Snhetta-designed center may provide a rare look inside the worlds largest seed vault

November 7, 2019 by  
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Snøhetta has unveiled preliminary designs for The Arc, a proposed visitor center for Arctic preservation storage on the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, a remote island north of the Arctic Circle. Commissioned by Arctic Memory AS, the visitor center will provide a digital glimpse inside the Svalbard Global Seed Vault — the world’s largest secure seed storage — as well as a look at the contents of the Arctic World Archive, a vault for preserving the world’s digital heritage. Powered by solar energy, The Arc will not only educate visitors about the importance of resource preservation but will also inspire a call to action on global warming. Located in Longyearbyen, The Arc — named in reference to its location in the Arctic — will comprise two visually distinct volumes: an entrance building and an exhibition building. Built of cross-laminated timber and clad in charred wood and dark glass, the low-lying entrance building will house a lobby, ticketing, wardrobe and a cafe as well as facilities for the Arctic World Archive and technical rooms. The building will also be elevated off the ground to prevent heating of permafrost and snow accumulation, and it will be topped with rooftop solar panels. Related: Rising temperatures are putting the Global Seed Vault at risk In contrast to the dark entrance building, the exhibition building will be tall and conical with an all-white facade that looks as though it were formed by the forces of erosion. The exhibition building is connected to the entrance building via a glass access bridge that provides views of the towering geological formations to the south as well as a stunning landscape to the north. The vertical vault of the exhibition building houses a powerful digital archive with permanent and temporary exhibits and an environment that mimics the experience of being inside one of the real vaults. Visitors can experience the vaults’ contents via wall projections managed with touchscreens, VR experiences and other physical and digital exhibit elements. At the heart of the vault is the ceremony room, a conditioned auditorium with a large deciduous tree symbolizing the vegetation that once grew on Svalbard millions of years ago when the temperatures were 5 to 8 degrees Celsius higher. “At the current rate of carbon emissions, temperatures could rise high enough for a forest to grow again on Svalbard within only 150-200 years,” the architects said. “The tree in the ceremony room is both a symbol of the past and a call to action — a living icon for global warming and our responsibility to preserve the Arctic, and all of nature, for future generations.” + Snøhetta Images via Snøhetta and Plomp

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Snhetta-designed center may provide a rare look inside the worlds largest seed vault

Elevated bamboo housing protects an Indian community from floods

October 17, 2019 by  
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After the catastrophic 2017 Northeast India floods ravaged the state of Assam, the nonprofit SEEDS (Sustainable Environment and Ecological Development Society) teamed up with local organization NEADS (North-East Affected Area Development Society) to create 80 core houses that are resistant to flooding. Designed and built in collaboration with the local community in Assam’s subdivision of Golaghat, the 80-unit development draws inspiration from the region’s vernacular of stilt houses built from bamboo. Concrete footings and rubberized coatings were introduced to strengthen the elevated, disaster-resilient homes. Located within India’s largest bamboo reserve, near the major Brahmaputra River, Golaghat lies in the valley of Assam and experiences a tropical monsoon and rainforest climate that brings heavy rainfall and flooding almost every year, problems that are compounded by the region’s high seismic activity. Related: Concrete fins protect this visitor center from rising tides “Vulnerable to natural disasters, the self-reliant Assamese communities have developed indigenous construction and planning techniques over the centuries, creating a built-environment exclusive to the terrain,” SEEDS explained. “However, due to haphazard development in the region, the traditional knowledge systems are being ignored, leading to an unsafe environment, loss of lives and livelihoods. The intervention was formulated with a vision to build resilient communities through participatory design, illustrating a model of contemporary vernacular architecture.” With financial support from Indian conglomerate Godrej, the community-driven project saw the completion of 80 bamboo stilt houses, each 23 square meters in size and designed to meet Sphere Humanitarian Standards. The stilts that elevate the house are tall enough to create a spacious shaded area underneath that can be used for a variety of purposes, such as weaving, rearing livestock, storing boats or recreation. The building’s flexible joinery system also allows the homeowners to raise the floor even higher in case of overflooding. The construction is strengthened with deeper bamboo footings encased in concrete, rubberized bamboo columns for waterproofing and cross-bracing. + SEEDS Images via SEEDS

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Elevated bamboo housing protects an Indian community from floods

EEA reports poor air quality caused premature deaths of 400,000 Europeans in 2016

October 17, 2019 by  
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Coal-fired power plants, vehicle-clogged highways and fossil-fuel spewing factories have contributed to the growing European air pollution dilemma. Industries, households and vehicles all emit dangerous pollutants that are harmful to human health. Indeed, the European Environment Agency (EEA) highlighted the issue when reporting that over 400,000 Europeans met their untimely demise in 2016 due to poor air quality. Air pollution is detrimental to society, harms human health and ultimately increases health care costs. An air quality expert at the EEA and author of the study, Alberto Gonzales Ortiz, warned that air pollution is “currently the most important environmental risk to human health.” Related: Climate change is a public health issue amounting to billions in medical costs According to the World Health Organization (WHO) , “Pollutants with the strongest evidence for public health concerns include particulate matter (PM), ozone (O3), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and sulphur dioxide (SO2).” The presence of air pollutants produced by fuel combustion – whether from mobile sources like vehicles or from stationery sources such as power plants, biomass use, industry or households – above European skies means the continent is in serious need of more effective air quality plans. Current European Union (EU) legislation requires air quality evaluations to assess whether dangerous particulates have exceeded certain thresholds.  As early as 2017, the EU set limits on certain air pollutants to tackle the scourge that is prematurely claiming hundreds of thousands of European lives each year. In fact, this past July, the European Commission asked the EU’s Court of Justice to reprimand Spain and Portugal for their poor air quality practices. More recently, the British government proposed a new environment bill that legally targets the reduction of fine particulate pollution by requiring automakers to recall vehicles with sub-par emission standards. The WHO has repeatedly said that air pollution is to blame for high percentages of global mortality linked to lung cancer (29%), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) (43%), acute respiratory infection (17%), ischemic heart disease (25%), stroke (24%) and other cardiovascular ailments. Low-and middle-income countries are disproportionately more vulnerable to the particulate pollution burden, especially poor and marginalized populations. Interestingly, air pollution is also the main driver of climate change . Emissions have been among the largest contributors to global warming , accelerating glacial snow melt as well as causing extreme weather conditions that affect agriculture and food security. Ortiz added, “When we fight pollution, we also fight climate change as well as promote more healthy behavior. It’s a win-win.” Via Reuters Image via dan19878

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EEA reports poor air quality caused premature deaths of 400,000 Europeans in 2016

National Parks are offering free entry on April 20 to celebrate National Park Week

April 19, 2019 by  
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Take advantage of the warmer weather by visiting any number of the hundreds of national parks across the country on April 20 for absolutely free. The National Parks Service is celebrating National Park Week by offering free entry into all of the 418 parks spread throughout the United States. If you have never been to a national park or if it has been a while since your last visit, you may be surprised to learn about all the fun and excitement that awaits you. Here is a quick guide on some of the most popular national parks in the country and how you can spend your time in the great outdoors. Yellowstone Yellowstone National Park is the oldest and one of the most famous parks in the U.S. The park is known for its abundant wildlife , hot springs and exploding geysers. Given its enormous size, there are plenty of things to do at Yellowstone for children and adults alike. Related: An adventurer just journeyed into America’s largest national park — here’s what he found Located mostly in Wyoming, the park boasts 12 campgrounds with tent and RV access, plus 300 isolated campsites. There are nearly 1,000 miles of hiking trails that offer plenty of photo opportunities. You can also bike at the park and enjoy some kayaking on one if its many lakes. If you plan on bringing your family along for the ride, the park offers specialized programs for children as well as horseback riding. Yosemite Established in 1890, Yosemite National Park  attracts many visitors for its beautiful waterfalls. But the 1,200-square-mile park also features vast meadows, large sequoias and a grand wilderness section. While sightseeing is the main attraction, there are plenty of things to keep your entire family busy. Common activities at California’s Yosemite National Park include biking, wildlife watching, camping , fishing, horseback riding and water activities. Before booking your trip to Yosemite, check with the park for any closures due to inclement weather. Glacier Point Road, for example, is often closed until May because of excess snowfall. Great Smoky Mountains The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most-visited park in the country. According to DK , the Smoky Mountains record more than double the number of tourists every year than any other location. While this is a popular destination, there are ways to avoid the large crowds. Skip out on the popular scenic highway and opt for one of the many side trails. The ancient mountain range features one of Earth’s most widespread deciduous forests and boasts a wide diversity of life. This includes a large selection of wildflowers and black bears . When it comes to activities, visitors can enjoy camping, hiking, wildlife watching, fishing and scenic driving. Acadia If you are looking for a good coastal drive, then Acadia National Park is right up your alley. Acadia National Park is the only one of its kind in Maine and features some dramatic views of the Atlantic coastline. You can also hike some trails on Cadillac Mountain, kayak in the ocean or partake in some amazing whale watching from just outside of Bar Harbor. Related: Get ready for an adventure with this ultimate checklist of backpacking essentials A good strategy to see most of Acadia is to navigate the Park Loop Road, either by bike or motor vehicle. The 27-mile road has an array of different viewing points. One of the more popular stops is Otter Cliff, which overlooks a 110-foot drop. The park, of course, also features plenty of other things to do, such as camping, climbing, geocaching, fishing , swimming and bird watching. Tips for visiting a national park Once you decide to visit a park , it is always a good idea to call or stop by the visitor center and check in. Park rangers are valuable sources of information and can tell you what type of activities are available during the time of your visit. They can also tell you if there are any construction projects going on or special events that might make navigating through the park difficult. Speaking of the visitor center, it contains everything you need to know about the park, including typical rates and interesting places to visit. You can also find guided tours, which are a great way to get introduced to the history of the park and learn why it is significant to the region. Free admittance on April 20 In honor of National Park Week, the National Parks Service is offering free admittance to all parks in the United States on April 20. That day coincides with National Junior Ranger Day, which is geared toward children, making the free offer perfect for families. According to Matador Network , there are other themes throughout the rest of week, including Military and Veterans Recognition Day,  Earth Day , Transportation Tuesday, Wild Wednesday, Throwback Thursday, Friendship Friday, Bark Ranger Day and Park Rx Day. You can learn more about National Park Week, plus find important information about a national park near you, by visiting Find Your Park and the  National Parks website . Images via Ian D. Keating , Mobilus in Mobili , Jeff Gunn , Thomas , Eric Vaughn , Badlands National Park and Grand Canyon National Park

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National Parks are offering free entry on April 20 to celebrate National Park Week

A former anti-aircraft platform is now a beautiful skywalk in Gibraltar

July 6, 2018 by  
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If you’re not afraid of heights, you can now experience the famed Rock of Gibraltar in a whole new way. Gibraltar-based architecture firm  Arc Designs has turned an old WWII military platform on the very top of the landmark into a gorgeous glass skywalk with stunning views of the Rock and the surrounding ocean. Located 340 meters above sea level, the Gibraltar Skywalk is comprised of four layers of glass and over 60,000 pounds of steel embedded into the rocky, steep terrain. The glass-enclosed viewing area is built in the Upper Rock Nature Reserve, which contained a platform formerly used as an anti-aircraft base in WWII. The architects used the base as a starting point to extend a glazed walkway and balustrade over the rocky terrain. Related: This terrifying glass walkway in China ‘cracks’ as you step on it Visitors can access the viewing platform via stairs or a glass elevator. Once on the walkway, they can enjoy east and westward views that look out over the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean. In fact, according to Arc Designs, the extraordinary location drove the inspiration for the skywalk ‘s design: “The design aspiration of this project was to afford the visitor with new and unrivaled views in all directions including over the rocky cliff-face below, while at the same time ensuring a subtle intervention, which did not detract from the natural and historic nature of this unique setting.” Although the setting guarantees beautiful views, the perilous terrain did present quite a few challenges for the project. “Because vehicular access to this area is limited to very narrow and winding roads, the entire walkway structure had to be fabricated in smaller sections which could be transported and assembled together in-situ,” explain the architects. To ensure that the glass skywalk was secure enough to withstand the visitor load, as well as the typical wind speeds – which can reach over 93 miles hour – the structure had to be embedded into the ground with multiple rock anchors. The entire project used a steel skeleton made up of 18 separate pieces. To build out the walkway, over 8,000 square feet of glass panels were installed. + Arc Designs Via Dezeen Photographs by Stephen Ball, courtesy of Bovis-Koala JV

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Snarkitectures mind-bending Fun House opens at the National Building Museum

July 6, 2018 by  
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In Washington D.C., a massive, mind-bending Fun House has taken over the National Building Museum to offer an interactive experience that easily lives up to the exhibition’s name. Created by New York-based collaborative design practice Snarkitecture , Fun House is the latest installment in the Museum’s Summer Block Party series of temporary structures. The exhibition also commemorates Snarkitecture’s ten-year history and showcases 42 of the firm’s projects using the framework of a traditional American house. Located in the Museum’s historic Great Hall, Fun House is an all-white interactive installation that comprises a two-story freestanding house with a front and back yard. “A lot of Snarkitecture’s work is about surprise, wonder and disbelief,” explains Italy-based curator Maria Cristina Didero, who worked with the architects to capture the essence of their decade-long work, which has focused on reinterpreting everyday materials in an imaginative new light and challenging people to rethink their surroundings. “We wanted to think back to basics,” continues Didero. “And then, we thought, what is more basic than a house? So, Fun House follows the look of a traditional American house…but if you walk in you’ll see that nothing is as it should be.” Related: Amazing Hive comes alive with sights and sounds in Washington, D.C. Stripped of all color, the all-white Fun House plays with texture and the element of surprise throughout. The installation begins at the front yard, where massive upholstered letter-shaped benches that spell out ‘Fun House’ are scattered in reference to the firm’s 2012 project ‘A Memorial Bowing.’ Behind a white picket fence is the main house, a simple gabled structure which would look fairly normal – that is, if the entrance weren’t completely chiseled away. The doorway, as well as the foyer, is a reinterpretation of Snarkitecture’s 2011 ‘Dig’ project; it explores the architecture of excavation with EPS architectural foam carved away with hammers, picks and chisels to cavernous effect. The EPS foam material will be returned to the manufacturer and recycled at the end of the exhibition. More oddities abound inside the home, which consists of the traditional sequence of rooms including a hallway, playroom, bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, study and living room—each carefully crafted to evoke familiarity and surprise while paying homage to Snarkitecture’s past projects. Highlights include the bedroom’s ‘Light Cavern,’ an ethereal space that comprises 30,000 suspended strips of perforated white fabric to elicit porosity and translucency; ‘The Beach Chair’ bathtub ball pit, a throwback to Snarkitecture’s 2015 ‘The Beach’ installation at the National Building Museum; the study that serves as a showroom for various iconic works like the ‘Fractured’ bench and ‘Bearbrick’ sculpture; and the living room that’s made up of giant inflated tubes bundled together to form a ceiling—a reimagined version of the 2012 ‘Drift’ pavilion for Design Miami —and a playful small-scale version of their 2016 ‘Pillow Fort’ down below. Related: Gigantic swimmable ball pit takes over D.C.’s National Building Museum The most popular space, however, is undoubtedly the backyard, where ‘The Beach’ is reimagined as a circular kiddie pool and a larger kidney-shaped pool. Recyclable balls with anti-microbial coatings fill the pools to serve as ball pits shallow enough for kids yet large enough to entertain adults. White astroturf, lounge seating, umbrellas, and a picket fence surround the pools to finish off the relaxing, beach-like setting. “Fun House represents a unique opportunity for us to bring together a number of different Snarkitecture-designed interiors, installations, and objects into a single, immersive experience, ” said Alex Mustonen, co-founder of Snarkitecture. “Our practice aims to create moments that make architecture accessible and engaging to a wide, diverse audience. With that in mind, we are excited to invite all visitors to the National Building Museum to an exhibition and installation that we hope is both unexpected and memorable.” As with the National Building Museum’s previous Summer Block Party installations—which have included collaborations like ‘Hive’ by Studio Gang (2017) and the BIG Maze by Bjarke Ingels Group (2014)—Fun House will be accompanied by a series of programs and events, from behind-the-scenes construction tours to pop-up talks hosted during “Late Nights” on Wednesdays. Visitors will be given a one-hour timed entry ticket to explore Fun House. The ticket includes access to all of the National Building Museum’s exhibitions, including the not-to-be-missed ‘Secret Cities’ exhibit, which explores the history of the Manhattan Project secret cities from their design and construction to daily life inside them and their lasting influences on the American architectural landscape. Fun House concludes on September 3, 2018. + Snarkitecture + National Building Museum Images by Lucy Wang

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Snarkitectures mind-bending Fun House opens at the National Building Museum

This Swiss straw-bale house is completely self-sufficient

July 6, 2018 by  
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Traditional building techniques and modern technology come together in the House in Berne, a self-sufficient straw bale house in Graben, a Swiss village located less than an hour’s drive north of Bern. Trun-based architecture practice Atelier SCHMIDT GmbH designed the modern home, crafting it to blend in with the rural surroundings by taking on the appearance of an old Bernese farming house. Additionally, the self-sufficient house is powered entirely by rooftop solar panels. Completed this year, the House in Berne is set in the middle of a vast and open farming landscape. The dwelling comprises three floors in addition to a small basement for a total area of 1,970 square feet. In response to the client’s request for a modern, self-sustaining home that would be flooded with natural light , Atelier SCHMIDT GmbH designed a building with large yet carefully placed openings, as well as an energy-efficient envelope to ensure minimal heating energy demands that could be satisfied through a photovoltaic array or passive solar means. “Inside the house, glass ceilings ensure that daylight can penetrate fully into the whole building,” explains Atelier SCHMIDT GmbH in a project statement. “The reduction of inside walls allows the owners to live and work in a big open modern space. The 80 centimeter thick straw-bale walls guarantee minimal heat losses. The electrical and thermic energy gained on the solar roof is stored in a home battery system and in a 5000 [liter] solar tank located in the basement. If needed the house can be heated by the stored thermic energy.” Related: Leaky cottage retrofitted with straw bale sees 80% energy reduction Set on an east-west axis, House in Berne is built primarily from unfinished timber for both the interior and the exterior; the timber façade will develop a patina over time and further blend the building into the landscape. Solar panels top the roof, which features long overhanging eaves to protect the interior from unwanted solar heat gain . + Atelier SCHMIDT GmbH Images by Rasmus Norlander

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Sleek fiberglass visitor center is a beacon for wind energy in Denmark

April 25, 2018 by  
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The wind turbines at Thisted, Denmark don’t just generate renewable energy—these massive structures are among the world’s largest offshore wind turbines and have become a big draw for tourism too. In light of the site’s popularity, Cubo Arkitekter was tapped to design the Østerild Visitors and Operation Center that offers insight on wind energy and other sustainable technologies. Completed last year in the National Park Thy, the nearly 7,000-square-foot Østerild Visitors and Operation Center was designed for minimal site impact . Raised on stilts, the visitor center features a long and rectangular form clad in a lightweight fiberglass facade and topped with a curved roof. “The new Visitors and National Test Center gently inserts itself into the surrounding landscape as a slightly raised linear structure with a hovering appearance, which only lightly touches the terrain in order to preserve the local biodiversity ,” wrote the architects. Related: General Electric to debut world’s largest wind turbine in UK The wood-lined interior features a flexible layout that can adapt to a variety of uses, from exhibition space to meeting rooms. Glazing wraps around the building to let in light and views. The curved roof gradually slants upwards towards one end of the building, creating incrementally taller ceiling heights and culminating in a covered outdoor terrace . + Cubo Arkitekter Via ArchDaily Images by Martin Schubert

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This beautiful, barn-inspired visitor center has nine movable sections that let in natural light

March 28, 2018 by  
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Dutch firm 70F architecture has designed a beautiful, barn-inspired visitor center in the Netherlands that “breathes” thanks to nine movable sections that open up the facade in the morning and close it at night. The Hof van Duivenvoorde Center welcomes visitors to the Duivenvoorde Castle and Estate, offering a light-filled restaurant and information center with an innovative, changeable window system engineered by the architects themselves. The Duivenvoorde Foundation requested a simple building that would blend into the surroundings – the castle grounds have an expansive lawn and plenty of green areas – as well as provide a comfortable place where visitors  can relax.  Keeping the natural landscape in mind, the architects created an understated building with an elongated form and vertical slats that evoke a typical, rustic  barn design. The movable panels signal that the building is open for visitors during park hours, but at closing time, they lower back down and the center virtually disappears into the surrounding environment. Related: Visitor center disguised as a hill to welcome visitors to Denmark’s historic Kalø Castle Ruins The movable panels cover glass windows and slide upwards with the help of an innovative engineering system created by Bas ten Brinke, founder of 70F architecture. Once the panels have lifted,  natural light floods the center’s interior, which, at 6 by 30 meters, is relatively small. The large windows both enhance this space and provide a natural ventilation system throughout. The  visitor center houses a restaurant and museum shop, as well as space for the volunteers who give guided tours of the estate. The architects decided to forgo any type of separation between the different areas in order to give the interior an open, airy feel. Out back, a large garden wall provides shade during the warm summer months. And, finally, an open-air patio provides the perfect opportunity to sit back and enjoy the surrounding nature. + 70F architecture Via World Architecture News Images by Luuk Kramer  

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This beautiful, barn-inspired visitor center has nine movable sections that let in natural light

Vance Tsing Tao Pearl Hill visitor center blends into the landscape with a rolling green roof

August 9, 2017 by  
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Prolific architecture firm Bohlin Cywinski Jackson crafted the Vance Tsing Tao Pearl Hill Visitor Center in Qingdao, China with a gorgeous rolling green roof . Located at the base of the Zhushan National Forest Park, the wooden building ‘s undulating canopy mimics the mountain range in the backdrop. At 223,000 square feet, the visitor center is certainly massive, however it was carefully designed to blend into its natural surroundings thanks to its subtle stature and verdant green roof. Additionally, the building is strategically oriented so that visitors can enjoy amazing views of the mountain range on one side and expansive sea views on the other end. Floor-to-ceiling glazed walls provide these views while illuminating the building with natural light . Related: Manetti Shrem Museum’s 50,000-square-foot canopy was inspired by the agrarian landscape The designers choose to use wood as the building’s principle material to create a strong connection to nature. The unique wooden truss roof structure uses large logs to support a layer of Canadian Class J SPF wood. At the center of the undulating roof is an abundance of lush greenery, further integrating the building into its environment. The green roof was strategically designed to insulate the interior and reduce the building’s overall carbon footprint. + Bohlin Cywinski Jackson Via Archdaily Photography by He Lian

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Vance Tsing Tao Pearl Hill visitor center blends into the landscape with a rolling green roof

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