SticKs: A Kindergarten in the Park

Appropriately titled “SticKs”, this modern wooden modular structure is French architectural design firm Djuric Tardio’s vision of a miniature kindergarten. Shaped like a modern rendition of the tipi, the designs are meant to be installed in parks throughout the Parisian metropolis. “Why build kindergartens in city parks?”, you might ask. Djuric Tardio created the design in response to a lack of quality kindergartens in Paris, a problem compounded by the city’s prohibitive permitting requirements. Djuric Tardio have proposed building a series of similar three-story low-impact “nurseries,” as the studio refers to them, that will each support the care of up to twelve children.

Each SticK will be built in a park, taking advantage of a public space that is generally unused during the weekday, when the rest of the city is at work. According to the studio’s design, each nursery will include bio-climatic technologies to promote energy efficient climate control. The large windows and spacious rooms will take advantage of natural lighting. The first story of each structure is primarily a reception and kitchen area. The second is used for teaching and play-space. The top of the structure is an open-air terrace for people to enjoy. The simple, low-impact design is intended for easy, low-cost mass-production, and you can certainly argue that the structure would be quite interesting to see tucked away in a city park. On a more poetic note, urban children will be given the opportunity to make some of their earliest memories among these pockets of nature.

Djuric Tardio via Inhabitat

The Bubble Tent Hotel Beneath the Forests of Bouches-du-Rhone

I find it impossible to look through images of Bubbletree’s pop-up tents and not think of a human-sized snowglobe. First designed by Pierre Stéphane, these sometimes completely transparent and sometimes slightly opaque bubble tents offer a very unique way to travel, providing a vision of the night sky as you lounge in your shelter.  They are even being used to make an entire hotel in France. The Attrap’Rêves Hotel, located outside of Marseille, consists of a collection of these unusual tents that have been scattered in the forests of Bouches-du-Rhone, giving visitors the opportunity to sleep beneath the beautiful trees.

Bubble-Tent-Outdoor-Hotel-FranceThe bubble tents, which were first designed as a way for campers to explore nature without leaving a negative impact on the environment, are only about 13 feet in diameter. Their small size makes them relatively easy to pack up and tot away. While the Attrap’Rêves Hotel is not exactly roughing it outdoors (the tents come with comfortable furniture and during the warmer seasons, guest can choose spots with jacuzzis), the destination is certain to be a unique experience that puts you right into nature.


Source: Attrap’Rêves Hotel via KNSTRCT

The images here are copyrighted to Attrap’Rêves where stated.

A Tiny Electric Camper Car

Golden Gate Camper

This tiny little camper is designed and built to allow the user to remain self-sufficient while roaming the country. Know as the Golden Gate, this electric camper was built by San Francisco artist Jay Nelson (the elegance and aesthetic of the vehicle should give away that it was an artist’s work). Constructed from a couple of electric bikes and a combination of plywood, epoxy resin, and fiberglass building materials, this tiny home on wheels is equipped with a sink and stove for cooking, a toilet, and a bed. I assume it is a very small bed.


To steer the Golden Gate, the driver has to sit on the floor of the camper and control the vehicle using the wooden steering wheel. Considering the power driving the electric camper is coming from a couple of electric bicycles, it is not surprising that it has a range of less than 10 miles. Unless you plan to live out of the Golden Gate, don’t expect this little electric camper to carry you very far from home. Honestly, you would probably be better off just riding an electric bicycle. Those things have a range of 20+ miles.

TinyHouseListings via DVICE


A Beautiful Wooden Bicycle

Created by designer Jan Gunneweg, this sleek bicycle is made from solid maple wood (only the handlebars, adjustable seat mount, spokes, pedals, and chain are metal and though the wheels are brown, they are still rubber). I never could have imagined a wooden bicycle looking as elegant and well-crafted as this. The smooth frame and the unique asymmetrical wheels create a distinct style. I’m not sure I would really be comfortable using a piece of art for daily commutes though. I would be too worried about the unavoidable bumps and scratches of day to day use.

Jan Gunneweg via NotCot

The Airdrop Responds to Declining Water Resources

Water resources are quickly declining around the world and with the global population reaching 7 billion, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise.  Desertification continues to diminish arable land and farmers are being put out of business as their crops dry up.

But Edward Linnacre, an Australian engineering student who recently won the James Dyson Award for creativity in engineering design, has a low-tech solution to the problem.  The Airdrop, Linnacre’s brainchild, will harvest moisture that has evaporated into the air, feeding it into irrigation systems for farms in desperate need of water.

Using a turbine that sticks out from the earth, the Airdrop collects air, sending it down into the earth where it grows cool and condenses, forming liquid.  The water is collected in a belowground tank and later sent up to the surface using a low-pressure irrigation system.

So how much water does this gadget generate?  The small-scale prototype Linnacre installed in his Mom’s backyard harvested about 1L (about 4 cups) per day.  That might not sound like much, but a large-scale system would vastly increase water outputs.

Linnacre explains in this Dyson Awards video, “There’s just an abundant resource of water in the air that surrounds us, even in places like the Negev desert in Israel, which is one of the driest deserts on the planet… All you need to do is reduce that air down to a certain temperature and you release that moisture.”

It’s the Airdrop’s simplicity that is especially intriguing.  According to Linnacre, it doesn’t take an engineer to set up, meaning that a farmer living in the Imperial Valley wouldn’t have a problem with installation.

Let’s hope the Airdrop makes its way onto the market in the near future!

Airdrop via GOOD


Visual Language for OCCUPY

No matter one’s opinion of the Occupy Together movement, one can agree that an effort to make the movement more clear is certainly a positive thing.  Introducing Occupy Design, a new website that provides signage to protestors.  Founded during “Hackathons” hosted in San Francisco, New York City, and Washington DC, Occupy Design connects designers and visual artists with the protest movement in an attempt to form a standardized and coherent visual language.

“These are people who have valid concerns grounded in reality and grounded in data that can be communicated visually,” say Jake Levitas, the current head of the project and a designer from San Francisco. “If we get these signs on CNN instead of the ones that say ‘Screw capitalism’ on a piece of cardboard,” viewers will see “exactly how people are being screwed and by how much. It’s a lot harder to argue with statistics than it is with talking points.”

Through the Occupy Design website, designers can download a design toolkit, which includes a common template and fonts, check out the list of active graphic requests from protestors, and upload graphics they design for the cause.

Additionally, occupiers can download “protest signs” (such as graphics representing income disparities in the U.S.), “logistical signs” (recycling center, bathrooms, etc), and “universal icons” (justice, community, human rights).

Let’s see if the signage catches on!

Occupy Design via GOOD

NYC Green Roof

The green roof pictured here sits atop a few low-rise brick building in West Village, NYC. Designed by Caliper Studio,the rooftop greenscape has turned what would otherwise be a tar roof into a beautiful living space. Not only does the grassy  yard dramatically re-character this NYC studio and apartment with it’s modern retrofit, but the green roof greatly improves the energy efficiency of the space.
A plank path adds functionality to the space and leads visitors through a sculpture garden by Roy Lichtenstiens. Two rooftops compose the space and are separated only by the noticeable change in elevation. If I live in New York, I would certainly love to have such a beautiful green space in such close proximity. The green roof adds an entirely new feature to the apartment while reducing the impact of stromwater runoff on the city’s sewer system and of summer heatwaves on the living space beneath. All in all, a beautiful coupling of form and function.

Passing Cloud: A Journey in the Sky

In truth, this concept design is much closer to science fiction than next year’s great innovation.  Nonetheless, I can say quite confidently that I am not the only person to dream about floating around the clouds. When flying, I always enjoy the moment the airplane first peaks above the clouds and the sun bursts through the windows. The vast expanse of clouds, rising up like fluffy towers, is always an amazing site to see.

New York designer Tiago Barros took his days of staring into the sky and created a beautiful, cloud-like balloon concept. To me, the design, known as Passing Cloud, seems like the meshing of hot air balloons and blimps to create what could be called a floating form of transportation. Occupants are given the opportunity to look out at the world around them and experience the sky from an unobstructed vantage point.  While the Passing Cloud may at first glance be just another designer’s daydream, the concept may also serve as one of the greenest, though probably least practical, forms of transportation.

Passing Cloud is composed of a series of heavy duty balloons that have been connected so as to aesthetically mimic a free forming cloud. The balloons are contained within a stainless steel structure covered in tensile nylon fabric. In this way, the entire series of balloons forms one complete floating unit. The fabric is strong and durable, able to handle large gusts of wind and to move with the air currents.

It ought to be apparent that the Passing Cloud is not meant to be an efficient mode of transportation. Those intending to ride should be prepared to enjoy the journey and put any future plans on hold for the duration of the trip. Once in the sky, passengers would simply sit of the surface of the structure for the entire trip. There would be no set landing time and no precise destination. Once in the air, the Passing Cloud is at the whims of the wind as to where and how fast it will travel.

The design would have no fuel, no motor, and thus no pollution emissions. Withstanding the obvious holes in the engineering and physics behind the concept, the design is a simple idea that shows a youthful creativity and inspiration. The beauty of the Passing Cloud is the experience of the world that it would impart to its passengers and not the place you are trying to get to.

The passing Cloud plan was submitted by Tiago Barros to the Van Alen Institute and the Depatrment of Cultural Affairs of New York for the international “Life at the Speed of Rail” competition. Considering most of the designs at the competition were of high speed rail networks, the Passing Cloud certainly stood out. Though not honored, the design must have been inspiring to see.

Tiago Barros via Dezeen


Rooftop Hydroponic Greenhouse

Imagine going to the supermarket and purchasing lettuce that was grown less than a mile away.  Imagine if that lettuce was grown upstairs?  Imagine how fresh that lettuce would be! New York based company BrightFarms LLC, a rooftop hydroponic greenhouse building company, aims to make those imaginings a reality.

The company is pitching their services to supermarket chains, hoping to convert vacant market rooftops into farm production. BrightFarms would handle the labor and farming expense, including greenhouse design, construction, planting, and harvest while supermarket partners would sign a 10-year contract agreeing to purchase the produce grown on their rooftops.

Because of the proximity of produce production to the place of purchase, crops will be chosen based upon taste and nutrient content rather than the ability to withstand travel across the country.  BrightFarms plans to grow salad greens, herbs, and vine crops such as tomatoes, cucumbers, and squash.  The company’s hydroponic and greenhouse methods mean that plants will be grown year-round.  Additionally these methods ensure less water, energy, and space usage than industrial agricultural systems.

Though the first greenhouses won’t be in production until 2012, BrightFarms has consulted on a demonstration greenhouse at Whole Foods.

Edible Manhattan via GOOD

Dumpster Living

Have you ever thought about living in a dumpster?  Me neither.  But sculptor Gregory Kloehn of Berkeley, CA, thought it would be a great idea!

Kloehn, who received his MFA from the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, CA, has created a one-person livable home inside of a dumpster.  That’s right.  And believe it or not, his little place is rather chic.  With a toilet, running water, hardwood floors, stainless steel appliances, granite countertops, an upstairs lounge, and an attached grill, Kloehn has made this little space livable, even luxurious!

In an era when small, practical homes are increasingly becoming the norm among the eco-conscious, this little dumpster studio appears to fit right in with the times.  But would you really want to live in a space where standing without watching your head is downright impossible?

No matter, Kloehn’s concept is an interesting one and, if it catches on, could usher in a new wave of smaller than small homes.


The Future of Urban Farms

Imagine growing food in a discoteque?  Well, that’s what Netherlands-based company PlantLab is doing, minus the dancing and pulsing beats.  PlantLab uses red and blue LED lights to grow their crops indoors.  Plants only need a small percent of the full light spectrum and PlantLab makes use of this knowledge to the fullest.  While too much light can cause dehydration, less light within limits can actually speed plant growth, leading to higher crop yield.

The PlantLab facility is certainly more than just disco lighting.  The building is climate-controlled, allowing its owners to plant in any season, and uses constant plant data feedback to control light, temperature, carbon dioxide, humidity, and other environmental factors.

The most obvious fault of the PlantLab project is its high costs.  LED lights and climate control sensors are not cheap, and setting up the entire system is certainly no dance in the dark (pun intended).  Scaling this model would require a great deal of financial backing, not the easiest thing to come by in today’s economy.

Additionally, LED lights, like the plants they are growing, need energy too;  perhaps not the most sustainable nor passive method of plant cultivation.

Still, PlantLab is looking to expand to a commercial growing center.  And as for the taste of these disco plants,  “They’re great,” says co-founder Gertjan Meeuws, “They’re better than we’re used to.”

Hopefully PlantLab can find a way to make this project commercially viable so that we all might partake of their groovy plants!

PlantLab via Good

Synthetic Urban Tree to Clean the City Air

When the folks at SHIFTboston decided that they wanted to develop a synthetic urban tree to address urban pollution concerns, they called on Parisians Mario Caceres and Christian Canonico. The design, as described by SHIFTboston, should could serve the air filtering and de-carbonization functions of a tree without the necessity to provide soil and water to keep the system alive. The end-goal of the design is to enable cities to offer the environmental benefits of trees in areas that are otherwise unsuited to support tree growth.  Mario and Christian have shown a knack for innovation and creative thinking in previous SHIFTboston competitions and the pair certainly did not disappoint with their newest conceptual design.

Know as Treepods, these giant glowing structures can help filter CO2 from the air while remaining independent from the city’s power grid. The energy required for the air purification process in provided by solar panels that cover the top and any energy generated by children playing on seesaws around the tree’s base. The CO2 filtration process would take place in the branches of the Treepods through a “humidity swing” process which would release oxygen as a biproduct.

The structure would be composed almost entirely of recycled plastic bottles. Given that the structure would be transparent, you would naturally have to install thousands of LED lights so that it would glow through the night.

It would appear that a good deal of thought went into the generation of the Treepod design, but like most similarly outlandish conceptual designs, it will probably never be built.

SHIFTboston via Inhabitat

Lugo History Museum: A Collusion of Nature, Industry, and Design

When the minds from Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos imagined the landscape of the Lugo History Museum in Spain, they did not want to see a sprawling parking lot. In fact, they did not want to see a behemoth building either. The designers wanted to achieve a unique and energy efficient structure that would celebrate the landscape while still functioning as a museum. The solution was to go underground.

The museum’s parking lot, along with most of the museum itself, is buried beneath the grassy landscape.  According to the architects themselves, “It may well seem awkward to assimilate architecture into landscape, but this is one of the cases in which we would like to think that the relationship between the two is more than a set phrase. We propose a museum-park or a park-museum, which will be linked to the sequence of green areas in the city, hiding the parking areas underground and emerging in a constellation of cylindrical lanterns scattered throughout a continuous green field.” This approach prevents cars from littering the surrounding views and greatly improves the energy efficiency of the Lugo Museum.

And just because much of the building is underground does not mean the designers are going to let you forget that it is even there: weathered steel structures cylinders contrast the rolling green to create a dramatic site. The steel buildings are reached using a spiral staircase that takes you beneath the ground as far as the subterranean parking lot.

The museum’s Visitor Center is situated on a single floor that is illuminated by the large circular courtyards into which it looks. The museum’s outdoor exhibits are wrapped in a thin metal mesh that can be fashion with solar panels and nighttime lighting. The potential for renewable energy along with the energy efficient construction makes the Lugo Museum a model for green design. It is hard to imaging that the site was one a bustling industrial zone.

All images credited to Fernando Alda. More photographs of this project can be found on his website.

All images credited to Fernando Alda. More photographs of this project can be found on his website.

Via dezeen

Juno: NASA’s Jupiter Spacecraft

NASA’s mission to Jupiter just got a bit greener: a solar-powered, wind-mill-shaped spacecraft.  The robotic explorer, Juno, is to become the most distant probe ever powered by the sun. Juno comes equipped with three semi-trailer-size solar panels for its 2 billion-mile journey into the outer solar system. Juno will be launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida on Friday morning aboard an Atlas V rocket.

Jupiter, a planet several NASA spacecraft have studied before, is so large that it could hold everything else in our solar system, aside from the sun. With this probe, scientists hope to learn more about the origins of the giant gas-filled planet.

Southwest Research Institute astrophysicist Scott Bolton, Juno’s principal investigator, said it’s important for people to understand that “NASA’s not going out of business.” Bolton explains that we need to know where we come from and how the Earth works, so space missions need to keep running.

NASA’s long-range blueprint will have astronauts reaching an asteroid by 2025 and Mars around a decade later. It will take Juno nearly five years to reach its target, five times farther from the sun than Earth. There has yet to be a spacecraft powered by solar wings travel as far as Juno will.

Each of Juno’s three wings is 29 feet long and 9 feet wide, which is necessary given that Jupiter receives about 4 percent as much sunlight as Earth. The panels, folded in for launch, extend from the craft much like the blades of a windmill.

At Jupiter, located nearly 500 million miles from the sun, the panels will provide 400 watts of power to the probe. While it is orbiting around the Earth, the panels will generate nearly 35 times as much power.

Juno will circle the planet for at least a year, sending data back that should help explain the composition of its insides. Each orbit will last 11 days, for a total of 33 orbits covering 348 million miles.

The Juno spacecraft will also carry with it 3 Lego figurines in the likeness of Galileo Galilei, the Roman god Jupiter, and his wife Juno. According to NASA‘s website, “The inclusion of the three mini-statues, or figurines, is part of a joint outreach and educational program developed as part of the partnership between NASA and the LEGO Group to inspire children to explore science, technology, engineering and mathematics.”

When  the Juno spacecraft has finally  completed its mission in 2017, it will dive into Jupiter. NASA doesn’t want it to crash into Europa or other moons, possible contaminating them for future generations of explorers.


In the Desert Mesa of Taos, New Mexico

I recently spent a couple weeks as an intern with Earthship Biotecture in the mesa of Taos, New Mexico. Earthship Biotecture (or, as the builders refer to it, “the company”) is a group that builds environmentally friendly and off-the-grid homes and have been doing so for over 40 years now. The homes focus on innovative use of sunlight, water, and reused construction materials. While the project it based out of Taos, homes have been built in all 50 United States.

As an intern, I had the opportunity to get my hands dirt and actively take part in the construction of a home. During my time, we put in the grey water planters in the front of the home, built a retention wall out of glass bottles and cement, installed metal flashing on the corners of the roof, and applied adobe to the interior of the tire wall. All this work was more or less done without construction equipment, with the exception of a little cement mixer powered by the solar panels, a dump truck to haul dirt, and a backhoe to bury the back side of the house. The construction of the homes intentionally relies on manual labor so that the techniques can be replicated in places with limited access to power, heavy machinery, or developed infrastructure. One of the builders told me about a project in China where all the materials for the entire house had to be carried, by hand, a half-mile up a steep hill to the construction site. The road was too narrow for a truck and even too rocky for a mule.

The coolest part of the experience, aside from the mountain views and a 7-hour hike into the Rio Grande gorge, was the chance to see some of the different homes that have been built over the years and the unique character that each develops. While I do not see the Earthship model as the perfect solution to the energy and housing problems we face, the model does attempt to address the many questions of sustainability that the modern city and suburban sprawl continue to ignore. The homes use water and energy far more efficiently than most homes in the U.S. and at a comparable cost to the buyer. Though built in the desert mesa, not a single Earthship home has air conditioning, and they do not need it. Even when it was 90 degrees outside, it still felt like 70 in the interior room of the homes. The character and utility of the Earthships gives them lasting value. The Earthship design may not be able to eliminate utility bills around the world, but it will lessen the stress that human development places on the planet. At this point, that alone is a monumental achievement.

Singing Bridge Adorned with Wind Chimes

Mark Nixon of London studio CZWG has turned a bridge in Aarhus, Denmark, into a gorgeous musical instrument by hanging metal pipes from its underside. A grand total of 600 gold-anodized aluminum pipes, which vary in length from 120 mm to 3750mm,  move freely in the passing breeze, sounding like a traditional wind chime when they collide. The only difference is that this is a church-organ-sized wind chime.

The sculpture, called Chimecco, is a part of this year’s Sculpture by the Sea exhibition, which takes place entirely outdoors. Nixon’s design for a large interactive wind chime was selected as one of the winners of an open competition of over 350 submissions. Visitors are welcome to climb under the bridge and help make your own music with the giant wind chimes.

The brilliant design is based upon three conceptual ideas. The first is the concept of music and interaction as a catalyst for conversation and play. The second is the idea of a non-visual object. The sculpture is ‘hidden’ beneath the bridge. The constant variance in wind conditions on the site cause the sculpture to hide, but also reveal itself through the creation of sound when the wind chooses to blow. The use of interactive nodes on the top creates another interesting effect, allowing passerby’s to become performers and audience members. People visiting the bridge can touch the interactive nodes on its surface to activate the chimes in a controlled order, in essence, ‘playing’ the instrument. The final idea behind the sculpture is the concept of creation through the combined interactions of human movement and natural movement.This is certainly one of those times when concept and creation come together to in a beautiful and engaging piece of artwork.

Via Dezeen