Nature Inspired Design; Taipei Nangang Tower

Designers for the new Taipei Nangang High-tech District Office Tower, AEDAS Beijing Ltd, drew inspiration for this 18 story office building from the shape of river pebbles, developing a unique aesthetic that conveys the idea of softness and elegance as well as strength and character.

Located in close proximity to the Jilong River and a major overpass highway in Taipei, the surrounding environment provided the opportunity to propose a building that will redefine the skyline of this rapidly developing area o Taipei.

The tower has been conceived as an 'incubator of knowledge' where innovative ideas are exchanged and turned to reality.  The rounded silhouette of the north and south facades taper as it gets higher, using a rationalized geometry to optimize construction using straight glass panels.  The enclosed curtain wall harmonizes the outer structure, creating a series of outdoor balconies offering unparalleled views for the users.  The office space has been planned to provide a highly efficient, yet healthy and inspiring working environment.  Span-leveled communal areas have been proposed, incorporating kitchens, coffee shops, small libraries and brainstorming areas; these spaces function together as the 'urban living room', aiming to promote creativity and catalyze the interaction between office users.

The project design is highly sustainable and aims to achieve LEED gold certification.  A breathable building envelope was introduced to increase the flexibility and diversity of the architectural facade, as well as to control the heat gain throughout the year.  The vertical aluminum fins have a calculated distance and depth, managing to control the amount of sunlight coming into the building, assisted by green planters on the west side to provide sufficient shading and effectively lower the interior temperature during the summer.


Carbon Negative Concrete

Material ConneXion, a global materials consultancy, awarded Material of the Year tmo London- based company Novacem's "carbon negative" cement.  This new construction material is slated to change the world of concrete when it hits the market in 2014.

The material functions much like commonly used Portland cement, boasting the same level of performance and the same average cost, however Novacem's concrete mixture uses magnesium silicate instead of calcium carbonates.  Despite the chemistry jargon, the concept is quite simple: the creation of magnesium carbonates from magnesium silicates absorbs carbon dioxide, therefore making the production process carbon negative.  Furthermore, the production process of Novacem's concrete is low-energy, allowing it to be sustained on biomass fuels.

According to Material ConneXion, concrete constitutes the greatest amount of manmade material on the planet.  With the simple change of ingredients, Novacem's concrete will change a means of construction that has become elemental to our built environment from a process that contributes to 5% of humanity's carbon footprint to one that has a negative carbon footprint. This carbon negative cement reduces carbon emissions of poured concrete from 800Kg emitted per ton to 50kg absorbed per ton. The outcome of this innovation is far- reaching, offering new breakthrough in sustainable construction.

The Number House

The Number House is a town house project in Osaka Japan, designed for urban typologies, the concept is designed to be placed anywhere.  Designers at Matsunami Mitsutomo Architects & Associates recommend that the homes be built in at least groups of four so that their contemporary disposition is more receptive in traditional neighborhoods allowing the homes to appear as one cohesive structure.  The homes are a simple creative gestures to spicing up row home typologies.  Great for neighborhoods in transition, designers can whip up any combination of numbers, letters, and geometric patterns to produce a unique concept.


Extreme Schools; Sisli High School

High school is one of the most challenging stages of being an adolescent before we are inducted into the world of adulthood.  Students deal with peer pressure, unspeakable drama, self esteem issues, etc.  There is also positive growth like building communication and social skills that peak in college, or exuding extreme potential and accomplishments in extracurricular activities.  With that said, students need a healthy environment that supports all of these facets of this crucial growing period, and much thought should go into the design of these buildings.

One community in Istanbul took it upon themselves to do just that.  In Sisli, one of the largest and busiest districts in Istanbul with an equally large residential area, residents along with Cem Kaptan Architecture set out to create an environment for students that was protected from the outside world for maximum concentration, but also had a connection to the heart of the urban way of living.

The school structure is divided into three main functions.  Teaching, administration and recreation.  The school entrance was kept spacious and one can access all the areas from there.  The administration area is placed on the ground floor for the ease of access.  The teaching rooms are placed on the upper floors to keep the separate and create a less distracting environment.  To protect the general school experience from environmental noise and visual pollution a more solid and protecting facade was chosen also creating a protected courtyard in the middle of the school structure.

As a design principal, instead of using the classic school section of one corridor surrounded by two classrooms, in this design to optimize the sunlight in classes and increase the relationship of the corridors to the courtyard a more linear cone corridor one classroom approach was used.  In keeping with the designations of zones, support functions such as parking and technical rooms were placed underground.  The other functions are placed above ground and to match the slope of the site, the floors were terraced down resulting also in a sloping roof.

The sports hall and conference hall can be accessed from inside the school as well as having an independent entrance that can be used for after school events.  There is an observation bridge and an activity room where non curricular activities can take place.  The sports hall can be opened up at the front and the outdoor playing area can be used during the summer period.  The library is placed at the top level to create a quiet and comfortable research area.  the reading balconies can also be used when the weather permits.  The cafeteria is placed on the first level and opens up to the courtyard.  The school courtyard has a visual connection to the classrooms and is for students to relax and blow off steam in between their busy school schedules.  It is protected from the outside and can be used by students only.


Philadelphia's Sky Park

Yes, it is time to revisit the long drawn out situation that is the Reading Viaduct Project.  The Reading Viaduct is a old elevated railway corridor formerly operated by the Reading Railroad, closed in 1984, providing passage for trains in and out of Down Town Philadelphia.  The 4.7-acre, mile long viaduct runs 10 blocks through the Callowhill and Chinatown neighborhoods just north of Center City.  The age old question of what to do with the high-line has plagued the city for over 20 years.  Can it be a catalyst for revitalization or will revitalization happen only when it comes down?  The Reading Viaduct would cost $50 million to demolish verses $36 million to retrofit, according to the Center City District.

Great examples in cities such as Paris (the Promenade Plantee) and New York City ( The High Line) answer this question quite simply, invest in unique public spaces and development will follow.  Cities are now recognizing that parks are good for their economies.  They are no longer just pleasant places to visit, they are a strong incentive for people and businesses to move to surrounding neighborhoods, and when great effort is given to design they become a catalyst for tourism and desirable places to frequent by city residents.

Paris Promenade Plantee

Manhattan's High Line park, built on an elevated railway trestle, has become both a symbol and a catalyst for an explosion of growth in the meatpacking district and the Chelsea neighborhood.  Now cities like Philadelphia are realizing they need more well planned public spaces and parks to support and encourage healthy economic growth in all sectors of its economy.  The High Line has taught that renovating and old railway can be the spark that helps improve a neighborhood and attract development.

NYC High Line

The High Line's first and second sections cost $153 million, but have generated an estimated $2 billion in new developments.  In the five years since construction started on the High Line, 29 new projects have been built or are underway in the neighborhood, according to the New York City Department of City Planning.  More than 2,500 new residential units, 1,000 hotel rooms and over 500,000 square feet of office and art gallery space have gone up.  The area around the park has also become a draw for start-ups and creative companies.

The City of Philadelphia and its neighborhoods can benefit significantly from a project of this magnitude. Although small in comparison to its peers, its economic impact and added value to surrounding neighborhoods including northern fringes of Center City would be huge, encouraging residential and commercial development, infrastructure improvements to city connectors, and a pleasant escape just minutes away from thousands of under-served city residents.

Support the project by friending the Reading Viaduct Park on Facebook.


Vending Machines vs. Lunch Ladies?

With childhood obesity a growing concern, Miami-Dade preschools and schools are making it easier this year for students to get a fresh, healthy meal at breakfast, lunch and snack time, too.  An estimated 17 percent of American kids ages 2 to 19 are obese, and the Miami-Dade County Health Department received $15 million in federal stimulus funds for obesity prevention through the Community Putting Prevention to Work program.

Healthy vending machines will be implemented in a few Miami-Dade Schools this fall replacing the need for the traditional "lunch lady".  Students will be getting their school lunches from a vending machine offering healthy food options made from locally grown ingredients that have been approved by local celebrity chefs like Michelle Bernstein (of Michy's and Sra Martinez) and Frank Jeannetti (of Essensia at the Palms Hotel & Spa, Miami Beach).  The machines will offer everything from yogurt parfaits and fruit cups to Caribbean wraps.

Star Food Healthy Express machines will be installed in 45 high Schools and 10 middle schools throughout the county after a successful test run last spring.  Students simply type in their ID number, and the money is taken out of their lunch account.  Those who receive meals through assistance programs will also be able get food discreetly without being singled out in the lunch line.  The Miami-Dade Department of Food and Nutrition released a report of last springs trial run stating that the students like the healthier options very much and the staff and administration were very happy with the changes they saw.

Perhaps after the expansion of machines into more schools this year, and studies are released, more counties across the country will consider instituting this revolutionary program in their school districts.  Inner city youth across the country suffer greatly from unhealthy eating habits in and outside of school, and, programs such as this can revolutionize Americas eating habits, starting by influencing our youth.


Central Delaware Overview Gets High Approval

Tuesday the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation President Tom Corcoran gave the planning commission a detailed presentation, highlighting an assortment of new public parks every half-mile, mixed use residential development, new or improved connections between the river and its neighborhoods.

The plan calls for first focusing on areas where publicly owned land could be redeveloped quickly, such as Pier 53/Washington Ave, Penn's Landing and the Festival Pier.  Planners believe that public investment at these sites will spur private development nearby.  There is already evidence of this trend at Race Street Pier, as the Philadelphia Live Arts/ Philly Fringe has purchased an old pumping station that it plans to turn into its headquarters and a year round entertainment and dining venue.  Interest has already been shown in it neighbor at Pier 9.

The last area Corcoran described, in the northern reaches of the stretch from Oregon to Allegheny avenues, would likely be developed late in the 25-year plan.  This area which includes both the Conrail and Anderson sites, would contain open spaces, but would also have a good amount of flexible industrial space, where green industry, light manufacturing, distribution and other compatible uses would take place, similar to what is happening at the Navy Yard.


Discussions and concerns are now focused of job creation and connecting residents and potential employees to areas such as South Port, the Navy Yard and future retail along the corridor.  The full draft of the master plan is posted on the DRWC's Master Plan website, and the public comment period is open through August 25.