Bomb Trains: Vice investigates the dangers of transporting crude oil by rail

After an oil train exploded in Lac Megantic, Quebec last year. (Flickr / EliasSchewel)

After an oil train exploded in Lac Megantic, Quebec last year. (Flickr / EliasSchewel)

In a new video report, Bomb Trains: The Crude Gamble of Oil by Rail, Vice News investigated the risk of crude oil–carrying trains exploding as they crisscross North America. That isn’t some hypothetical risk that could be realized down the road—it’s already happening. Last summer, forty-seven people were killed when an oil-carrying train exploded in a small town in Quebec, and in the year since, four more trains have gone up in flames in the U.S. and Canada. With so many train lines carrying oil through the hearts of American cities, Vice highlights safety concerns for urban areas and rural alike.

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Allied Works Carves a Winery Out of Cedar

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Allied Works Architecture wrapped Sokol Blosser Winery’s new tasting room in grey-stained cedar. (Jeremy Bittermann)

Allied Works Architecture wrapped Sokol Blosser Winery’s new tasting room in grey-stained cedar. (Jeremy Bittermann)

Textured wood envelope draws on the history and landscape of Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

Sokol Blosser Winery‘s Willamette Valley tasting room, designed by Allied Works Architecture, pays homage to its agricultural surroundings in its massing and materials. Nestled within a set of terraces scooped out of the Dundee Hills, the building plants roots with a below-grade cellar, on top of which its long, low first story spreads like grape vines along a trellis. Both exterior and interior are wrapped in locally-sourced cedar siding—rough grey boards hung horizontally on the outside, smooth clear wood laid diagonally on the inside—whose regularity recalls aerial photographs of the vineyard. “We went with wood for a number of reasons,” explained principal Kyle Lommen. “There’s a history of wood in the agrarian architecture of that region. There’s a history of wood in wineries as well. And there was a desire to create an atmosphere that is warm and had a material quality.” Read More

Michael Van Valkenburgh’s new Toronto park is a stormwater treatment plant in disguise

Corktown Common Pavilion. (Courtesy ARUP)

Corktown Common Pavilion. (Courtesy ARUP)

Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA) has taken its talents up north to Canada with the new Corktown Common park in Toronto. The 18-acre public space—which is part of the burgeoning, 80-acre West Don Lands neighborhood—was created with Arup and developed by Waterfront Toronto, the government-funded corporation spearheading the revitalization of the city’s waterfront.

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Obit> Randall Stout, 1958–2014

Stout examines a model of the Hunter Museum of Art (RSA)

Stout examines a model of the Hunter Museum of Art. (RSA)

Noted Los Angeles architect Randall Stout has died of cancer. He was 56. Stout served long tenures at SOM in Houston and at Gehry Partners in Los Angeles, then went on to found Randall Stout Architects in 1997. The office, which gained large commissions in the United States and Europe, became known for contortions of polished steel and raw stone, and for large, luminous interior spaces intimately connected to their surroundings. Despite these unusual forms, Stout’s buildings were regarded as people friendly and practical.

“Randall was a true architect,” Richard Keating, who worked with Stout at SOM from 1978 to 1986, said. “He understood materials and budgets and made excellent buildings.” Keating attributed this combination to his extended time with SOM and Gehry. “His approach to buildings was to be artful as well as responsible.”  Read More

2014 European Solar Decathlon Announces Winners

Rhome-for-Dencity-house (Courtesy Solar Decathlon Europe/jflakes.com)

Rhome-for-Dencity-house (Courtesy Solar Decathlon Europe/jflakes.com)

The 2014 European Solar Decathlon has come to an end, and the international student competition to design cutting edge solar houses has produced a winner: Team Rhome of Universitá Degli Studi di Roma TRE. Their house, called Rhome for denCity, received a mark of 840.63 out of 1,000 maximum points, edging out the runner-up proposals by a slim margin.

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Sustainability Expert Juan Betancur Talks Integrated Facades

Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture's Federation of Korean Industries office tower. (©Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture/Namgoong Sun)

Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture’s Federation of Korean Industries office tower. (©Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture/Namgoong Sun)

In a high-performance building, argues Juan Betancur, director at Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, the envelope must never be an afterthought. Rather, it should be a material expression of the overall environmental strategy. “The key to what we’re doing with energy and sustainability is: how do the systems become the facades themselves?” he said. “If we make it part of the building, it’s an integrated systems solution.” Read More

Packard Foundation Goes Green With EHDD

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EHDD designed the David and Lucile Packard Foundation headquarters as a model of cutting-edge green building techniques. (Jeremy Bittermann)

EHDD designed the David and Lucile Packard Foundation headquarters as a model of cutting-edge green building techniques. (Jeremy Bittermann)

Net zero energy, LEED Platinum project raises the bar on eco-friendly office design.

For its new headquarters in Los Altos, California, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation put its building budget where its mouth is. The philanthropic organization, whose four program areas include conservation and science, asked San Francisco-based EHDD to design a net zero energy, LEED Platinum building that would serve as a model of cutting-edge green building techniques. “They wanted to achieve net zero in a way that was replicable, and that showed the path forward for others to follow,” said project manager Brad Jacobson. “It was not just a one-off thing, not just a showcase.” The building’s facade was fundamental to its success as an example of sustainable design. “We were surprised at how significant the envelope is, even in the most benign climate,” said Jacobson. “Pushing the envelope to really high performance made significant energy and comfort impacts, and could be justified even on a first-cost basis.” Read More

Green Skyscraper Concept Grows Over Time Using Tenants’ Recycled Waste

Recycled Skyscraper London (Courtesy Chartier-Corbasson)

Recycled Skyscraper London (Courtesy Chartier-Corbasson)

French architecture firm Chartier-Corbasson has hopped on the green-building train with their recently unveiled green skyscraper concept. Renderings of the Organic London Skyscraper show a towering, pyramid-shaped building comprised of panels made from recycled plastic material. But this tower takes a radical twist—it would be built from the trash of its inhabitants and grow over time.

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Dutch Architects Propose Floating Island Made of Recycled Plastic

Recycled Island (Courtesy Design Villa)

Recycled Island (Courtesy Design Villa)

Considering how much trash Baltimore’s solar-powered Trash Interceptor scoops out of the city’s harbor—50,000 pounds a day!—these floating islands made from found plastic waste might just stand a chance. With the support of the Creative Industries Firm NL, WHIM Architecture is developing a prototype of their project, the recycled island, built primarily from recycled plastic waste gathered from the North Pacific gyre and the North Sea.

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Architect proposes a pedestrian bridge in Israel built from discarded shipping containers

3-ecocontainer-bridge-arielsharonpark-yoavmesserachitects-iftahhayner-hagaradmin-archpaper

(Yoav Messer Architects)

There is an ongoing architectural quest to find new and innovative sustainable materials. Some products could appear in the next science fiction film, such as the fungus-grown packaging material by Ecovative. Other materials have been with us for a long time, under guise of other uses. Some products—like the lowly shipping container—have served one function for so long they beg to be reinvented.

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On View> Designing for Disaster at the National Building Museum

Elevate

An elevated model home in Biloxi, Mississippi, designed by architect Marlon Blackwell in 2009 as part of an Architecture for Humanity Initiative, incorporates resilient and affordable design with porch living—an important part of local culture. (Timothy Hursley)

Designing for Disaster
National Building Museum
401 F Street NW, Washington, D.C.
Through August 2, 2015

The National Building Museum’s newest exhibition, Designing for Disaster, will explore how communities assess risks from natural hazards and how we can create policies, plans, and designs that create safer, more disaster-resilient communities. The two central questions that the exhibit addresses are where and how we should build.

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Facade Expert Francisco Gonzalez-Pulido on the Perils of Homogenous Design

Leatop Plaza in Guangzhou, China. (Courtesy JAHN)

Leatop Plaza in Guangzhou, China. (Courtesy JAHN)

According to Francisco Gonzalez-Pulido, president of Chicago-based JAHN, contemporary facade design neglects one of the building envelope’s foremost responsibilities: storytelling. “There is a focus now on using the building massing to convey the key message,” he said. “However, I think it’s through the facade that we can bring a more compelling narrative about how the building functions.” As an example, Gonzalez-Pulido pointed to Mies van der Rohe’s One IBM Plaza, which he can see from his office. “When you look at the mechanical floors, they’re treated differently,” he said. “In the lobby, the glass is different. This is actually the responsibility of the facade—it’s more than a piece of glass and metal to cover the building.” Read More

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