MAD unveils solar-powered "Train Station in the Forest"

February 26, 2021 by  
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This summer, the Chinese city of Jiaxing will welcome an innovative transportation hub that will be topped with a lush “borderless park” to bring nature back to the urban environment. Designed by international design firm  MAD Architects , the 35.4-hectare project will feature a new Jiaxing Train Station topped with solar panels, a pair of plazas, a commercial zone, a transit hub and a renovation of the adjacent People’s Park. The main transportation and commercial functions will be tucked underground while an expansive green roof surrounded by trees will grow atop to create a “train station in the forest.” Currently under construction with completion expected by July 2021, Jiaxing’s “Train Station in the Forest” will blend MAD Architects’ signature futuristic forms with designs rooted in the city’s historic and cultural contexts. In addition to  green-roofed , disc-shaped transit buildings located at the site’s transportation hub in the south, the project will feature a one-to-one scale rebuilding of the historic Jiaxing Train Station. This station was an early 20th-century building that served as an important junction for the Shanghai-Hangzhou Railway Line, but it was destroyed by war in 1937. The old station will be faithfully recreated at the heart of the site with the help of scholars, consultants and experts in heritage architecture; once complete, the single-story building will serve as the Jiaxing Railway History Museum.  Related: MAD’s ethereal Yiwu Grand Theater will “float” on Zhejiang waters To bring natural light deep into the underground train station, the architects have designed a system of skylights and glass curtain walls to flood the subterranean concourse, platforms and waiting halls with daylight. The station’s “floating” metal roof will be topped with  solar panels  and greenery to blend in with the surrounding trees. The train station is expected to accommodate 5.28 million people per year with a peak-time capacity of 2,300 people per hour. The train station will be connected to the mixed transit hub in the south via an underground commercial zone that will also include above-ground retail spaces.  “MAD believes that a city’s best  urban spaces  should belong to everybody,” the architects said. “Architecture, sunlight, nature, and fresh air should work in harmony to be shared by all; creating an environment where people can both live and travel with convenience, dignity, and comfort.” + MAD Architects Images via MAD Architects

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MAD unveils solar-powered "Train Station in the Forest"

Stranded at sea: 2000 cattle face culling by Spanish government

February 26, 2021 by  
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Several sailors are stranded outside the shores of Spain , fearing for the lives of hundreds of cattle aboard their ships. The managers of two vessels have accused the Spanish government of ignoring their calls for help. Further, they say that they are unable to dock since the Spanish government threatens to kill the cattle on board. One of the vessels that has been affected is the Karim Allah. The ship left Spain in December with bulls headed for several countries. However, due to a suspected outbreak of bluetongue, the vessels were denied entry into several countries, including Libya and Turkey. Karim Allah is owned by Khalifeh Livestock Trading, based in Lebanon . The ship is also managed by a Lebanese company, Talia Shipping Line. A third party owns the over 800 cattle onboard. Majed Eid, Talia Shipping Line director, says that they have remained docked outside Cartagena port since being barred from entering Spain. “We remain at anchor outside Cartagena port because first the Spanish authorities told us we could not enter. That was on Sunday or Monday,” Eid said. Eid added that they may lose all the animals if they enter Spain. “Then the Spanish authorities said we could enter [the port] but that all the cattle – they are all bulls about seven to eight months old – must be slaughtered,” he said. Furthermore, Eid claims no one has even mentioned vets possibly coming to inspect the ship and test for bluetongue. Eid laments that there is no proof of the animals suffering from any condition. As a result, the company wants to be allowed to enter the country and have the animals tested before any action is taken. “We do not want to slaughter the healthy animals. That is the proof of the good care we have taken, only 15 dead after more than 60 days at sea . We expected people to thank us, not criticise us,” Eid said. “We are crying out for help but the Spanish government is not helping us. No one is helping us,” he added. The other affected ship is the Elbeik, which left Spain with over 1,700 cattle. Currently docked off the coast of Cyprus , the ship lacks a clear destination. The sailors are now calling on the Spanish government to allow the animals to be tested before further action is taken. Via The Guardian Lead image via Pixabay

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Stranded at sea: 2000 cattle face culling by Spanish government

Artist Camille Walala envisions a carless Oxford Street for London

December 31, 2020 by  
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The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 has been a lot of things, and one of them is an opportunity to delve into creative design. So when established artist and designer Camille Walala biked onto the typically bustling Oxford Street during the first lockdown in London, the creative juices started flowing. Seeing the empty street prompted Walala to imagine what the space could look like if it were permanently converted from a street to a pedestrian-only hub. Her trademark blocky and colorful architectural installments became a central element in the design, with bold elements that stand in steep contrast to the street’s current two-dimensional, monochromatic and car- polluting status. Related: Barcelona to transform Eixample streets into car-free zones Walala sees the project as an expression of love for a city she’s called home for 23 years — a city that has provided endless inspiration and opportunities throughout her career as an interior and street art designer. “I found myself with more and more opportunities to develop my practice and ideas — to play with pattern and colour at larger and larger scales,” Walala explained. “If I’d lived somewhere else, if I’d not been rooted in London’s creative scene, surrounded by the people I was, I don’t know if I’d even have become an artist.” The vision came during a bike ride with Walala’s partner, creative producer Julia Jomaa, and the event sparked an imaginative discussion about how the space could be used for public gathering along the lines of an agora in ancient Greece. The image for the space on Oxford Street, however, is not only functional but visually demanding with contrasting bright colors alongside black-and-white geometric patterns. A massive, centralized water fountain is surrounded by seemingly interlocking geometric blocks. It’s a little like a larger-than-life Lego installment. Striking planters curve throughout the area, providing seating and a space for interacting with nature. Although the design is an inspired vision of what the area could be, it’s also a potential realization of “a serious proposal for a new, more enriching urban landscape.” The discussion of creating a car-free capital isn’t a new one, but Walala’s dramatic and artistic spin may just be the inspiration the city needs to make the change toward a pedestrian-focused plaza for generations to come. After all, a pandemic is the perfect time to contemplate the future. “This project is my what-if portrait of the city of tomorrow, and my own projection of what the London I love might one day look like,” Walala said. + Camille Walala Via Dezeen Photography by Camille Walala with Omni Visual and Dunja Opalko

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Japan to develop wooden satellite in bid to curb space junk

December 31, 2020 by  
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Japanese company Sumitomo Forestry is collaborating with Kyoto University to develop the world’s first wooden satellite. The two entities have already started research to determine the possibility of using wood in space. This research will test tree growth and wood use in extreme environments on Earth. If these tests are successful, the project hopes to introduce the wood-inspired satellite by 2023. According to Sumitomo Forestry, wooden satellites provide an ideal solution for reducing space junk. Space experts have warned about increased space junk caused by satellites. The World Economic Forum estimates that about 6,000 satellites are circling Earth, of which 60% are defunct. Satellites often launch into space for different uses. Unfortunately, once the satellites serve their purpose, they remain in space. These satellites slowly disintegrate, leaving alumina particles or other metals in the upper atmosphere. These pieces may stay in the atmosphere for ages. Besides atmospheric pollution, the satellites themselves pose a potential risk should they fall to Earth. According to Kyoto University researchers, wood satellites can disintegrate in space without producing life-threatening junk. Once a satellite has served its purpose, it will slowly fall apart, thus avoiding the creation of additional space junk. Takao Doi, a professor at Kyoto University, says that if action is not taken about space junk now, it will eventually affect Earth’s environment. “We are very concerned with the fact that all the satellites which re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere burn and create tiny alumina particles which will float in the upper atmosphere for many years,” Professor Doi said in an interview. Regarding the project’s next steps, he added “The next stage will be developing the engineering model of the satellite, then we will manufacture the flight model.” Research firm Euroconsult predicts that if all factors remain constant, approximately 990 satellites will be launched into space each year throughout the next decade. This means that we could have about 15,000 satellites orbiting Earth by 2028. Today, Elon Musk’s SpaceX has already launched more than 900 Starlink satellites into space, and the company plans to deploy thousands more. Without sustainability plans, these endeavors will likely contribute to the space junk problem. + BBC Image via Pixabay

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Indigenous land defender Flix Vsquez murdered in Honduras

December 31, 2020 by  
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Honduran environmental hero Félix Vásquez was murdered on December 26 for his brave work defending the land. Vásquez, 60, a long-time leader of the  indigenous  Lenca people, was shot at his home in front of his family. He lived in the rural community of Santiago de Puringla in western Honduras. Four assailants also beat his adult children who were present, but they survived. Vásquez had defended indigenous land rights since the 1980s. He was known nationally for his work opposing megaprojects such as environmentally destructive  mines , logging, wind farms and hydroelectric dams. He also worked on reclaiming ancestral titles for dispossessed communities. Related: Environmental activist Berta Cáceres found murdered in her home It takes a lot of courage to be an environmentalist in  Honduras . A 2009 military coup ousted President Manuel Zelaya and used harsh measures, including beatings and media blackouts, to set a new tone of controlling the people. For the last 11 years, the Honduran government has been better known for electoral fraud, corruption and drug trafficking connections than for eco-friendliness. Hundreds of environmental defenders have disappeared and/or been murdered, and others are locked up on contrived criminal charges. In 2020, the Honduran government stepped up persecution of land defenders. In July, armed assailants wearing police uniforms disappeared a group of Black indigenous environmental defenders. Eight  water  activists from the Guapinol community have been detained this year for protesting against an iron oxide mine. On December 29, just days after Vásquez’s murder, indigenous farmer  Adán Mejía  was murdered on his way home from tending his corn.  “Every single community leader is threatened, without exception, as part of the intimidation campaign to silence us and stop our resistance to projects to exploit natural resources imposed on our territory without consultation,” said Marlen Corea, a leader of indigenous and campesino environmental groups in La Paz. Corea worked closely with Vásquez. “That’s why Félix was killed, but our struggle is just.” Via The Guardian and NPR Image via Trocaire

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Indigenous land defender Flix Vsquez murdered in Honduras

New Urban Park in Portugal gets eco-conscious renovation

December 24, 2020 by  
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Community gathering spaces for indoor and outdoor use are central to the idea of shared land. As such, parks should be structured to maximize these benefits, though sometimes this comes at the cost of the surrounding landscape. However, the new Urban Park and Environmental Interpretation Center in construction for the Portuguese city of Oliveira de Azeméis offers over roughly 12 acres of public-use area designed with special consideration for the ecosystem.  The project began with the winning bid submitted anonymously to the city . A design by Ad Quadratum Arquitectos earned the support of decision-makers for its comprehensive and holistic outline. Related: French housing project “I Park” has a double-skinned green facade The first goal centers on creating a usable space for the community and its visitors. Citizens and tourists alike will enjoy the walkways and sitting areas scattered through the five hectares. Architects constructing the space aim to better the physical and mental health of the entire community . The outdoor arena will include a slide, tree-climbing structures, circuits and maintenance sports equipment, and rest areas, among many other recreational and leisure features. Additionally, the project will repurpose an existing building to  minimize site impact . When complete, the building, coupled with the surrounding infrastructure, will house the park café and café concert terrace, along with the provision of areas for the Interpretative Center and Pedagogical Center. The building renovation in the area commonly referred to as “old” Quinta dos Borges will also include restaurant spaces. Indoors and out, the project promises energy efficiency and environmental neutrality. Lead architect José António Lopes insists on respecting the history, culture, and materials by lifting the building up to new uses, rather than tearing it down. In addition to the preservation of the building, the team stresses the need to protect the surrounding ecosystem. They will retain as much of the existing  vegetation  as possible and also introduce new specimens to round out a self-sustaining ecosystem for long term success. + Ad Quadratum Arquitectos Images via Ad Quadratum Arquitectos

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New Urban Park in Portugal gets eco-conscious renovation

ZHA unveils a low-carbon Shenzhen Science and Technology Museum

December 21, 2020 by  
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Zaha Hadid Architects has unveiled renders for the future Shenzhen Science & Technology Museum, an organically inspired, U-shaped museum that will not only raise Shenzhen’s reputation as a global leader in innovation and technology but also serve as a sustainable benchmark for civic architecture in the southern Chinese city. Located within Guangming Science City in northwestern Shenzhen, the new museum will be connected with universities, schools and innovation centers across China to become an important center for youth education. Currently under construction, the low-carbon and energy-efficient museum is expected to achieve the highest Three-Star rating of China’s Green Building Evaluation Standard.  Conceived as a “pearl” in the Guangzhou- Shenzhen Science Technology Innovation Corridor, the Shenzhen Science & Technology Museum will span an area of approximately 125,000 square meters. The museum will offer a series of interconnecting public spaces, galleries and educational facilities clustered around an atrium courtyard at the heart of the building. Related: Green-roofed theater in Shenzhen raises the bar for civic architecture “Incorporating maximum adaptability as a basic design principle, the geometries, proportions and spatial experience of each gallery will offer visitors a rich and varied experience each time they visit,” ZHA explained. “While some galleries can remain familiar and unchanged, others will change according to the type of exhibition showing at the time.” The museum’s fluid lines and curvaceous form is informed by its program and open circulation as well as its immediate surroundings. The western end, for instance, is designed to frame the adjacent Guangming Park. The architects have also crafted the building’s form and orientation in response to results from computer modeling and wind tunnel testing for optimal thermal performance, natural lighting, wind levels and air quality. The energy-efficient museum will be fortified with high-performance thermal insulation along with high-efficiency glazing, HVAC, lighting and smart building management systems. The Shenzhen Science & Technology Museum is slated for completion in late 2023. + Zaha Hadid Architects Images via Brick, Slashcube and ZHA

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ZHA unveils a low-carbon Shenzhen Science and Technology Museum

MVRDV unveils sustainable Chengdu Sky Valley masterplan

November 24, 2020 by  
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MVRDV has revealed designs for Chengdu Sky Valley, a competition entry for the Future Science and Technology City, which is a planned district on the outskirts of Chengdu, China. Guided by sustainable and placemaking principles, the masterplan seeks to differentiate itself from the country’s other high-tech cities with an emphasis on retaining the existing agricultural landscape, promoting self-sufficient lifestyles and designing with site-specific analyses in mind. Developed as part of Chengdu’s Eastward Development Strategy, the planned Future Science and Technology City will be developed on a rural swath of land adjacent to the new Tianfu International Airport with access to the city’s Metro Line 18. Rather than raze the rural area, the architects sought to retain and enhance the existing landscape — characterized by agricultural fields, rolling hills and scattered villages — while embedding new areas of development in between preserved farming areas.  Related: MVRDV designs a sustainable “urban living room” for Shenzhen “The dichotomy between the existing rural landscape and the future science and technology campus demands a solution that balances tradition and innovation, past and future, young and old, East and West, technology and agriculture,” MVRDV explained. “The design therefore preserves the agricultural valleys, incorporating this activity as a key component of the Future Science and Technology City. New buildings are clustered on the hills, and shaped in a way that amplifies the valley skyline, augmenting the appearance of the Linpan landscape.” MVRDV’s tech taskforce, MVRDV NEXT, developed a series of digital scripts to analyze the site’s topography. The site analyses informed decisions on several parts of the design: which areas should be designated for agricultural zoning versus new building development; the optimization of pathways and bridges to ensure accessibility across the entire site while never exceeding a slope of 4%; the shape and height of human-made hills; and building height limits. As a result, the design features three main valleys — the Knowledge Valley, the Experience Valley and the Venture Valley — around which seven mixed-use developments will be clustered. + MVRDV Images via MVRDV and Atchain

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MVRDV unveils sustainable Chengdu Sky Valley masterplan

Brussels train station transformed into wooden shopping and event center

November 17, 2020 by  
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The Gare Maritime railway station in Brussels has seen a huge transformation. The building, formerly one of Europe’s largest railway stations for goods, has been renovated into a new city district shopping and event development made of cross-laminated timber. Reimagined as a multi-purpose public space for companies and events, the building is covered entirely in  wood  and highlights sustainable architectural practices such as solar energy and rainwater collection systems. According to the architects at Neutelings Riedijk, the structure is the largest  cross-laminated timber  project in Europe. Architects added a series of 12 new building volumes to accommodate a new program of 45,000 square meters. Along with the existing halls, roofs and side aisles, the new design creates a structure that mimics a small city with streets and parks. Related: Sweden’s tallest timber building could save 550 tons of CO2 The choice of wood came down to sustainability and weight, as a concrete construction would have been five times heavier. Cross-laminated timber with a facade finishing in oak offered the perfect solution to create a prefabricated and dry construction method with shorter building time. As a result, the design features demountable connections and modular wooden building elements to promote sustainability. The central space is reserved for public events and contains a green walking boulevard on both sides. Routes measure 16 meters wide, giving pedestrians plenty of room to enjoy the spacious inner garden complete with a hundred trees. Overall, the space includes a total of 10 gardens based on four themes: woodland, flowers, grass and fragrance. As Brussels enjoys a Mediterranean climate, designers chose plants that adapt to the specific growing conditions. The Gare Maritime also remains completely energy neutral and fossil-free thanks to glass facades and solar cells, with a total area of 17,000 square meters of roof space dedicated to  solar panels . The building uses geothermal energy and a rainwater collection system to water the massive gardens. + Neutelings Riedijk Architects Via ArchDaily Photo: Filip Dujardin/Sarah Blee/Tim Fisher | © Neutelings Riedijk Architects

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This nature center proves zero-energy is possible even in wintry Minnesota

November 16, 2020 by  
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Environmental stewardship comes alive in spectacular fashion at the new Westwood Hills Nature Center, an interpretative center in the heart of St. Louis Park, Minnesota that blends energy efficiency, environmental education and beautiful architecture. Designed by multidisciplinary design firm HGA, the center not only serves as a teaching tool about Minnesotan flora and fauna but also as a beacon of sustainable architecture with its net-zero energy design. With passive and active strategies installed, from solar panels to high-performance thermal mass walls, the Westwood Hills Nature Center is on track to achieve International Living Future Institute’s zero-energy certification — the first of its kind in the state. Commissioned by the City of St. Louis Park as an extension of its Green Building Policy and Climate Action Plan, the new Westwood Hills Nature Center was built to replace a small, nondescript building from the 1980s. At 13,000 square feet, the environmental learning center will have ample space to host classrooms and public events in multipurpose rooms as well as an outdoor classroom space, an expanded public exhibit, offices for staff and additional flexible learning and support spaces. Related: Ugakei Circles sustainable nature park set to open in 2021 The architects drew inspiration for the building design from nature. The structure features Alaskan Yellow Cedar glue-laminated columns and beams left exposed in a nod to the larger scale of “the microscopic structure of bundled parallel cellulose fibers of wood.” The varied cladding mimics bark-like layers while the fiber cement panels and wood window designs abstractly evoke the geometry of trunks and branches. To meet zero-energy standards, the architects used several site analyses to optimize daylighting and natural ventilation while minimizing exposure to glare and biting, wintry conditions. Active energy strategies — put continually on display on an interactive dashboard — include a geothermal wellfield, in-floor radiant heating and solar panels. The building also captures rainwater as part of its responsive stormwater management plan.  + HGA Photography by Peter J. Sieger via HGA

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