The Great Sahara Sea

In the 1870s, a French geographer proposed digging a canal from the Mediterranean to flood a low-lying part of the Sahara Desert. He pitched it as good for business and good for local environments, writes Ron Miller at i09. But I can't help but think of Plagues and Pleasures of the Salton Sea — a documentary about the development, culture, and slow, ongoing destruction of a salty, inland sea that accidentally formed in southern California in the first part of the 20th century.

Traffic signals for the colorblind

I don't know why this never occurred to me before, but today on Twitter, several people who are attending the 2011 Accessibility Summit pointed out that traffic lights aren't, traditionally, accessible. Think about it. If you're colorblind, does red, yellow, green tell you as much information as you need, as easily and quickly as you need to know it?

Turns out, some Canadian provinces deal with this by adding shapes to the lights, as well as colors. This is an example from Halifax, Nova Scotia. Thanks to Seth Meranda for linking it!

Image: Sprocket at en.wikipedia. Used via CC.

Victorian house's facade converted to a folding garage-door

Here's a clever architectural solution to a San Francisco homeowner's desire to add a garage to an old Victorian home without falling afoul of rules requiring the maintenance of the original facade. The homeowner, architects and engineers figured out how to turn the original bay window into a set of fold-away garage-doors.

Toronto's original city plan called for coach-houses and alleys behind dwellings, rather than garages in the front of the house. In the older parts of the city, these are an institution. Nevertheless, it can be very difficult to get planning approval to replace one of these back-alley garages today. Canny residents and contractors have found a way around this obstacle: it's much easier to get a permit to maintain a coach-house than to tear down a falling-down house and build a new one, so some contractors specialize in building a new coach-house without tearing down the old one, keeping various pieces of the old one intact throughout the building process so that they can credibly claim to be repairing, rather than replacing it.

Corey, a mechanical engineer by education and a problem solver by nature, conceived the idea of converting the walls of the bay window into door panels that would fold into the garage space to allow cars to enter, and then fold back into place, keeping the historic appearance intact. The planning department agreed that this concept was provisionally acceptable. To help him realize this concept, Corey hired fellow problem solver Robert Boles of Beausoleil Architects to devise the details and keep the project in-line with the Secretary of the Interior's Standards. One of the goals of the standards is to keep not only the historical appearance, but to keep the 'historic fabric' - the original wood and glass building materials - intact wherever possible.
Architectural Magic (via Super Punch)

Spite Houses, built to piss off the neighbors


Ape Lad sez, "I somehow ended up reading about spite houses (homes built specifically to piss off a neighbor) this evening, which I had never heard of before. Flickr has several when you search the tags, including the sad story behind this house in Connecticut."

Spite house (Thanks, Ape Lad)

(Image: File:AlamedaSpiteHouse.jpg, Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike, Wikimedia Commons)