Eastern Blocks: photographs of the brutalist towers of the former USSR

Zupagrafika's new book Eastern Blocks (subtitle: "Concrete Landscapes of the Former Eastern Bloc") collects more than 100 beautiful photos of the brutalist towers of ex-Soviet nations, "‘Sleeping districts’ of Moscow, Plattenbauten of East Berlin, modernist estates of Warsaw, Kyiv`s Brezhnevki." Read the rest

McMansion Hell versus the dubious monster homes of Waukesha County, Wisconsin

McMansion Hell (previously) rounds up the ten stupidest megahomes of Waukesha County, Wisconsin ("perhaps one of the most underrated McMansion counties in the country"), which is such a target-rich environment that proprietor Kate Wagner couldn't "choose just one to do a takedown of." Read the rest

Mesmerizing 1980s experimental Japanese film using video cut-ups to deconstruct architecture

In 1982, Japanese avant-garde filmmaker Toshio Matsumoto used video cut-up techniques to deconstruct a single residential building into a disorienting architectural puzzle. The short film is titled Shift (シフト 断層). Music by Yasuke Inagaki.

From a 1996 interview with Matsumoto:

We have to do more to irritate and disturb modes of perception, thinking, or feeling that have become automatized in this way. I did several kinds of experiments from the 1970s to the 1980s that de-automatized the visual field. But when image technology progresses such that you can make any kind of image, people become visually used to that. That's why there's not much left today with a fresh impact. In this way, the problem is that the interpretive structure of narrating, giving meaning to, or interpreting the world has become so thoroughly systematized that one cannot conceive of anything else that is largely untouched. We have to de-systematize that.

(via r/ObscureMedia) Read the rest

Wild design for incredible infinity pool that takes up entire roof of skyscraper

Infinity London is a planned 220-meter skyscraper topped with a wild infinity pool that completely covers the roof. There's a new video explainer from the designer below, but let's quickly answer the obvious question of how one gets in and out of the pool.

“The solution is based on the door of a submarine, coupled with a rotating spiral staircase which rises from the pool floor when someone wants to get in or out – the absolute cutting edge of swimming pool and building design and a little bit James Bond to boot!" says designer Alex Kemsley.

The details of who will pay for the building and exactly where in London it'll be located "is yet to be confirmed."

From Compass Pools:

The pool is made from cast acrylic rather than glass, as this material transmits light at a similar wavelength to water so that the pool will look perfectly clear.

The floor of the pool is also transparent, allowing visitors to see the swimmers and sky above...

Other advanced technical features include a built-in anemometer to monitor the wind speed.

This is linked to a computer-controlled building management system to ensure the pool stays at the right temperature and water doesn’t get blown down to the streets below.

Boasting an innovative twist on renewable energy, the pool’s heating system will use waste energy from the air condition system for the building.

Read the rest

Plants that glow could illuminate tomorrow's buildings

MIT researchers who developed light-emitting plants are now exploring how the glowing greenery could be integrated into future building designs. In their proof-of-concept demonstration, the scientist packaged luciferase, the enzyme that enables fireflies to glow, into nanoparticles that were then suspended in solution. The plants were immersed in the solution and, through high pressure, the nanoparticles entered tiny pores in the plants' leaves. The plants maintained their glow for several hours and they've since increased the duration. Now, project lead Michael Strano, professor of chemical engineering, is collaborating with MIT architecture professor Sheila Kennedy on possible future applications of the green technology. From MIT News:

“If we treat the development of the plant as we would just another light bulb, that’s the wrong way to go,” Strano (says)....

The team is evaluating a new component to the nanobiotic plants that they call light capacitor particles. The capacitor, in the form of infused nanoparticles in the plant, stores spikes in light generation and “bleeds them out over time,” Strano explains. “Normally the light created in the biochemical reaction can be bright but fades quickly over time. Capacitive particles extend the duration of the generated plant light from hours to potentially days and weeks...."

As the nanobionic plant technology has advanced, the team is also envisioning how people might interact with the plants as part of everyday life. The architectural possibilities of their light-emitting plant will be on display within a new installation, “Plant Properties, a Future Urban Development,” at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York opening May 10.

Read the rest

How to build a house out of shipping containers

Architecture hacker/maker Ben Uyeda of HomeMadeModern designed and built his house out of shipping containers in the high desert of Joshua Tree, California. And he documented the process in fascinating detail.

How to Build A Shipping Container House (YouTube)

Read the rest

Millennials are killing McMansions

It all seemed so innocent when architecture grad student Kate Wagner started pushing her charming brand of millennial snark on us with her acerbic critiques of gaudy, poorly executed monster homes, but architecture is no laughing matter. Read the rest

Can there be a mile-high skyscraper?

In 1956, Frank Lloyd Wright proposed the Illinois Sky-City, a skyscraper taller than one mile (~1,600 meters). That's more than twice the height of Dubai's Burj Khalifa, currently the tallest structure in the world. In the video above, Dutch architest Stefan Al asks "Will there ever be a mile-high skyscraper?"

If it happens, there should be a rooftop bar named... the Mile-High Club.

Read the rest

Astonishing aerial view of Hong Kong's public housing towers

Aerial photographer and filmmaker Toby Harriman turned his lens on the soaring public housing apartment block towers in Hong Kong. Read the rest

McGingerbread Hell: bakers celebrate McMansion Hell with delicious monster houses

Last month, he amazing architecture-snark criticism site McMansion Hell (previously) announced gingerbread house contest to create "the most nubtastic, gawdawful gingerbread McMansion in all of McMansion Hell!" Read the rest

A guide to the Socialist Modernist Architecture of Romania and Moldova

The BACU Association -- the folks behind the incredible brutalist Socialist Modernism Tumblr -- have announced a limited run, 800-copy book collecting photos and details on 242 Socialist Modernist "objects" in Romania and the Republic of Moldova. Read the rest

Our homes are designed for stuff, making them unsuitable for people

Kate "McMansion Hell" Wagner continues her unbroken streak of excellent and incisive architectural criticism with a new piece that riffs on Stewart Brand's classic "How Buildings Learn" to discuss how McMansions have gone awry: they represent a break from the tradition of designing stuff to fit in spaces, and instead, they are spaces designed for status-displaying stuff. Read the rest

Bruce Sterling on architecture, design, science fiction, futurism and involuntary parks

In 1918, there was plenty of speculation about 2018; in 2018, no one is talking about 2118. Bruce Sterling discusses the relationship of industrial design to science fiction; the New Aesthetic and Turinese architecture; and many other subjects with Benjamin Bratton. (via Beyond the Beyond) Read the rest

Potato chips as architecture - Sou Fujimoto's exhibit at Japan House in Los Angeles

Last week, Carla and I attended Sou Fujimoto: Futures of the Future, a new exhibit of 100 architectural models at Japan House LA in Hollywood. Fujimoto is well-known in Japan and Europe for his striking architecture that explores the boundaries between simplicity and chaos (what science fiction author Rudy Rucker calls the "Gnarl"). The gnarl is the sweet spot where things are interesting and appealing.

In this exhibition, Fujimoto's architectural models are arranged on small stands in a large room. Each model has tiny human figures in and around it to give you a sense of the scale of the structure. One of the models is a stack of potato chips. It comes to life with the human models gathered around it. Another building is just a bumpy dish sponge. The little people are standing in the bumps. It is surprisingly evocative. Other models are made from foam core and sticks. Fujimoto makes these models to try to answer questions like "What if the inside is also the outside?"

The walls of the exhibition room are covered by floor-to-ceiling photographs of buildings designed by Fujimoto from around the world. I couldn't stop looking at Fujimoto's "House NA," a multi-level residence in western Tokyo. It's tiny, cozy, transparent, and full of surprises. Fujimoto gave a lecture that night and he said he wanted to make a house that made you feel like a monkey jumping from one branch to another. Some of the levels in the house are just big enough for one person to sit in. Read the rest

Book of brutalist archictecture postcards from the Soviet era

Brutal Block Postcards is a new book that, er, celebrates the concrete landscape of the Soviet era. Over at Collectors Weekly, Lisa Hix flips through the pages:

Many of these postcards, published by governments of the U.S.S.R. between the 1960s and 1980s, depict the bland, 1960s five-story concrete-paneled apartments known as “khrushchyovka” as if to say, “Look at the modern wonder of collective worker housing!” To Westerners, the boxy buildings telegraph the bleak authority of so-called poured-concrete “Brutalist” architecture, which was somehow popular with both democratic and totalitarian governments during the postwar years.

However, in Brutal Bloc Postcards, the images of stern rectilinear apartments, government offices, and hotels stand in stark contrast to the dramatic public monuments. These Cold War-era monuments are epic in scale, towering over the Soviet landscape; their angular, avant-garde forms convey movement, as if hurtling toward brighter future through Communism.

"Postcards From Big Brother" (Collectors Weekly)

Brutal Blog Postcards: Soviet Era Postcards from the Eastern Bloc (Amazon)

Read the rest

Bruce Sterling on the next 50 years of climate-wracked maker architecture

Bruce Sterling's hour-long lecture to the Southern California Institute of Architecture is pretty good vintage Sterling: a seeming grab-bag of loosely related futuristic, ascerbic observations about climate change, Estonian e-residency, Kazakh new cities, monumental architecture, rotting Turinese palaces, Silicon Valley arrogance, AI, new-new urbanism, and so on -- which then all seems to pull together in an ineffable, somehow coherent finale that is both hopeful and bitter. Read the rest

Incredible 19 square feet LEGO model of Apple Park

Automotive engineer Spencer Rezkalla spent three years building this astounding 19 square foot LEGO model of the just-opened Apple Park. The 1/650th scale model contains roughly 85,000 pieces, including 1647 trees. From Rezkalla's project gallery on Flickr:

I've always wanted to build a horizontal skyscraper. These are sometimes also called "groundscrapers".

In 2014 I came across some drone footage of an enormous circular excavation being dug into the California earth. When I discovered this was the start of the foundation for a new low-rise Apple "spaceship" campus, I knew I had found an interesting and suitable candidate.

Read the rest

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