Boing Boing 

Dead WalMart reborn as library


A dead WalMart in McAllen, Texas has been remodelled as a library, making it the largest single-floor library in the USA. It's award-winning design makes excellent use of all that space -- two football fields' worth -- and includes an acoustically separated teen space.

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Building the prefab Contemporary Resort at Walt Disney World


Imagineering Disney has a great gallery of construction shots of the Contemporary Resort, a huge, modernist A-frame structure whose rooms were all prefabbed offsite and crane-lifted into place.

WDW Construction: Contemporary Resort

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UFO Futuro Houses of the 1960s-1970s

As a youngster, my dream was to live in a Futuro House, the UFO-like prefab homes designed by Matti Surronen and available for purchase new in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Only 100 or so were built around the world but quite a few survive to this day, in varying states of decay. In the video above, urban explorer The Unknown Cameraman visits Futuro Houses in New Jersey. You can also see many more photos of these otherworldly abodes at Cult of Weird.

3D printed book of textures and reliefs


Tom sez, "I have been thinking for some time how it would be nice to produce a 3D printed book of textures and reliefs. To publish and distribute all the wonderful architectural patterning and decoration we enjoy here in Chicago and beyond. This is the prototype for that idea. The subject matter for this book is derived from 3D scans made of sculptures and reliefs, found at The Art Institute of Chicago and The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The scans were all produced using a regular DSLR camera and a software package called 123D Catch. By taking multiple digital photographs of a subject, the user is able to create a lifelike 3D scan of an object, person or architectural feature."

Tom's book is available as a free, downloadable shapefile on Thingiverse.

Orihon (Accordion Book) (Thanks, Tom)

Turning 425sqft of Manhattan into a tardisoid bigger-on-the-inside home


Architects Specht Harpman converted a 425sqft Manhattan micro-apartment into an amazing, multi-tiered living space by building up into the apartment's 25' (!) ceilings. It's got a bit of that shipbuilder's vibe, with cabinets built into everything, including the staircases. I love the tiny swatch of grass, too. I live in a very small place, and looking at this makes me want to explore how to cram more into our little place -- we get about 650 sqft of livable space out of an 18' square/22' tall place that's laid out in two storeys. Using this kind of technique, it seems like we should be able to get a much more livable and spacious place.

Manhattan Micro-Loft | Residential | Specht Harpman

Digital Grotesque: complex, 3D-printed room


Digital Grotesque is an ambitious architectural project using 3D printers and game-of-life-style algorithms to produce a room whose walls, baseboards, ceiling and moldings are all a-crawl with the most astonishing array of forms and complexities. They've completed a 1:3 prototype, which is presently on exhibit in Basel, and are proceeding to print out the full-scale item.


the prototypes show a regard for both material sensitivity and the limits of technologically manipulated form-- millions of grains of sand bind together to create a new typology of sandstone and subsequently treated to be glazed and gilded. drawing from the algorithmic confines of the game of life and cell division, a set of simple geometries met with minimal parameters begets a highly involved form. the result is rich, shimmering composition ridden with impossible undercuts and a transcendental sense of the limits of technology. the term grotesque is derived from the unplanned complexities of a water-shaped grotto, itself a naturally occurring architecture long regarded for the uncanny presence of human-sized spaces in various landscapes.

digital grotesque showcases 3-d printed room by michael hansmeyer

(Images: Digital Grotesque)

(via Dvice)

TWA's Idlewild lounge: Escher, eat your heart out


No, it's not a lost Escher print, it's a photo of Saarinen's long-lost TWA lounge at Idlewild, and you can buy it as a print:

Circa 1964. "Trans World Airlines Terminal. Idlewild Airport, Queens, New York." Acetate negative by Balthazar Korab (1926-2013), Hungarian-born architectural photographer who documented the work of Eero Saarinen.

TWA: 1964 (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

Buildings built by bacteria

NewImage

Over at Fast Company, our pal Chris Arkenberg wrote about how advances in synthetic biology and biomimicry could someday transform how we build our built environments:

Innovations emerging across the disciplines of additive manufacturing, synthetic biology, swarm robotics, and architecture suggest a future scenario when buildings may be designed using libraries of biological templates and constructed with biosynthetic materials able to sense and adapt to their conditions. Construction itself may be handled by bacterial printers and swarms of mechanical assemblers.

Tools like Project Cyborg make possible a deeper exploration of biomimicry through the precise manipulation of matter. David Benjamin and his Columbia Living Architecture Lab explore ways to integrate biology into architecture. Their recent work investigates bacterial manufacturing--the genetic modification of bacteria to create durable materials. Envisioning a future where bacterial colonies are designed to print novel materials at scale, they see buildings wrapped in seamless, responsive, bio-electronic envelopes.

"Cities Of The Future, Built By Drones, Bacteria, And 3-D Printers"

Bookcase/staircase/slide!


Architects Moon Hoon designed a house in Chungcheongbuk-do, South Korea, that uses a staircase as a slide, a library and a room-divider. My goodness, it is lovely.


The basic request of upper and lower spatial organization and the shape of the site promted a long and tin house with fluctuating facade which would allow for more differentiated view. The key was coming up with a multi-functional space which is a large staircase, bookshelves, casual reading space, home cinema, slide and many more…

The client was very pleased with the design, and the initial design was accepted and finalized almost instantly, only with minor adjustments. The kitchen and dining space is another important space where family gathers to bond. The TV was pushed away to a smaller living room. The attic is where the best view is possible, it is used as a play room for younger kids. The multi-use stair and slice space brings much active energy to the house, not only children, but also grown ups love the slide staircase…An action filled playful house for all ages…

Panorama House by Moon Hoon (via Neatorama)

Carving an artificial cavern under NYC

NewImage

New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority is digging an artificial cavern for a future Second Avenue Subway stop below 86th street. Patrick Cashin is photographing the massive operation. Fortunately, the tunnel has been blessed by a Catholic priest. Check out more of Cashin's photos on Flickr and a brief riff on the project by Geoff Manaugh at BLDGBLOG.

Clever, 130sqft Paris apartment


Inthralld showcases a 130 square-foot apartment in Paris, where a set of insanely clever design decisions allows for a full apartment's worth of amenities to be jammed into a teeny weeny space. I love the drawers in the steps, but of course I really love the hiding bed/sofa. Basically, I want to live in a Murphy apartment and/or houseboat.

What was once a master suite of an apartment in the Montparnasse neighborhood is now a 130 square foot micro apartment that houses all of the necessities. There’s even an extremely creative way to house the mattress-slash-sofa. The bed doubles as seating space for lounging and entertaining, which rolls away discreetly underneath a set of steps on the floor. The Magis One stools add some much needed contemporary pizazz to the inner environment, while the storage really looks like art and functions just perfectly.

130 Square Foot Micro Apartment in Paris (via Core77)

Mid-Century Modern housing designs vs children


Projectophile's Clare has a funny post about the hazards presented by beautiful mid-century modern home designs to children. My grandparents had a proper split-level MCM when I was a kid, and it's a wonder we survived. As Clare says, "I love open, flowing space as much as the next modern girl. But I know it would only be a matter of minutes before my kid flings himself off one of these deadly ledges..."

15 Mid-Century Modern Dream Homes that will Kill Your Children (via MeFi)

Why architects should stop drawing trees on top of skyscrapers


Vanessa Quirk Tim De Chant argues that the practice of drawing trees on top of skyscrapers in architectural renderings should stop. First, because pretty, high-altitude foliage is the first thing that cost-conscious developers jettison when the actual building is underway; but secondly, because trees can't really survive at that altitude:

There are plenty of scientific reasons why skyscrapers don’t—and probably won’t—have trees, at least not to the heights which many architects propose. Life sucks up there. For you, for me, for trees, and just about everything else except peregrine falcons. It’s hot, cold, windy, the rain lashes at you, and the snow and sleet pelt you at high velocity. Life for city trees is hard enough on the ground. I can’t imagine what it’s like at 500 feet, where nearly every climate variable is more extreme than at street level.

Wind is perhaps the most formidable force trees face at that elevation. Ever seen trees on the top of a mountain? Their trunks bow away from the prevailing winds. That may be the most visible effect, but it’s not the most challenging. Wind also interrupts the thin layer of air between a leaf and the atmosphere, known as the boundary layer. The boundary layer is tiny by human standards—it operates on a scale small enough that normally slippery gas particles behave like viscous fluids.

Bottom line: if we're going to have skyscrapers, let's build them without the illusion that they'll harbor high-altitude forests.

Can We Please Stop Drawing Trees on Top of Skyscrapers? (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

(Images: “Le Cinq” Office Tower / Neutelings Riedijk Architects, Rendering by Visualisatie A2STUDIO, Pentominium / Murphy/Jahn. Image courtesy of Murphy/Jahn.)

Castle for sale in upstate NY

Castleeee

NewImageAs Boing Boing has outgrown both our converted ICBM silo and air park and secret lair in the Alps we expect to purchase this stately castle in upstate New York, built in 1894 for the National Guard Amsterdam. It is quite a steal at $1 million although our planned improvements will be costly, starting with the piranha-stocked moat. We intend to leave the billiard room and basketball court as-is but the, er, "basement toy room" needs some help. Perhaps we should do a Kickstarter. Upstate Castle Amsterdam, NY National Guard Armory for sale (Thanks, Lindsay Winterhalter!)

Albania is riddled with decaying Soviet-era bunkers


Wired's Pete Brook talks with Dutch photographer David Galjaard, author of the 2012 Aperture Foundation/Paris Photo First Photobook Award-winning book Concreso, a photo-essay on the insane "bunkerization" practiced by the paranoid Soviet Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha. Hoxha built a one bunker for every four Albanians, 24 per square kilometer, and now the country has no idea what to do with all these decaying, apocalyptic concrete blobs.

“I’m telling a story about a country and I’m using bunkers as metaphors,” says Galjaard. “Albania is an Eastern country but it wants to be part of the West. It has one foot in each, and the split is sort of unnatural. Albanians still have not found their identity so they struggle with the past, but also struggle with the future. And future for them is being part of Western Europe.”

The Communist leader Hoxha rose to power in 1944 as leader of the Party of Labour of Albania and ruled until his death in 1985. Hoxha was on constant alert for political threats and maintained his position with routine immobilization, imprisonment and eviction of his people and political opponents. Hoxha’s suspicions also extended beyond Albanian borders and the bunkers, which number 24 to every square kilometer, and were built in preparation for a multi-front war Hoxha expected from invading countries, East and West. Every citizen in Hoxha’s plan was a reservist. Twelve-year-olds were trained to fire rifles. The bunkers never saw action.

Today, Albanian authorities are at a loss for what to do. The reinforced concrete domes are as difficult to repurpose as they are to destroy. Tourists are fascinated by the bunkers strewn like confetti across scenery, but for locals they’re a largely uninteresting, if obstructive, part of the landscape.”

Paranoid Dictator’s Communist-Era Bunkers Now a National Nuisance [Pete Brook/Wired]

Exhibit of LA buildings that never were


Wired reports on a nearly complete Kickstarter to mount an exhibit of grand and glorious LA buildings that were never built, including the design for LAX shown above:

Wired: What is it with Los Angeles and mega scale architecture?

Goldin: Los Angeles had room to grow, with few geographical limitations, except the Pacific Ocean. All that open space engendered a spirit of wide imagination, and the two fed off each other. Los Angeles has also always been a place to jettison the past and begin anew, and from the beginning the city developed a reputation for embracing originality and reinvention. The happenstance of early aviation and aerospace and the creative, sometimes over-the-top spirit of Hollywood, only further fueled the imagination. Everything seemed possible.

Documenting the Never-Built Dreams of the City of Angels [Wired/Tim Maly]

3D printed house to emerge


A Dutch architecture firm plans on using a D-Shape 3D printer to output a house in the shape of a Mobius strip, a project they estimate will take 18 months:

Dutch architecture studio Universe Architecture is planning to construct a house with a 3D printer for the first time.

The Landscape House will be printed in sections using the giant D-Shape printer, which can produce sections of up to 6 x 9 metres using a mixture of sand and a binding agent.

Architect Janjaap Ruijssenaars of Universe Architecture will collaborate with Italian inventor Enrico Dini, who developed the D-Shape printer, to build the house, which has a looping form based on a Möbius strip.

Dutch architects to use 3D printer to print a house (via Beyond the Beyond)

"ABC of Architects" animation

Andrea Stinga and Federico Gonzalez created this delightful animated "ABC" list of 26 influential and important architects and their buildings.

RIP Oscar Niemeyer (104)

https://youtu.be/d77I_5wHA_c

I will always remember the time one of the members of the Los Angeles ModCom presented a 3D slideshow of photos he took of Oscar Niemeyer's designs for Brasilia. I was blown away by his swooping futuristic designs.

[UPDATE: The moronic news bureau capriciously shut off streaming for the video I originally posted, so here's a better video from our pals at Motherboard.)

Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, who designed some of the 20th Century's most famous modernist buildings, has died just before his 105th birthday. He rose to international fame as the architect of the main government buildings in the futuristic Brazilian capital, Brasilia, inaugurated in 1960. He also worked with Swiss-born modernist architect Le Corbusier on the UN building in New York. He continued to work on new projects until earlier this year.

BBC: Oscar Niemeyer, Brazilian architect, dies at 104 (Thanks, Antinous!)

Lucy the Elephant 1881 novelty house survived Sandy

Elephanttttt BB pal Todd Lappin reports:

Last night, tropical story Sandy made landfall approximately 5 miles southwest of Atlantic City, NJ. That means Sandy came ashore in Margate, NJ, on the exact site of Lucy the Elephant -- a charming 19th century house built in the shape of a gigantic circus elephant. Lucy has survived the ravages of time for more than 120 years, but she sits just a block off the beach in Margate, so things did not look good for the old girl when Sandy struck. This morning, however, Patrick Armstrong took a photo of the site which revealed that Lucy the Elephant survived — and more or less intact. Incredible.

The crowd psychology of Grand Central Station

New York's Grand Central Terminal, as it currently stands today, was built between 1903 and 1913. But it is the third Grand Central. Two earlier buildings — one called Grand Central Depot, and the other known as Grand Central Station (which remains the colloquial name for the Terminal) — existed on pretty much the exact same spot. But neither lasted nearly as long. The Depot opened in 1871, and was drastically reconstructed in 1899. The new building, the Station, only stood for three years before it began to come down in sections, eventually replaced by the current building.

That's a lot of structural shuffling, and at the Anthropology in Practice blog, Krystal D'Costa explains some of the history behind it. Turns out, the rapid reconfiguration of Grand Central had a lot to do with crowd control — figuring out how to use architecture to make the unruly masses a little more ruly. One early account that D'Costa quotes describes regular mad scrambles to board the train — intimidating altercations that could leave less-aggressive passengers stranded on the platform as their train left them behind.

The problem it seemed was that the interior of the depot did nothing to manage the Crowd—which could resume the same patterns of movement as they did on the street—and believe me, it was just as unruly out there. In the depot, where passengers were confronted with the unbridled power of locomotives, it was necessary to impose some sort of structure to the meeting: the Crowd had to be domesticated.

... A deadly collision in 1902 preceded public demand for an even safer, more accessible terminal. Warren and Wetmore won the bid for reconstruction, and the plan they produced included galleries, which added yet another transition area but, more importantly, rendered the Crowd into a spectacle. This design, which is the one visitors experience today, preserves the Crowd in a central area, providing raised balconies from which there are plenty of opportunities to people-watch. Being placed on display is not lost on the subconscious of the Crowd: what appears to be hustle and bustle are manifestations of many synchronizations happening at once. So what appears to be chaos to the casual observer is actually a play directed by design that makes the Crowd a key feature of the space even as it is minimized by the architectural elements that Grand Central Terminal is known for: the grand ceiling, the large windows, and the deep main concourse. These items add perspective to the Crowd and diminish its psychological power as an uncontrollable mass.

Read the rest of the story at Anthropology in Practice

Image: Grand Central Terminal, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from maha-online's photostream

A cool way to turn a window into a door

Last weekend, I visited St. Louis and got to catch up with some friends who live in an old brick house in that city's South Grand/Tower Grove neighborhood. (Which is awesome, by the way. After hearing nothing but bad news about St. Louis for years, I was pleasantly surprised by great, thriving neighborhoods like this one.)

There's a little porch off one of the upstairs windows, facing the street. But, at first, it's not entirely clear how you get out onto it. But, whoever built this old house had a clever trick up their sleeve — and it's one I'd never seen in action before. That's a picture of the closed window above.

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House with a skate-ramp


The Skate Park house was custom built for a Shibuya, Tokyo couple, integrating a skate-ramp, a piano studio, and many lovely design flourishes. I think the stair-rail looks like it'd be awesome for grinding, too -- or at least soaping.

The owners of this house, a young married couple, made a special request in regards to the design of their house, located in a quiet residential neighborhood in Shibuya ward. They wanted both a skateboard park and a piano rehearsal room to reflect their own individual interests.

There was no need for a car park on the site, so to take advantage of space a private entrance courtyard was designed. The sliding glass panels of the first floor open up onto this enclosed area and allows for the workshop and studio to expand outwards. The studio has a skateboard bowl imbedded into the floor with multiple angles for plenty of different interaction.

The piano room, located at the back of the studio, is raised about 2 feet from the ground to help with the sound-proofing of the room as well as creating an inherent stage performance space. When the doors open up onto the studio, the expanded space with the bowl transform into guest seating and completely changes the atmosphere from a mere practice room to a public concert hall.

Skate Park House (via Core77)

The facade of NYC's Metropolitan Museum of Art has never been fully finished

It sure seems like a completed structure at first glance. But look closer. Specifically, look at the piles of stone blocks stacked on top of the columns.

Those blocks were hauled up there during construction—around the turn of the 20th century. They were supposed to be carved into sculptures representing "Music", "Architecture", "Painting" and, ironically, "Sculpture". Instead, the stone has sat there for 110 years, through two major renovations, un-carved and largely ignored.

The Daytonian in Manhattan blog has the full story on this.

Via Amy Vernon

3D printing buildings and other structures with soil and binder

Stone Spray is a promising-looking 3D printer that is intended to produce building-scale structures by combining soil with binder from a spray-nozzle. Unfortunately, all the meaty tech information is locked up in a weird "book" player that doesn't work well on my screen, but you can get a general idea from the video above (I recommend scrolling at 10-20 second intervals and turning off sound).

Stone Spray Project

Inverse skyscrapers

The benefits of building cities underground. (Via Maria Popova)

London's towering SHARD is a microcosm of everything that's wrong in the world


Aditya Chakrabortty writes in The Guardian about the Shard, a titanic building that already towers above London, and explains how it is a microcosm for everything that's wrong with the world today:

So one of London's most identifiable buildings will have almost nothing to do with the city itself. Even the office space rented out at the bottom is intended for hedge funds and financiers wanting more elbow room than they can afford in the City or Mayfair. The only working-class Londoners will presumably bus in at night from the outskirts to clean the bins. Otherwise, to all intents and purposes, this will be the Tower of the 1%.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the Shard is that it simply exemplifies a number of trends. First, it merely confirms how far the core of London is becoming, in industrial terms, a one-horse town. Finance, which began in the Square Mile, has now spread to Docklands to the east, to Mayfair in the west and now to the South Bank.

Second, it proves that buildings are no longer merely premises owned by businesses, but are now chips for investment. What's more those chips are increasingly owned by people who barely ever set foot in the country. A study from Cambridge University last year, Who Owns the City?, found that 52% of the City's offices are now in the hands of foreign investors – up from just 8% in 1980. What's more, foreigners are piling into London property at an ever-increasing rate, as they look for relatively safe havens from the global financial turmoil. And yet, as the Cambridge team point out, the giddy combination of overseas cash and heavy borrowing leaves London in a very precarious position. Another credit crunch, or a meltdown elsewhere in the world, would now almost certainly have big knock-on effects in the capital.

The Shard is the perfect metaphor for modern London

(Image: Shard from the Hostel, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from tolomea's photostream)

Worlds tallest building will be built in China, over 90 days

Broad Sustainable Building (BSB) is an innovative Chinese architectural firm whose mission is to erect "medium-cost, super-saving utility buildings and to promote a futuristic urban lifestyle." They are planning to build the world's tallest building, the Sky City Tower in Changsha, Hunan, whose 220 storeys will be erected in 90 days. The timelapse video above shows another BSB project, a 30-storey hotel that went up in 15 days. The company claims its designs are extremely seismically robust and environmentally efficient. From CNNGo:

Its 220 stories will provide a total of 1 million square meters of usable space, linked by 104 elevators.

Zhang said Sky City is expected to consume a fifth of the energy required by a conventional building due to BSB’s unique construction methods, such as quadruple glazing and 15-centimeter-thick exterior walls for thermal insulation.

The company's construction methods also seem to save money.

According to Chinese newspaper 21 Century Business Herald, the total investment in Sky City is RMB 4 billion (US$628 million), compared with US$1.5 billion on Burj Khalifa and US$2.2 billion on Shanghai Tower.

Sky City: China plans world's tallest building (via Kottke)

Picturesque Austrian town secretly cloned in China

A Chinese property developer called Minmetals Land Inc secretly built a copy of a picturesque Austrian village called Hallstatt, building it in Guangdong province, the white-hot center of the Chinese manufacturing revolution, on a site 60km from Hong Kong. The Austrians are both proud and miffed, though the argument that ancient designs of buildings, or characteristic layout of ancient villages are somehow the property of their temporary residents is a bit odd -- sort of like claiming that because your town has a gothic cathedral, no one else should be able to reproduce its centuries-old design without your permission.

The original is a centuries-old village of 900 and a UNESCO heritage site that survives on tourism. The copycat is a housing estate that thrives on China's new rich. In a China famous for pirated products, the replica Hallstatt sets a new standard.

The Chinese Hallstatt features a church spire, a town square ringed by pastel-colored buildings and angel statues. They're among architectural flourishes inspired by the original, a centuries-old village of 900.

Chinese secretly copy Austrian town (via /.)

(Image: a downsized, cropped thumbnail from a larger picture on Spiegel.de)

Clay Shirky on the relationship between physical space and creativity

I really liked Clay Shirky's essay on the relationship between physical space and creativity. It's one of those classic, Shirkian riffs that includes a bunch of seemingly glib and merely clever ideas and culminates with a thing that ties it all together and makes you realize that a bunch of stuff you've been taking for granted is REALLY important and a bit weird.

In this video of his talk at PSFK CONFERENCE NYC, Clay Shirky talks about the work of Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. After working there as an assistant professor for almost ten years, Shirky describes five student projects that he thinks are pushing the creative boundaries - from interface design to how people cluster to build new work. At the end of the talk, the technology thought-leader compares creatives as members of a philharmonic orchestra and wonders if any rules can be drawn from looking at such an ensemble.

Clay Shirky: What I Learned About Creativity By Watching Creatives (Thanks, Avi!)