The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

The new National Museum of African American History and Culture will rest on the Washington Monument grounds, joining the ranks of historic monuments and buildings that have graced our National Mall for decades.  The museum will maintain a subtle profile in the landscape with more than half the building below ground, supporting five levels of program above.

Lead designer David Adjaye of Adjaye Associates set out to create a compelling conceptual resonance within America's deep and longstanding African heritage while also connecting with both the site and its natural surroundings.  The basis of the design is firmly rooted in a trifecta that binds and informs the overall design.  The building is configured in a corona shape that forms the solid potion of the building adopting the 17-degree angle of the capstone of its neighboring Washington Monument, paired with an extending porch that merges into the surrounding landscape.  The entire building is wrapped in an ornamental lattice that is a historical reference to African American craftsmanship.  The density of the pattern is modulated to control the amount of sunlight and transparency filtering into the interior.

Inside, visitors will be guided on a historical and emotional journey, characterized by vast, column free spaces, a dramatic infusion of light and a diverse material palette comprising pre-cast concrete, timber and a glazed skin that sits within the bronze lattice.  Below ground, the ambience is contemplative and monumental, achieved by the triple height history gallery and symbolized by the memorial space, bringing light diffused by a cascade of water into the contemplative space from the grounds above.  The museum is expected to open in 2015 costing approximately $500 million.


Konzeption Haus; Bottega+Ehrhardt Architekten

Konzeption Haus, located in Stuttgarter Killesberg, Germany is a contemporary mini mansion nestled in a traditional Mediterranean styled neighborhood, cladded in a contrasting black aluminum skin that gives it prominence in its sand colored oasis.

Designed by Bottege+Ehrhardt Architekten and GmbH Architecture, the 4 bedroom 2 bathroom home was designed for ultimate functionality with an open plan and walls of windows to take advantage of great views and natural light.  The center of the home where the circulation is located is paired with a skylight coating the interior with sunlight, cutting down energy cost and allowing for natural ventilation throughout the home.


Cafe Bridge; Amsterdam

Laurent Saint Val designed a habitable pedestrian bridge that also accommodates a cafe/restaurant,  shops and other public amenities for a competition calling for new bridge ideas for Amsterdam.  Proposed for the year 2012, the wood and steel structure was designed to reach a maximum height of 24 meters distributing facilities on 4 floors.  Wood, an unlikely choice of material in modern day bridges was chosen to pay homage to the fires of 1421 and 1452 which caused the city to forbid the use of wood in construction.  Wood not only is pleasing aesthetically but is too sustainable, flexible and ecological.  Steel and aluminum will be used to provide greater strength and bear the weight of the bridge.

The gateway will be easily accessible by all and will create an attractive link between the museum and the neighborhoods promoting a cultural exchange.  The building is a site-sensitive form with an adjustable roof and facade able to optimize daylight and protect from the elements.  Adjacent to a bike shop, the project contains ample bike parking promoting this eco-friendly transportation method.

Origin; United Visual Artists

Designers at United Visual Artists (UVA) developed in October of 2011 a project called Origin, an exploration of a large-scale responsive LED sculpture meant to explore our society's acceptance of a technocratic life form.  The installation was erected between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges on the shores of DUMBO in the Tobacco Warehouse.  The 10m X 10m cube of light both disrupted and reflected the city, eliciting from those who entered its realm.  Visitors experienced the structure in any way their curiosity lead them.

The cubic lattice is composed of 125 two-meter cubic spaces mounted with linear LED strips, allowing it to emit varying light patterns in all directions.  Music was also infused by a network of speakers emitting bass and treble generating real-time loud ominous sounds from a new original score by Scanner.


Heads up 2012!

In an attempt to urge the public about the urgency of the world water situation, which affects the United States as well as other parts of the world, data from NASA satellites about the level of groundwater reserves around the world is on display in Times Square.  Celebrating World Water Day, Dutch designer Richard Vijgen was selected to design the display spread out over 19,000 square feet of billboard space. The 30 second display called "Visualizing Seasonal and Long-term Changes in Groundwater Levels" is the winning entry of the inaugural Heads Up! visual design competition.

HeadsUp! Nasdaq Screen from Heads Up! 2012 on Vimeo.

The data was gathered by NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) mission, begun in 2002.  Scientist can study fluctuations in the planet's gravity fields to determine groundwater levels in various locations.

An Evolution in Heating Buildings Has Arrived

Los Angeles based OriginOil, specializes in converting algae into fuel, an innovation that can be life changing for the energy use of buildings. They are working on developing a pilot for an urban algae farm concept that would use wastewater to help grow algae, which is then used to generate energy, also treating the wastewater in the process.

OriginOil launched a pilot program testing out the farm at the La Defense complex near Paris. Using the RT 2020 sustainable energy framework, the French government mandated that new commercial buildings must purify or recycle water, and they must also produce more clean energy than they consume.  Installation of heat-generating toilets is suggested to achieve both goals.

Algae has the ability to absorb both CO2 and pharmaceutical chemicals, which are often discarded in wastewater, and can't be treated by conventional sewage treatment plants.  By using flat panels the photobioreactors can be incorporated into vertical surfaces, which would be perfect for the exterior of tall urban high-rises.  For every unit of power produced, you also generate up to four units of heat.  This innovative heating and waste water treatment method could be a god sent for water departments and  buildings all across urban centers.


Lima Beach House I-5

Vertice Arquitectos designed a spectacular home perched atop a rocky and sandy  hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean at Lomas del Mar beach in Cerro Azul, south of Lima, Peru.  The half circle plot of land reaches 48 meters above sea level and drops steeply 8 meters at its lowest point.  The two main design goals were to exploit the best possible views to the ocean from the public social areas and the aster bedroom, and to make the most of the plot of land.  

To achieve the first objective two parallel volumes were designed, one leaning on the other 1.2 meters higher to obtain views of the sea. The volumes are joined by a main circulation axis ending in a swimming pool overlooking the beach.  the rest of the home is formed by large cantilevers positioned to achieve maximum square footage and optimal views of the surrounding landscape.  These volumes are found left of the entrance of the home where most of the bedrooms are located.  All of the rooms are inter connected in a open flowing plan with all social areas exposing each other in rhythmic form.

The materials used are exposed concrete covered with white paint, stainless steel, tempered glass and granite stone.  The pool is closed by a double faced laminated glass in the external face that permits the same transparency to a view of the sea as the rest of the house.  The homes large white abstract form beautifully contracts with the rocky brown landscape allowing it to be viewed from afar.


The Tea House; Archi-Union

The Tea House, located in Shanghai, China is a concrete dwelling full of personality, with hidden corners and nooks, and undulating and folding walls and ceilings.  Designers Archi-Union attempted to embody harmony by integrating enclosure and openness, breathable and inviting spaces with logical construction and complicated relations.  The plan, reacting to the sites environment and being sure to preserve an existing mature tree, is laid out in an obscure quadrilateral form to maximize space.

It is divided into three parts, a covered public area is formed toward the open space with the pool with an enclosed tea house at ground level and library on the first floor where a small triangle balcony extends around the existing tree.  The more private spaces consist of a lounge, reading room and service room arranged towards the rear of the building.  A transitional space between the private and public spaces was created out of a hexahedron staircase, which connects the functional spaces.  Linear space suddenly changes into an expressive form, surging from the tea house then transforming into a tranquil space for the library and floor above.

President Obama Fights Back at Republican Jabs at his Energy Policy

Lately the Republican Party has had a much to say about the President and his take on clean energy, but much of its has been backed with no credibility or real solution to a pending future energy crisis.  The party has been sending out a barrage of misinformation  about rising oil prices, and global climate change.  Today, at Prince George's Community College in Maryland, the President announced that he was willing to fight for clean energy because he knows that is where the future is headed.

He starts out by pointing out how Republicans are wrong about his stance on opening new drilling leases on United States soil.  He reiterated that his administration is actively making sure production is high.  He also then warned that though his Republican counterparts talk tough on energy, they've got no statistics or plans to back up their lofty promises of $2.50 per gallon gasoline.  The President points out too that there is more oil being produced in America now than any time in the past eight years; and that we've only got 2% of the world's oil reserves.  Therefore how are we able to supply our own crude if we don't have that much of it?  The President believes we can't.

"They dismiss wind power. They dismiss solar power.  They make jokes about biofuels.  They were against raising fuel standards.  I guess they like gas-guzzlers.  They think thats good for our future.  We're trying to move toward the future; they want to be stuck in the past." he outlined.

The President signed off by praising the inventiveness of Americans, that we are innovators, builders, and creators.  Leaving on this positive note, President Obama made good on making sure American viewers are keeping a keen ear to what's being thrown around by both parties and reminding us all on the importance on fact checking.


Plantogon Builds First Greenhouse Skyscraper!

Scientist, Environmentalist, and Designers alike have been dreaming for decades of the day city skylines are decked out with gleaming towers of green, representing mankind's shift to a new age in Urban Agriculture.  Even though we have seen many urban farms sprout up in cities around the world, there hasn't been anything on the level of the "Farming Tower".   Last month Swedish-American company, Plantagon broke ground on one of a series of planned massive skyscraper greenhouses in Linkoping, Sweden with construction expected to take 12 to 16 months.  The "plantscraper" will grow and supply fresh vegetables while creating solutions to some of the most vexing city pollution issues.

Plantagon's sheer tower, which will showcase the plants growing inside will be called the International Center of Excellence for Urban Agriculture, and will be a place for scientist to test new technologies aimed at improving urban farming.  Inside, vegetables will be grown in pots and then transitioned to trays positioned around a giant central helix. The plants grow as the trays slowly migrate down the central core and are ready to be harvested once they reach the bottom.  Plant residue and manure will be collected along the way and transformed into biogas to run the heating and cooling systems of the greenhouse.  Scientists want the vertical farm to not only grow food but also help in developing sustainable solutions for energy, heat, waste, and water issues of daily city life.

Hopefully this is the start to a beautiful trend worldwide in constructing "Farming Towers", whether glass or solid concrete masses, the world needs a solution to global hunger and the pending consequences to global warming.