Nature-inspired art gallery is built from bamboo and reused bricks

December 21, 2018 by  
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Belgium- and Brazil-based design practice CRU! architects channeled its passion for bamboo architecture and natural building materials into an art gallery in Catuçaba, a rural community about three hours east of Sao Paulo, Brazil. Spanning an area of 1,184 square feet, the project was commissioned by the owner of Fazenda Catuçaba , an idyllic farmhouse-style hotel that includes an operational organic farm. Building on Fazenda Catuçaba’s environmentally friendly practices, the art gallery was constructed mainly of bamboo and reused fired bricks. More than just an exercise in sustainable architecture, the art gallery for Fazenda Catuçaba was also created as a social building project to benefit the local community. With help from the architects, a community eco-building cooperative constructed the project and provided training and job development opportunities for the local residents. The cooperative constructed the entire bamboo structure, while local workers from Fazenda Catuçaba’s on-site farm carried out the excavation work, foundation work and brick laying. The design of the art gallery draws inspiration from the differing architectural styles of its two neighboring structures: the Fazenda Catuçaba’s colonial Portuguese-styled farmhouse and the Occa, an indigenous communal space built by an Amazonian Indian tribe. As a result, the exterior of the gallery features colonial Portuguese-inspired white walls and blue doors while the interior is marked by narrow passageways and courtyard evocative of Amazonian Indian architecture. A fountain installed in the patio connects to the river and strengthens the building’s connection with nature. Related: This breathtaking Tulum art gallery was created by Peggy Guggenheim’s great-grandson “The gallery is entirely based on the golden proportion — the width and height of the different parts correspond to the rules set by the Greek and Roman architects such as Vitruvius,” explained lead architect Sven Mouton. “It is meant to be a humble construction that fits the colonial style of the surrounding, but that also refers to the occa nearby. A Portuguese face with an Indian heart. Since art can be considered sacred, the spiritual language of a monastery arch-way was used to house the exhibitions. In the original sense a gallery was a covered walk or passageway, narrow and partly open along a wall.” + CRU! architects Photography by Nelson Kon via CRU! architects

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Is a flexitarian diet right for you?

December 21, 2018 by  
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Going vegan or vegetarian might be a good choice for your health  — as well as the environment — but not everyone wants to take the extreme measure of cutting meat and other animal products completely out of their diet. So, over the past five years, many who want to live a healthy life and/or do their part in the fight against climate change have opted for the flexitarian diet. What is flexitarianism? Flexitarianism doesn’t go as far as veganism or vegetarianism, but it does include some of the same principals. Basically, a flexitarian is someone who has a flexible plant -based diet, which means that meat and other animal products are not a part of their regular diet, but they do eat them occasionally. Usually, people who identify as flexitarians adopt the lifestyle for health reasons or to lessen their environmental impact —or both. Dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner created the Flexitarian Diet to help people get the benefits of eating like vegetarians while still being able to enjoy meat and other animal products in moderation. There are no specific rules in the flexitarian lifestyle—no calorie counting or tracking of macronutrients— and the focus is on what you can eat instead of what you can’t, which makes it all the more appealing to many people. However, there are a few basic principles that Blatner based the diet on: eat mostly plant-based foods (fruits, veggies, legumes and whole grains), get your protein from plants instead of animals, eat natural foods instead of processed foods, limit refined sugar and sweets, and occasionally incorporate meat and animal products. Overall, the goal is less meat, more plants. Related: Look out meat industry— flexitarianism is on the rise What are the health benefits? There are many health benefits when you eat flexitarian. Because most plant-based foods have fewer calories and higher fiber content, this diet can help you lose weight. Eating mostly fruits, veggies, nuts and whole grains can also lead to an increased life expectancy compared to people who regularly eat meat. Studies have shown that a vegetarian diet can lower the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease, and the reap the same benefits. On the flip side, there have also been studies that indicate eating red meat can lead to an increase of cancer . A flexible eating pattern also tends to lead to a lower body mass index (BMI), a lower risk of breast cancer, and lower blood glucose levels compared to people who eat meat regularly. What are the risks and drawbacks? Because vitamin B12 is only found in animal products, you can run the risk of a deficiency when you switch to flexitarianism. So, you might need a B12 supplement. When you reduce or cut out meat from your diet, you might also have lower stores of minerals that are best absorbed from animal foods, like zinc and iron. However, you can remedy this by eating plenty of nuts, seeds, whole grains and legumes. If you aren’t eating fatty fish, you might not be getting enough omega-3 fatty acids in your diet, which means you need to up your intake of things like walnuts and flaxseeds. There is also a myth about vegetarianism or flexitarianism that you won’t get enough protein without eating meat. This simply isn’t true. In fact, most people who eat a standard diet eat way more protein than they need to. Plus, you can get the protein you need by eating soy products, rice and beans, and even a peanut butter sandwich. In order to avoid nutritional deficiencies, it is a good idea to carefully plan your meals to make sure you include enough whole foods— and the right amount of meat and animal products— so you are getting the proper amount of vitamins and minerals. Related: A third of people in the UK are now eating less or no meat How to get started Starting the flexitarian lifestyle isn’t as simple as eating less meat and magically becoming healthier. Theoretically, you could eat a pop tart for breakfast, chili cheese fries for lunch, and a veggie burger with chips and a soda for dinner, and that would follow the vegetarian or flexitarian “rules”. But, there would be zero health benefits. It’s not just about eating less meat, but also making smart food choices overall. So, in addition to reducing meat consumption, you are also adding nutrient-rich foods to your daily diet, while keeping the processed foods to a minimum. Instead of trying to drastically change overnight, it is better to take steps towards the flexitarian lifestyle. Start by shopping the perimeter of the grocery store ( avoid the aisles ) during your next shopping trip, and load up on fresh produce and nuts. Then, try cut your meat-eating down to two to three days a week. No matter how small the change, it will be a step in the right direction. And, the best part is, you don’t have to say no to your mom’s famous meatloaf at your next family dinner. Via EcoWatch , Healthline Images via Shutterstock

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A stone barn is transformed into a modern, energy-conscious home in Verona

December 19, 2018 by  
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Milan-based architecture practice Studio Wok has revamped a historic stone barn into a contemporary country home using environmentally friendly materials and design choices. Located in the small parish of Chievo in the west of Verona, Italy, the adaptive reuse project carefully respects the architectural heritage of the site while tastefully bringing the residence up to modern living standards. The result is a charming dwelling filled with natural light, warm timber surfaces and framed views of the Italian countryside. Completed in 2018, the country home in Chievo included the renovation of not only the architecture, but also the surrounding garden in the agricultural court. A massive magnolia tree — preserved upon the clients’ request — forms the focal point of the garden and is edged in by a square black flowerbed next to the new pool bordered by stone flooring. To emphasize the site’s history and allude to traditional building techniques, the architects peeled back the plaster on the barn’s facade to reveal the river pebbles that make up the load-bearing walls. This honest approach to materials is echoed throughout the house from the exposed timber beams to the minimalist palette with natural finishes. The materials used also reference the local rural vernacular found throughout Verona from the river pebbles grafted onto modern frames in Biancone to the local stone sourced from Lessinia. Related: Old barn and granary gains a new life as an inspiring community hub A large masonry arch marks the entrance and leads guests into a series of spacious, light-filled living spaces with Vicenza stone paving as well as a library with a brick fireplace. The upper floors house the bedrooms. Warm birch plywood cladding is inserted to bring warmth and delineate the spaces within the home. “The project’s leitmotif is a spatial and material dialogue between history and modernity, and it is also characterized by the great care taken in terms of environmental sustainability,” the firm explained. “In addition to the use of technical devices and systems for efficient energy, special attention has been given to the surrounding territory and landscape in the use of materials and design choices.” + Studio Wok Photography by Simone Bossi via Studio Wok

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A stone barn is transformed into a modern, energy-conscious home in Verona

8,000 barrels of oil spill in the Peruvian Amazon

December 14, 2018 by  
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Approximately 8,000 barrels of crude oil have spilled into the Amazon, and the Peru State oil company Petroperu says its because local indigenous people severed the pipeline. According to a company statement , members of the Mayuriaga community in the Loreto region first damaged the pipeline and then interfered with the technicians trying to repair it. “The townspeople prevented us from securing the pipe to stop petroleum from spilling from the pipe,” said Beatriz Alva Hart, a Petroperu spokeswoman. The spill is one of the worst the region has seen in years, and it comes after the Mayuriaga community threatened to attack the pipeline in protest of recent district election results. Related: Crude oil spill off Newfoundland coast deemed impossible to clean up The pipeline transports the crude from the Peruvian Amazon oil fields to Petroperu’s refinery on the Pacific coast. And, during the past two years, local vandals have attacked it fifteen different times over issues that have nothing to do with the company. Data from OEFA, an environmental regulator, shows that the repeated attacks have caused over 20,000 barrels to spill from the critical pipeline , and over 5,000 barrels have sprung leaks thanks to corrosion or operative failures. The leader of Peru’s Wampis Nation — whose members make up the Mayuriaga community — has denied Petroperu’s accusations. Just days before the spill, the company received a handwritten letter from three individuals threatening to damage the Norperuano pipeline if the company didn’t declare recent election results invalid. They also claimed fraud and corruption in the local mayoral election. The letter’s authors identify as indigenous peoples of Morona, the district that contains the Wampis community of Mayuriaga, which sits about 500 yards from the spill site. Petroperu is not in charge of the local elections, but 20 of their employees were held hostage before the threatening letter arrived, a practice that the Mayuriaga community has been accused of in the past. Company officials have still not been able to assess the damage from the spill or do any cleanup work because the community will not allow them to enter the area safely. Via Reuters , Earther Image via Shutterstock

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8,000 barrels of oil spill in the Peruvian Amazon

MAD Architects curvaceous Himalayas Center nears completion in Nanjing

December 14, 2018 by  
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Beijing-based architecture firm,  MAD Architects, is nearing completion on yet another of their massive mountain-inspired projects— the Nanjing Zendai Himalayas Center. Inspired by the Chinese traditional painting style of ‘ shan shui ’ (‘mountain water’), the mixed-use development was designed as the “spiritual and poetic retreat in the middle of the city” and features curvaceous forms that mimic Nanjing’s surrounding mountains and waterways. In addition to its impressive mountain-like appearance, the highly complex city-scale urban project also integrates energy-saving strategies from ample glazing and vertical sun shades that mitigate solar gain while letting in natural light to the landscape irrigation systems that use recycled rainwater. Famously unveiled at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2014, the Nanjing Zendai Himalayas Center is one of MAD Architects largest projects and covers approximately 560,000 square meters. The development will consist of a mix of office spaces, retail and restaurants, hotel and residences. “The scheme seeks to restore the spiritual harmony between humanity and nature through the integration of contemplative spaces that, while immersing inhabitants in nature, still meets the conveniences of modern day living,” explains the firm of the nature-inspired architecture. Envisioned as a “village-like community,” the project is centered on publicly accessible gardens and a mix of low-rise commercial buildings connected with footbridges and elevated pathways. The most eye-catching low-rise structure is enveloped entirely in greenery and features a rounded form suggestive of a hill. Surrounding this “village” are the mountain-like towers along the boundary of the site with white, curved glass louvers that “‘flow’ like waterfalls.” A series of water features—from ponds and waterfalls to brooks and pools—connect the buildings alongside lush landscaping. Related: MAD’s mountain-like towers reach completion and LEED Gold in Beijing The Nanjing Zendai Himalayas Center is currently in its third and final phase of construction and is slated for completion in 2020. + MAD Architects Images via CreatAR Images, MAD Architects

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A minimalist home in Portugal emphasizes stunning valley views

August 8, 2018 by  
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Architects and their clients are often surprised when their visions don’t quite align after the initial ideas are transformed into renderings, specs and floor plans. But when MJARC Arquitectos met with a couple who wanted a house in Douro Valley in Marco de Canaveses,  Portugal , it was a euphoric meeting of minds. All parties shared the same vision — a pristine and absolute articulation of minimalist architecture. With a setting as picturesque as this one, highlighted by sweeping views of the rolling curves of vineyard -covered valleys and the mesmerizing Douro River, the goal was to leave the undulating landscape unscathed. The house was constructed as close to the terrain as possible, with the upper levels providing more encompassing vistas. The “crouching building” concept drove the choices for the size, design and exterior accouterments of the home. Related: Derelict property transformed into a vibrant, sunny hostel in Portugal The interior is warm and inviting, with an open floor plan that gracefully flows from room to room, clad in a combination of deep wood shades, rustic stones, concrete and stark, black accents. The pool is designed to give the illusion of it flowing directly into the river. The views from every level focus on the surrounding forest and foliage and achieves the symbiosis with nature desired by all parties. To accommodate the tastes of the homeowners’ visitors throughout the year, MJARC Arquitectos incorporated sustainable construction and energy sources as well as clever spaces that could easily be adapted for multiple uses. The roof is even topped with lush greenery, a welcome addition to the home. The combined efforts on this project not only thrilled the architects and clients — the house was recently nominated for an award in the Home category by the World Architecture Festival , where it is one of 18 finalists. The winner will be announced at ceremonies scheduled for November 28-30 in Amsterdam. + MJARC Arquitectos Images via João Ferrand

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Eco-friendly Community Rowing Boathouse boasts a stunning kinetic facade

June 27, 2018 by  
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Cambridge-based Anmahian Winton Architects has designed a new eco-friendly home for the largest public rowing organization in the United States—the Community Rowing Boathouse in Boston, Massachusetts. Created to offer rowing opportunities at all skill levels, the modern community landmark comprises two buildings that cater to underserved populations, such as Boston public middle school students, the physically disabled and veterans. To lower energy demands and reduce the rowing boathouse’s environmental footprint, Anmahian Winton Architects optimized the buildings for natural lighting and ventilation and also installed stormwater reuse systems and geothermal wells. Located on the south side of the Charles River in the Boston neighborhood of Brighton, the Community Rowing Boathouse’s site had long been used as a staging area for heavy construction equipment. Instead of simply plopping a building on site, Anmahian Winton Architects considered the surrounding environment in their design and sought to remediate the land and restore habitat in the process. Thus, the design process included improving soil permeability and the implementation of stormwater and rainwater harvesting and reuse. The larger building’s appearance was also created in response to the environment and features a kinetic facade that changes shape with the movement of the sun and users’ movements around the structure while mimicking the rhythmic patterns of rowing and the river. Related: Boston outlines its plans to adapt to rising sea levels “CRI’s design expands the traditional vocabulary of rowing facilities on the river, reflecting the proportions and cladding of regional precedents, such as New England’s iconic tobacco barns and covered bridges, and anchoring this new building to its surroundings,” explains Anmahian Winton Architects. “The main building’s pre-fabricated kinetic cladding system of large-scale, hand-operated panels facilitated fabrication and expedited installation on a compressed construction schedule. These operable vents eliminate the need for mechanical cooling and ventilation of the 300-foot long boat storage bays, providing functionality and energy efficiency. Glass shingles sheath the sculling pavilion to protect, ventilate and display smaller boats to the adjacent parkway.” + Anmahian Winton Architects Images by Jane Messinger

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Eco-friendly Community Rowing Boathouse boasts a stunning kinetic facade

For 16 years, this stork has flown 8,700 miles to return to his one true love

April 16, 2018 by  
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Just when you thought the world was one raging garbage fire , along comes this amazing stork to brighten the day. For the past 16 years, without fail, one male stork has flown 8,700 miles to be with his mate who can no longer fly after being shot by poachers. Klepetan the stork travels from his winter nest in South Africa to his mate’s Malena’s home in Croatia every single March where they reunite and raise a new brood. Malena was injured by a gunshot in 1993, but a local hero took her home after finding her by a lake and nursed her back to health. “If I had left her in the pond foxes would have eaten her. But I changed her fate, so now I’m responsible for her life,” said Stjepan Vokic, the man who cares for Malena. Now, although she can’t migrate any longer, she has a pretty sweet life. Vokic has built an “improvised Africa” where she can stay warm, and he cares for her by bathing her, catching her fish in the river and making sure her feet are moisturized. He even watches stork documentaries with her so she won’t get lonely, and takes her fishing. Related: This friendly fish has visited a Japanese diver for 25 years Klepetan arrives every March as spring begins in Croatia after traveling for a month from his winter home. Every spring, Vokic builds a new nest on his roof so that when Klepetan arrives, the couple can mate, and so far, they’ve had 62 chicks together. In the fall, Klepetan migrates back to South Africa with his new little family, and Malena stays behind with her human friend. Vokic says that the couple struggles to say goodbye every year, and Malena hides and stops eating when she knows Klepetan is about to go. Via Oddity Central Images via HRT

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For 16 years, this stork has flown 8,700 miles to return to his one true love

UMD scientists invent new water-based battery that won’t catch fire

April 16, 2018 by  
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Researchers at the University of Maryland have invented a new  water -based zinc battery that is safer than a traditional lithium-ion battery, but which doesn’t sacrifice power or usability. The team utilized elements of older zinc battery technology with novel water-in- salt electrolytes to create a battery that is not prone to catching fire. “Water-based batteries could be crucial to preventing fires in electronics, but their energy storage and capacity have been limited – until now,” said study first author Fei Wang in a statement . “For the first time, we have a battery that could compete with the lithium-ion batteries in energy density, but without the risk of explosion or fire.” Their work was recently published in the journal Nature Materials . One of the new battery ‘s improvements over traditional batteries is its ability to overcome irreversibility, the phenomenon in which the charge delivered by the battery at its intended voltage decreases with usage, through a technique that changes the structure of the positively charged zinc ions within the battery. In addition to the battery’s application in consumer goods, it also could prove invaluable in extreme conditions such as the deep  ocean or outer space. Related: California’s desert battery could be three times the size of Tesla’s The saline aqueous nature of the zinc battery eliminates the need to replace evaporated water within the battery, a key challenge of traditional zinc batteries. “Existing zinc batteries are safe and relatively inexpensive to produce, but they aren’t perfect due to poor cycle life and low energy density,” said study co-author Chunsheng Wang in a statement . “We overcome these challenges by using a water-in-salt electrolyte.” The researchers believe that their invention and related discoveries could be applicable to a wide variety of energy technologies. “The significant discovery made in this work has touched the core problem of aqueous zinc batteries,” said study co-author Kang Xu in a statement , “and could impact other aqueous or non-aqueous multivalence cation chemistries that face similar challenges, such as magnesium and aluminum batteries.” + Nature Materials Via  TechXplore Images via John T. Consoli/University of Maryland

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UMD scientists invent new water-based battery that won’t catch fire

Steven Holl Architects unveils designs for geothermal-powered Angers Collectors Museum

March 19, 2018 by  
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Steven Holl Architects and Compagine de Phalsbourg have won an international design competition for the new Angers Collectors Museum (Le Musée des Collectionneurs) and hotel in the heart of Angers , France. Envisioned as a new cultural gateway, the sculptural museum is undeniably modern yet pays homage to its historic settings and derives inspiration from the nearby historic Chateau d’Angers located across the river. Geothermal heating and cooling will be used in the museum to reduce the building’s energy footprint. Built of exposed titanium white concrete, the 4,742-square-meter museum has a striking sculptural appearance that will be set within a series of reflecting pools—filled with recycled water—in a nod to the site’s riverine history. The museum will be connected to a linear hotel clad in clear and translucent glass for a mosaic-like effect inspired by the 14th century Apocalypse Tapestry on display in Chateau d’Angers. Related: Gigantic Slugs Made From 40,000 Recycled Plastic Bags Crawl Through the Streets of Angers, France In addition to the museum and hotel’s prime riverside location on the east bank of the Maine River, their proximity to Le Quai, the city’s largest theater , further cements the buildings’ future as the cultural heart in Angers. The museum will share a rooftop restaurant with the hotel as well as a public sculptural garden at the ground level. + Steven Holl Architects Images via Steven Holl Architects

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