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Going Batty: Animal Architecture

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It could be said that architecture is one of the most humanist pursuits, existing solely to make humans happy.

The always clever BLDGBLOG this week features the Bat Spiral, a project by UK architecture firm Friend and Company which shows that animals can get just as much enjoyment from architecture.

Based just outside of London, the Bat Spiral is designed to provide a roost (cave?) for the 17 bat species that are native to the UK.  The 45 square metre structure can house about 330 bats who are attracted to the structure for its dark spaces, and for the warmth generated from the black timber walls.

It is also surprisingly beautiful with its simple, reed-like support columns raising it above the swamp, and its graceful painted timber curves.

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Posted by on August 6, 2009 in architecture, building

 

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Detroit: Hantz Meanz Farmz

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Once a city of innovation, by all accounts, Detroit is today a city in ruin: the Pompeii of our times.  The statistics are frightening: unemployment amongst the highest in the nation, population decreases surpassing even east-Berlin after the wall came down; and not a single supermarket within city limits.

Hantz Farm in inner-Detroit is set to change this.  John Hantz and Matt Allen have created this innovative approach to save the local community.  They realise that much of Detroit is simply “too broken to fix”, so aim to reinvigorate it by creating 100 acres of urban farms – former residential or commercial plots of land which they will clear and transform into a thriving agricultural area, for a relatively low cost. They cannot reinvigorate the fledgling car industry which has devastated the local – and national – economy, but they can create jobs, stimulate the local economy, and give residents a reason to get out of bed in the morning.

It’s an inspiring idea that will create jobs, increase the health of its denizens, aid in smart energy use, lower crime rates and free up emergency services to look after the inhabited areas of the city.

Natty little logo, too.

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Posted by on August 1, 2009 in building, urban design

 

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Louisiana, Denmark: Green Architecture for the Future

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You’ve heard of Paris, Texas.  But Louisiana, Denmark?

This sleepy satellite suburb on the outskirts of Copenhagen is home to the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, a stunning seaside building established in 1958 as a showcase for many of the world’s finest contemporary artworks and sculptures.

The museum is currently exhibiting Green Architecture for the Future, a multidisciplinary exhibition examining the pending, fundamental changes to three areas of design: The City, Climate & Comfort, and Metabolism.

The City examines the global population drift towards urban living, and various responses to this, both current and future.  It includes an ambitious Foster + Partners design for Masdar City – a purpose-built, sustainable city in the United Arab Emirates – as well as a Sarcozy-sponsored redesign for Paris by MVRDV, and the tree-like Tower of Tomorrow by William McDonough & Partners.

Climate & Comfort and Metabolism explore themes of renewal, rebirth and reappropriation, such as a building made from empty water bottles (now there’s an intelligent solution, Mr Rees).

Via Arcspace.

Masdar City

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R3: The Noisiest Little House in California

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In property, it is said, location is everything. This was put to the test in San Diego when architect Lloyd Russell and his artist wife Ame Parsley managed to buy a vacant block in San Diego’s Little Italy neighbourhood for a bargain $50,000 – not surprising considering the property is an oddly shaped wedge of land sitting between the i-5 freeway and the busiest single-runway airport in the USA, San Diego International Airport (with 600 departures and arrivals per day).

This site couldn’t be noisier – check out the Google Earth satellite photo below for proof – there is even an aeroplane on approach passing almost directly overhead (see if you can pick the site, the triangular building just north of the jumbo)

Never one to shy away from a challenge, Russell set to work designing his new home – the R3 building, a triangular gallery-cum-residence complete with triple glazing, commercial air filtration system, and walls that are stuccoed to help bounce sound waves back onto the freeway.  There is also a killer integrated sound system in case any pesky noise still sneak through.

In designing R3, Lloyd Russell has proven that the most exciting architecture is often, if not always borne from the most difficult challenges.

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Posted by on July 28, 2009 in architecture, building

 

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Yellow Treehouse, New Zealand

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I’m normally very sceptical of marketing campaigns, especially those run by telco giants. But this clever little campaign by New Zealand’s re-branded Yellow (formerly Yellow Pages) has changed my view entirely.

The concept was to build a restaurant 10 metres up a big old redwood tree outside of Auckland. Seriously.  But there was one rule: everything had to be sourced via Yellow on mobile.

Now I don’t know if you’ve actually tried to use your mobile phone for browsing, but if your experience is anything like mine it takes hours to do what the phone book could do in seconds.  But maybe I’m just a philistine.  It seems Tracey Collins, who Yellow selected to lead the project, is far more tech-savvy than me, because she managed the entire project, and also ran the restaurant – all via her mobile phone.  And all documented on a very cool website.

If you’re keen to visit the Treehouse, unfortunately you’re out of luck. After feeding 2000 lucky diners, the venue is now only open for function hire, although there is talk about a more permanent venture opening in the near future.

Photos via LA Times.

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Elok House: It’s a Jungle Out There

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Orchard Road is known for being one of the world’s finest shopping destinations.  But, deep in the urban jungle of Singapore, it is also the site of a remarkable new piece of residential architecture.

The owners of the small site gave Chang Architects one brief: to incorporate as much natural life as possible.  They wanted  home that was light, breezy and sustainable, with at least 40% landscaping.  The architect came up with clever ways to incorporate living plants and other natural elements such as waterfalls and pebbles into the home’s fabric, including a central atrium to feed light to the plants on the ground floor; a retractable roof to protect the house during Singapore’s legendary storms; and plants literally growing through the kitchen roof, reaching up to the sky above.

The house is featured in this month’s Habitus and won several gongs such as the Singapore Institute of Architects’ 2008 Design Awards (for its low cost – under $1m – construction) and the President’s Award for Design of the Year 2008 (Singapore’s highest design award).

This jungle home is a unique, site-specific and incredibly fun response to its urban setting.

Pics via World Architecture News.

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Posted by on July 18, 2009 in architecture, building

 

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Traffic! by Benny Chan

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Regular readers of this blog will know that I have a small obsession with traffic, maps and urban design, so it’s no surprise that I love Los Angeles: the ultimate car city.

I just spent half an hour reading a brilliant, if somewhat old, post on urbanist blog cityofsound discussing a recent (and, it must be said, outrageous) article in The Economist about how electric cars should simulate the noise of a conventional fuel combustion engine for safety and aesthetic reasons.  The article really makes you wonder what a world without cars might be like.  To emphasise his point about how preposterous personal transportation has really become, he links to some amazing photos by photographer Benny Chan.  GOOD has a picture show with more, but I’ve posted some of my faves here, depicting rivers of concrete snaking through the LA suburbs.

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