New York Schools Receive Funding for Student Gardens

New York City's garden initiative program for schools founded by GrowNYC (Grow to Learn: Citywide School Gardens Initiative) has been awarded $59,044 in mini-grant funding from the Mayor's Fund.  The funds will be split amongst 36 New York public and charter schools to foster garden programs that aim to teach kids the benefits and satisfaction of growing their own fresh vegetables.  This is the second round of funding for the program.  In April 20 schools received the first round of mini-grants.

Participating schools can register to receive a mini-grant of up to $2,000 to help their gardens grow.  The schools can also register their gardens to become eligible for materials and gardening advice from the Department of Parks and Recreation's GreenThumb community garden program.

many of the awarded schools are located in areas highly affected by obesity and diabetes, therefore many of the children at these schools are not provided with proper nutrition at home.  these school gardens teach these kids the beauty of eating and growing their own healthy foods.

Each school's garden is different, ranging from small classroom gardens to larger school yard gardens and participation in local community gardens.  Fruits, vegetables and herbs from the student-grown gardens have also been incorporated into the schools cafeteria menus, sharing the wealth with the entire student body.


Zaha Hadid: Form In Motion

Zaha Hadid: Form in Motion is now exhibited at the Philadelphia Museum of Art through March 25th.  The exhibit highlights the architects product design within a unique atmosphere. This celebrated first female Pritzker Prize winning architect has developed an undulating structure of finished polystyrene with vinyl graphics to display furniture, footwear, and her Z-Car I.

"Hadid envisions the gallery as an active element in the display of her own designs, and will create an immersive three-dimensional environment," said Kathryn Bloom Hiesinger, Curator of European Decorative Arts after 1700.  "She is interested in the interface between architecture, landscape, and geology, and explores the intersection of these elements with a spatial composition that ebbs and flows in wave-like movements, manipulating the viewer's understanding of space with constantly shifting perspectives."

Combining architecture and design, Zaha Hadid: Form in Motion will display an environment of an undulating structure of finished polystyrene with vinyl graphics based on curvilinear geometries.  Exploiting a formal language of fluid movement, Hadid's exhibition design emphasizes the continuous nature of her work, and how the fields of architecture, urbanism, and design are closely interrelated in her practice.


13-Year-Old Makes Solar Power Breakthrough

After studying how trees branch in a very specific way, Aidan Dwyer created a solar cell tree that produces 20-50% more power than a uniform array of photovoltaic panels.  His impressive results show that using a specific formula for distributing solar cells can drastically improve energy generation.  The study earned Aiden a provisional U.S. patent, a rare find in the field of technology and a fantastic example of how biomimicry can drastically improve design.

Aidan measuring the spiral pattern

While taking a hike through trees last winter young Adrian took notice of patterns in the mangle of branches.  His studies into how they branch in very specific ways lead him to a central guiding formula, the Fibonacci sequence.  In the sequence, you take a number and add it to the number before it in the sequence like 1+1=2 then 2+1=3, 3+2=5, and eventually a very specific pattern emerges.  The pattern and its corresponding ratios are reflected in nature in many ways, and Aidan's observation of how trees branch according to the formula lead him to test the theory.

His first step was to measure tree branches by how often they branch and at what degree from each other.  To understand why they branch this way he built a small solar array using the Fibonacci formula, stepping cells at specific intervals and heights.  He then compared the energy output with identical cells set in a row.
 The spiral on trees showing the Fibonacci Sequence

 Aidan studied leaf arrngements

Diagram of tree model that Aidan made with his computer

Aidan's results:  The Fibonacci tree design performed better than the flat-panel model.  The tree design made 20% more electricity and collected 2 1/2 more hours of sunlight during the day.  But the most interesting results were in December, when the Sun was at its lowest point in the sky.  The tree design made 50% more electricity, and the collection time of sunlight was up to 50% longer.

 Aidan building his solar "tree" collector

 The flat panel collector

The two models collecting sunlight


Self Sustaining Vertical Farm for Los Angeles

The Whittier Organic Food center is a state-of-the-art food production testing and learning facility that recently took top honors in the Calvin Family Travel Fellowship.  The project creates opportunities for social sustainability in Los Angeles, leasing areas of the garden and tower green walls to locals for micro-agro business.  Crops are stored for disaster relief, and distribution and sales to local restaurants and school cafeterias, germinating like a seed in the community.  The on-site food bank reaches out to those in need and provides on-site housing for students and trade laboratories wishing to pursue work in urban agriculture.

Designer Daniel Toole analyzed the lack of density and infrastructure within the city of Los Angeles, which presents a myriad of severe urban design problems.  Little rain and high solar exposure create further environmental issues for development.  Whittier will become a catalyst for a new form of Southwestern urbanism, utilizing the land, a small footprint, the sun, and the scarce water supply.


The required large 400,000 ft3 hydroponic ware-house warrants a large amount of site coverage for conventional greenhouse layout.  By flipping the largest program vertically, the higher altitude is utilized for on-site energy generation through increased wind and solar exposure, while the essential function of hydroponics is allowed to happen with natural gravity.


Ultra light weight thin film photovoltaic integrated ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) pillows provide excellent housing for greenhouses as they expand and contract by pumping air through them, controlling high to low insulation values. They are made of high-recycled content, self cleaning, and blow away like flakes in fire, making them highly efficient.  They are tensile and work perfect for rainwater and condensation harvesting with their smooth surface and variable temperature.  Reclaimed wood screens, recycled steel, and high fly ash concrete are all made and fabricated locally minimizing carbon emissions.


Reconstructing Haiti

Over the last 18 months, Trans_City Architecture and Urbanism, has developed a comprehensive plan for the reconstruction of Jacmel, Haiti based upon the concept of satellite cities located at the edge of the existing, earthquake-ravaged city center.  This concept was developed in accordance with the universal design principals of the Housing Reconstruction Framework of the Haitian Government.

The concept includes an urban master plan, and a proposal for prefabricated houses, in which the building shell is industrially manufactured in Austria, and finished by local hand workers.  In line with the content of the project, the architecture does not attempt to be spectacular.  Rather it is the holistic integration of the many levels of an urban system that makes this project interesting.

The urbanism proposes an ecologically sustainable planning for a topographically challenging tropical site. The site has been divided into three basic zones, depending upon their topographical qualities.

1) Steep hillsides, which are not build-able, are to be reforested.
2) Valley bottoms, which are also not build-able due to flash-flood dangers, will be terraces and converted to middle intensity agriculture for local consumption.
3) Ridges and plateaus are inhabitable for the built environment.

An essential objective of the planning was the construction of an affordable, ridge-top road network that linked the built-up areas with each other as well as to the access road Route 204 connecting to Jacmel.  Along these roads, a series of neighborhoods were developed, each with their own school, market and commercial center.  These are in turn linked to a central commercial and administration center adjoining a light industrial district which will house textile shops and hopefully a baseball manufacture, a traditional handwork specialty of Haiti.  Child care, social centers and educational facilities are central aspects of the planning concept.

The spatial structure of the neighborhoods is determined by their topographical conditions.  In the flatter areas the streets are laid out perpendicular to the main street in a classic gridiron system with interspersed green parks; the houses are one-story high.  In the steeper areas the streets track the site contours and are interconnected by a series of planted stairs; the two-family houses are two stories high and offset so that their entries address the terracing of the streets.


Hurricane Proof Housing, Is it Possible?

Hong Kong based architect Ted Givens of 10 Design has recently unveiled designs for tornado proof and hurricane proof housing. With the recent occurrences of rare natural disasters on the east coast, an earthquake and hurricane, it seems appropriate to propose  such a project for urban clustering on a residential scale.

Housing in areas prone to hurricanes is typically elevated above the ground.  However, Givens notes that this fails to take into account the velocity of surge waters and the grinding power of debris.  his solution takes an opposite approach by burrowing the house into the ground with a set of hydraulic levers activated by high velocity winds.  once submerged into the earth, the roof locks to ensure a wind and water tight seal.  Construction of the house utilizes a Kevlar sandwich skin system with clear insulation, which allows for diffuse light to enter through the semi-translucent building envelope.

Givens envisions whole neighborhoods connected through sensors that would be able to safely disappear underground in a matter of seconds in the event of a hurricane.  His Philosophy for this design is to respond to nature rather than seeking to dominate it.

More than just a project existing only on paper< 10 Design is currently developing a prototype with a consortium of ship builders in the United States and Africa.


Museum Or Dipping Dots?

What appears at first glance to be a cube of the famed theme park dipping dots, is actually a concept by James Law Cybertecture for an art museum in Taiwan City. The Art Museum " a building or space for the exhibition of art."

The idea behind this proposal is to create an architecture that becomes as art piece itself.  To create spaces that are unique and flexible. The fluidity and formless spaces is designed to promote movement and interaction.

States of matter are the distinct forms that different phases of matter take on.  Solid is the state in which matter maintains a fixed volume and shape; liquid is the state in which matter maintains a fixed volume but adapts to the shape of its container; and gas is the state in which matter expands to occupy whatever volume is available.

The building is 11 stories high, 77 meters in width, length and height, an almost perfect square.  The program is divided into 3 zones, the contemporary museum, children museum and library, administration zones.  From the 2/F lobby visitors can access either one of these zones.  The northern portion allows access to the 3/F contemporary museum and the special exhibits. The southern portion allows access to the basement library and administration offices and the 3/F children's museum.

The design has a conventional column free structural system.  It is supported by the RC walls at the buildings edge.  The RC wall contributes to the overall thermal mass of the building and provides a continuous surface for the attachment of the "ball" cladding, insulation, and waterproofing.  The trusses would be 2.5 meters deep.  The extra exposed spaces created between the spheres are used to allow light into the museum.  The western and eastern sides have less glazing to block off the sunlight and the northern and southern sides have a larger portion of glazing.

The building form allows for natural ventilation and sunlight through the entrances and atrium spaces.  The stack effect is used to improve the thermal comfort without the use of an HVAC system.  Stack effect is the movement of air into and out of a building driven by buoyancy, effective in semi-open areas. The stack effect is carried out through the light well located at the center of the building.  Rainwater is collected through the facade and roof of the building and the grey water is reused for irrigation and flushing of bathrooms.  To reduce the demand for potable water, the recycling of grey water and rainwater harvesting can be used for non-potable purposes.

PV lamp posts and wind turbines are scattered around the site to promote a more environmentally friendly environment.  To achieve better energy performance, displacement ventilation can be integrated with radiant cooling system.  Radiant cooling refers to any system where interior surface temperatures are lowered to remove sensible heat gain.  Heat is removed through chilled water running through an intricate piping system.


Ultra Sharp Modernism To Cap Off A Dreary Week; Guerrero House

The Guerrero House or Hat House, designed by Alberto Campo Baeza in Cadiz, Spain provides means for a simple lifestyle in the countryside, while still offering enough depth to keep any resident intrigued by the purity of its design.  Completed in 2005, the designer's objective was to build a well-balanced house full of light and shade. Fortress like 26 foot high walls were erected around 108 x 16 foot rectangle and covered the central strip, 30 x 60 feet.  The ceiling of the 30 x 30 foot central square was raised to the same height as the 26 foot high outside walls.  To fill the central space with shade, the void was opened to the front and back, creating 10 foot deep porches that protect the openings from the sun, tempering the light.  On either side of this space are the bedrooms and baths.

In the front courtyard, the entrance to the house, four orange trees mark the central and main axis, flanked by low walls that hide service areas.  In the back courtyard, another four orange trees are simply aligned.  And at the end, carved into the ground, a trough like pond stretches from side to side. The house is a construction of a luminous shadow.