McMansion Hell visits the wealthy DC suburbs, home to the Brick Behemoth, the Tragic Tudor, the Chonky Corinthian, and more!

It's hard to believe, but the latest installment of McMansion Hell's (previously) tour through the architectural monstrosities of America's tastleless elites is even better than the previous ones -- possibly that's because in this edition, editor/critic Kate Wagner is visiting Virginia's Fairfax and Loudoun Counties, these being affluent DC suburbs where beltway bandits and other swamp-dwellers make their dens. Read the rest

Tiny rooms that look convincingly real

Realistic tiny rooms by Mozu Studios:

It's almost dizzying seeing how far the staircase continues behind the wall:

This video shows the creation of a tiny museum with several exhibits:

The Mozu Studios webshop is here. Read the rest

Review / Control

Remedy Entertainment's Control is a masterpiece of weird architecture and bold design, but a tiring shooter.

Building that looks like a basket to become luxury hotel

This is the former Newark, Ohio headquarters of The Longaberger Company, a basket manufacturer that went under last year. This week, the developers who bought the property announced that it will become a luxury hotel. According to WCPO, "project officials say the exterior look of a basket will remain intact." Well duh.

From Wikipedia:

The seven-story, 180,000-square-foot building was designed by The Longaberger Company, and executed by NBBJ and Korda Nemeth Engineering. The building opened in 1997. The basket handles weigh almost 150 tons and can be heated during cold weather to prevent ice damage. Originally, Dave Longaberger wanted all of the Longaberger buildings to be shaped like baskets, but only the headquarters was completed at the time of his death.

(Thanks, Charles Pescovitz!)

image: Derek Jensen (public domain) Read the rest

Power plant looks like it's holding a giant cigarette (and features its own year-round ski slope)

In California, we're looking at power outages in the North and South as the only way to avoid massive wildfires.  Meanwhile, in Copenhagen, there's a new power plant "embodying the notion of hedonistic sustainability."

Known both as Amager Bakke and Copenhill, the site is a waste to energy plant designed to convert enough tons of waste to provide clean energy for 150,000 homes. The giant chimney was intended to blow giant smoke rings, but that plan was abandoned.

The interior looks ready to star in a Bond movie:

And the exterior features enough facilities to host the X-Games, including a ski slope, freestyle park, climbing wall, and running trail.

The project is the work of Bjarke Ingels Group.  Ingels promoted the project, and several other clever designs, way back in this 2011 Ted Talk:

Read the rest

Skinny, tall, ultramodern home on 16-foot wide piece of land

Cyril Borovsky purchased a 16-foot wide strip of property in Toronto. Then he built a 3 bedroom, 3 bath, four-story house. Borovsky says his design approach could be used to turn parking spaces into homes. You could also buy Borovsky's house for $3 million.

More here: 154 Hamilton Street

And other impressively slender Toronto homes: "Three buyers who found narrow plots of prime real estate and made it work" (Toronto Life)

Read the rest

Library of Congress releases 11,700 freely usable photos of "roadside America," taken by John Margolies

For decades, architectural critic and photographer John Margolies obsessively documented roadside attractions: vernacular architecture, weird sculpture, odd businesses and amusements. By his death in 2016, his collection consisted of more than 11,000 slides (he published books of his favorites, with annotations). Read the rest

McMansion Hell: the Campbell County, Wyoming edition

McMansion Hell (previously) continues to tear through America's most affluent ZIP codes with trenchant commentary on realtors' listings for terrible monster homes; in the current edition, critic Kate Wagner visits Campbell County, Wyoming, home to some of the most ill-considered monstrosities in America. As always, she is laugh-aloud funny as she tackles the "Divorce Lawyer house," a 6,000 square foot house from 2002, listed for a mere $700k. Read the rest

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

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