Smart Village Aids to Transform Quality of Life; Malaysia

Researchers from the U.S. and Malaysia have come together in a collaborative effort to create a village that redefines rural poverty relief.  The 30 acre high-tech, self-sustaining community is located northeast of Kuala Lumpur.  With 100 energy-efficient homes and a closed-loop agricultural system that provides not only food for its residents but a surplus for them to sell, the project architects believe the village could be a model for villages around the world.

The Rimbunan Kaseh community, is in the Malaysian state of Pahang and it runs off energy supplies that are largely solar-generated, supplemented by biomass and hydropower.  Its agriculture system grows both animals and crops.  The agriculture system is broken down into four levels, nurturing farmed tilapia – a high protein fish– and then the wastewater is filtered and put to use to irrigate grain fields, trees, and other crops.  The system has proven robust enough to create food to feed the residents, with plenty left over, providing villagers with an additional $400 to $650 of income each month.

Houses in Rimbunan Kaseh came from Australia-based Koto Corp.  The modular homes are constructed from pre-fabricated pieces that fit together, taking just seven to ten days to build, and cost about $16,000 to $20,000.  The village is also equipped with a community center, education and recreational facilities, and 4G Internet equipped for use in both e-learning and e-health.  the count plans to build as many as 12 more sustainable villages like Rimbunan Kaseh in the near future with the hope that their initiative will spur economic growth, provide education and jobs, and improve the quality of life for Malaysia's poorest communities.


High-Speed Vacuum Trains, the Future in High-speed Rail

Imagine traveling around the world and back in under 4 hours.  Well that could be possible in a not so distant technological future.  Engineers in the U.S. around the world are working on developing technology for trains that can speed  through airless tunnels traveling at speeds up to 2,500 miles per hour reports the BBC.  The transporters, which remain at least a decade away, could eventually cut travel time between New York and Beijing to about two hours.  Todays high-speed rail travels at an average of 200 mph.

The concept combines magnetic levitation, which floats vehicles on a bed of magnets to reduce friction, with a tube from which air has been drawn to create a vacuum.  Traditional trains moving through a tunnel push the air ahead of them, which creates resistance.

The vacuum concept is not a new one.  Robert Goddard, who created the first liquid fuel rocket, designed a prototype over 100 years ago, with the idea of zipping people around between U.S. cities.  His concept has not been economically feasible nor fast enough.  American engineer Daryl Oster has designed a 6-person capsule traveling through a 1.5 meter (5 feet) diameter vacuum tube.  He has sold 60 licenses for his patented evacuated tube transport technology (ETT), including 12 to China.  Osters technology can reach possible speeds of up to 4,000 mph.

Oster has designed systems for local, continental, and inter-continental travel.  The local systems require lower technology and would travel at speeds of around 370mph.  The systems designed for intercontinental transport would travel at the 4,000 mph range.  It claims that it could "provide 50 times more transportation per kWh than electric cars or trains," that construction would cost a tenth of high-speed rail and a quarter of freeways, and the a New York to London trip would take 1 hour, New York to L.A. in 45 minutes.

Oster's projected construction costs are relative to the current costs of high-speed rail proposals in the United States.  He states a 2003 analysis of his technology by a team of experts concluded the cost of a 350 mph system would be about $2 million per miles.  Oster believes his transportation concept could become a reality within the next decade.  His company does not plan to build any syatems, rather it sells licenses to the patented technology.

Coca-Cola Beatbox

Coca-Cola's iconic pavilion for the Olympic Park was unveiled at a private view event ahead of the official opening of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games on Friday July 27th.  

The Coca-Cola Beatbox, designed by Asif Khan and Pernilla Ohrstedt, is an experimental fusion of architecture, sport, music and technology that creates a stunning multi-sensory experience.  The visionary pavilion has been inspired by Coca-Cola's global campaign for London 2012 – Move to the Beat TM – that aims to connect young people to the Games by bringing together their passions for music and sport.

The giant crystal structure is made up of over 200 interlocked translucent air cushions, each the size of a billboard.  Visitors will be able to 'play' designated cushions as the ascend the exterior of the pavilion, remixing 'Anywhere in the World', the uplifting track features sounds of five different Olympic sports created for Coca-Cola by GRAMMY award winning producer Mark Ronson and 2011 Mercury Music Prize nominee Katy B.

Integrated within the 200 cushions is groundbreaking audio, lighting ad responsive sensor technology, which has been used by the architects to upload the rhythmical sport sounds into the structure of the Coca-Cola Beatbox.  Recordings, which include athletes' heartbeats, shoes squeaking, and arrows hitting a target will be triggered and remixed by the gestures and movements of an estimated 200,000 visitors during Game times as they make the 200m journey to the pavilion's rooftop.

The pavilion forms part of Coca-Cola's Future Flames campaign for London 2012, which aims to recognize and reward the best of the nation's youth and shine a spotlight on emerging talent to inspire other young people to pursue their passions.


Gardens by the Bay

Gardens by the Bay is one of the largest Garden projects of its kind in the world.  Ultimately, the site will total 101 Hectares comprising three district gardens – Bay South, Bay East and Bay Central.  Located on reclaimed land in Singapore's new downtown at Marina Bay, the site will provide a unique leisure destination for local and international visitors.  The project is an integral part of Singapore's "City in a Garden" vision, designed to raise the profile of the city globally whilst showcasing the best of horticulture and garden artistry.

The 54 Hectare mater plan takes its inspiration from the organization and physiology of the orchid.  The orchid is the national flower of Singapore and is the most cosmopolitan species of flowering plant in the world.  At the same time it is typically epiphytic or transient in its colonization of habitats.  It seemed appropriate to its designers at Grant Associates to capture the essential qualities and characteristics of orchids in the layout and underlying philosophy for these new gardens.

The master plan has evolved from its conception into a highly sophisticated and integrated 3D network of horticulture, art, engineering and architecture.  It is chasing the idea of creating a highly distinctive and decorative garden landscape underpinned by serious engineering of environmental infrastructure and world-class garden architecture.  This holistic vision is captured in the concept diagram of the garden ecosystem.

The Theme Gardens showcase the best of tropical horticulture and garden artistry.  together with mass flowering and colored foliage landscape, they form a spectacle of color, texture and fragrance, providing a mesmerizing experience for visitors.  There are two collections, namely the Heritage Gardens, and The World of Plants, which center on the subjects: 'Plants and People' and 'Plants and Planet' respectively.

There are a total of 18 Supertrees ranging from 25 to 50 meters in height.  The Supertrees are a fusion of nature, art and technology and, as such, are emblematic of the master plan approach.  They are at one level spectacular vertical gardens and landmark features, at another they they are the environmental engines for the Cooled Conservatories incorporating devices for water harvesting and storage, air intake, cooling and exhaust, photovoltaic arrays and solar collectors.

During the day the Supertree canopies provide shade and shelter.  At night the Supertrees come alive with lighting and projected media that activate the city skyline.  The Supertree Grove includes a 128 meter long aerial walkway, 22 meters above ground level.  The 50 meter Supertree has a treetop bar offering panoramic views of the Gardens and surrounding Marina Bay area.


Church of Sant Francesc; Spain

The Sant Francesc convent, located in the small Catalan town of Santpedor, Spain, was built in the early 18th century by Franciscan priests.  In 1835 the convent was sacked.  Thereafter began the process of progressive deterioration of the building that ended with its demolition in 2000.  Only the church remained standing, but in a completely ruinous state.

The project was aimed to convert the church into an auditorium and a multifunctional cultural facility.  the intervention has consolidated the church without deleting the process of deterioration and collapse that the building had suffered.  Designers at David Closes Arquitecte maintained the dimensions of the church interior space, and also the unusual entries of natural light produced by partial roof collapses.  Rather than reconstructing the church, the intervention has just consolidated the old fabric distinguishing clearly the new elements executed of the original ones.  The renovation allows you to read historical wounds and the buildings most important spatial values without giving up the use of contemporary language in the new elements introduced in the intervention.

The new programmatic volumes inserted (as vertical accesses or technical equipment) have been located partially outside of the church with the aim of preserving the inner space unity of the nave.  In addition, the new stairs and ramps provide a circular route across the building with amazing and diverse views.

Pixel; Melbourne, Australia

The former CUB Brewery site is the location of Melbourne's most significant and ambitious developments.  Located at a key urban site, the project has been the subject of long discussion and speculation, culminating in the multi-faceted and multi- authored scheme now underway.

Studio 505 was approached by Grocon to design the development Office (Pixel), the last building to be conceived on the site, and the first to be built.  Pixel also claims the other two extremes, namely being the smallest building with the biggest expectations.  The requirement was for Pixel to provide a 6 Star Greenstar Carbon Neutral home for the Development team and Sales Offices, a display suite area and green roof top viewing area, for the duration of the developments construction and sales phase.

Pixel features one of the most sophisticated water treatment and utilization systems ever to be built.  The building was designed to be water balanced meaning that if Melbourne maintains the ten year average rainfall levels from 1999- 2009, Pixel will be self- sustainable for water supply.  From the extensive native green roof collecting rainwater, to the creation of the perimeter planter's balcony, Pixel is not simply a container to collect ESD ideas, but instead a laboratory and historic tapestry of symbiotic systems.  These include one of the most publicly visible elements, being Pixel's facade.  The facade is a system of perimeter planters, fixed shading louvers, double glazed window walls and solar panel shading.  Studio 505 developed a complex yet simple patterning system to engender the project with a human scale 'flow' of textures allowing the reading of the various elevations, with their differing functional and ESD requirements and materials, to espouse coherency through fluidity.

Scoring a perfect 105 Greenstar points, Pixel has also achieved 105 points under the US LEED rating system making it the highest rated building of any yet certified for LEED anywhere in the world.  It is aiming to exceed the highest score yet achieved under the UK BREEAM rating system.  To put it into context, there are approximately 740,000 buildings registered worldwide under those three rating schemes, and Pixel would be at the forefront of all of them.