Cool Vernacular: How Regional Ceiling Heights Shape Room Temperatures

[ By WebUrbanist in Architecture & Houses & Residential. ]

Modernism sought to bring a healthy uniformity to architectural design, in part through with clean lines and material minimalism. New technologies like air conditioning also allowed for an unprecedented level of global standardization in terms of temperature-controlled spaces. Of course, this often meant disregarding local traditions that had been successful for centuries (or longer). Among the regional strategies that got lost along the way was a seemingly small but critical factor: the variable heights of rooms humans build and occupy.

As a vernacular design critic who goes by Wrath of Gnon explains, “Before the International Style (modernism) in architecture, our ancestors knew how to adapt the room heights according to the climate, achieving maximum effect (comfort) for the least effort (energy). Today we trust in the grid and so build 8-9 ft rooms from Bermuda to Reykjavik.”

Ideally, the, in warm climates you want higher ceilings because “as hot air rises the difference in temperature at floor level and ceiling level in a tall room can be as much as 4 degrees [celcius] all other things being equal. Here, a comfortable looking gentleman in an 1817 room in Rome,” height around 15 feet. In Brazil, 15-foot homes were typical historically.

Conversely, in colder climates, lower ceilings meant higher temperatures. “Here are log houses from Russia and Sweden. The efficiently constructed fireplace created an interior draught that sucked fresh air in and expelled smoke, dust. Fans or mechanical ventilation not needed.”

In Japan, “with hot summers and relatively cold winters, a different technique was called for. Wooden houses allowed for perfect fine tunings of openings depending on exact climate and orientation. This traditional room built to maximize airflow, livable in summers without AC.”

In short: choosing the right materials, heights and orientations for a climate makes a big difference. “By building with nature and climate instead or regardless of it, by adapting our waking hours to the rhythm of the sun we can achieve remarkable levels of comfort—even superior—compared to what we have today in our modern homes built to international, industrial standards.”

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Gingerbread City: Hyper-Detailed Edible Replica of New York Built to Scale

[ By SA Rogers in Art & Sculpture & Craft. ]

It’s not unusual for architecture enthusiasts to drool over elaborate scale models, but edible materials definitely add an extra dimension to our hunger for accurate miniature details. More than 200 pounds of gingerbread, 60 pounds of royal icing and 10 pounds of gum paste and pastillage went into the making of this holiday masterpiece completed by “gingerbread architect” (it’s a thing) Beatriz Muller for Williams Sonoma.

Currently on display in the window of the Columbus Circle location in New York City, the model recreates some of the Big Apple’s most iconic buildings and scenes, all measured and built to scale, including One World Trade Center, the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, the Woolworth Building and the Statue of Liberty with the Time Warner Center as the centerpiece. “Gingerbread City” stands more than six feet tall and weighs 300 pounds.

Look closely and you’ll spot some authentic details like a gingerbread subway, taxi cabs, tiny people, store windows painted with icing, construction zones, street signs and trash bags along with trees made of rosemary and dill. Muller notes that many complex gingerbread structures are technically edible, but made with altered doughs that are high on strength and durability while tasting like sawdust. That makes it possible to use carpenter’s tools and sanders for easy construction. Hers, in contrast, actually taste good, and the only tools she uses are a small x-acto knife and ruler.

“I make traditional soft gingerbread cookies and not construction gingerbread. Cookies are baked at a lower temperature so they are a little bit crisper but still soft. The secret to building such big and tall buildings with soft gingerbread cookies lies in erecting the right internal  edible structure that will support the soft cookies. I do this by baking gingerbread posts and beams as well as making pastillage beams to support weight bearing walls.”

“The hardest part of building the gingerbread city was designing the buildings as accurately as possible using Google earth as my guide. I was able to find some information on the web regarding the buildings’ general measurements like height and width, but not much else. I used these measurements as my guide to scale down the buildings and a keen eye on the tablet screen to figure out the rest.”

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Tinsel Towns: 10 International HOLLYWOOD Sign Homages

[ By Steve in Culture & History & Travel. ]

The iconic ‘HOLLYWOOD’ sign has loomed over La La Land for almost a century, inspiring overseas wannabes to “sign” up with homegrown copies.

Hurray for HOLLYWOOD signs – may they be fruitful and multiply! And multiply they have, though the “original” itself is a shortened version of a “HOLLYWOODLAND” sign erected in 1923 to advertise an under-construction housing development. As time passed and the sign became symbolic of Tinseltown, municipalities far and wide were moved to stick their own monikers on the nearest available mountainside. The “RASNOV” sign above, situated a little too conspicuously in front of a 13th-century fortress in Transylvania, salutes the rugged region’s recent prominence as a major motion picture filming location.

The above images of the RASNOV sign date from between 2008 and 2010, and were photographed by Flickr members Bogdan Morar, Horia Varlan, and Inmobiliaria Lares, respectively.

BRASOV-wood?

Not to be outdone by its upstart next-door neighbor, the much larger town of Brasov erected its own white-block-letter sign celebrating, er, the rugged region’s recent prominence as a major motion picture filming location.

To Brasovians’ credit, their sign doesn’t intrude upon the scenic view of any medieval castles so it’s got that going for it, which is nice. Flickr members Chris Booth (monkeypuzzle) and ccarlstead snapped the snazzy ‘sylvanian sign while visiting Romania a decade ago.

Moratilla of La Mancha

Less than 100 people live in the quaint Castilian village of Moratilla de los Meleros, according to the most recent census taken back in 2004. Size doesn’t matter when it comes to having a “HOLLYWOOD” sign, however.

Captured in 2008 by Flickr member sécolectivoforzoso, the town also boasts streets dubbed “Hollywood Blvd”, “Sunset Blvd” and “Melrose Ave.” All par for the course since Hollywood and Moratilla became Sister Cities in 2008, prompting the latter to play its part by getting the letters out.

Perth Of A Nation

Is a mountain backdrop really necessary for a HOLLYWOOD-style sign? Maybe not – we see you nodding, city of Perth – but it sure doesn’t hurt. The photo above, taken by Flickr member Michael_Spencer in August of 2006, seems to link the sign with a Red Bull air race held over the foreshore of the Western Australian town.

“It’s only a temporary structure,” noted Flickr member David Fisher (Pgd) in November of 2007 but much like the large, block-lettered “3D TORONTO” sign, Perth’s self-titled homage to all things Hollywood may have grown too popular to remove.

Modest Model

Everything may be big in Texas but here in the model village of Bekonscot, things are smaller than life – and that’s by design. Bekonscot was conceived and constructed by Roland Callingham of Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, UK in the pre-war era and Callingham, who passed away in 1961, is buried there. That’s his memorial stone above, overlooked by the model village’s miniature HOLLYWOOD-esque sign, as captured by Flickr member Matt Brown in July of 2018.

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The Great Wave: Iconic Hokusai Work Splashes Across Moscow Apartments

[ By SA Rogers in Art & Street Art & Graffiti. ]

In Moscow, the iconic “Great Wave off Kanagawa” woodblock print by Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai has reached greater heights than ever before as it breaks across the facades of six apartment towers. The print stretches from one building to the next as it crests and falls, taking up a total of 645,834 square feet.

These towers join three additional buildings to form Etalon City, a new mixed-use complex in the lush residential South Butovo area of southwest Moscow. The other, more irregularly shaped structures feature graphic abstracted silhouettes of Chicago, New York, Barcelona and Monaco, while the six “Great Wave” towers are located along the highway for maximum visibility.

Oversized murals can go a long way toward brightening up an otherwise unremarkable or even drab urban area, especially at this scale. How different would our cities look and feel if more architects and developers made bolder use of color and adornment? Vivid and cheerful architecture is definitely memorable, like these 11 unusually bright towns and neighborhoods around the world.

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Best of the Year: 10 Projects Honored at World Architecture Festival 2018

[ By SA Rogers in Architecture & Cities & Urbanism. ]

When you’re judging thousands of architectural projects from all around the world, even the process of narrowing down the shortlist to 535 has got to be hard. This year, the World Architectural Festival (WAF) had its biggest year yet with submissions from 81 countries, and in November, the shortlisted teams presented their designs to a jury of more than 100 international judges in Amsterdam. More than 35 winners took home prizes in categories like Small Project of the Year, Use of Color Prize, Use of Certified Timber Prize and Leisure-Led Development. Here are 10 standouts from those winners, including the World Building of the Year – see the rest at the WAF website.

World Building of the Year 2018, supported by GROHE: WOHA Architects – Kampung Admiralty, Singapore, Singapore

WOHA landed the top prize with Kampung Admiralty, a cascading complex of greenery bringing public facilities and services together in Singapore. Designed to maximize land use and meet the needs of the island nation’s aging population, the project layers a community plaza, medical center, community park and other healthcare, social and commercial functions along with apartments for seniors. Its lush, elevated green village enhances the quality of life of its residents and enables plenty of cross ventilation and daylight, all on a tight plot of less than a hectare (about 2.5 acres) with a hight limit of 45 meters (147 feet.)

Glass Future Prize, supported by Guardian Glass, WINNER: Studio Gang, Tour Montparnasse / Paris, France

Winner of the Glass Future Prize, Studio Gang’s vision for Tour Montparnasse Tower aims to redesign the French capital’s infamously “ugly” building to transform it into a new 21st century landmark. Not only are the twisting facets of the skyscraper visually dynamic, lending it a shimmering effect, they help shade the interiors and make the structure more resistant to wind. The transparent base of the tower helps blur the boundaries between indoors and outdoors, and it’s full of cascading gardens, open-air markets, shops and spaces for large events.

Landscape of the Year WINNER 2018: Batlle i Roig Arquitectura – Pedestrian Path along the Gypsum Mines, Barcelona, Spain

A dynamic new path cuts through the hillside in Barcelona, leading from a lookout point that gazes out at the city of Igualada to an old complex of gypsum mines below. Designed by Battlle i Roig Arquitectura, the Lookout Path is part of the larger scheme of the Igualada Green Ring, which aims to create a green belt for pedestrians and bicycles around Barcalona’s perimeter. The zig-zagging track includes luminescent concrete paving for a blue-green glow after dark.

Culture – Completed Buildings Winner: Conrad Gargett – The Piano Mill, Stanthorpe, Australia

Australian practice Conrad Gargett won the Culture category with The Piano Mill, a new structure in Queensland that addresses the intersection of architecture’s role in the environment of cultural buildings. “This authentically Australian project celebrates the culture of early colonial settlement in our country, demonstrates an entwined collaboration of art, music and architecture, as well as pioneering music composition,” says architect Bruce Wolf, Conrad Gargett’s Company Chair. The building functions as an art installation, an oversized musical instrument and a “performance machine,” containing sixteen pianos tuned radar blades and sonic periscopes set on elevated balconies around a three-story void.

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Pinecone Treehouse: Naturally Shaped Wonder in the California Redwoods

[ By SA Rogers in Architecture & Houses & Residential. ]

An enormous glittering inhabitable pine cone dangling from the majestic redwoods in Alameda, California could be transplanted to your very own backyard. Built by Dustin Fieder of O2 Treehouse, this highly unusual structure is equal parts sculptural wonder and enchanting getaway with its faceted glass exterior taking inspiration directly from its environment. The Pinecone Treehouse spent much of the last year available as an AirBnb rental, and now it’s up for sale.

Reachable by a ladder that stretches down to the ground, the Pinecone Treehouse features a spacious bed chamber inside and comes complete with a handcrafted indoor/outdoor bathroom connected to the treehouse by a wooden catwalk. Feider’s previous experience building geodesic treehouses clearly came in handy for this project, which takes a similar approach with a few tweaks to produce a classic pine cone shape.

In fact, the Pinecone Treehouse is just the latest of some 40-odd treehouses produced by Feider’s company. O2 Treehouse is known for its dazzling handcrafted structures, including a platform high up in the crowns of the trees in Geyserville, California and a geodesic structure set closer to the ground, built for Robby Krieger, guitarist for The Doors.

Fieder says he started O2 Treehouse “with the intention to inspire people to reconsider how we can more harmlessly co-exist with nature.”

“The Pinecone Treehouse is a space created to tap into your higher self, a space to rediscover your inner calm,” reads the AirBnb listing for the structure. “Cradled by those living giants the California Redwoods, one is invited to live in the vision of their dreams to quiet the mind until they can hear their inner truths, to reestablish a connection with nature and self.”

If you’re interested in making the Pinecone your own, rumor has it that the structure starts at $150,000 plus transport and installation fees that will vary depending on where you live. You can request more info at the O2 Treehouse website.

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Kick Stopper: 12 Sadly Lost & Forgotten Soccer Balls

[ By Steve in Art & Photography & Video. ]

There are few things more poignant than a lost soccer ball, as illustrated by both a charitable Lost Footballs calendar and these 12 emotion-laden examples.

“Ever lost a ball down the park, into a river or onto a busy road? It’s upsetting,” states the Brit-typically understated copy at the Stadiumhoppers site. Since losing the ball pretty much means Game Over, “upsetting” would be putting it mildly to say the least.

While the evocative 2019 Lost Footballs calendar (in aid of the Sporting Memories Foundation) features a dozen photographic depictions of misplace-kicked soccer balls, we thought there must at least a dozen more examples of aching athletic angst out there… and we were right!

Our lead images of an unaccountably (“High Visibility” Orange much?) unaccounted-for soccer ball plus the bonus brightly-colored Brazil-emblazoned ball just above both hail from Cardiff Woods Park in Upper Arlington, Ohio. Flickr member Dan Keck captured the oddly optically-elusive orbs in April of 2018 and February of 2017, respectively. By the way, if you’ve lost a soccer ball in the Upper Arlington area, contact Dan Keck – he’s got a knack for finding ’em.

Booger Kickin’

If a booted ball ends up in, say, Clearwater Creek you’d leap in to retrieve it without a care in the world. Then there’s this free-floating futbal, benignly bobbing away in… Booger Creek. Oh yeah, that ball is gone like the ex-girlfriend who is never coming back, or as Yankees YES Network broadcaster Michael Kay might put it, “SEE YA!” Flickr member Rona Proudfoot (ronnie44052) snapped the now-untouchable sphere near Harmon’s Beach in Lorain, Ohio, in April of 2008.

Rue Britannia

Back we go to merry olde England where things are looking decidedly LESS merry. Flickr member Des Morris (Mr Mo-Fo) was seemingly struck by the enduring pathos of an English National Football Team “Three Lions” ball abandoned in a deep muddy puddle near Eastney, Portsmouth. Looks like Beckham bent it a bit too far.

Bahston Bahl-Yahd

Off to Boston, the “City of Champions” where the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and… the New England Revolution (had to look that one up) go for the glory, cheered on by huge crowds of fanatical fans. OK, three out of four ain’t bad and surely someday the Revs will hoist the coveted MLS Cup. In the meantime, practice makes perfect – just don’t do it in the downtown Boston park above… DOH! Flickr member Paul L Dineen snapped this sign-trolling soccer scofflaw in August of 2006.

Swedish Meet Ball

“Found this abandoned football on a walk. Yeah.” So stated Flickr member Denis Dervisevic in a rather laconic tone back in March of 2012. The photographer encountered the still-serviceable sphere in Skovde, a town of about 35,000 in south-central Sweden’s province of Vastra Gotaland. One might say, it was forgotten in Gotland.

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Dispersed Hotel: Distributed Urban Suites Inspire Exploration of Historic Kyoto

[ By WebUrbanist in Boutique & Art Hotels & Travel. ]

It’s a simple but powerful idea, spreading out and embedding hotel rooms into the urban fabric to give visitors a space from which to explore as well as a place that feels like it’s more part of the city than a monolithic tourist resort. The Hotel Enso Ango features a series of zen-inspired buildings and landscaping in what it boasts as Japan’s first ‘dispersed hotel’ in the ancient capital of Kyoto.

The idea, in part, is to encourage travel between the buildings in the hotel network, both to experience their amenities but also to explore more along the way. In simple terms: it aims to combine the best of staying at a cozy bed-and-breakfast with the benefits of a high-end hotel.

Each unit features courtyard gardens and meditation spaces, aimed at providing a relaxing experience to compliment city exploration. There are also spaces, like a central bar, that are open to the public, offering opportunities to mingle with locals.

The spaces are spread out through key neighborhoods of Kyoto and crafted to be both contemporary while also including local art and craftsmanship. As the hotel grows, it aims to build out additional spaces around the city.

Each building is located within walking distance from the others, as well as from a hotel hub space where the lobby, gym and tearoom can be found, providing an opportunity for guests to mingle, but at their discretion rather than by necessity. Those who wish to can participate in group meditation lessons, tatami craft and runs through historic parts of the city.

“Welcoming visitors is a building which embodies classical Machiya construction featuring a front desk and corridor-cum-gallery space decorated with art by Masanobu Ando. At the end of this corridor, the gallery space opens into a lounge area with a small garden known as Tsuboniwa – a typical feature of Kyoto houses, providing a spot to enjoy nature and relax in the safety of a private space.”

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Subterranean Seashore Museum Buries Art Beneath the Dunes in China

[ By SA Rogers in Architecture & Public & Institutional. ]

Like the chambers of a seashell eroded over time by sand and water, the white hollows of this subterranean museum offer a series of organically shaped spaces tucked beneath the dunes. The UCCA Dune Museum by OPEN Architecture draws inspiration from both children digging in the sand at the beach and the caves that housed humanity’s earliest artworks to create an intriguing complex that interacts with the natural setting.

Daringly set back just a few meters from the water, the art museum along the coast of northern China’s Bohai Bay aims to be “a return to primal and timeless forms of space.” While some might see the development of such a structure in a sensitive natural area as an intrusion, the architects say they chose this location specifically because the presence of the museum will prevent the dunes from being leveled to make way for ocean-view real estate developments, which has already happened along much of the shore.

“A series of cell-like contiguous spaces accommodate the Dune Art Museum’s rich and varied programs, which include differently-sized galleries and a cafe,” the architects explain. “After passing through a long, dark tunnel and a small reception area, the space suddenly opens up as visitors enter the largest multifunctional gallery. There, a beam of daylight from the skylight above silently yet powerfully fills the space.”

The sea, sand and sky join together with the sinuous curves of the building and its ovoid openings to interplay with the artwork on display inside, resulting in a singular experience that simply can’t be recreated when the art travels to different museums. Even varying weather conditions and times of day, with their varying levels and angles of light, alter the visitor’s perception of the art and how it feels in the space.

Walking through the museum’s interiors can feel like navigating a secret network of underground tunnels, and then the contrast of dark and light, under and over, interior and exterior is revealed at the top of a spiral staircase that opens up to the sky. In the near future, a companion museum called the Sea Art Museum will rise from the water itself, visible from the dunes.

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Swim BIG: Artificial Island Supports World’s Largest Saltwater Pool Complex

[ By WebUrbanist in Architecture & Public & Institutional. ]

Now open on the edge of Aarhus, Denmark’s second-largest city, the Harbor Bath project features a main 150-foot-long pool as well as diving and children’s pools, plus a pair of saunas. Naturally, the water is drawn directly in from the surroundings.

Designed by architects from Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) — images by Rasmus Hjortshøj — the complex can support up to 650 bathers at one time. Various pool sizes are elegantly integrating into the tapering form, creating poolside areas as well as swimming and lounging spaces.

Essentially a fake floating island, the structure is further supported by an array of beach volleyball courts, cafes and bars along the adjacent edge of the city.

Future plans call for theaters, hotels, restaurants, shops and more to be developed in the area, making this project a seed or generator of sorts for nearby activity, open all day every day through the summer.

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