Starbucks Omotesando; A Sticky Situation!

Im not one to praise large corporations but this time Starbucks stepped out of its generic vanilla box and produced a cool design thats definitely worth reporting.  Located in the popular fashion and cultural district of Omotesando, Tokyo, the cafe stands on the main approach to the Dazaifu Tenmangu, one of the major shrines in Japan.  Established in 919 A.D., the shrine has been worshiped as "the God for examination." and receives about 2 million visitors a year who wish their success.

Designers at Kengo Kuma and Associates aimed to build a structure that resonates a harmony with the surrounding street-scape and nearby shrine.  They used a unique system of weaving the pieces of wood diagonally to usher in a sense of direction and fuidity.  The building is made of 2,000 sticks 1.3-4m in length and 6cm thick.  The structure was achieved by dividing four stick combinations into two groups to avoid concentration on a single point. The groupings are piled in small parts from the ground up, a technique adapted from traditional architecture of Japan and China.

Singapore's First Commercial Vertical Farm Is a Big Hit With Locals

Singapore recently a few months ago opened its first commercial vertical farm, making local options for fresh produce more abundant and accessible to its millions of citizens.  Sky Green Farms is the developer who opened the 9 acre farm in Lim Chu Kang.  The center produces three types of vegetables currently available at FairPrice Finest supermarkets.  Although produce cost 10 to 20 cents more than vegetables from other sources, shoppers have been snatching up whatever they can get selling out produce by the truckload.

The farm is comprised of 29.5 foot tall aluminum towers, with vegetables stacked in troughs at multiple levels.  Currently there are 120 vertical towers.  The farm hopes to increase the number to 300 by next year, increasing its current daily supply from 0.5 tons to 2 tons, which could lower cost of the produce. Investors are currently being sought out to help build the additional towers costing a hefty $21 million.  Currently 7 percent of Singapore's vegetables are grown locally;, but with more innovative farming methods, it could reached the targeted 10 percent in the near future.

Source: channelnewsasia

Arctic Ice Melting Faster Than Scientists Predicted

Scientists have long been discussing the causes and consequences of Global Warming, which has at one time or another been the discussion at family dinner tables.  Scientists have never been clear on the rate of polar ice cap melting, but have been positively sure of their rapid depletion.  Recent studies are beginning to put our dire situation into a more realistic timeline.  A recent study released by over 20 polar research teams, shows that ice in Antarctica and Greenland is melting significantly faster than previously thought.

According to data, 4 trillion tons of ice have melted off Antarctica and Greenland ice sheets, causing a rise in sea levels of about half-inch between 1992 and 2011, which is more than previously estimated, and the pace seems to be accelerating.  Greenland is melting five times faster than it was two decades ago.

Scientists claim the study ends a long-running debate over whether the vast ice sheet covering the Antarctic continent is loosing or gaining mass.  East Antarctica is gaining some ice, the satellite data shows, but west Antarctica and the Antarctic peninsula is loosing twice as much, overall resulting in net loss.  These studies are a great achievement leading to a better understanding of how sea level change may effect the way we live in coastal cities and regions around the world.  Rising sea level is one of the greatest long-term threats posed by climate change, threatening low-lying cities and increasing potential damage brought by hurricanes, as we saw with Super-storm Sandy last October.

Sources: The Guardian, CNN


Reading Between the Lines

'Reading Between the Lines" is a brilliant work of art done by the duo Gijis Van Vaerenbergh.  The duo is a collaboration of two Belgian architects Pieterjan Gijis, and Arnout Van Vaerenbergh.  Their primary concerns when approaching a project are experiment, reflection, and a physical involvement with the end result and the input of the viewer.

'Reading Between the Lines' is part of 'pit', an artistic trajectory with works by ten artist in the region of Borgloon-Heers. 'Pit' will be the first part of the exhibition project Z-OUT, an initiative in which Z33, the contemporary art museum of the city of Hasselt, presents art in public space.  Giji Van Vaerenbergh created piece for the exhibit based on the design of the local church.  The church consists of 30 tons of steel and 2000 columns, and is build on a fundament of armed concrete.  Through the use of horizontal plates, the concept of the traditional church is transformed into a transparent object of art.

The form of the church changes in appearance depending on the perspective of the viewer.  It is either perceived as a massive building, or dissolves partly or completely into the landscape.  Viewers that look from the inside of the church to the outside, witness an abstract play of lines that reshape the surrounding landscape.  In this way, church and landscape can both be considered part of the work.  the church makes the subjective experience of the landscape visible, and vice versa, hence the title which implies that to read between the lines, one must also read the lines themselves.

Source: ArchDaily


The Academie MWD; Dilbeek, Brussels

The Academie MWD in Dilbeek, Brussels expands on the cities reputation as the cultural capital by offering education in music, theatre and dance, as well as providing access to a new auditorium-theatre. The new academy is located in the center or Dilbeek with a variety of contrasting snituations surrounding it.  To the south is the main square (Gemeenteplein) with City HAll and local restaurants; west, CC Westrand (Westrand Cultural Center) with its monumental Brutalistic volumes; north, Wolfsputten, a protected area of natural forest; and east, a compact group of suburban villas with pitched roofs following the archetypal image of the farm.

Designers at Carlos Arroyo Architectos were challenged harmonizing the different situations, and at the same time producing a building with a quality of its own.  Designers first addressed the volume, making sure the building was a soft transition between the scale of the houses and the imposing presence of CC Westrand.  in form, the gables along the street reflect the houses on the other side, but then become a great cantilever that looks CC Westrand face to face.  The function; the only entrance is on the side of Westrand.  There is no activity on the other perimeters due to their domestic or natural nature.  it is only on the side facing the cultural center, where the auditorium rises from the ground, creating a covered public space leading to the academy entrance.

The image of the building creates an optic effect.  It you walk towards trees you see trees, an image of Wolfsputten, if you walk in the opposite direction you see the colors of Hoppenbrouwers.


B.torics Spherical Solar Energy Generator

AndrĂ© Brobel of B studio of Barcelona has design an innovative new spherical glass solar energy generator called B.torics.  The system has been developed to offer a full integrated building solution with high efficient solar energy generation.  The simple optic system is able to concentrate sunlight up to 10 times.  This allows the use of multiple technologies, such as concentrated solar power with photovoltaics or thermal applications.

The project uses the advantageous strategy of implementing a ball lens and specific geometrical structure to improve energy efficiency by 35%.  The device incorporates a fully rotational weatherproof natural optical tracking device that is adequate for functioning on inclined surfaces and curtain walls, empowering any building surface.  The new concept has capabilities that concentrates diffused daylight or moonlight for a more effective site context application.


BMW i3 Urban Concept Car

The new BMW i3 concept car will make its first north american debut at the 2012 L.A. auto show.  The light-weight 2,300-pound vehicle will take the leading role in sustainability in the automotive industry.  Scheduled to be released into the market in 2013, the compact four-seat hatchback is entirely electric with an innovative battery cell system that is capable of charging 80% in only half an hour with a DC fast-box or 100% in four hours.

The car boast 170 horsepower, 250 Nm of torque, with an acceleration of 0 to 60 km/hr in under four seconds, and a driving range of 80 to 100 miles.  Some of the new features are the materials used in the interior, coming from sustainable sources, which also gives the car a more natural linear feel.  The leight weight of the car stems from the new carbon fiber reinforced plastic body that weighs a fraction of the usual amount without compromising strength.  Digital technologies are fully integrated into the driving system with driver comfort in mind, offering the ability to link with your smart phone to assist in locating the car and nearby fueling stations.

Helsinki Central Library

Portuguese practice OODA has proposed a new social hub for the interchange of information for the 'Helsinki Central Library' competition.  Their design breaks from the traditional idea of a library being a book storage facility.  The rectangular metal mass of the building is seemingly melted as a path connecting the new part of the city to the older section makes its way over the stepped rooftop, marking a symbolic threshold through the site as well as a point of social interaction that separates two programmatically diverse sides of the building.  Containing more than just books, the library lures visitors in through three ambiguously- defined void spaces that may serve several social functions, gathering masses of people in a point of knowledge exchange.  The library may also represent for the city a certain architectonic dynamism and social responsibility.