ecotourism (KWE) and PT Segara Komodo Lestari (SKL) obtained licenses to build accommodations, a sightseeing facility and a restaurant on the three main islands of the Komodo reserve. The islands, Padar, Rinca and Komodo, are the largest of the 29 that encompass the national park , and the latter two are exclusively dedicated to the Komodo dragon. This awe-inspiring reptile is the world’s largest lizard, but it is also listed as threatened on the IUCN’s Red List . Related: Conservationists rid Florida of invasive iguanas by smashing their heads “The local government, together with the national government and tourism businesses, must maintain Komodo National Park as a conservation zone to ensure tourism that’s environmentally friendly and free from exploitation and commercialization,” said Rafael Todowela, head of the West Manggarai Community Forum to Save Tourism. “Conservation is to protect the Komodo dragons, not investors.” Responding to the uproar, Wiratno, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry’s director general,  insisted the eco-tourism plans would leave a minimal footprint on the islands. The plans include environmentally friendly building materials that are sourced locally, such as bamboo, as well as solar panels and zero-waste management systems. He said that the developers would be using far less land — around 10 percent of the 600 hectares (1,482 acres) — than they were allocated. Only locals would be employed at the facilities, which would use 5 percent of profits to boost smaller businesses in the area. Wiratno said the locals have no issue with the development plans. But residents, such as Alimudin of Komodo Village, are calling foul. “The locals are banned from doing any development work in any part of the national park for the sake of conservation,” Alimudin said. He also emphasized the residents’ interest in ensuring the protection of the Komodo dragon and its rightful habitat. Agrarian researcher Eko Cahyono said, “The tourism policy is a form of ‘green grabbing’: grabbing the locals’ land under the guise of conservation and environmental protection.” Via Mongabay Images via Christopher Harriot and Laika AC

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Locals protest tourism development in Komodo dragon sanctuary

This canopy walkway elevates Shenzhen library-goers into the treetops

August 20, 2018 by  
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A new pagoda-like library in China’s megacity of Shenzhen sweeps visitors above the tree canopy with an elevated walkway. Located in Xiangmi Park, a densely forested area originally used as an agricultural research center, the Xiangmi Park Science Library celebrates its verdant surroundings with a “treetop walk” and an abundance of glazing. International architecture and design firm MLA+ led the design of the library and visitor center, and ZEN landscape architects handled the landscape design. Completed in 2017 in Shenzhen’s central Futian District, the Xiangmi Park Science Library covers an area of 1,500 square meters. The park had been protected from urban encroachment for 35 years and includes a large lychee orchard on a hill, fishponds, a flower market and a rich diversity of local flora and fauna. The architects have compared the site to an “undiscovered treasure box in the middle of a metropolis” and thus aimed to preserve and enhance the natural environment as much as possible. Drawing inspiration from classical Chinese garden architecture, the pagoda-like library building is made from steel and glass for an airy and lightweight feel; the cantilevered elements provide solar shading and reference local architecture. In addition to library stacks, the building includes a meeting room, a reading area, terraces and administrative offices. Related: BIG completes an energy-efficient sculptural skyscraper in Shenzhen “Perched in between the trees , the building offers an ever-changing experience of its surrounding landscape,” the firm said. “This experience varies from floor to floor. With its dematerialized ground floor, it becomes a part of the shaded forest floor. Structural elements blend with the surrounding tree trunks. Upper levels sit in between the dense canopy of leaves and therefore have a more enclosed, intimate feeling. The very top floor offers the views of the surroundings and the city. Experiencing the library is like climbing a tree — a tree of knowledge.” + MLA+ Images © Vlad Feoktistov

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This canopy walkway elevates Shenzhen library-goers into the treetops

This floating park in Rotterdam is made from recycled plastic waste

July 11, 2018 by  
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More than 1,000 square feet of plastic ultimately destined to pollute the ocean is getting a second lease on life in Rotterdam. On July 4, 2018, Recycled Island Foundation opened its prototype to the public: a floating park made entirely from recycled plastic waste and appropriately named the Recycled Park. According to a report commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment , more than 1,000 cubic meters of plastic waste is transported every year down the Meuse River and into the North Sea. The plastics come from landfills, agriculture, sewage and inland shipping. They ultimate reach the river through a number of methods, including dumping, littering and run-off. Instead of letting the plastic reach the ocean, the Recycled Island Foundation and 25 partners created the Recycled Park: a public space in Rotterdam consisting of floating platforms made from recycled plastic waste. The team set traps along the Meuse River that collect waste, which is then gathered and transformed into platforms for the floating park. Related: A massive five-ton plastic waste whale breaches in a Bruges canal The Recycled Park project is focused on the Meuse River because of the overall viability of plastic in the aquatic space. The collected waste  is newer than in other waterways, so it can easily be made into platforms. To create the platforms, the collected plastic is sent to Wageningen University, which leads the research on effective recycling techniques . From there, the platforms are designed with HEBO Mariteimservice , who removes the garbage from the water. But the platforms aren’t just designed to reduce plastic pollution — they also serve as a wildlife habitat. Plants grow both above and below the river surface, allowing greenery to thrive on top of the platforms, providing a habitat capable of sustaining marine life and encouraging fish to lay eggs below the platforms. With the prototype park open, the organization is now looking for expansion options. Its ultimate goal is to incorporate several aquatic platform types into the park, while finding a permanent location to collect plastic from the Dutch harbor . + Recycled Park + Recycled Island Foundation Images via Recycled Island Foundation

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This floating park in Rotterdam is made from recycled plastic waste

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