Giant sequoia skyscrapers designed to keep rotted trees standing

May 5, 2017 by  
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Modernization has harmed giant sequoias: not only have they been cut down in groves, but climate change has diminished their lifespan. Four designers in South Korea want to help preserve the trees’ legacy with a skyscraper called Tribute: The Monument of Giant , that could be tucked inside hollowed-out trunks, helping to keep trees with rotted heartwood from crashing down. The skyscraper would allow a visitor to feel small inside the vastness of a giant sequoia, while also offering education about the natural wonders. Ko Jinhyeuk, Cheong Changwon, Cho Kyuhyung, and Choi Sunwoong believe in the past, human desires and development clashed with the natural world. They said nature’s response is the natural disasters that wreak havoc throughout the world. They pointed to deforestation as both a cause of such disasters and “one of the worst crimes on nature .” Earning an honorable mention in the 2017 eVolo Skyscraper Competition , they offered up an answer. Their skyscraper is enveloped inside a dying tree in a bid to help keep it standing. Related: Incredible farming skyscraper could fight poverty and feed the world Although giant sequoias can be over 300 feet tall, with diameters between 20 and 26 feet, their roots often aren’t deep, so when their heartwood – what the designers described as a structural backbone – starts to rot, the weight of the trees can cause them to topple over. A skyscraper nestled inside could prevent this ending. “This project attempts to show a new architectural approach to human coexistence with nature,” the architects said in their design statement. They said their skyscraper, inside the empty void of a giant sequoia, wouldn’t hinder the breathtaking beauty of the tree. The building would then become “active as an artificial organ to replace the trunks rotten away.” Platforms inside the tree would offer opportunities for laboratories, exhibitions, education, and photo opportunities on observation decks. A lattice-like cage would comprise an outer casing that appears to blend in with the tree. Via eVolo and Dezeen Images via eVolo

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Octopuses and their cephalopod cousins can edit and recode their own genes

May 5, 2017 by  
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Octopuses have earned a reputation as clever aquatic escape artists . But in addition to being underwater Houdinis , these creatures (and other coleiod cephalopods like cuttlefish and squid) were recently discovered to have another mind-blowing trick: they can rewire their own genetic material to adapt more quickly to their environment. Researchers found that  octopuses and their relatives can edit and recode the RNA component of genes, which allows them to reprogram cells (often in their nervous systems) and adapt to external stimuli in the environment, such as a change in water temperature. Changes at the RNA level manifest in the formation of different versions of proteins from the same gene . The result is that these cephalopods can make transient changes that don’t have an effect long-term on their overall  evolution and that could even be turned on or off by the cephalopod herself. Researchers believe the reason for the cephalopod’s overall slow rate of evolution is due to the extreme possibility of change and editing in their RNA. As per the study’s lead author Joshua Rosenthal : “If a squid and octopus want to edit a base, they must preserve the underlying RNA structure. This means that the RNA structure can’t evolve. If it collects mutations as a result of DNA mutations, it would no longer be recognized by the editing enzymes. We normally think of mutations as the currency of evolution. But in this case their accumulation is suppressed.” The slow rate of change in cephalopod DNA also may indicate that these sea creatures have been around longer than previously believed. Beyond the fact that this recoding provides yet another example for why these sea creatures  are fascinating, researchers continue to be interested in and slightly mystified by the reasons behind this action, although some believe their extreme use of RNA editing is linked to their intelligence and their behavioral complexities. Further fueling this idea were the findings by researchers that less intelligent and less cephalopod species such as the nautilus had far lower levels of RNA editing. Related: Octopuses are taking over the ocean and no one knows why However, the intelligence/RNA editing connection is not as clear as the water cephalopods love to swim around in. “It’s a really interesting phenomenon, but it’s unclear why they need so much RNA editing,” says Jianzhi Zhang from the University of Michigan . “It’s not absolutely clear if it has to do with behavior; humans have very complex brains and behaviors and in us, RNA editing is very rare.” Indeed, RNA editing is found in mere dozen of sites out of the 20,000 genes in the human body, while the cephalopods studied ranged from 80,000-130,000 editing sites. The study’s authors, however, also consider the possibility that “protein recoding may not be the primary function of editing in cephalopods” and that perhaps another purpose, such as immunity, might be the goal. The study was published in Cell . Via Science ,  Scientific American , The Atlantic Lead image via Wikimedia Commons

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Octopuses and their cephalopod cousins can edit and recode their own genes

The prefab house of the future is made from recycled, reusable, and sustainable materials

May 5, 2017 by  
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This prefab home by Arup Associates is made from recycled, reusable and sustainably sourced materials . The Circular Economy Building was designed as a prototype for this year’s London Design Festival and built in only two weeks. The project revisits the archetypal house and reinvents it with refined prefab construction techniques and sustainable materials. The prefab clearly show its Circular Economy elements by revealing them visually– visitors can observe the layers of the envelope – including the demountable SIPS panels and the structural steel frame , which creates enables extension and future adaptation. The design aims to demonstrate that flexible, sustainable architecture can be highly compatible with a comfortable modern lifestyle. Related: Arup’s timber prefab Sky Believe in Better Building wins the 2014 Wood in Architecture Award The architects worked closely with Arup’s engineers to marry pleasant spatial solutions with sustainable building techniques. This informed the choice of finishes and fittings throughout the interior. Even the carpets, supplied by Desso on a take-back scheme, can be replaced when worn out and sustainably refurbished and reused . Related: London’s new Design Museum opens this week inside a renovated post-war modernist building The building’s superior acoustic performance is ensured by using an acoustic wall system built entirely from recycled plastic bottles . A high-tech automation system uses sensors to monitor the interior environment and adjust the skylights , blinds and lights. The building’s flat-pack construction utilizes custom-made panels standardized through several computational iterations. + Arup Associates Via v2com Photos by Simon Kennedy

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The prefab house of the future is made from recycled, reusable, and sustainable materials

Japanese train station built around massive 700 year-old camphor tree

February 1, 2017 by  
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The Japanese reverence for nature has been well established, especially in the world of design. However, if anyone still has doubts, they should take a stroll through the Kayashima train station in Neyagawa, a northeastern suburb of Osaka. The train station was carefully constructed around a massive camphor tree that has stood on the site for 700 years. The Kayashima Station opened in 1910 and was built next to the large tree , whose exact age goes back before local records. As the local population began to grow, it became clear that the station would need to be upgraded. In 1972, plans were approved to expand the site and, according to Spoon and Tamago , those plans called for the tree to be cut down to make space. Related: Mecanoo designs gorgeous green-roofed train station for Kaohsiung Although the history of the train station’s upgrades is a matter of records, there are multiple stories behind the tree’s intact presence today. Some say that it was indeed the Japanese respect for nature that saved the tree from being chopped down . Yet, others say it was nothing more than pure superstition. Apparently, the tree had long been associated with a local shrine and deity, and its impending demise caused quite the uproar by the local community. Stories began to swirl that the tree was also angry and would curse anyone that dared to cut it down with bad luck. Whatever the case, station officials were persuaded to keep the tree, and ended up incorporating it into a new elevated platform . The construction was completed in 1980, and features a large hole cut into the roof of the platform where the tree majestically sticks out over the roof. Just to be on the safe side, the officials surrounded the base of the tree with a small shrine. Via Oddity Central Lead photo via Kosaku Mimura/Nikkei . Additional photography via Studio Ohana.

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Japanese train station built around massive 700 year-old camphor tree

Bangladesh is planting 1 million palm trees to reduce lightning fatalities

January 24, 2017 by  
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Over 200 people died in Bangladesh in 2016 because of lightning strikes, according to official tallies. In an effort to reduce lightning fatalities, the Bangladesh government is turning to nature . They aim to plant one million palm trees to absorb lightning damage and save lives. In 2016 alone, lightning could have killed as many as 349 people, according to one independent monitor. That number is so much higher than the official tally because people residing in rural areas sometimes don’t report a death to police. 82 people died from the phenomenon on just one day in May, and the government ultimately described lightning as a natural disaster in 2016. They hope to combat the issue with multiple measures, the first of which could be tree-planting . Related: Labyrinthine resort in Bangladesh lets nature take over Disaster management secretary Shah Kamal told AFP, “We’ve already started planting palm trees in rural areas in an effort to reduce the number of deaths due to lightning. We’ll plant one million palm trees by June this year.” A similar program already appears to be successful in Thailand. Although lightning can damage trees, their presence will prevent electric charges from coursing through the ground. Deforestation may have played a role in the deaths. Experts have said so many fatalities occurred partly because there weren’t enough trees whose branches would be able to absorb lightning strikes. Bangladesh Meteorological Department former head Shah Alam told AFP lightning strikes have increased in rural areas devastated by increased deforestation, as farmers have cut trees down to cultivate rice and other crops. It may take a while for the tree planting program in Bangladesh to produce results, but it’s still worth pursuing, according to Alam, who said, “Palm trees take years to grow. But definitely, this is a good move by the government. It will reduce deaths.” Via Phys.org Images via Pixabay and Wikimedia Commons

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Bangladesh is planting 1 million palm trees to reduce lightning fatalities

Iconic 100-year-old tunnel tree in California succumbs to winter storm

January 11, 2017 by  
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The Pioneer Cabin Tree in Calaveras Big Trees State Park , California recently succumbed to a winter storm, breaking the hearts of treehuggers everywhere. The majestic sequoia tree , which was tunneled sometime in the 1880’s to allow thousands of people to pass beneath it, crashed down over the weekend. Calaveras Big Trees Association wrote in a January 8 Facebook post , “The Pioneer Cabin tree has fallen! This iconic and still living tree – the tunnel tree – enchanted many visitors. The storm was just too much for it.” Trees have died in the tunneling process, such as Yosemite’s Wawona Tunnel Tree, which was carved in 1881 but fell in 1969. In contrast to the Yosemite landmark which inspired it, the Pioneer Cabin Tree still showed signs of life. Related: More than 100 million California trees dead due to drought Park volunteer Jim Allday said people walked beneath the tree on Sunday morning, but around 2PM local time the tree fell and “shattered” when it hit the ground. Jim’s wife Joan, also a volunteer, told SFGate, “It was barely alive, there was one branch alive at the top. But it was very brittle and starting to lift.” Way back in 1990, interpretive specialist Wendy Harrison wrote in a Calaveras Big Trees State Park guide , “The pioneer cabin tree was chosen because of its extremely wide base and large fire scar. A few branches bearing green foliage tell us that this tree is still managing to survive.” Harrison described how Calveras Big Trees State Park used to be a popular tourist destination until the roads to Yosemite were improved, and the Calaveras park tried to lure tourists back by carving the Pioneer Cabin tree in the late 1800’s. According to SFGate, cars were once allowed to drive beneath the Pioneer Cabin Tree, but more recently the park only allowed people to pass under on foot. Via Gizmodo and SFGate Images via Wikimedia Commons and Jim Allday on Facebook

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Iconic 100-year-old tunnel tree in California succumbs to winter storm

Striking new footbridge rehabilitates formerly derelict area of French city

January 11, 2017 by  
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A modern pedestrian bridge in Vitré, France not only provides a convenient walkway from a new carpark to the adjacent train station, it has also transformed the previously derelict area into a vibrant green space . The disjointed design and concrete aesthetic of the walkway, designed by TETRARC Architectes, contrasts nicely with the stepped green lawn and various garden pockets tucked into the concrete structure itself. The elongated concrete footbridge stretches over the rail lines of the Vitré Station, providing easy access from the carpark to the station. A timber footpath continues from the carpark to the local “Place de la Victoire” (Victory Square), creating a continual path from the square to the station. Related: Beautiful Esch-sur-Alzette Footbridge Leads Pedestrians from Chaotic Traffic to a Peaceful Green Park In addition to the convenience of a large parking lot next to to the train station, the new bridge serves as a public space that spruces up a previously abandoned area. The architects also thought to leave little pockets of individual space such as a look outarea that juts out over the greenery, a perfect spot for personal reflection. + TETRARC Architectes Via Archdaily Photography by Stéphane Chalmeau

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Striking new footbridge rehabilitates formerly derelict area of French city

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

The worlds largest artificial tree rises in Dubai’s massive new indoor rainforest

October 4, 2016 by  
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Dubai’s natural climate is arid and desert-like, but that doesn’t stop the posh city from trying on other ecosystems to wow its tourists. To that end, Dubai opened The Green Planet last month, a massive indoor rainforest housed within a 150-foot-tall glass building. The artificial ecosystem is home to more than 3,000 species of plants, insects, and animals, and the centerpiece is the world’s largest artificial tree, – recreating most of the natural elements of a rainforest in the middle of the Arabian desert.

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The worlds largest artificial tree rises in Dubai’s massive new indoor rainforest

NeSpoon adorns urban spaces with oversized doily art

October 4, 2016 by  
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NeSpoon’s creations have recently embellished various walls, streets and public parks around Poland , New Zealand and France. Aesthetically, they draw inspiration from traditional embroidery, yet the different creations are made using ceramic, rope or a stencil, and a spray can. The ‘urban jewelry’ can be imprinted on the wall, can take shape as an  aerial sculpture or as a doily detail on a wall. Related: NeSpoon’s Delicate Doily Art Adorns a Stretch of the Baltic’s Oak Beach Each piece is handmade by the artist herself or with the hand of traditional folk artists with whom she works. NeSpoon explains her passion for lace : “In lace there is an aesthetic code which is deeply embedded in every culture. In every lace we find symmetry, and some kind of order and harmony. Isn’t that what we all seek for instinctively?” + NeSpoon Via This is Colossal

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NeSpoon adorns urban spaces with oversized doily art

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