Designers selected for new Shenzhen Natural History Museum project

January 25, 2021 by  
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B+H Architects, 3XN Architects and Zhubo Design have been selected to design the new Shenzhen Natural History Museum. The team beat out over 70 proposals from around the world in an international competition. For the bidding state, 15 teams were selected, representing 18 different countries from throughout North America, Asia and Europe. China’s new Shenzhen Natural History Museum will be the first large-scale, comprehensive natural museum in Southern China and is set to become one of Shenzhen’s “Ten Cultural Facilities of the New Era” once complete. The site is located next to Yanzi Lake in Shenhen’s Pingshan District, a picturesque spot for a world-class natural science museum. The museum will be dedicated to advocating for science in the area, interpreting laws of natural evolution and showcasing the region’s geography and ecology in a global perspective. Related: Fram Museum extension is dedicated to environmental education B+H Architects, 3XN and Zhubo Design’s winning design scheme, called Delta, imagines a 42,000-square-meter facility that rises from the river delta with an accessible green rooftop and an adjoining public park. The park and green roof are meant to provide a welcoming invitation to both residents and visitors while highlighting the museum’s organic geometries. “This building captures the unique atmosphere of a riverfront site and finds the timeless property of water as a concept,” said Yvonne Farrell, Pritzker Architecture Prize laureate and contest judge. “The connection between function, site, concept, structure, material and space is very clear.” Each turn of the structure helps frame a distinct view over the park and nearby hills from viewing terraces along the roof, mimicking a river stream finding its shape in balance with the land. The museum will maximize access to the public park network and lush green areas, allowing residents and visitors to connect with nature and stay active through activities like early morning jogs and evening strolls. The pathways lead guests into a cave-like passageway that connects to the museum lobby, surrounded by multiple cafes and other public areas to centralize the building. + 3XN Architects + B+H Architects + Zhubo Design Images via 3XN Architects

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Designers selected for new Shenzhen Natural History Museum project

Green-roofed home embraces valley views and daylight

January 7, 2021 by  
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On the steep banks of the Dyje River in the Czech town of Znojmo, Brno-based architecture firm Kuba & Pila? architekti has completed the Family House in the River Valley, a contemporary, geothermal-powered home topped with a lush green roof. Set on a narrow, rectangular plot, the waterfront home complements its neighbors with its simple form, yet it stands out with a modern materials palette that includes a structure of reinforced concrete and steel clad in black aluminum sheets. Access to natural light and views toward the slope and the river largely dictated the design of the home. Completed after 9 years of design and construction, the Family House in the River Valley comprises three floors that face the Dyje River and one floor that faces the slope. The north-facing side of the home is topped with a sharply angled green roof that feels like an extension of the steep, grassy slope and culminates into a rising garden above the home. Related: Modular home in Delft boasts low-carbon timber build and a green roof Unlike the layout of a conventional home, the Family House in the River Valley places the living areas on the top floor and the bedrooms down below. “The living space benefits from the absence of partition, which creates two advantages,” the architects explained. “One, the sunlight floods the room from the southern side, from the garden through the glass wall in the dining area. Two, to the north, it offers impressive views of the valley. It is the beautiful views of the Dyje River valley and the opposite rocky slopes with important historical monuments of Znojmo that are the main strengths of this site.” The interior is kept minimalist so as not to detract from the beautiful landscape views. Large, aluminum-framed windows usher in these vistas and natural light. To create an indoor-outdoor experience, the architects connected the living space to an outdoor terrace and the garden on the south side, which can also be accessed via an outdoor staircase. + Kuba & Pila? architekti Photography by BoysPlayNice

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This city park in Amsterdam could help purify local water

December 28, 2020 by  
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DELVA Landscape Architecture / Urbanism has revealed designs for Het Oog (Dutch for “The Eye”), a multifunctional “(under)water” landscape park that will connect the two neighborhoods of Strandeiland, a future residential area that will accommodate 8,000 homes in Amsterdam’s IJburg collection of artificial islands. The 22-hectare city park is part of Strandeiland’s urban plan developed in collaboration with the municipality of Amsterdam. In addition to providing recreational opportunities for local residents, Het Oog will also offer a rich variety of landscapes, diverse habitats for fauna and natural water purification systems. Located atop the historic primeval channel of Amsterdam’s River IJ, Het Oog is a large, humanmade inland waterway at the heart of Strandeiland. The waterway, which will be developed into a park, will link the two planned neighborhoods currently being developed in Strandeiland’s second development phase, which is expected to be completed in 2040 and will house approximately 20,000 residents. Related: Solar-powered Brink Tower is a sustainable solution to Amsterdam’s housing shortage “The distinctive identities of the Pampusbuurt (formal and urban) and Muiderbuurt (informal and natural) are reflected in the rich variety of landscape typologies that will work together to form the structure of the (underwater) landscape park,” the designers explained. “It is a place of residence, meeting and activity for local residents but is also comprised of diverse ecosystems, a natural purification system and a distinct urban environment. Thus, Het Oog forms a solid ecological stepping stone between the IJmeer and the Diemerpolder.” The design of Het Oog focuses on three main themes: water purification; water ecology with diverse habitats for fauna and flora; and water recreational activities that include walking, resting, swimming and more. Because about half of the rainwater on Strandeiland is diverted into Het Oog, DELVA — in collaboration with Sweco and the municipality of Amsterdam — developed a series of methods to naturally purify the water and guarantee safe water quality levels. The natural purification strategies include planting a large area of reed beds that will inject oxygen into the water; lowering the water level of the waterway to encourage growth of water-purifying aquatic plants; and shortening the bank length with artificial islands, wetlands and irregular landforms. + DELVA Images via DELVA and WAX

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This city park in Amsterdam could help purify local water

It’s Giving Tuesday! Here are some eco-friendly ways to get involved

December 1, 2020 by  
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After the extreme materialism of Black Friday and Cyber Monday comes an opportunity to support your favorite causes — without acquiring more stuff. Instead, Giving Tuesday encourages people to do good. Since its creation in 2012, the day has turned into a global movement inspiring generosity. Here’s how to celebrate, plus some environmental charities to consider supporting. Ways to give The most obvious way to give on Giving Tuesday is through a monetary donation — and we’ll get to that in a minute — but don’t let a shortage of cash keep you from participating. If you have more time than money, donating volunteer hours can make a huge difference. You could also give voice as an activist, advocating for your nearest and dearest causes by signing petitions or amplifying their messages through your social media accounts. Maybe you have a special talent that a nonprofit organization needs, such as being able to consult on HR or IT. Taproot matches talented volunteers with the organizations that need their skills. You can also donate goods. Do you still have gifts from past holidays that you never or barely used? Consider giving those unused gifts to somebody who needs them more. Related: Survey shows most adults prefer volunteering at local parks and recreation areas Environmental causes to support The number of nonprofits that need support is truly staggering. Whether your heart lies with trees, the climate, whales or just about anything else, you’ll find an organization thrilled to accept your donation. Here are just a few of the many worthy environmental charities you might choose to support on Giving Tuesday. Cool Effect This crowdfunding platform began in 1998 by supporting clean-burning woodstoves in Honduras. Now, Cool Effect helps people support carbon-reducing projects around the world. As the nonprofit puts it, “We have made reducing carbon pollution as simple as tapping a button. Together, small actions can ignite planet-sized change.” All those small actions add up. Cool Effect has already reduced carbon emissions by more than 2 million metric tons. Heal the Bay This environmental nonprofit works to make water around Greater Los Angeles safe for marine life and human recreation. Heal the Bay started 35 years ago to protect the Santa Monica Bay. Now, the nonprofit provides water quality information every week for 450 California beaches. That’s a big job. They also monitor the quality of popular freshwater recreation areas such as the Malibu Creek, LA River and San Gabriel River watersheds. Rainforest Alliance This famous, internationally known nonprofit conserves biodiversity and helps ensure sustainable livelihoods for people who toil in rainforests. If you’ve ever bought a product with a certification seal featuring a frog, that’s the Rainforest Alliance letting you know that the product is environmentally sound and contributes to socioeconomic sustainability. Giving Tuesday is a good time to remember and help the lungs of our planet. Sea Turtle Conservancy Just about everybody likes turtles , so a donation to the Sea Turtle Conservancy in your friend or family member’s name could make for a great holiday gift. There are many turtle-focused organizations these days, but the Florida-based Sea Turtle Conservancy is the oldest. Founded in 1959, it was instrumental in raising turtle awareness and saving the Caribbean green turtle from the brink of extinction. Louisiana Environmental Action Network Louisiana is a beautiful state, but it is also one that has been unfairly exploited by petrochemical companies and other similarly toxic industries. Since the Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN)’s founding in 1986, it has served as a voice for Louisianans who want to live in their state without seeing its beauty destroyed and their family members felled by cancer. The organization can use your spare dollars to continue the fight against huge polluting industries. Human Access Project Portland’s Willamette River has historically served as a dumping ground for industry. But a massive cleanup effort has made the Willamette safe for recreation. Still, locals are leery. Since 2010, the Human Access Project (HAP) has worked to improve the river’s reputation and increase people’s access to it. HAP is responsible for hosting an annual inner tube party on the river called The Big Float, organizing the River Huggers Swim Team and helping to build river beaches for people to swim, launch their kayaks or just hang out. Bat Conservation International People often fear bats , but these mysterious little creatures are crucial to ecosystems. Many have already died from human encroachment and white-nose syndrome. Bat Conservation International focuses its attention on the world’s most vulnerable bats and their habitats. The organization always remembers that it may be operating as a guest in other countries. “We are respectful visitors to the countries where we work — seeking to learn, understand, and honor the historical, cultural, political, and economic context of our projects,” BCI states on its website. Appalachian Trail Conservancy If you’re a hiker, you’ve probably thought about those usually unseen people who spend countless hours building and maintaining trails. Where would we be without them? Lost in the bushes. Remember your favorite trails on Giving Tuesday. Perhaps a donation to preserve the pathways, forests and clean water of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy would be in order. Community Solidarity If you’re vegan or vegetarian, you could donate to Community Solidarity , the largest all-vegetarian hunger relief food program in the U.S. Community Solidarity serves people in the New York City and Long Island areas with free groceries and warm, vegan meals. Defenders of Wildlife Can’t decide between supporting manatees, wolves or prairie chickens? Help them all with a donation to Defenders of Wildlife . The organization’s mission is to protect and restore endangered wildlife across North America and beyond. You can also help out by purchasing branded merchandise or supporting its adopt-an-animal program. Natural Resources Defense Council Founded in 1970, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is a big organization that helps the environment in many ways. The New York Times has called NRDC one of the nation’s most powerful environmental groups. The organization works on overarching issues like food waste, wildlife conservation, climate change and renewable energy. + Giving Tuesday Images via Kat Yukawa , Joel Muniz and Josh Hild

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The CrossWater is a solar-powered mode of public water transportation

August 27, 2020 by  
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You know those chugging, air-polluting boats that take an hour to load, an hour to make their way across the river and another 45 minutes just to unload? Forget them. The CrossWater is here, and it could revolutionize the way people travel on the water. This is an invention you have to see to believe. And once you do see it, you’re going to be looking for it to come to a waterway near you. The makers of CrossWater hope to make water transportation cheap, accessible, fast and safe for everyone. That includes making water travel safer for the environment, too. After all, that’s something that is truly shared by everyone. Related: Cool retro boats restored with electric motors Think of the CrossWater like a horizontal elevator, moving side to side instead of up and down. Specifically, the CrossWater is made to… cross water. It floats, glides and skims right across water , moving rapidly to get users where they need to be as quickly as possible. The CrossWater is fully self-driving and all-electric . Forget about harmful fumes that you have to breathe in while you travel on the water with a motorized boat. The CrossWater is carbon-neutral and extremely simple. In fact, you don’t have to do anything at all. There are no oars to move and no sails to turn. You just step inside and let the CrossWater quickly carry you exactly where you need to go. Each CrossWater vessel holds 15 people at a time and is programmed to travel between platforms quickly. The interior includes a 32- or 49-inch touchscreen with a selection of apps including YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music, Netflix and Google Maps. The sound system has 19 speakers, and each CrossWater is fully climate controlled. Not a bad way to get across the water, right? The CrossWater has been designed to work effortlessly on lakes, canals and rivers. Water vehicles like this can help reduce the number of vehicles on the road. CrossWater hopes to get 1 million vehicles on the waterways by 2025. Soon, it may start replacing ferry services around the world. + CrossWater Images via CrossWater

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The CrossWater is a solar-powered mode of public water transportation

Introducing Klima: the app on a mission to reduce carbon footprints

August 27, 2020 by  
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Released this month, Klima allows its users to take direct action against climate change with a simple and beautiful app. The user-friendly app quickly calculates your personal carbon footprint and finds ways to offset your emissions through an affordable monthly subscription that goes straight to carbon offsetting charities. Your carbon footprint is calculated through tailored lifestyle questions, including how many short or long flights you take per year, whether or not your home uses renewable energy, your eating habits and more. You can then see how your footprint compares to the national and global average. According to Klima, the national average is 16.5 tons of annual carbon emissions and the global average is 4.5 tons. Related: 14 apps to help you live a more sustainable lifestyle After the calculation is complete (it only takes a few seconds), Klima presents different subscription options that support nonprofit carbon offsetting programs based on your personal carbon footprint. Typically, this amount is less than $20 per month for the average American lifestyle. Causes range from reforestation programs in vulnerable places like Madagascar, Panama and Tanzania to solar power technology and research companies. Causes are fully transparent, with detailed project information and real-time impact data included. Klima only includes solutions that rank among the top 10 most effective ways to fight climate change worldwide, benefit the local communities and meet the highest international quality standards for certified carbon offsetting. Everything is verified through either the Verified Carbon Standard or the Gold Standard developed by WWF and similar NGOs. This way, users can support the nonprofits that they are most passionate about while creating their own carbon-neutral lifestyle, ensuring that their funds are going toward good causes. Best of all, Klima suggests specific tips that outline how much CO2 reduction a certain lifestyle change will result in, such as switching to green energy or going pescatarian. With every change you make to reduce your carbon footprint, the cost of your subscription decreases. The app itself has stunning graphics and contains a wealth of valuable information on carbon neutrality. The app and carbon calculator are both free to download, too, so you can still get started on your sustainable journey even if you’re not ready for a carbon offsetting commitment. + Klima Images via Klima

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Introducing Klima: the app on a mission to reduce carbon footprints

Rental houseboat in India celebrates fire, water, air and earth elements

August 26, 2020 by  
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Talk about getting back to nature! This rental houseboat brings all of the elements of nature — fire, water, air and earth — onboard for an immersive experience. The client, Lyndon Alves, is with a vacation rental company called Sunset Getaway. This vacation rental comes in the form of a 100-foot-long river boat that can be reserved for a private experience. Located on the Chapora River in north Goa, India (near Morjim), the Kerala Rice Boat was constructed using bamboo and wood throughout the 1,600-square-foot space. Related: Prefab houseboat in Prague features a spacious rooftop lounge The traditional Kettuvallam is common throughout the Kerala region for promoting tourism in the area. Distinctive with its thatched roof and wooden hull, this houseboat architecture was a welcome challenge for FADD Studio, who was hired for the rental houseboat’s interior design . The lacquered interior walls do not lend themselves to paint, wallpaper or any adhesive, but they do offer protection from all types of weather as well as easy maintenance. However, the material means the design team needed to focus on fabrics and art for the theme. Each of the three bedrooms represents an element of nature . The water room features shades of blue, green and yellow with a striking ripple effect in the duvet as well as wall art that focuses on the water theme. In the fire room, reds and oranges dominate the space with a striped, richly-colored bedspread and two-tone curtains that soften the fiery space. In contrast, the earth room is neutral with a duvet that is pleated to emulate sand piles. Small green flowers are stitched into the material to bring Earth’s living elements into the room. In the main dining area, the element of air matches the breezes that filter through as the boat floats down the river. Lavender and gray hues reflect the calming vibe of gentle winds. Throughout the three bedrooms and the sunset deck, where guests can schedule a private massage, accessories precisely match the vibe of each natural element. Light fixtures, lamps, towel rods and even robe hooks bring the elements to life inside while nature drifts by outside the boat. + FADD Studio Images via FADD Design

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Rental houseboat in India celebrates fire, water, air and earth elements

Environmental racism in America

June 22, 2020 by  
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The stretch of land along the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans is riddled with petrochemical plants spewing smoke into the air. Huge pipes pump chemicals above and below the highway to load boats in the river. This former plantation land’s modern nicknames are Cancer Alley and Death Alley because of the pollution-induced illness rife in the riverside communities. People familiar with environmental racism won’t be surprised to learn that Saint James Parish, in the heart of this area, is predominately Black. This is some of America’s most polluted air, with eight major industrial plants in 103 square miles and a new, enormous plastic project on the horizon. The cancer rate here is 700 times the national average. All around the country — and, in fact, the world — toxic plants are placed by the least affluent and most vulnerable populations, most of whom are people of color. These low-income communities tend to have the least political power to keep pollution generators out of their backyards. The term environmental racism Environmental racism is not a new concept. But with the Black Lives Matter movement thrusting all forms of racial inequity into the public eye, it’s time to take a look at what it means and how we can create change. Related: Low-income housing in flood zones traps families in harm’s way Benjamin F. Chavis, Junior, former president of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), defined the term in his 1983 work, “ Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States .” The NNPA is an association for Black-owned newspaper publishers. Chavis described environmental racism as deliberately targeting communities of color for siting toxic waste facilities that expose people to life-threatening pollutants and poisons. Chavis acknowledged different types of racism, but noted, “environmental racism is a particularly insidious and intentional form of racism that negatively affects millions of Black, Native Americans, Hispanics and Asian Americans, as well as people of color around the world.” Environmental racism means that people of color feel a disproportionate impact from things like toxic waste dumps, pollution and chemical plants that expose them to pollutants, known carcinogens and contaminated water at a much higher rate than more affluent White neighborhoods. The problem is intensified by officials failing to enforce environmental laws, for example, the thousands of Black children exposed to lead poisoning in Flint, Michigan in the last decade while officials assured everybody the water was safe. Types of environmental threats that communities of color face Whether they are threats to the water , air or land, people of color face them all. According to a 2012 NAACP study , communities of color breathe in 40% more polluted air than White neighborhoods. Much of this is from coal plants. While only 13% of the U.S. population is Black, 68% live within 30 miles of a coal-fired power plant. That’s 12% higher than for White people. Associated problems include higher risks of birth defects, heart attacks and asthma. Black communities suffer from unusually high levels of asthma. Black women are 20% likelier to have asthma than non-Hispanic White people, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health website. In 2014, Black people were almost three times more likely to die from asthma-related causes than White people. Children are hit especially hard, with a much higher rate of asthma-related hospitalization and death. In addition to coal plants, low-income Black communities are disproportionately located near other types of toxic sites. In rural areas, this could be farm runoff. “Swine CAFOs are disproportionately located in black and brown communities and regions of poverty,” stated a study by researchers at School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. CAFOs, or concentrated animal feeding operations, are an innocuous-sounding euphemism for animals packed tightly together, living sad and squalid lives around enormous manure lagoons. People who live near these air- and water-polluting operations often suffer from eye, nose and throat irritation, depression, stress and decreased quality of life. In North Carolina, CAFOs center on pigs. In California’s San Joaquin Valley, dairy farm waste, including pesticides , has upped the asthma rates in Black and Brown communities. Environmental racism and COVID-19 The novel coronavirus has preyed especially hard on people of color. Patients with underlying conditions are up to 12 times as likely to die of COVID-19 than those that were healthy before contracting the novel coronavirus. A CDC report released June 15 cited heart disease, diabetes and chronic lung disease as the most common underlying conditions contributing to COVID-19 deaths. Black communities have a much higher rate of many conditions that predispose people to dying of COVID-19. These include diabetes, asthma, tobacco exposure, strokes, high blood pressure and cancer. Racism leads to and aggravates all of these conditions, from breathing in more pollution and experiencing more stress in the first place, to having less access to healthcare for early diagnosis and treatment of illness. Via Food is Power and The Guardian Images via Pixabay

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Green design and history meld at unique Delas Frres Winery

May 29, 2020 by  
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A recent passion project with a dedication to earth-friendly practices resulted in the conversion of a historical landscape into the Delas Frères Winery in the Rhone Valley, France. Farming in the area is almost as old as the land itself. In fact, the terraced hills above Tain l’Hermitage have been cultivated since Roman times. However, the modern setting is more urban than rustic, making it an unlikely choice for a winery. But architect Carl Fredrik Svenstedt rose above the challenges, melding the old with new. The result is a renovated manor house and surrounding walled garden. The main house, now called the guest house, offers overnight visitors bedrooms, a restaurant and a tasting room. A new wine cellar and shop were thoughtfully constructed to frame the existing building. Ramps connect areas of the winery, allowing visitors to enjoy expansive views from the upper level or observe the wine-making process. Using solid structural stone leaves a lower carbon footprint compared to steel or concrete, and the materials were locally sourced from a nearby quarry so transport emissions were low. Although sustainability was at the forefront of the design, the stone also marries well with the needs of the facility by providing thermal cooling to moderate the temperatures for the wine during production and storage. Controlling the natural light is another aspect of the architecture that effectively lowers lighting costs. Skylights stream sunlight into common visitor areas while the placement of the stone walls reflects light that would be detrimental to the wine tanks and barrels. A high groundwater level means the building can only be partly sunk below grade, but provides for the geothermal system that aids in the buildings’ climate control. The walls of the winery invite touch. They speak of the history of the area with Estaillade stone from down the river. The main wall measures 80 meters long and 7 meters high and is made from blocks individually carved by a robot. According to a statement from the winery and Svenstedt Architects, “Intelligent machining reduces waste, while the resulting gravel is reused to pave the garden. Despite the unique technicity of the wall, the blocks are mounted traditionally by a two-man father and son team of stonemasons.” Delas Frères Winery was the winner of the AMP award for sustainability in 2019. Images by Dan Glasser

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Green design and history meld at unique Delas Frres Winery

Babylon Bridge features hanging gardens over the Seine

May 26, 2020 by  
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Paris-based design studio Rescubika has unveiled a fantastical proposal for the Babylon Bridge, a pedestrian-only bridge over the river Seine. Inspired by the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the proposed bridge would be covered with greenery on multiple levels, from trees that line the length of the bridge to the hanging planters that surround a central waterfall feature. The new public park would also be connected to the riverbanks, which could be turned into urban agriculture plots for local use. The Babylon Bridge proposal spans the Seine to connect the Esplanade Pierre Vidal-Naquet on the left bank with the 14-hectare Parc de Bercy on the right. Rescubika designed the proposal in response to the revitalization of Avenue de France — most notably with the ongoing development of architect Jean Nouvel’s Tour Duo project — and its desire to provide urban beautification that can be seen by a greater number of residents and visitors. Related: Curvaceous bicycle bridge brings new life to Copenhagen’s harbor “This project aims to study the possibility of a strong city entrance in the form of a hanging landscape,” the firm explained. “The Babylon Bridge is a positive vision of the city of tomorrow, less chaotic and annihilating than that of yesterday. The bridge is an urban tool allowing the passage of flows over areas that are impossible to cross, here we also want to allow the user to stroll and relax. It is a participative and positive architecture.” As an antidote to city living, the Babylon Bridge will shield visitors from urban noise and pollution with its hanging gardens and the noise buffer created by the central waterfall. A large, landscaped canopy would stretch over the bridge to provide shade and support for thousands of hanging potted plants. Seating areas would be integrated along the path to encourage visitors to take their lunch out on the bridge, which would be accessible from street level and the riverbanks below. + Rescubika Images via Rescubika

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