A historic hotel is sustainably revamped into a charming alpine village getaway

December 17, 2018 by  
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Bolzano and Berlin-based design practice NOA (network of architecture) recently renovated and expanded the Zallinger Refuge, a holiday guesthouse in the Dolomites that prides itself on its eco-friendly features. Located in Seiser Alm at 2,200 meters with breathtaking mountain views, the updated hotel comprises a cluster of structures that reference the site’s history and South Tyrolean architecture. The project has been certified under Climahotel, a certification program by the Climate House Agency of the Province of Bolzano that recognizes eco-tourism development. The Zallinger Refuge traces its beginnings to the mid-nineteenth century. Seven barns once surrounded the structure, however were later replaced by a single large building near the turn of the century. In a nod to the early site history, the architects constructed seven new chalets arranged in pairs to “bring back the charm of an alpine village.” Crafted to reflect the structure of the ancient barns with a modern twist, the chalets are built using prefabrication methods with stacked wooden blocks and wood shingle roofs to achieve a contemporary “log cabin” appearance. “In this project we have also tried to bring out that strong relationship between architecture and context, which characterizes all our works,” said architect Stefan Rier. “We want to propose new models of life and hospitality that on the one hand recover traditional forms and materials, on the other hand express quality of design, high levels of comfort and sustainability. The alpine environment is a complex and fascinating system that must be understood and respected. We think it’s important to think of new spaces and ways to inhibit it: environments on a human scale, comfortable, welcoming, but above all unique and authentic.” Related: Luxury lakeside hotel promises a return to nature in Italy In addition to the original 13 rooms in the central guesthouse, the Zallinger Refuge has added 24 rooms in the new mini-chalets. Timber lines the interiors for a cozy feel, while an energy-efficient pallet boiler provides the heating and hot water supply. The historic lodge was redesigned to include the reception, the lobby, the lounge and the restaurant. A new metal-clad building introduced to the site houses the wellness area with a sauna overlooking stunning views. + NOA Photography by Alex Filz via NOA

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A historic hotel is sustainably revamped into a charming alpine village getaway

Your guide to natural holiday decorations

December 17, 2018 by  
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The holidays offer the perfect opportunity to gather with family and friends, enjoy good food and create lasting memories. Hosting the party can mean anything from sending a casual invite for game night to creating a 10-course dinner. Whether the season is filled with cozy nights at home watching seasonal movies or nightly entertaining to catch up with friends, a welcoming environment makes you and your guests feel right at home. Fortunately, creating a festive vibe doesn’t require a trip to the commercialized holiday aisle at your nearest department or home improvement store. Instead, look for natural elements that bring a bit of the outdoors in during the otherwise unwelcoming cold season. Here are some ideas to spruce up your space in a sustainable way. Wreaths Wreaths are easy to make and offer a ton of options depending on what you have available in your area. Grab those woody grape vines and form them into a circle. Use gardener’s wire to attach your favorite natural elements , such as berries or dried flowers. Even a single long sprig of eucalyptus makes a quick wreath with a pleasant scent. Evergreen branches are also useful in this endeavor. Attach them to a wire straw wreath frame and add poinsettia leaves and ribbon for a festive door decoration. Smaller wreaths can double as a centerpiece with a pillar candle in the center. Related: Simple DIY upcycled holiday decor Centerpieces Speaking of centerpieces, natural elements make the best appeal for the dining table. Select your favorite glass water pitcher or salad bowl and fill it with colorful citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, limes or grapefruit. Mix up the look with some added woody herb stems and leaves, such as lavender or mint. Alternately, pick a color theme such as red apples, currants, pomegranate and cranberries. Because candles are always a welcome addition to the table, hollow out apples or gourds and place tea lights inside. Surround them with vines or leaves to incorporate different heights into the look. Another classic centerpiece can be created out of a long piece of bark or driftwood. Simply balance other natural elements on top, such as nuts and colorful berries. Mantles and tabletops Large, flat surfaces naturally draw in the eye, so mantles, sofa tables and similar surfaces provide a great opportunity to introduce natural elements into a space. Begin with pine boughs trimmed from the tree. Add layers of color with holly berries and pinecones. Then, elevate the interest with varied glass bowls, vases or glasses. Fill each with your favorite combination of nuts, spices, herbs, flowers and fruits. For a particularly cozy appeal, weave LED lighting through the display. Scents Although adding visual elements to your decor makes an effective statement, remember to also invite the scents of nature into your home. While your Christmas tree may offer the smell of evergreen, there are many other opportunities to bring in the subtle essence of the outdoors. Go with an old-fashioned potpourri by leaving a combination of citrus, cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon in some water to simmer on the stove. Simplicity When it comes to decorating for the holidays, less is more. Keep displays and centerpieces simple and streamlined. Nature is already elegant, so there is no need to overdress her. Instead, combine elements with small touches here and there. Even a simple bowl of walnuts or hazelnuts brings with it a connection to nature. Rather than blanketing a table with a variety of creations, use a colorful runner with a pinecone-filled wooden bowl instead. Take that lemon tree you brought inside for winter and add a few bulbs for a festive touch. Create subtle appeal with drink markers handmade from cork, seashells or pieces of bark. Natural fibers In your efforts to ring in the season with a touch of nature, remember that in addition to the living elements, there are textiles sourced from nature that can have the same effect. For example, natural burlap comes from jute, a plant fiber. The sight and feel of burlap transports the nature-lover to times in the barnyard feeding grain to the farm animals or out on the lake surrounded by the ropes on the sailboat. Use fibers like burlap to make a natural-looking wreath. Make small bags out of the material and use them as a planter for small cuttings or herbs. Hang them from the curtain rod or place them in the windowsill. Similarly, wrap rope around candle holders for a salty-skin, nautical feel. Related: A guide to the best holiday gifts for an eco-friendly home Materials from nature In addition to textiles and rope, other elements from nature bring harmony and calmness to indoor spaces. Clay is a natural element that makes a nice container for earthy additions like shells and colorful rocks. Moss and cork are two other examples that will make your space more inviting for the holidays. Mirroring nature Remember that nature offers seasons of color and flourish. Winter is a time of light growth and a feeling of calm. Bring that sense inside with basic elements and a few punches of color. Also remember other elements of nature, such as sunlight and water. Make a tabletop fountain from a large bowl with a basic pump and tiered rocks. Add moss for a softer effect. Alternately, feed water through a pump to a water feature of terracotta pots stacked on their sides, pouring into each other. Even though winter is a subtle time, plants and flowers still bloom throughout the season. Your holiday decor can be as simple as a single plant or as bold as a decorated live tree in your foyer. Images via Jez Timms , Couleur , Petra and Shutterstock

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This geometric pod is an ultra-light micro-office on wheels

October 9, 2018 by  
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Los Angeles-based design studio  Knowhow Shop  has unveiled Lighthouse — a digitally-crafted micro-pod on wheels meant to revolutionize the world of low-impact, urban design. The name refers to the light weight of the 150-square-foot structure. The work studio’s unique, asymmetrical volume was put together with everything from boat building materials to film industry hardware through prefabrication techniques. The design was the brainchild of architects Kagan Taylor and Justin Rice, who built the micro-structure right in their own backyard. Built like a piece of furniture rather than a building, the inspiration for Lighthouse came from the idea to create a new form of architecture that would provide a better, more practical solution for office design with minimal site impact . Related: The Cornelia tiny house is a peaceful writer’s studio built with reclaimed wood To give the structure mobility, the pod is built on industrial casters such as those on roll-off dumpsters. As a result, the office can be moved easily to be used as an individual structure or combined with other structures to create a nest of pods. Its small stature is perfect to fit into forgotten urban areas where new construction isn’t possible. Instead of a regular cube or rectangular form, Lighthouse features a futuristic, geometric volume painted all white. The facade is made out of various SIPs ( Structural Insulated Panels ) that are joined together with film industry hardware. The glass front door, as well as the structure as a whole, has no right angles. Inside, the aesthetic is quite minimalist, with long, thin desks attached to the length of the walls and a shelving unit at the back. A large skylight and horizontal window flood the interior with natural light. The minimal design, height and abundance of natural light enhance the interior, making it seem much larger than it really is. “We were surprised by the difference in perceived space from the outside vs. the inside,” the architects said. “From within our office feels much larger than it looks from outside, and it is something that most visitors comment on immediately.” + Knowhow Shop Via Wallpaper Photography by Stephen Schauer . His work can be viewed at his Instagram page . Aerial shot by Nephew LA .

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This geometric pod is an ultra-light micro-office on wheels

A stunning solar-powered pavilion is planned for pasta company Barilla

September 21, 2018 by  
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London-based firm Open Architecture Systems  has just unveiled designs for a gorgeous solar-powered pavilion for the Italian food company Barilla. Slated to be built adjacent to the company’s headquarters in Parma, Italy, the plans show a contemporary building with an undulating roof rising out of the surrounding landscape. According to the architects, the inspiration for the design originated with the company’s key values of tradition, family and community. Although the concept is based on the pasta company’s long history, the structure itself is a fresh,  contemporary design that manages to be both subtle and striking at the same time. Related: Confluence Park’s new solar-powered pavilions collect rainwater and provide shade from the summer sun The architects explained that their first objective was to blend the new building into its surrounding landscape in order to become one harmonious space. “We strongly believe that landscape and pavilion should always be merged into one system, one building,” the firm said. “The new topography allows us to define a sense of space, and to provide shelter and a place for discovery, very much like in nature . We are interested not only in the space created by the topography but the spaces around it and how they interact with the new Barilla Pavilion. Raising the landscape provides us with infinite potentials for visitor interactions, interesting and unique experiences such as a raised piazza, a stepped hill with seating for an amphitheater, a valley for gatherings and many more different uses.” Partially embedded into the surrounding landscape, the building’s height is kept low to put the focus on the bold, undulating canopy that looks as if it’s about to take off at any moment. Comprised of perforated rows of solar panels , the roof’s array will generate clean energy for the building and also enable a system of natural ventilation. The exterior will be clad in large vertical glass panels framed in metal posts, providing natural light  throughout the interior. Once inside, visitors will be greeted with an open-floor plan comprised of several independent elements used for distinct purposes. At the heart of the structure will be the Hub, a large central space that can be adapted to various uses. There will also be flexible spaces for art exhibits and meetings as well as a large 400-seat auditorium. Also found inside will be the Start-ups Pavilion, an open office space where young entrepreneurs can foster their ideas. Within the solar-powered pavilion there will also be a nutrition center, which will serve as a research facility that is open to the public. And of course, guests to the pavilion will be able to dine in Sapori Barilla, a large restaurant featuring the company’s signature pastas. + Open Architecture Systems Images via Open Architecture Systems

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A stunning solar-powered pavilion is planned for pasta company Barilla

Taj Mahal will be restored to original glory thanks to environmental and cultural push

July 26, 2018 by  
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The Taj Mahal, India’s world-famous monument to love, is sparking a powerful environmental and national heritage movement due to the extreme pollution turning the iconic white building yellow and green. The building’s location in Agra – which ranks eighth on the World Health Organization ‘s (WHO) list of most polluted cities – has proven less than ideal when it comes to staying pollution-free. Now, India’s Supreme Court is pushing for better pollution protections in order to preserve the mausoleum’s majesty. WHO reported that, as of 2016, “92% of the world’s population lives in places where air quality levels exceed WHO’s Ambient Air Quality guidelines.” It should come as no surprise, then, that the Taj Mahal’s striking white marble is being dyed yellow and green. The nearby Yamuna River also has trash covering its banks, and smog from tanneries and factories further pollutes the surrounding air. Outcries against this environmental and cultural desecration of the beloved mausoleum have prompted India’s government to take swift action. The country’s Supreme Court is leading the charge, with a proposal to ban all plastics, as well as pollution-emitting factories and construction zones, around the building. Related: Uranium-contaminated groundwater found throughout India In addition, the court justices are advocating for a switch to electric and hydrogen vehicles for the area’s residents, as well as a restoration of green cover within the Taj Mahal’s grounds. Those who wish to visit the structure in its most authentic form need not worry, as “replacing present day lawns with tree cover as it existed originally will increase the biomass,” according to a draft document of the plan. In the past “there have been various studies, various plans, but they have not been implemented in right earnest in a coordinated manner,” explained Divay Gupta of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH). This time, though, the justices have said that authorities should either restore the structure or tear it down – and we sincerely hope they choose the former. +WHO +INTACH Via Reuters Images via Shutterstock

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Solar-powered glass PurePod cabins provide the ultimate connection with nature

July 26, 2018 by  
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For those looking to commune with nature, these sustainable all-glass cabins located in idyllic landscapes around New Zealand are just for you. Powered by solar energy, PurePods are tiny transparent capsules in stunningly beautiful settings far, far away from any type of human activity. This remove from civilization allows guests to sit back, relax, and completely immerse themselves in nature. There are six PurePod locations around New Zealand, all in secluded landscapes outside of Christchurch. The locations are extremely off-grid and guests must hike for 10-15 minutes through natural terrain to reach their destination, enjoying a leisurely walk through lush forest and rolling hills. Related: Sweden is putting stressed-out people in tiny glass ‘chillout cabins’ The cabins are approximately 200 square feet and have large sliding doors that lead out to a wooden deck. However, their transparent facades give off the feeling of camping in the open air. From sunrise to sunset, cabin guests can enjoy 360-degree views of New Zealand’s incredible landscape, and they can drift off to sleep while enjoying stunning views of the Milky Way at night. The cabins operate completely off-grid and are built to minimize impact on the environment. The electricity comes from  solar panels , which generate enough to run the LED lighting , refrigerator and the water system. Bio-fuel heaters are used to keep the cabins warm and toasty even on chilly nights. For extra-sunny days, window blinds and ceiling shades help provide a respite from the heat. As the cabins are designed for disconnecting , they have no internet, TV or phone service, but guests will be able to enjoy what the company calls “sustainable luxury.” Each cabin has a comfortable queen-sized bed with ultra-soft linens, a small kitchen and a glass-enclosed shower with hot water. Guests can cook their own meals on a cooking hob and outdoor grill or take advantage of the cabins’ meal delivery system, which can be set up at the time of reservation. + PurePods Via Dwell Images via PurePods

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Solar-powered glass PurePod cabins provide the ultimate connection with nature

Brilliant zero-energy air conditioner in India is beautiful and functional

September 14, 2017 by  
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New Delhi -based Ant Studio made a zero-electricity air conditioner to combat the brutally hot summers in India’s capital. Built for a DEKI Electronics factory, this low-tech, energy efficient, and artistic solution to the sweltering heat harnesses the power of evaporative cooling. The innovative honeycomb-like installation is made with conical clay tubes that naturally reduce the surrounding temperature. Built as part of a larger beautification project for DEKI Electronics, the innovative cooling installation is highly functional and adds an artistic flair to the factory. The shape and size of the beehive -inspired structure’s densely packed terra-cotta cones were determined using advanced computational analysis and modern calibration techniques. When water runs down the structure—it’s sufficient to wet the cones just once or twice a day—the process of evaporation gradually lowers the air temperature. The porous terra-cotta units absorb water that then seeps to the outer surface where it evaporates and turns into cold air. The flow of water empties out into a collection basic and gives the installation a beautiful waterfall effect. “I believe this experiment worked quite well functionally. Findings from this attempt opened up a lot more possibilities where we can integrate this technique with forms that could redefine the way we look at cooling systems, a necessary yet ignored component of a building’s functionality. Every installation could be treated as an art piece”, said Monish Siripurapu, founder of Ant Studio. “The circular profile can be changed into an artistic interpretation while the falling waters lend a comforting ambience. This, intermingled with the sensuous petrichor from the earthen cylinders, could allow for it to work in any environment with the slightest of breeze.” Related: 3D-printed “Cool Brick” cools a room using only water The prototype is capable of cooling hot air at above 50 degrees Celsius (122 degree Fahrenheit) to temperatures of less than 36 degree Celsius around the structure, while atmospheric temperature drops to 42 degrees Celsius. The architects see the honeycomb-shaped installation as a scalable low-tech solution for natural cooling, as well as an art installation that incorporates ancient craft methods. + Ant Studio Via ArchDaily Images via Ant Studio

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Incredible teepee-shaped ORKA house is made from 24 interlacing beams

May 23, 2017 by  
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This   teepee-shaped home is made from twenty four interlacing beams that shelter a large open-plan living space. Antony Gibbon Designs ‘ ORKA house explores different geometric shapes and unconventional forms for residential architecture. The three-story dwelling features a rooftop platform with panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. The house has twenty four wooden beams that coalesce, forming a pivoted illusion which transforms angles into a seemingly curved hyperboloid form. Using the frame as an aesthetic starting point, the architects interlaced the beams to naturally create diamond-shaped patterns. These patterns become part of the geometry and symmetry of the structure. Related: This charred wood cabin can be rearranged in an infinite number of ways The envelope wraps around an area 10 meters in diameter (33 feet), allowing for a large open-plan living space. A spiral staircase connects the ground floor to another three floors, with the top floor doubling as an outdoor viewing platform and balcony offering panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. + Antony Gibbon Designs

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Incredible teepee-shaped ORKA house is made from 24 interlacing beams

Rare bag of moon dust to be auctioned for millions of dollars

May 23, 2017 by  
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Souvenirs from humankind’s missions to the Moon are extremely rare; NASA usually holds on to moon rocks or moon dust instead of allowing private owners to keep them. But they couldn’t hold on to one bag of moon dust. The artifact – supposedly collected by astronaut Neil Armstrong – is the property of a Chicago lawyer, and now she plans to auction it off. After Armstrong took that historic leap for mankind on the Apollo 11 mission, he did what many of us would do – grabbed a space souvenir in the form of a handful of moon rocks placed in a bag, which he put into a second bag. That second outer bag then embarked on a journey of its own. When the bag was accidentally put up for auction, lawyer Nancy Lee Carlson obtained the bag in February 2015 for $995 on a federal auction website. Related: ESA 3D prints extraterrestrial bricks with concentrated sunlight and moondust Carlson kept the bag for a while and then decided to send it to NASA to see if it was really authentic. NASA said the bag did indeed have traces of the moon’s dark gray powder. But then the agency tried to confiscate the bag as the property of the government . Carlson fought the move and this year in February a judge decided she’d acquired the bag legally and could keep it. NASA put out a statement after the ruling: “This artifact, we believe, belongs to the American people and should be on display for the public, which is where it was before all of these unfortunate events occurred.” Before going up for auction the bag belonged to Max Ary of the Kansas Cosmosphere museum; he was convicted of stealing such interstellar objects and putting them up for sale, and when several of his possessions were seized by the government, the moon bag was among them but was mixed up with another bag lacking the treasured dust. Now Carlson plans to auction the bag off once again on July 20, send some money to charity , and set up a scholarship at her alma mater, Northern Michigan University. Auctioneers think the bag could be sold for between two to four million dollars. Sotheby’s auction house curators think the bag of moon dust could be the only privately held object of this nature on Earth. Via the Chicago Tribune Images via Wikimedia Commons and screenshot

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Giant sinkhole opens up in front of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort

May 23, 2017 by  
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One of President Donald Trump’s claims on the campaign trail was that he’d “drain the swamp” if elected. Whether he kept that promise is up for debate; sure, he selected business tycoons like Rex Tillerson to fill top government positions but also chose people like the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Elaine Chao. But now the swamp may be encroaching on another part of America: Mar-a-Lago , Trump’s Florida golf club, where a sinkhole just opened up. Obviously, the Internet didn’t pass up on the opportunity to dish out puns. Yesterday the town of Palm Beach, Florida – where Mar-a-Lago is located – posted a traffic alert about the sinkhole on their website. “A four feet by four feet sinkhole has formed on Southern Boulevard directly in front of Mar-a-Lago,” the notice reads. “It appears to be in the vicinity of the newly installed water main. West Palm Beach utilities distribution crews have secured the area and will most likely need to do some exploratory excavation today. One lane is closed but the road remains open. Please pay attention to signs.” Related: Trump saved a toxic pesticide – and then it poisoned a bunch of farmworkers Naturally this was just too easy for Twitter . Some saw the sinkhole as a sign from God – whether Republicans would listen was another matter. Sinkhole opens next to Mar-a-Lago in obvious sign from increasingly irritated God https://t.co/IBicOjX698 pic.twitter.com/IhlzTpTU8K — Jezebel (@Jezebel) May 22, 2017 "Give us a sign, God."[sinkhole appears in front of Mar-A-Lago]"Hm, can't be sure that's anything." https://t.co/oTrfQkYBxR — Full Frontal (@FullFrontalSamB) May 22, 2017 Some people wondered if the sinkhole had anything to do with the illuminated orb Trump was pictured touching in Saudi Arabia. Actions have consequences, people. pic.twitter.com/r0LOrGBldy — Slade Sohmer (@Slade) May 22, 2017 The #sinkhole at Mar-a-Lago is absolutely NOT an ancient evil escaping its glided cage after being released by The Orb. No siree. — Rogue Illuminati (@RogueIlluminati) May 23, 2017 Others thought perhaps the sinkhole had been mistakenly termed… My working theory: It’s a hellmouth, not a sinkhole. — Jeff LaMarche (@jeff_lamarche) May 22, 2017 Sean Spicer wants to make it very clear there is NOT a sinkhole in front of Mar-A-Lago… It is a Florida Swamp Center. — Tony Posnanski (@tonyposnanski) May 22, 2017 Some Twitter users actually began to cheer for the sinkhole. rare heroic sinkhole ? https://t.co/i2i1I287vv — AS ? (@Alschapel) May 22, 2017 @townpalmbeach @Fahrenthold Has anyone ever rooted for a sinkhole before? — chuckyou2 (@chuckyoutwo) May 22, 2017 And as the metaphors left everyone’s heads spinning about the mysterious origins of the clearly supernatural sinkhole, former The Onion writer Dennis DiClaudio stepped in to make one thing clear: Hate to be pedantic, but the Mar-a-lago sinkhole isn't *technically* a metaphor, because metaphors aren't *that* obvious. — Dennis DiClaudio (@dennisdiclaudio) May 22, 2017 After Palm Beach has dealt with the sinkhole, we think Washington, D.C. could use a little “exploratory excavation” as well. Via The Washington Post Images via screenshot and screenshot

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