Massive tree-like sculpture takes over Switzerlands largest train station

July 23, 2018 by  
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An explosion of color has taken over the central train station in Zurich, Switzerland. In collaboration with the Fondation Beyeler , Brazilian contemporary artist Ernesto Neto has installed a stunning and monumental work of art that rises 65 feet to the ceiling height of the Zurich Main Station, the busiest train station in Switzerland . Dubbed the GaiaMotherTree, this sculptural and interactive tree-like artwork resembles a living organism. Crafted from colorful strips of cotton knotted together with finger-crocheting techniques, Ernesto Neto’s GaiaMotherTree is made all the more eye-catching due to its backdrop—the Neorenaissance architecture of the Zurich Main Station, built in 1871. The sweeping organic structure was shaped and stabilized using drop-shaped counterweights filled with ground spices including turmeric, cloves, cumin and black pepper. The central counterweight that hangs above a giant outline of the world in the heart of the GaiaMotherTree is filled with 30 kilograms of plant seeds . No nails were used to support the installation ; in addition to the counterweights, 840 kilograms of earth was used to secure it. “With GaiaMotherTree, Neto establishes a connection to the story of creation,” read a statement about the installation, which took three months to complete. “The work’s title refers to Greek mythology: Gaia, the personification of the Earth , emerges from chaos, the origin of all things. She is the Mother Earth goddess, bestowing the gift of life, but also the goddess of death, to whom the dead return. Neto places ‘Mother Earth’ at the heart of his sculpture.” Related: This minimalist timber writer’s studio in Switzerland is suspended in mid-air As an immersive installation, GaiaMotherTree serves as a community space and visitors are welcome to walk inside and sit on low textile-covered seating. The installation, which was unveiled June 30, has hosted a series of activities including musical concerts, workshops and debates. GaiaMotherTree is open to the public every day until July 29, 2018. + Fondation Beyeler Images © Mark Niedermann, portrait by Niels Fabaek

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Massive tree-like sculpture takes over Switzerlands largest train station

A prefab chapels sculptural form amplifies the Spanish landscape

July 23, 2018 by  
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Perched on a hilltop in a bucolic rural landscape in southern Spain, the Sacromonte Chapel is a minimalist, prefabricated structure designed to coexist with nature in harmony. Designed by Uruguay-and Brazil-based architecture firm MAPA , this sculptural place of worship is set on one of the highest peaks in the traditional Andalusian neighborhood Sacromonte and overlooks unobstructed, panoramic views of its surroundings. The building was mainly constructed from cross-laminated timber panels and steel and was assembled onsite in just one day. Crafted as a “landscape amplifier,” the Sacromonte Chapel takes cues from its surroundings — a rolling landscape of vineyards, lagoons, hills and shelters — and features a relatively simple shape that complements the environment. The chapel comprises two cross-laminated timber panels — measuring nearly 20 by 30 feet in size — angled toward one another, like a pair of hands in prayer, without actually touching. The semi-enclosed structure simultaneously creates a defined interior while remaining open to the environment. “How should the sacred spaces of the 21st century be? The chapel ponders possible interpretations of this and other questions through its ambiguous relationship with matter, space and time,” MAPA said in a project statement. “A peaceful tension reigns when in contact with it. A tension between weight and lightness, presence and disappearance, technology and nature . Enigmatic and mystifying, it leaves its visitors with more questions than answers.” Related: Provocative timber horn explores the hypnotic pull of the unknown The Sacromonte Chapel was prefabricated in a factory in Portugal and then transported to the site for assembly. The architects strived to use as few resources as possible to make a simple and austere design statement. A black metal box faced with a sheet of translucent onyx punctuates one of the timber planes and houses a statue of the Virgin of “La Carrodilla.” A slender timber cross was installed in front of the chapel. + MAPA Images by Tali Kimelman

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Air pollution levels in national parks rival those of major US cities

July 23, 2018 by  
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Bad news for national park lovers: a new study published in Science Advances  has found that many national parks have levels of of air pollution on par with major US cities. In parks such as Sequoia, Acadia, and Joshua tree, toxic ozone levels breaching the safe limit set by the EPA rivaled those found in cities such as New York and Los Angeles, which has the worst air quality rating of cities in the United States. While the number of dangerous pollution days has fallen for both cities and parks since the 1990 enactment of the Clean Air Act and the EPA’s Regional Haze Rule of 1999, experts are pressing for more regulation after this week’s findings. National parks see an 8% decline in visitor numbers, on average, in months recording two to three days of bad air quality. The statistics suggest that many of the parks’ guests choose to come not only for the sights, but for their health as well. And, while some have criticized Regional Haze Rule regulations, study co-author Ivan Rudik disagrees. An assistant professor at Cornell University, Rudik stated that “some of the arguments that people are making against the Regional Haze Rule are that the benefits are basically zero, that these visibility rules don’t matter much or maybe the health improvements are overstated. But if you look at what people actually do, they clearly do care.” Related: UN creates a new global climate change coalition Recent years have seen record-breaking numbers of visitors to national parks, yet another reason to reevaluate government standards when it comes to air pollution. Speaking to The Associated Press, Rudik remarked that “even though the national parks are supposed to be icons of a pristine landscape, quite a lot of people are being exposed to ozone levels that could be detrimental to their health.” + Science Advances Via Ecowatch Images via Shutterstock

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Air pollution levels in national parks rival those of major US cities

New concrete roof includes thin-film PV cells to generate power

October 20, 2017 by  
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Digital design and fabrication techniques allowed researchers in Switzerland to create a curvy, super thin concrete roof that will one day help a residential unit produce more power than it consumes. Using the innovative methods, the researchers assembled the roof with much less materials than would otherwise be needed. The concrete roof is also equipped with thin-film photovoltaic cells to generate energy. Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH Zurich) recently unveiled the prototype for a sinuous, self-supporting concrete roof. The roof is comprised of multiple layers, including concrete , heating and cooling coils, insulation, and more concrete fitted with thin film solar cells. The prototype was around 25-feet-tall, with a surface area of around 1,722 feet squared. The average thickness of the concrete was around two inches; the support surfaces had a thickness of 4.7 inches and the edges of the roof were just around one inch thick. Related: The company that offered integrated solar roofs before Elon Musk A cable net supporting a polymer textile provided the formwork for the concrete roof. The researchers used a precise concrete mix, fluid enough to be sprayed but firm enough to not flow off. Professor of Architecture and Structures Philippe Block said in a statement, “We’ve shown that it’s possible to build an exciting thin concrete shell structure using a lightweight, flexible formwork, thus demonstrating that complex concrete structures can be formed without wasting large amounts of material for their construction.” The prototype has already been dismantled to make room for other experiments, but in 2018, the roof will be erected atop materials science and technology research institute Empa ‘s HiLo Penthouse. Guest faculty will live and work in the penthouse, which is expected to produce more energy that it uses thanks to the concrete roof’s solar cells and what ETH Zurich described as an adaptive solar facade . Via ETH Zurich Images © Block Research Group, ETH Zurich/Michael Lyrenmann and © Block Research Group, ETH Zurich/Naida Iljazovic

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Swiss company touts carbon capture breakthrough

June 12, 2017 by  
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Climeworks plans to use the carbon dioxide captured at a facility near Zurich as fertilizer for greenhouses.

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10 minutes with Tom Murray, EDF+Business

June 12, 2017 by  
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The NGO executive talks corporate partnerships and why sustainable business leaders need to get better at illustrating the story link between a thriving economy and a healthy environment.

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Can urban forests cultivate sustainable healthcare?

June 12, 2017 by  
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An unprecedented research project is correlating medical data about more than 4 million Kaiser Permanente subscribers with their proximity to trees and green spaces.

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IBM creates first-ever artificial neurons that behave like the real thing

August 4, 2016 by  
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IBM researchers in Switzerland have created an artificial neuron that behaves just like the real thing . For the first time in history, artificial phase-change neurons have been grouped together (in a population of 500 synthesized in a lab) to process a neurological signal in more or less the same way that biological neurons transmit messages. They can be made exceptionally small and are similar in power and energy usage to biological neurons, and can even produce results with random variations, also just like biological neurons. For non-scientists, the importance of this discovery may not be immediately apparent. IBM ’s artificial neuron , developed by a research team in Zurich, is quite literally the next best thing to a naturally created biological neuron. The lab-created version has all the same components of a biological neuron, including inputs (dendrites), a neuronal membrane (lipid bilayer) around the spike generator (soma, nucleus), and an output (axon). Likewise, its functions mimic those of its biological counterpart. Related: Scientists create the world’s first enzymes using synthetic biology In addition to all that, the artificial neurons are durable, made from well-known materials that can withstand trillions of switching cycles. They are tiny (around 90 nanometers) and researchers believe they can make them even smaller, possibly as minuscule as 14nm. The researchers started by creating 500 artificial neurons together in a chain capable of sending signals, which means the IBM team has created the closest artificial version of a biological neuron. In the next phase of research, the team will create a much larger population of artificial neurons, with thousands of individual units, and write software to push their capabilities to the limit. The study results were published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology. Via Ars Technica Images via IBM

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Switzerland unveils cloud-like pavilion at Venice Biennale

July 26, 2016 by  
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Kerez’s pavilion is an attempt to think about, construct, and experience architecture differently. This experimental work designed for a specific location and occasion is an autonomous piece that, trying to avoid a conventional design framework, seeks greater innovation. Done to stand only for itself, and not to represent any other work of architecture nor a tendency or any other specific construction or design method, the Swiss pavilion is an abstract experience that boldly stands out from other Biennale participants showcasing conventional models, drawings and photographs. Related: Thousands of keys strung from blood-red yarn evoke Japan’s Great Tohoku Earthquake The interior of the artificially formed cloud realized in fiber cement evokes a natural geological structure. In addition to resembling a real cloud, the Swiss pavilion is itself a huge cloud of data – the result of coupling and sequencing craftsmanship and digital processes to create a complex architectonic space. + Christian Kerez + Venice Biennale Images via Maria Novozhilova for Inhabitat

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The Armadillo Vault’s hundreds of limestone slabs are held together without glue

June 7, 2016 by  
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ETH Zurich’s Block Research Group worked in collaboration with engineering firm Ochsendorf DeJong & Block and masonry specialist The Escobedo Group to bring the structure to life using expertly designed compression techniques. 399 limestone slabs were brought together after mapping out the technique on RhinoVAULT , a design plugin licensed by the group. Philippe Block and Tom Van Mele of the research group said, “Without any glue or mortar, with perfectly dry connections, this is really a milestone for stone engineering.” Related: 26 years, 9 tons of limestone, and a whole lot of love went into this magical fairytale house The Armadillo Vault spans 16 meters (about 20 feet), yet some sections are only as thick as five centimeters. Proportionally, the structure is half the thickness of an eggshell and remarkably strong. Each slab of limestone was left unfinished on the bottom side for time’s sake, creating an exterior resembling an armadillo shell and an underbelly of textured stripes. The intentional choice of finicky limestone demonstrates how the “relationship between geometry and forces” can be achieved with precision and respect for the materials. Once the Venice Biennale ends, the Armadillo Vault will be moved to a different location. Described as an “intricate 3D puzzle ” by the team, the structure can be disassembled and put back together while still maintaining its stability. +ETH Zurich Via  Dezeen Images via Iwan Baan , David Escobedo ,  Anna Maragkoudaki

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