When I was working on a now cancelled socially conscious news show, I was responsible for producing a few segments that were high tech shows-and-tell that showed how technology can benefit the developing world. This meant that I was constantly trolling design websites to find objects like Yves Behar’s Kernel Diagnostic and Olafur Eliasson’s Little Sun, doing my best to get my hands on them to share. This was often a difficult, frustrating task but the results were always remarkable.
This has left a special place in my heart for design projects with good intentions, ones that seek to offer solutions through creativity. While reading Wired recently, something caught my attention that certainly fit into this world and, thankfully, I don’t have to worry about flying a prototype out to Los Angeles: Architecture and Vision has created a “water tower” out of bamboo that extracts water from the air, harvesting the resource for those in dry environments. It’s a novel idea executed in an exceptional way.
The tower—which they call WarkaWater, after the Ethiopian Warka tree—is composed of bamboo poles wrapped in a thin mesh net that catches water from rain, fog, dew, etc. It all funnels into a water tank and, apparently, it can collect almost thirty gallons of water a day. It requires no electricity, requires less than a grand to build, and is even designed to keep birds away.
The project is literally huge and has gone through many design incarnations, their most recent being the most viable, useful effort. Yet, like many designs for social good, the funding for clever projects like this is quite minimal and the creators have turned to Kickstarter for funding. They’re raising money through mid-February and, if successful, they should be able to start more serious testing of the tower this year—and they hope to employ the towers in Ethiopia in the next three years.
New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman takes the design and concept of the new World Trade Center building to task, disappointed by the lack of vision for such an important New York building/monument.
Instead, the building, built as if on a dare to be the tallest, required unprecedented fortifications at astronomical costs, on an immensely difficult site. Mr. Childs faced a nearly impossible task: devising a tower at once somber and soaring, open and unassailable, dignified but not dull. He envisioned an elaborate antenna and a tapered base. Both ideas were vetoed, among much else. The building didn’t end up exactly as the architect pictured it. Few buildings do. I’m not sure that the differences are what tipped the scale.
Uninspired and more like a bank vault than a space for culture to thrive. As Kimmelman rightly points out, this “idea was brushed aside by the political ambitions of former Gov. George E. Pataki of New York, a Republican, and the commercial interests of Larry Silverstein, the developer with a controlling stake at the site, among other forces pressing for a mid-20th-century complex of glass towers surrounding a plaza.” Missed opportunity.
Almost 20% of the total area of the Netherlands is water, with many parts of the county reclaimed from the sea through an extensive system of dykes that date back as far as medieval times. For this reason, the Dutch have always had a fairly special relationship with water. You can see this in so many aspects of what they do, from amazing bridges to beautiful public ponds, their unique appreciation for lakes, rivers and the sea has always lead to interesting work.
I recently came across this wonderful recreational island home by 2by4 Architects and quickly feel for its simplistic charms. Completed in 2011, the home offers an ideal rural getaway that boasts large glass walls and a slide-away wall that opens up directly onto the water. It looks like the perfect place for an outdoor retreat.
Found on a man-made island on the Dutch lake of Loosdrechtse Plas, the home is designed to be completely customized depending on the owners needs. On warm days the northern facade opens towards the water, turning the wooden floor of the living room into a jetty. On winter days the home looks just as good, offering a freestanding fire to snuggle up to as you look out over the countryside.
While only 100 meters in size, the home still looks quite spacious and comfortable with a shower, toilet, kitchen, closets, storage and other functions are all integrated into a double wall. It all looks perfect!
Hat tip to Dwell for the discovery. You can see more images of the home on 2by4 Architects’ website.
If you think of Sweden I’m sure you can think of a lot of great things. Maybe it’s their fantastic contribution to the world of pop music; maybe you prefer their existential cinema or perhaps you’re simply salivating at thought of their delicious meatballs? Either way, as a country, Sweden has done pretty well for itself. For me, I like to think of two things: flat pack furniture and summer houses. For too long these icons of Swedishness have stood apart, but they’ve finally been combined thanks to this ingenues project by Jonas Wagell and Sommarnöjen.
Dubbed the Mini House 2.0, the project is a prefabricated cabin concept that can be delivered flat-packed and typically takes only two days to construct. A collaboration between the Swedish manufacture Sommarnöjen and the designer and architect Jonas Wagell, the modules comes in various layouts and can be configured to include a kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and living space.
Developed in a range of sizes, the first two models are 15 square meters in width and length. As I said, they come with a range of interior solutions and are constructed with high quality wood. Each cabin is fully insulated and includes electricity and interior and exterior painting.
Not only are they a great idea but they also look great. You can see more from this project on its website.
Located in the beautiful surroundings of Japan’s Kansai region, Scape House sits on a hillside overlooking Biwa-ko, the country’s largest lake. With so many houses nearby it was important that this building could make the most of its view without opening itself up too greatly to the neighboring homes. Designed by Kouichi Kimura Architects, this recently completed home aims to incorporate as much light and scenery as possible through versatile living spaces and windows while still allowing its homeowners a sense of privacy.
While it seems that the focus of this project was very much based around creating a home that was comfortable, private and rich with versatile spaces, I have to say that I find the building’s sober exterior to be particularly striking. It’s slender, almost Tetris-like, shapes form a distinct look and its combination of different greys add variety and texture to a bold exterior.
You can view more images from inside Kouichi Kimura’s Scape House here.
Located in the quite hamlet of Remsenburg near New York’s Westhampton, Barn House is a beautiful home renovated from a faux barn that was originally built in the 1980s. Today it stands as the weekend home of Le Pain Quotidien CEO Vincent Herbert and his family.
Designed by Herbert’s close friend – the interior architect Francis D’Haene of D’Apostrophe Design – the project seems to have been a real passion project for the client and designer, with D’Haene mixing old and new to excellent effect.
I love the rustic charm on the outside of the home. D’Haene seems to have really wanted to maintain this and even added wood salvaged from a 200-year-old Canadian barn to add to the personality of the outside. Inside is a different story all-together. Almost nothing from the original interior was. Low-ceilings and dated surfaces were quickly scrapped and replaced with an interior which pares everything back to the bare essentials. It makes for a great interior and I would certainly love to spend a couple of long-weekends in this wonderfully minimalist retreat.
Modulorbeat’s One Man Sauna is a wonderfully strange construction found near the German city of Bochum. The work forms part of a research lab project called Borderlands which the architects have been working on since 2012. Borderlands examines the border and transit spaces of the city and attempts to see what role architecture can play in the development of these spaces.
This One Man Sauna is located on the site of an old abandoned factory and stands at nearly 25 feet. Built from old building shafts, the sauna consists primarily of three stacked pre-cast concrete parts. These form three different unique layers on the inside: a plunge pool at the bottom, a sauna on the middle level and a relaxation room and viewing area at the top.
Go check out Modulorbeat’s website for more exciting work.
Architectural firm Bates Masi + Architects LCC have had roots in New York City and the East End of Long Island for over 50 years. Recently they completed this stunning family home in Amagansett, New York. If anyone knows the area, they’ll know that it’s a popular destination with tourists and features a bustling resort town as well as a number of celebrity homes.
One of the key considerations for this property was to shelter it from the noises of the near-by village. The architects say that their interest in the building’s acoustics was what drove the form, materials and detail of the house. From the outside, it initially looks windowless, with large concrete walls that are nearly 20″ thick. These provide excellent insulation as well as great protection from the sounds of the village.
Inside the home looks bright and spacious with a particularly beautiful living-and-dining space. Its use of different woods makes this area feel relaxing and comforting and its large window opens up to the rear of the property to reveal a garden and pool.
“The research of sound and how it affects our perception of space informed the details, materials, and form of the project” say the architects. “This approach to the design led to a richer and more meaningful home for the family.” I think the finished house looks beautiful, and I’d happily except an invite to come stay-over from whoever its new residents are!
More work from Bates + Masi Architects can be seen on their website.