Rammed earth school in Vietnam blooms like a colorful jungle flower

March 20, 2017 by  
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The far reaches of northern Vietnam are beautiful but heartbreakingly poor. Children of the Hmong ethnic minority who live in the villages routinely suffer from lack of access to healthcare and education. Vietnamese architecture firm 1+1> 2 has provided a ray of hope for those in Lung Luong village in the remote Thai Nguyen Province with the construction of a beautiful new school made from local materials including rammed earth and bamboo. The school’s beautiful swooping and colorful form is an inspiration to the village and serves as a welcoming haven protected from the harsh elements. The Lung Luong elementary school is sited on a mountain peak and constructed to replace a poorly insulated structure that was piercingly cold in days of heavy rain and draught. Under the leadership of architect Hoang Thuc Hao, the villagers excavated part of the peak to create an even foundation. The excavated soil was recycled into rammed earth bricks used to build the school’s structure. The soil bricks’ thermal properties help maintain a temperate indoor climate year round. Locally sourced timber and bamboo were also used in construction and existing trees were protected during the building process. The elementary school is spread out across the mountaintop, covering an area of over 1,400 square meters. The orientation and placement of the buildings and the swooping colorful bamboo canopy above optimize natural lighting, ventilation, and sound insulation. The school comprises classrooms, playgrounds, gardens, multipurpose rooms, a medical room, library, kitchen, toilets, and dormitory. Related: Rammed earth house blends traditional materials with modern techniques in Vietnam’s last frontier “The goal of this project is to create a school with conveniences striving against the harsh nature,” write the architects. “The classrooms are compatible with the mountain, spaces between them are slots which makes everything appears like an architectural picture pasted on the terrain. The corridor connects all functional areas. The foundation of the buildings respects the natural terrain which means that they wind up and down as the mountain path.” + 1+1> 2 Via ArchDaily Images © Son Vu

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Rammed earth school in Vietnam blooms like a colorful jungle flower

Bold incisions grant new life to historic New Hampshire school

February 1, 2017 by  
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A meeting of art and architecture can have energizing results. Rather than demolishing two unusable upper floors of a historic building in New Hampshire, Joseph Cincotta of LineSync Architecture proposed a different approach to the school’s renovation , borrowing inspiration from the work of artist Gordon Matta Clark. And then, in order to further celebrate the building’s rich history, cinematographers Chibi Moku captured the renovation process in a video – check it out after the jump. https://youtu.be/xEgDrH7ZMCE The building has a long and complicated history: it was built as a residence in the late 19th century and altered several times before it became the Hampshire Country School for gifted students with learning differences. Its upper floors were condemned by unsafe stairways while the lower floors lacked organization and natural lighting . Related: New solar-powered Massachusetts college center is as green as a building can be The architects, taking cues from Gordon Matta Clark’s “building cuts”, strategically placed two-storey incisions into the building, adding safe stairs, natural light, and ending clutter in one deft swoop. The modern section of the house references the original design, and the building is now heated with locally-produced wood pellets that lowers its energy consumption. Newly introduced windows infuse the interior with natural light. LineSync Architecture’s interventions granted new life to this beautiful example of historic New England architecture and made it more compatible with its current use. + LineSync Architecture Photos and video by Chibi Moku

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Bold incisions grant new life to historic New Hampshire school

Glowing bamboo pavilion promotes ecological design in Hong Kong

November 22, 2016 by  
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The approximately 350-square-meter ZCB Bamboo Pavilion was built using Cantonese bamboo scaffolding techniques and made from 475 large bamboo poles bent onsite and hand-tied together with metal wire. The pavilion sits adjacent to the Zero Carbon Building (ZBC), a three-story plus-energy office building constructed in 2012 and topped with solar panels. In contrast to the ZBC’s square edges, the bamboo pavilion is curvaceous with a large diagrid shell structure that folds down into three hollow columns atop concrete footings. The geometrically complex structure is lightweight and made with digital form-finding and real-time physics simulation tools that mitigate inconsistencies in the bamboo. A tailor-made white tensile fabric is stretched over the structure and its transparent quality creates a glowing effect when the pavilion is lit from the inside. The pavilion has a seating capacity of 200 people. Related: Studio Mumbai unveils handmade pavilion crafted from seven kilometers of bamboo “Bamboo is a widely available, environmentally friendly material that grows abundantly and at remarkably high speeds in the Asia-Pacific region, Africa and the Americas,” says a statement on the Chinese University of Hong Kong School of Architecture website. “It is an excellent renewable natural resource which captures CO? and converts it into oxygen. It is strong, light and easy to process and transport. In Hong Kong, bamboo mostly appears in temporary theatres, scaffolding, or structures for religious festivals. Globally, it is usually applied as a surrogate for wood or steel, rather than in ways that utilise the material’s unique bending properties and strength. In contrast, the ZCB Bamboo Pavilion presents an alternative architectural application that maximises these latent material properties.” + Chinese University of Hong Kong’s School of Architecture + World Architecture Festival Images via Chinese University of Hong Kong’s School of Architecture

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Glowing bamboo pavilion promotes ecological design in Hong Kong

World’s first 3D-printed heart-on-a-chip could help end animal testing

October 25, 2016 by  
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When it comes to medical breakthroughs, the most exciting advances tend to involve technology that can lead to better and earlier diagnoses of various health problems , but breakthroughs that save animals are pretty good too. A team of Harvard University researchers has done just that by developing an entirely 3D-printed “heart-on-a-chip” that may some day eliminate animal testing in medical research. The innovation, which makes it possible to monitor heart performance, is the latest in a medical technology trend of building functional, synthetic replicas of living human organs in an effort to better understand how they work, or—more to the point—how they fail. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LHhMlL9flMY Each organ-on-a-chip (also known as a “microphysiological system”) is constructed from a translucent, flexible polymer. The 3D-printed organs mimic the biological environment of our internal organs, and give scientists an up-close look at how they function. The heart-on-a-chip developed at Harvard can help researchers collect reliable data for short-term and long-term studies. Because the device is 3D-printed , scientists can easily customize its design to meet the specifications of their research, and the chips can be fabricated quickly. Related: See-through microchip organs help scientists test new drugs “This new programmable approach to building organs-on-chips not only allows us to easily change and customize the design of the system by integrating sensing but also drastically simplifies data acquisition,” said Johan Ulrik Lind, lead author and postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS). Other Harvard research teams have developed microphysiological systems that mimic the microarchitecture and functions of lungs, hearts, tongues, and intestines. These synthetic organs could replace animal testing with a customizable and completely humane alternative that may also lead to more accurate results. Unfortunately, the cost for fabricating these organs-on-a-chip is still quite high, and the process is also time-consuming. Researchers are continuously pushing forward to improve their methods, though, in the hopes of making this a viable and cost-effective alternative toward the cruel practice of animal testing. The results of the team’s research were published this week in the journal Nature Materials. Via Gizmodo Images via Harvard University

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World’s first 3D-printed heart-on-a-chip could help end animal testing

New $150 gadget lets your smartphone detect cancer with laboratory precision

October 20, 2016 by  
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While smartphone spectrometers are already being used to help detect cancer, they have only been able to evaluate one sample at a time, making the work slow and tedious. A breakthrough by a Washington State University research team led to the creation of a low-cost multichannel smartphone spectrometer that uses optical sensors to scan multiple samples simultaneously . The team, led by Lei Li, assistant professor in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, found their spectrometer to be highly accurate and sensitive, thanks to the custom prism array designed especially for this device. The WSU team has created a device, perhaps the first of its kind, with the same sensitivity level as existing laboratory equipment, capable of detecting proteins and cancer biomarkers with a high degree of accuracy. The team used a customized prism array they built through a hybrid manufacturing process, which makes it possible for the smartphone spectrometer to scan several samples at once in search of cancer biomarkers. The eight-channel smartphone spectrometer can detect human interleukin-6 (IL-6), a known biomarker for lung, prostate, liver, breast and epithelial cancers. Related: World’s first pocket spectrometer lets you measure the molecular makeup of nearly anything The smartphone-based cancer screening device is also a cost-effective solution, with a price tag around $150. The design was based on the iPhone 5, but the team is currently working to make it compatible with other smartphone models. A portable, low-cost spectrometer that produces lab quality results is just the sort of device in high demand in rural areas and especially in developing countries where hospitals lack high-tech cancer screening equipment or are absent altogether. The team’s research was funded by the National Science Foundation along with a WSU startup fund, and the report on their results was recently published in the journal Biosensors and Bioelectronics. Via WSU Images via Wikipedia and Lei Li/WSU

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New $150 gadget lets your smartphone detect cancer with laboratory precision

Twisting ribbons of plants transform a badly burned Maryland building into an interactive public artwork

October 20, 2016 by  
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https://vimeo.com/181187568 Located in Frederick’s downtown historic district, Sky Stage is a temporary artwork that uses vegetation and a digitally designed structure to breathe life into the damaged building . The organizers removed the plywood boards that formerly blocked public access to the historic stone building, which has no roof. Artist Heather Clark and MIT’s Digital Structures research group used computer algorithms to engineer a complex two-story-tall wooden lattice that forms the structural base for twisting ribbons covered in drought-resistant plantings. State-of-the-art green roof technology was used to create the spiraling vegetated bands that weave through the building’s open doors and windows. Related: Floating bridge transforms a crumbling historic Boston bridge into a moving event space A timber seating area was constructed next to the two-story structure to form an open-air theatre that accommodates 140 people. Trees integrated into the wooden benches soften the stone background and provide relief from the sun. Rainwater collected from an adjacent roof is stored in a cistern and reused to irrigate the plants and trees. The Frederick Arts Council and AmeriCorps will oversee the day-to-day operations of the theater as well as future creative endeavors for the public including plays, music acts, children’s story time, art classes, dance, history, literature, and film. The Sky Stage will be open through July 2017. + Sky Stage Images via Heather Clark

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Twisting ribbons of plants transform a badly burned Maryland building into an interactive public artwork

7 agricultural innovations that could save the world

October 20, 2016 by  
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1. Algorithmic Agriculture Algorithms are everywhere these days. They can refine our web searches and help us decide what show we should binge on next or controversially used to determine who is most likely to become a criminal . Algorithms can also be harnessed to more effectively plant a field with diverse crops. UK-based designer  Benedikt Groß  has created algorithmic models that enable him to plant various crops in complex patterns in a field. This improves ecological resilience and diversity through fascinating patterns that are best appreciated from above.  2. Permaculture and Food Forests Permaculture is a broad system of design principles that seeks to simulate and utilize patterns that can be observed in nature. Its name is derived from its overarching goal of a permanent agriculture system, one that relies on perennial plants and does not require the intensive tilling This system of design is evident in the food forest, a model of agriculture that mimics the multi-layered structure of a forest environment. Ground cover plants that provide food and nutrient enrichment are paired with low-laying bushes and small trees while large trees and vines tower above. Food forests are popping up from  Boston  to  Seattle . These unique green spaces provide food, habitat and a place for the community to gather. 3. Stacking Functions with the Ring Garden Well-designed fields planted with a variety of crops serve several functions: food production, wildlife habitat, air quality improvement, carbon absorption, and more. This is referred to as “stacking functions” in permaculture circles. One of the most promising examples of this principle is the solar-powered Ring Garden . Though the Ring Garden is still only in its conceptual stage, its elegant combination of desalinization, solar energy, and food production is worth exploring, particularly for drought-stricken coastal communities like California. When fully operational, the rotating structure is projected to annually produce 16 million gallons of clean water, 40,000 pounds of crops grown without soil, and 11,000 pounds of biomass for livestock feed. 4. Harvesting and Harnessing Rainwater Rainwater is a precious resource that communities and individuals too often fail to effectively capture and use to meet their needs. Rain barrels can be installed on a small or large scale to capture rainwater for later use in growing or brewing . Incorporating living mulch can help improve soil fertility and increase the amount of rainwater that is stored and retained in the ground. Swales, a key structure in permaculture design, incorporates small mounds to slow the flow of rainwater downhill and capture it for plants to absorb. 5. Farming with Fungus Fungus sometimes feels like the forgotten kingdom of life, a misunderstood, often feared group of organisms without which our global ecosystem could not exist. The most iconic manifestations of fungi, mushrooms may be used to fight cancer, treat depression, or to cook a delicious meal . However, mushrooms are merely the fruiting body of a vast fungal organism, most of which exists below ground in the form of mycelium, the white stringy fungal network that plays a key role in ecological health. Scientists have infused these mycelial networks into the roots of plants, which allows them to endure extreme drought that otherwise would destroy them. Mycologist Paul Stamets has incorporated helpful fungus into a cow pasture, in which harmful bacteria from waste is absorbed and purified by the fungus before it reaches a water source. Stamets has also developed a patent  for a fungal pesticide that destroys pests without the use of harmful chemicals. 6. Gardening with Children To be nourished tomorrow, we must plant seeds today. The young people who will inherit a world threatened by climate change and ecological devastation are learning to appreciate and protect the natural world by planting seeds of their own. Gardening with children in schools, communities, and homes across the United States has surged in popularity in recent years, buoyed by First Lady Michelle Obama’s focus on gardening and nutrition. FoodCorps , a national service organization founded in 2009 whose mission is to connect children to real food, now serves dozens of organizations in seventeen states, plus DC. On a local level, organizations such as CitySprouts , the Food Project  and  Edible Schoolyard  connect schools and students to the wonders of learning by growing. 7. Rooftop Growing In urban environments where space is limited, growing in underutilized spaces such as rooftops can contribute to a more resilient local food system. In Chicago, the world’s largest rooftop farm  on the Methods Products manufacturing plant is powered by 100% renewable energy, provides jobs to local residents, and produces millions of pounds of pesticide-free, locally sourced vegetables each year. Also in Chicago, growers at Omni Ecosystems are pushing the boundaries of urban agriculture by growing rooftop wheat that is processed and utilized by local bakers. Homeless shelters in Atlanta  and hospitals in Indianapolis  are also enhanced by the beauty and production of rooftop farms. Lead image via Pixabay , others via  Benedikt Groß , Boston Food Forest Coalition ,  Alexandru Predonu , Nicholas Lannuzel , Kalle Gustafsson , FoodCorps , and Omni Ecosystems.

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7 agricultural innovations that could save the world

Beautiful Woodman’s Treehouse in England combines traditional craftsmanship and luxury design

October 20, 2016 by  
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The structure encompasses and meanders around the tree trunks, but doesn’t touch them at all, thus leaving the existing ecosystem undisturbed. A large boardwalk leads to the main entrance of the tree house, high up among the branches. Though it may seem small, the structure includes an entrance lobby where visitors can leave their coats and muddy boots. The interior features a king-sized bed, a double-ended copper bath and a rotating fireplace . Related: This clever treehouse was designed to dodge natural obstacles and local building codes The original plans to build a spiral staircase that would connect the rear deck to the ground level have been scratched and instead, a stainless steel one-meter-wide slide was installed. The rear deck features a wood-fired pizza oven and barbeque , as well as an outdoor shower . A hot tub and sauna located on the roof deck are accessible via a small spiral staircase. + Guy Mallinson Woodland Workshop Via Fubiz

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Beautiful Woodman’s Treehouse in England combines traditional craftsmanship and luxury design

LEGO Hand Bag turns you into a minifigsorta

October 19, 2016 by  
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The rectangular paper bag is like regular shopping bags in many respects. It’s just the right size for hauling your LEGO store loot, and sturdy enough to stand up on its own. Inside the bag are two handles, placed on opposite long sides of the bag. However, that’s where the similarities end, because the LEGO Hand Bag has one additional amusing feature. Related: LEGO releases set with stay-at-home dad and working mom minifigures When a person is holding the bag by its built-in handles, their (human) hands are covered up by bright yellow plastic hands resembling those of a LEGO minifigure . While the illusion works best when the customer is wearing a long-sleeved shirt or jacket, the promotional bag can make anyone look like they belong in LEGOland or, at the very least, like an extra from the LEGO movie. The kooky bag has been making its way around the internet for the past several days, but there’s still no word of an official response from the folks at LEGO HQ. Surely, they’ve seen it by now, so we can only hope they are deep in discussions over what kind of check to cut for the design duo who created what LEGO’s own advertising department didn’t think to attempt. Via Junho Lee and Hyun Chul Choi Images via Hyun Chul Choi and LEGO

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LEGO Hand Bag turns you into a minifigsorta

Why we have to learn to embrace volatility and change

October 19, 2016 by  
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Leith Sharp of Harvard’s Chan School of Public Health provides an insightful new framework for carrying out effective change.

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Why we have to learn to embrace volatility and change

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