North African Villages: Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia
by Norman F. Carver
Documan Pr Ltd
1989, 200 pages, 9 x 10.5 x 0.5 inches (softcover)
In the 1970s an architectural student drove a VW van around Italy, the Iberian peninsula, and northern Africa, recording the intact medieval villages still operating in their mountain areas. The hill towns at that time in Italy, Spain, Morocco and Tunisia kept a traditional way of building without architects, using indigenous materials, without straight streets, producing towns of uncommon attractiveness. The architect, Norman Carver, later self published a series of photo books documenting these remote villages which had not yet been interrupted with modernity. They looked, for most purposes, like they looked 1,000 years ago. All of Carter’s books are worthwhile, but my favorite is North African Villages. Here you get a portrait of not just the timeless architecture, but also a small glimpse of the lives that yielded that harmony of the built upon the born. It’s an ideal of organic design, that is, design that is accumulated over time. Read the rest
Hellen Barnaby used to enjoy a view of Perth, Australia from her apartment balcony. Now she sees a wall from a new high-rise that almost touches the balcony. Read the rest
For $1.5 million, you can be the proud new owner of Westland, Michigan's Eloise Complex, a building that started in 1839 as a poorhouse and has served as a tuberculosis ward and insane asylum before closing in 1984. During the Great Depression, it had as many as 10,000 residents. Oh, did I mention that it's haunted?
The main five-story building is 150,000 square feet wile the site contains a 19th century fire station, decommissioned power plant, and two maintenance building. Bonus, it backs up to an eighteen hole championship golf course!
"Own a former mental asylum" (MLive)
"Haunted Former Mental Asylum For Sale in Michigan" (Mysterious Universe)
Atelier Van Lieshout constructed this delightful building, titled "Domestikator," as the centerpiece of their large festival installation, "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly," at the Ruhrtriennale music and arts festival in Bochum, Germany. Read the rest
In 1995 Stewart Brand, founder of The Whole Earth Catalog (described by Steve Jobs as “Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along”) wrote a book about how buildings adapt to the changing world around them, called How Buildings Learn. Brand also made a 6-part documentary with the same name as his book, which was produced in 1997 by the BBC. Open Culture has posted the series on its website. Music is by Brian Eno.
Photographer Rebecca Litchfield's gorgeous and haunting photo series and book, Soviet Ghosts: A Communist Empire in Decay, documents abandoned towns, factories, prisons, hospitals, theaters, and military bases in the Soviet Union and former Eastern Bloc.
Whilst some may look at the decay in these places as simply reflecting the destruction of the Soviet Union and the moral bankruptcy of a flawed ideological system. In reality they will cease to exist very soon and as the memories fade, these places and the communities who once gave life will be forgotten and deserve to be recorded for posterity too. This book documents the strange interval caught between modernity and antiquity.
A London man blames a new 37-story skyscraper under construction for melting his Jaguar. Apparently, sunlight reflected off the building, known as the "Walkie-Talkie," and melted parts of the car. According to the BBC News, the construction company left a note on the man's car and paid for repairs. The City of London has closed three parking spots as a precaution while the situation is under investigation. This reminds me of the Mythbusters' "Archiemedes Death Ray" episode which I happened to have just watched again yesterday! Read the rest
A privately-built villa, surrounded by imitation rocks, is pictured on the rooftop of a 26-floor residential block in Beijing. Construction on the residence took six years, and the huge dwelling offers 1,000 square meters of living space. Residents in the building complained about the villa and its perch, according to the Xinhua News Agency, fearing that the agglomeration's weight may cause the building beneath it to collapse. The local bureau of city administration attempted to investigate the allegedly illegal construction, but the owner "has not shown up so far." (Photo: Jason Lee, Reuters) Read the rest
Exit signs are so ubiquitous that they're almost invisible. Every public building has them. In fact, they are so common that, taken together, these little signs consume a surprisingly large amount of energy.
Each one uses relatively little electricity, but they are on all the time. And we have a lot of them in our schools, factories, and office buildings. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that there are more than 100 million exit signs in use today in the U.S., consuming 30–35 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity annually.
That’s the output of five or six 1,000 MW power plants, and it costs us $2-3 billion per year. Individual buildings may have thousands of exit signs in operation.
To put this into a bigger context: This is just one small part of what makes buildings, in general, incredibly energy intense. In the United States, we use more energy powering our buildings—from the lights, to the heating, to the stuff we plug into the walls—than we use to do anything else. Because of that (and because of the fact that electricity is mostly made by burning coal or natural gas) buildings produce more greenhouse gas emissions than cars.
Read more about the energy consumption of exit signs and how we can use less energy, while still getting the same services, at Green Building Advisor
Take a look at some stats on energy use in buildings at the Architecture 2030 website
Via Jess McCabe
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.
Yesterday was the 110th anniversary of air conditioning. The building pictured above—1040 Metropolitan Ave. in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York—was the first building in the world to enjoy the luxury of cold air blowing on a blisteringly hot day.
A junior engineer from a furnace company figured out a solution so simple that it had eluded everyone from Leonardo da Vinci to the naval engineers ordered to cool the White House when President James A. Garfield was dying: controlling humidity.
The junior engineer who tackled the problem was Willis Carrier, who went on to start Carrier Corporation. The solution he devised involved fans, ducts, heaters and perforated pipes ... Carrier’s plan was to force air across pipes filled with cool water from a well between the two buildings, but in 1903, he added a refrigerating machine to cool the pipes faster.
It's a neat technological story, and as the New York Times piece points out, Carrier's invention wasn't just about making people comfortable. In the beginning, it was about allowing a specific job to get done even when the weather was hot. In fact, air conditioning is still the tool that makes things like computers possible, by creating dust-free, low-humidity clean rooms where the parts can be manufactured.
How do engineers know that the pillars supporting a bridge can withstand the force of thousands of cars driving over them for decades? How do we know what would happen to that bridge during an earthquake? What about an earthquake in winter?
Buildings, roads and bridges are all designed with a buffer of safety—basically, engineers round up on the numbers, a lot, and design these things to be far more sturdy than they actually have to be. But to make those decisions, they first have to know the physical limits of the materials they're working with. The best way to do that: Take a scaled version of a girder, pillar, or concrete slab and push it past the breaking point. Yes, this is, in fact, as awesome as it sounds.
The Constructed Facilities Laboratory at North Carolina State University is one of the places in the United States where this kind of research happens. In this lab, engineering researchers shake, bend, freeze, and crush the stuff that supports our world. I got to take a tour of this lab back in January, led by lab manager, Greg Lucier.
The videos here will take you through the 4500-square-foot lab and introduce you to the equipment these engineers use—from giant compression machines to something called a "Thermotron environmental chamber."
We'll start with a quick spin around the lab, just to get acquainted with the space. Then, you'll learn how some of the systems you see here work and why they're so important. Read the rest