On October 1st, the U.S. Department of Energy unveiled the winner of the 2011 Solar Decathlon at West Potomac Park in Washington D.C., bringing together innovative solar-powered prototype residences designed and built by international student teams from universities and colleges. This year’s champion, the University of Maryland’s WaterShed house, excelled in a variety of then ten metrics used to judge the houses including affordability, energy balance, hot water, and engineering.
Tiny Homes. The average size of an American home has been decreasing since 2009 (to at 2,392 SF), the Wall Street Journal reported. With financial and environmental concerns, many homeowners are down-sizing. The book Nano House: Innovations for Small Dwellings examines dwellings under 800 feet, such as the above 215-square-foot house in Belgium.
Artificial Leaf. Researchers at MIT have created an artificial leaf that uses sunlight to convert water into oxygen and hydrogen. The device is made of silicon, that is coated with a cobalt catalyst on one side, and a nickel catalyst on the other. When dropped in water, the cobalt separates oxygen and the nickel side hydrogen. The next step: scientists are working on a way to capture the gasses. More at Inhabitat.
Sky Sculptures. Brookline, Massachusetts artist Janet Echelman uses Indian fisherman weaving techniques to create ethereal neon nets that float in urban sky-scapes. Check out images of her work, that resembles the translucent fish of the coral reef at Artist a Day.
Shrouded Silos. In Omaha, Nebraska, the educational nonprofit Emerging Terrain has wrapped grain silo elevators in giant 80 by 20 feet banners that focus on food and agricultural issues. More at Planetizen.
Wulpen Community Center
Architect: Solid Objectives – Idenburg Liu
Client: Flemish Government Architect
Location: Wulpen, Belgium
The Brooklyn-based firm Solid Objectives – Idenburg Liu (SO–IL) recently won a design competition for a community center located in Wulpen, a small, coastal town in Belgium. Their design transforms an unused schoolhouse into a community center with three distinct parts: a multipurpose room in the former two classrooms, a youth space in a garden, and meeting rooms in the original teachers’ house.
Urban decay. Gizmodo’s urban photography competition last week yielded beautiful, haunting images of decaying architecture, infrastructure, and other city spaces taken over by nature. More info on the grand winner and a photo gallery here.
Lunch as art. As part of the exhibition Time/Bank: Time/Food at the Abrons Arts Center in New York City is hosting a temporary restaurant, where artists will prepare home-style meals for gallery visitors, reported e-flux. Part of the Time/Bank program, participants are awarded credit in exchange for skills and time.
Greener buildings. Barclays and Lockheed Martin intend to invest up to $650 million in green upgrades for Sacramento and Miami buildings, utilizing a tax loophole that enables property owners to upgrade structures at no preliminary cost. The New York Times has more.
Solar sintering. Student work from the Royal College of Art exhibited at the London Design Festival explored the connections between energy and design. One student chose to examine the relationship between manufacturing and nature, creating a “Solar Sintering” machine that uses sunlight to power a 3D printing process. According to core77, the machine converts sand into a glass-like substance.
“Draped” trains. Inspired by the decadence and glamour of early train travel, Carlton Varney, president of Dorothy Draper & Co., designed interiors for the Greenbrier Presidential Express cars. The train is slated to have its first run from Washington D.C. next July to Greenbrier, North Carolina, for guest of the Greenbrier Resort. More at Editor at Large.
Street math. In an effort to freshen up their brand image, the DOW recently posted a “chalkboard” billboard displaying a mathematical equation on a building at the corner of Broome and Crosby streets in Manhattan. According to PSFK, the solution tells the story.
Basketful of rain. An art installation along the Erie Canal Harbor Central Wharf in Buffalo, New York called Fluid Culture examines the impact of globalization on water. One piece in the exhibition, Rain Baskets, repurposed everyday items such as umbrellas, hoses, and rugs to create a rainwater harvesting system reported Buffalo Rising.
Closing Time. Seventy historic state parks across California are slated for closure this year due to budget cuts. The Los Angeles Conservancy has more information on the parks, five of which are in the Los Angeles area, including Los Encinos State Park and the Antelope Valley Indian Museum State Historic Park.
Scary Design. The art, literary, and film magazine Zeotrope: All-Story, founded by Francis Ford Coppola, has invited Rodarte fashion designers Kate and Laura Mulleavy to design the Fall 2011 issue. The theme is “Horror,” where artists, designers, writers, and other contributors explore the scary, the Gothic, and the sublime. More info at Zeotrope.
Broad-casting. Can’t get enough Diller Scofidio + Renfro? Now you can watch the construction of DS+R’s Broad Museum in Los Angeles 24 hours a day on a live camera feed that allows viewers to track construction progress and view high resolution photography taken every 15 minutes. The museum is expected to be completed in 2013. Via the LA Times.
Tourism and The Met. The Met Press Room shared that their summer 2011 exhibition season, including the enormously popular “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty” show, brought in $90.8 million for New York City. “Using the industry standard for calculating tax revenue impact, the study found that the direct tax benefit to the City and State from out-of-town visitors to the Museum totaled some $90.8 million,” according to the Met. Sixty-eight percent of museum visitors were not from New York City and stayed for an average of five days.
Living letters. Typeface designer Ruslan Khasanov created a liquid typeface by inking letters onto a porcelain sink and photographing their movement as they slid down the drain. The white on black animated GIFs reveal letters that strangely resemble those amoebas we studied under the microscope back in high school bio. More at Co.Design.
Great cities for 20 somethings. Recently graduated? Looking for a creative, liberal-minded, inexpensive city with low unemployment? GOOD magazine has published a tally of top cities for young adults. Austin, Philadelphia, Detroit, and Washington D.C. garnered top spots.
Weaving futures. The future of weaving: Austrian designer collaboration “mischer’traxler” has fused art and technology in their latest invention, a machine that weaves depending on how many people are watching. Sensors located on the basket weaving frame detect how many people are standing nearby, adding different colors per person. Co.Design called it “passive interaction.”
Show me the shoes. For shoe company Shoesme, Dutch designer Teon Fleskens has designed a flexible, interchangeable shoe display system, according to Contemporist. The main element, large white dice, can be stacked and rearranged to various table and counter-level heights and can also be used for seating.
New York vs. Paris. It seems that the Big Apple and The City of Lights are forever battling over design, architecture, fashion, and film. A Parisian graphic designer decided to take matters into his own hands, creating a website to display his witty color-block graphics that juxtapose these iconic cities. Topics are eclectic, ranging from landmarks (the Empire Sate vs. the Eiffel Tower), to architecture (5th Avenue Apple Store vs. Musée du Louvre), to food (cupcakes vs. macarons), to even car parking styles (parking lot towers vs. double parked). More at the NY Times T Magazine.
Oil from plastic. Energy company Vadxx has invented reactors that can transform plastic scraps that can’t be recycled into crude oil with the lowest sulfur content in the world, says Good Magazine. The first reactors are slated for a recycling plant in Akron, Ohio. However, this begs this question: will the amount of crude oil created offset the amount of energy needed for the conversion process?
Basket lights. A New Zealand designer, David Trubridge, has infused his lighting with the spiritual–looking to a Maori creation myth for design inspiration, writes Contemporist. The Maori believed gods gave humans three baskets of knowledge. Trubiridge designed three corresponding teardrop ceiling “baskets”: the bamboo light represents knowledge of the natural world, the polycarbonate light symbolizes knowledge of the spiritual world, and the aluminum basket signifies knowledge of the rational world.
Water Names. Is it a creek, a stream, or a cañada? Looking for patterns behind different names for American waterways, graphic designer Derek Watkins created an infographic that plots more terms for water than we’ve heard of revealing the cultural geography of language. More at Co.Design.
Pop-Up Religion. In February, an earthquake destroyed Christchurch, New Zealand and now Shigero Ban has been invited to design a temporary church for the city. His design takes cues from his popular Paper Dome Church that once stood in Kobe, Japan, incorporating recyclable materials such as “cardboard tube buttresses” and shipping crates in the foundation. Gizmodo has details.
Architecture + fashion. Fashion Week in New York is quickly approaching, and we’re excited about the second annual Building Fashion event, taking place this year in our headquarter neighborhood of TriBeCA. Five architecture teams are collaborating with fashion designers to create original temporary installations for couture design.
Mapping Disasters. In and around New York City, we were fortunate Tropical Storm Irene created little more than flooding, fallen trees, and electric outages, and that last week’s tremors left no damage in the city. If these rare northeast natural disasters are getting you down, perhaps it’s time to consider moving to the safest place in the U.S. to avoid natural disasters? A NY Times infographic hasfound just the place: Corvallis, OR. Cities in Oregon and Washington state top the list, while areas in Texas and Arkansas have the highest risk of earthquakes, hurricanes, droughts, and tornadoes.
Standing up to Earthquakes. Many of the east coast’s 19th century masonry buildings are not built to withstand a strong earthquake. How do those California skyscrapers withstand the west coast’s dangerous, powerful tremors? Gizmodo featured an array of earthquake-tech such as tuned mass dampers and roller bearings allow tall buildings to move with the earthquake and absorb shock.
Melancholy Utopia. The end of summer and beginning of fall will bring a flood of design events in European cities. Among them, more than forty designers will descend on Rotterdam on September 3rd to showcase their work throughout the city. The theme is Melanchotopia, an examination of the connections between melancholy and utopia, mourning and hope, said e-flux.
It’s a printed airplane! The printed aircraft has arrived. Researchers in the UK created the first 3D-printed electric-powered airplane. Core77 explained that 3D printing was originally developed for the US Navy (to eliminate excess parts) making repairing damage easier.
Red light, green light. For Mayor Bloomberg, safety is paramount. He even believes there should be red light cameras at every New York City intersection. At a recent conference, he cited economic reasons: the city cannot afford to have cops on every corner. Check out the Mayor’s comments at Transportation Nation.
Bharadvaja’s Twist. A hybrid architecture firm and yoda studio called Arte New York is… stretching… their space in the garment district, adding an additional 15,000 square feet according to Crain’s. The firm’s new space will include a wellness center for the community.
The labyrinth. Beginning September 12th, the Centre Pompidou-Metz in France will present Wander, Labyrinthine Variations, an exhibit exploring the development of labyrinths through a variety of mediums including architecture, art, film, maps, as well as archeological findings. More at e-flux.