Webcast on Oscar Niemeyer

Oscar Niemeyer (1907-2012) was best known for his design of civic buildings for Brasília, a planned city which became Brazil’s capital in 1960, as well as his collaboration with other architects on the United Nations Headquarters in New York City.

Niemeyer’s first major project was the design of a series of buildings for Pampulha, a planned suburb north of Belo Horizonte. His work, especially on the Church of Saint Francis of Assisi, received critical acclaim, and drew Niemeyer international attention. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, Niemeyer became one of Brazil’s most prolific architects, designing a range of buildings both within the country and overseas.

He received the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1988.

Related: Influential Architects: Mies van der RoheOscar Niemeyer official site

Benefits of Green Roofs

I hope this idea gets adopted on a more widespread basis. Reducing storm water runnoff and reducing heat in the city are nice. But I really think it just provides a wonderful living space which is even more important.

Related: Wonderful Low Impact Woodland HouseBuilding with Tire Bales for environmental benefits
Phone Booth with Roof Lawn in Hoh Rain Forest

Underground Hotel – Shimao Wonderland

view of propose 'underground hotel' - build into a cliff

Shimao Wonderland Intercontinental by Atkins, Bristol, United Kingdom

This is a concept design for Shimao Wonderland Intercontinental in Songjiang, China by Atkins (Bristol, United Kingdom). The design was shortlisted at the World Architecture Festival 2009

The client’s brief called for a unique solution to a problem of siting the hotel in such a way that only 2 levels projected above the rock face of the 90m deep quarry. Particular request for underwater public areas and guestrooms was successfully accommodated in the design. The concept adopted the image of a green hill cascading down the rock face as a series of terraced landscaped hanging gardens. The central vertical circulation atrium connecting the quarry base with the ground level is in the form of a transparent glass ‘waterfall’

The winning architectural team includes Paul Rice, Hu Yali, Zhang Jian and Ding Fang from Atkins Shanghai led by Martin Jochman from Atkins in Bristol.

The building is under construction with an expected completion in 2013 or 2014.

Related: Headquarters of HuaiNan Animation Technology Industrial Park

Influential Architects: Mies van der Rohe

Mies van der Rohe was born in Germany and moved to the USA during his career as an Architect. He was known for stripping down design to the minimal structure needed.

Examples of his architecture include: Farnsworth House, Seagram Building, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, and the Neue Nationalgalerie at the Kulturforum is a museum for modern art in Berlin.

In addition to buildings he designed furniture including, the Barcelona chair, the Brno chair, and the Tugendhat chair.

Related: Mies van der Rohe SocietyLow Impact Woodland HouseFundació Mies van der Rohe

Easy to Assembly Off-the-grid Towns

render of ekinoid spherical housing model

Ekinoid Housing Unit for a Family

The Ekinoid Project, based near St. Austell, Cornwall, UK, envisions homes designed to ideally be fabricated using no expert knowledge or skills. The homes will suit a family of three or four, and will take under one week to build. Ideally, the main structure should last over 100 years and then be recycled.

Structurally light yet exceptionally strong, the Ekinoid home will very significantly reduce raw material requirements, and will free up the land underneath; it will allow occupants to fulfil their own power needs (and meet their requirements for potable water and in-house sewage treatment; and some of their food needs).

The plan is to build homes, having a spherical frame (steel or possibly Glulam), will be extremely strong, robust and light.

The Ekinoid Project is seeking active, ongoing collaborations with one or more universities. We want to forge partnerships (in industry and) with universities regarding architectural, structural engineering and materials solutions, and we want to involve product designers, graphic designers, 3D-graphics artists, town planners etc.

The project seems a bit ambitious to me. I doubt full towns will be built. But ambition is good. Maybe I am wrong. Even if the project doesn’t achieve that goal, innovative attempts to provide housing solutions are worthy of time and effort.

Related: Wonderful Low Impact Woodland HouseGreen Building with Tire BalesConcrete Houses 1919 and 2007

Making the Most of 450 Square Feet

Using some flexible designing ideas this 450 square foot apartment is made into a full home. As with all these types of efforts space is used in multiple ways depending on the configuration of the movable walls and furniture. It is great to see the livable spaces that can be created with some imagination and good ideas. The $70,000 bill is not cheap but in high cost areas (New York City, Tokyo, London…) that really isn’t a huge amount considering the real estate costs (owning or renting).

Related: Amazingly Flexible 344 Square Foot Room Can Transform Into 24 Different RoomsGreat Furniture for Small Spaces

Wonderful Low Impact Woodland House

photo of the inside of the woodlands house

This site includes details on the process of building a wonderfully distinct woodland house in Wales, that is environmentally friendly.

It was built by myself and my father in law with help from passers by and visiting friends. 4 months after starting we were moved in and cosy. I estimate 1000-1500 man hours and £3000 put in to this point.

Some key points of the design and construction:

  • Dug into hillside for low visual impact and shelter
  • Stone and mud from diggings used for retaining walls, foundations etc.
  • Frame of oak thinnings (spare wood) from surrounding woodland
  • Reciprocal roof rafters are structurally and aesthaetically fantastic and very easy to do
  • Straw bales in floor, walls and roof for super-insulation and easy building
  • Skylight in roof lets in natural feeling light
  • Solar panels for lighting, music and computing
  • Water by gravity from nearby spring

Fantastic stuff. Read more about how they did it and why.

photo of the from of the woodlands house

Related: Green Building with Tire Balesposts on personal engineering projects from our engineering blogLivable Buildings Awards
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University of California, Berkeley: 2010 Livable Buildings Awards

Entryway at the UC San Francisco Mission Bay research campus

The top 2010 Livable Buildings Award from the University of California, Berkeley’s Center for the Built Environment was awarded to the transformation (entryway shown in the photo above) of the shell of a former manufacturing plant near UC San Francisco’s new Mission Bay research campus into environmentally and user friendly offices.

The renovation, which included a full seismic upgrade, incorporated high-performance glazing with operable windows, sustainable finish materials, water conserving strategies, and efficient mechanical and lighting systems. The open perimeter is dedicated to open workspaces to maximize views, daylight, and natural ventilation. Private offices and core zones are grouped to create a central “boulevard” open to reception and conference areas.

One of the review jury comments: “Reusing a building with a large floorplate is a challenge; this project uses transparency, color, and materials to make a place where people want to work, and works well in terms of both aesthetics and sustainability.”

full press release

Amazingly Flexible 344 Square Foot Room Can Transform Into 24 Different Rooms

Gary Chan, a Hong Kong Architect, has created an very cool modular apartment (32 square meters) that can transform into 24 different rooms using sliding walls.

Box of tricks

His latest effort, which took a year and cost just over $218,000, he calls the “Domestic Transformer.” The allusion to toy robots seems apt, given the science-fiction quality of the color scheme – mostly black and silver, washed in eerie yellow light.

Acoustic privacy is limited. When Mr. Chang is entertaining, anyone who wants to use the phone must do so in the shower (also known as “the phone booth”). Still, Mr. Chang is determined to see his ideas put to use in new multi-unit buildings. He has invited a number of developers to visit, and has meticulously documented his apartment’s history in a book, “My 32m2 Apartment: A 30-Year Transformation”. Buying a new apartment might have been a less expensive solution to his storage problem, he admitted. “But why do that?” he asked as he stood in the kitchen making noodle soup. “I see my place as an ongoing experiment.”

Related: Great Furniture for Small Spaces

Headquarters of HuaiNan Animation Technology Industrial Park

Headquarters of HuaiNan Animation Technology Industrial Park

Headquarters of HuaiNan Animation Technology Industrial Park

Located in HuaiNan city, AnHui province in China, this project is the headquarters for the park that is going to be built.

Building Concept:
The idea of the buildings massing and spaces comes from the melting ice cubes.
Ice cubes tend to create a soft connection between each other as they melt down. This concept starts with normal boxes through which architects get integrated and fluent spaces by dissembling and reconnect those boxes with curved surfaces. This kind of space organization brings the building much more complexity and diversity.

HuaiNan Animation Technology Industrial Park

Overhead view of HuaiNan Animation Technology Industrial park

Ice Cube Pattern: Architects took the cladding gaps as part of the designing elements while they confronted with the cladding division problem, same to the massing, concept for the cladding also came from ice cubes.
Ice cubs present an edge-to-center colour gradient due to the refraction happened as light beam comes through. Edges always seem darker and more solid than it appears in the center. Architects tried to get the same effect by controlling the gaps distance and density, following expansion images are the final result for claddings.

Design by Sunlay Design, China.