Tag Archives: environment

Going Batty: Animal Architecture


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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Franck Gohier: Target

Sold Out

Australia is a funny place. We laugh at the commercialism of the US but spend ourselves silly on credit.  We welcome people from all nations, yet shun our own ancestors.  Or, as the recent Australian film Samson & Delilah showed, we pay exorbitant amounts of money for Aboriginal art, with most of the funding going to the gallery owners and only a pittance to the actual artist, who often lives in squalor.

Welcome to Franck Gohier‘s world, currently on display at Ray Hughes Gallery in Sydney.  Gohier uses his acerbic wit to comment on themes such as the Northern Territory invasion (ahem, intervention), the credit crisis, and global warming.  This wit, combined with the pop-art aesthetic, sends a powerful message about where our country is headed.  The bullet holes aren’t so subtle.

Oi Oi Oi

Welcome to the Tropics



3 minute warning

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Posted by on August 5, 2009 in art, contemporary, looking


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Detroit: Hantz Meanz Farmz


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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Amy Stein Photography


To put it simply, Amy Stein runs one of the most thoughtful, well composed blogs out there. She also takes beautiful photos – such as her recently published Domesticated series, which is a captivating look at the awkward interaction between the built and natural environments. Here are a few favourites.



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Posted by on April 13, 2009 in looking, photography


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Looking: Juan Ford

Nature and I have a peculiar relationship. I enjoy the odd bushwalk or visit to the local park, and I adore swimming in the ocean. Some of my fondest childhood memories involve day trips to national parks. But I’m the first to admit that I do like my nature tamed. Give me rolling farmland over rugged bushland any day.

Maybe my upbringing is to blame. Growing up in a suburban house situated in a country town, I never quite knew whether I was meant to be a country bumpkin or an urban boy.

Juan Ford seems to share my confusion. I popped into the marvellous Sullivan+Strumpf this morning to check out the Melbourne artist’s latest work, which examines humans’ continual attempts to try and tame nature; to no avail it seems. In his paintings of native Australian flora entangled with packaging tape (below), or the odd rubber glove (above), Ford explore themes of fragility and vulnerability, leaving audiences confused about their own relationship with nature, and their reaction to the distortion of national emblems.

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Posted by on March 14, 2009 in art, contemporary, looking


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Designing: Prefabulous

I was reading an architecture magazine yesterday about a renovation to a Melbourne mansion, the brief being to extend the living area and include a space for classical music recitals. Seems like the client is going to spend their golden years entertaining their friends around the Fazioli. I mean, who are these people?

The article continued, going into superflous detail about how the client deliberated over where to put the grand piano, and built a special catwalk so their guests could view the spectacle from above. I admit the results were fabulous, but it has no relevance to me; it was just architecture porn.

Much more accessible are a raft of prefabricated housing projects currently being undertaken around the world. Projects like Andrew Maynard‘s Quon which uses the principles of mass manufacturing (think cars, electronics, and the like) to produce intelligent, well-designed and affordable, modular housing. Or New Zealand’s Bachkit (below) which specialises in versatile, low-energy designs. My favourite of all, however is South Africa’s Zenkaya (top), with its striking linear design coming in four sizes, from a studio to a two-bedroom house.

The most excellent website FabPrefab is an comprehensive online directory of prefab projects around the world. It is full of fascinating, innovative projects to suit all budgets, tastes and settings. And while they may not all fit a grand piano, they are every bit as spectacular as that middle-aged maestro’s renovation.

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Posted by on March 11, 2009 in architecture, designing


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Building: Surry Hills Community Centre

Surry Hills, in Sydney’s inner East, is arguably the epicentre of gay culture in this city. A mixture of renovated terraces, housing commission, apartments, shops and light industrial, it is an exciting, cosmopolitan and surprisingly close-knit community. The suburb even entered a float in last night’s Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras called Surry Hillsong, a repartee of the homophobic, exclusionary stance of the Sydney mega-church.

But Surry Hills is more than just a gay aetheist paradise. It’s also the home of a beautiful new library and community centre, designed by local architects Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp. When complete, the light, airy and very much green building will house a much-need childcare facility, as well as function rooms and a library with a large GLBTI collection.

The centre aims to pioneer environmentally sustainable design in Sydney. Solar cells and water tanks are certainly not a rarity at all these days, but the building goes one step further by incorporating an open-air atrium with rooftop plants to filter the air and reduce the need for air-conditioning, as the video below demonstrates. Very clever.

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Posted by on March 8, 2009 in architecture


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