Janet Echelman Reshaping Urban Airspace World-Wide

Courtesy of Studio Echelman © Christina O. Haver

Inspired by the local materials and culture of Mahabalipuram, an Indian fishing village famous for sculpture, American Artist Janet Echelman stumbled upon a material that would change her art, and life, forever. One evening, while observing the fishermen’s nightly routine of bundling their nets, Echelman imagined a new type of sculpture – a volumetric form that could be the scale of a large building but remain light enough to ripple in the wind, constantly reshaping the net and creating ever-changing patterns.

With a sophisticated mixture of ancient craft and modern technology, Echelman collaborates with a range of professionals including aeronautical and mechanical engineers, architects, lighting designers, landscape architects, and fabricators to transform urban environments world-wide with her net sculptures.

Continue after the break to view some of Echelman’s most famous projects.

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The Free Universal Construction Kit

Via Free Art and Technology [F.A.T.
Whether you would like to admit it or not, most of us share a similar fetish for Legos, Tinkertoys and any other awesome “childrens” toy that most likely helped us create our first “masterpiece”. Well, you will pleased to know that F.A.T. Lab and Sy-Lab have created the Free Universal Construction Kit: a matrix of nearly 80 adapter bricks that enable complete interoperability between ten popular children’s construction toys. By allowing any piece to join to any other, the Kit encourages totally new forms of connections between otherwise closed systems – enabling radically hybrid constructive play, the creation of previously impossible designs, and ultimately, more creative opportunities. As with other grassroots interoperability remedies, the Free Universal Construction Kit implements proprietary protocols in order to provide a public service unmet—or unmeetable—by corporate interests.

The Free Universal Construction Kit offers adapters between Lego®, Duplo®, Fischertechnik®, Gears! Gears! Gears!®, K’Nex®, Krinkles®, Bristle Blocks®, Lincoln Logs®, Tinkertoys®, Zome®, ZomeTool® and Zoob®. Adapters can be downloaded from Thingiverse.com and other sharing sites as a set of 3D models in .STL format, suitable for reproduction by personal manufacturing devices like the Makerbot (an inexpensive, open-source 3D printer).

While we are at it, don’t forget to try and win Jørn Utzon’s Sydney Opera House from LEGO® Architecture! The giveaway closes Sunday, March 25th at 11:59 EST. (more…)

Origin / United Visual Artists

James Medcraft © United Visual Artists 2011

Designer: United Visual Artists
Score: Scanner
Client: The Creators Project
Location: (2011) and San Francisco (2012)
Additional Audio Programming: Henrik Ekeus and Dave Meckin
Producer: Keri Elmsly
Photographer: James Medcraft

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Journey to the Center of New York: Can Design “Cure” Our Cities?

Plans for the Delancey Underground, an underground park made possible by fiberoptic technology. Photo courtesy of James Ramsey and Dan Barasch

Walk into the cafeteria at the Googleplex and you are nudged into the “right” choice. Sweets? Color-coded red and placed on the bottom shelf to make them just a bit harder to reach. “Instead of that chocolate bar, sir, wouldn’t you much rather consume this oh-so-conveniently-located apple? It’s good for you! Look, we labelled it !” [1]

Like the Google cafeteria guides you to take responsibility of your health, Google wants to transform the construction industry to take responsibility of the “health” of its buildings. They have been leveraging for transparency in the content of building materials, so that, like consumers who read what’s in a Snickers bar before eating it, they’ll know the “ingredients” of materials to choose the greenest, what they call “healthiest,” options.[2]

These examples illustrate the trend of “medicalization” in our increasingly health-obsessed society: when ordinary problems (such as construction, productivity, etc.) are defined and understood in medical terms. In their book Imperfect Health, Borasi and Zardini argue that through this process, architecture and design has been mistakenly burdened with the normalizing, moralistic function of “curing” the human body. [3]

While I find the idea that design should “force” healthiness somewhat paternalistic and ultimately limited, I don’t think this “medicalized” language is all bad – especially if we can use it in new and revitalizing ways. Allow me to prescribe two examples: the most popular and the (potentially) most ambitious urban renewal projects in New York City today, the High Line and the Delancey Underground (or the Low Line).

More on “curative” spaces after the break. (Trust me, it’s good for you.)

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Fabergé Big Egg Hunt Features Designs by Leading Architects

Dichotomy / Zaha Hadid - Courtesy of The Big Egg Hunt Co

‘The Fabergé Big Egg Hunt’, launched on the 21st of February, has provided London, England with 209 giant and stunningly crafted Easter eggs, designed by artists, architects, jewelers and designers.  The four presented here were designed by architects Zaha Hadid, Sir Nicholas Grimshaw, Fourfoursixsix and interior design firm Candy & Candy.  The designs are unique, structural and conceptual.  Thirty-one among the 200 will be chosen for a live auction on March 20th.  The rest can be bid on on-line. The proceeds from the auction will go towards the £2million target for Action for Children, a charity for vulnerable and neglected children, young people and families, and Elephant Family, a charity for the endangered Asian elephant.  This Easter egg hunt invites the whole public to participate in finding these eggs throughout the city; the scale of this event is set to break Guinness World Records for the most participants in an Easter egg hunt.

Read on to see the designs after the break.

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Luftwerk’s Luminous Field lights up Millennium Park

-based artists Petra Bachmaier and Sean Gallero of Luftwerk have transformed Millennium Park into an interactive, choreographed light show titled Luminous Field. Colorful geometrical images set to music composed by Owen Clayton Condon of Third Coast Percussion illuminate “Cloud Gate”, commonly known as “The Bean”, and transform its surrounding plaza into a digital canvas. This site-specific video and sound installation is the first of its kind for Cloud Gate. Be sure to take part in this “immersive sculptural experience” before it concludes on February 20th. The spectacle begins each night at 6pm. Continue after the break for more images.

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A Thousand Traps to Escape / Olivier Bourgeois and EAUL atelier 5D

© Jean-François Noël / Atelier 5D / Marika Drolet-Ferguson

“A Thousand Traps to Escape” is a temporary installation designed by 13 students from Laval University under Olivier Bourgeois in the Magdalen Islands in Quebec, Canada.  The project builds on the collaboration of themes of architecture, art, landscape and installation in the creation of space based on simple materials, the landscape and “the basic rules of construction”.  The “local material” chosen for this construction is the ubiquitous lobster trap made of wood and fishnet.  Its formal simplicity allowed for an basic stacking technique that produced relatively complex visual results of transparencies and opacities.

Read on for more information on the development of this project. (more…)

Update: The Battle continues for Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s “Over the River” Project

Photo: Wolfgang Volz / © 1999 Christo

The battle carries on as world-famous artist Christo fights for approval to construct a temporary work of art that will suspend 5.9 miles of silvery, luminous fabric panels high above the Arkansas River, along a 42-mile stretch between Salida and Cañon City in south-central . Over the River has been on the drawing boards for 20 years now, with over $7 million of Christo’s money invested into it with environmental studies, mock-ups, surveys from the air and wind tests.

In November, Christo received approval from the federal Bureau of Land Management, which owns 98 percent of the riverfront. This was a huge step forward in the project and now only a few more local permit approvals are standing in the way.

Continue reading for more. (more…)

BIG ♥ NYC

Together, BIG + Times Square Alliance + Flatcut + Local Projects and Zumtobel celebrates Valentines Day with a BIG red pulsating heart in the middle of Times Square, New York. The 10-foot-tall heart pulsates as the 400 transparent, lit, acrylic tubes sway in the wind. Once people touch the heart-shaped sensor, the light grows brighter and the pulse beats faster. Joining hands with more people will increase the intensity of the heart.

“The heart reflects what Times Square is made of: people and light – the more people, the stronger the light,” Bjarke Ingels, Founder & Partner, BIG.

See the love with the video above and more images after the break.

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Plywood: Material, Process, Form at the NYC MoMA

Designed by Sori Yanagi | Photo Courtesy of

Plywood: Material, Process, Form is an ongoing exhibit at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City that will be open to the public starting tomorrow, February 2, 2012. We have seen many architectural projects that take advantage of the flexibility this “layer cake of lumber and glue”, as described by Popular Science in 1948, has to offer. Plywood has given 20th-century designers a material embodying  “formal and aesthetic” qualities on an industrial scale.

More on the exhibit after the break. (more…)

Architectural Patents: On what Grounds?

Courtesy of ifoapplestore.com

We have all heard of patenting building systems, building technologies, details and of course, products.  But what about patenting architecture?  Jack Martin brought this to our attention in light of Apple successfully getting an for the design of a store in the Upper West Side in , asking “On what grounds can you patent architecture?”  The inventors listed in the patent are architects Karl Backus, Peter Bohlin and George Bradley of Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, and Robert Bridger, Benjamin L. Fay, Steve Jobs and Bruce Johnson for a design that Architect’s Newspaper describes as “meticulous and seamless as its clients”.

So, what is the extent of patenting architecture?  Structural systems, materials, details, conceptual strategies, the look of it?  We interpret architecture as a language in itself, but it is difficult to conceive of copyright infringement when it comes to architectural design because it is difficult to pin-point exactly what makes all of the parts of a building a copyrighted entity. What if Le Corbusier patented his designs?  Mies van der RoheFrank Lloyd Wright?  Their work and strategies have been copied and implemented all over the world to varying degrees.  So, where is the line between protecting an original idea and creating a barrier against progress? Or does this commercialization of architecture fuel competition to design better or design around strategies already patented? More after the break.

The Gravity Stool by Jólan van der Wiel, magnetic innovation

Young dutch designer Jólan van der Wiel has been announced as the winner of the [D3] Contest for young designers at the imm cologne fair.

Using a magnetic plastic compounds, magnets and simple gravity, Jólan gives birth to the Gravity Stool, an expressive piece of that is like a frozen moment of physics exposing the forces in action. You can see the full process on the above video by Miranda Stet.

© Jólan van der Wiel

The Gravity Stool thanks its unique shape to the cooperation between magnetic fields and the power of gravity.

Departing from the idea that everything is influenced by gravitation, a force that has a strongly shaping effect, I intended to manipulate this natural phenomenon by exploiting its own power: magnetism. The positioning of the magnetic fields in the machine, opposing each other, has largely determined the final shape of the Gravity Stool.

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Dieter Rams 10 Principles of “Good Design”

© René Spitz via flickr – http://www.flickr.com/photos/renespitz/

As the New Year begins, architects and designers everywhere search for the latest information in hopes to find inspiration to provide them with ample amounts of motivation. Unsure of my inspiration, I found myself reading Neither Restrospective, Nor Predictive: Dieter Rams & Design of Self on the Semantic Foundry WordPress. I was then reminded of the famous German industrial designer Dieter Rams and his ten principles of “good design”. The straightforward list lays down key points, clearly stating what makes a good design. This information is a timeless source of inspiration that most any designer can appreciate.

Continue reading for Dieter Rams Ten Principles of “Good Design”

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The Imbued Potential of Vacant Land

Vacant land is a looming problem for many cities, especially when it remains undeveloped for years or is transformed into garbage dumps and parking lots. But when designers begin to notice these voids within the activity of a city they are able to unlock the inherent potential in the land. That is precisely what “Not a Vacant Lot”, as part of DesignPhiladephia, did this October. Philadelphia’s 40,000 vacant lots are both a challenge and an opportunity for young designers, artists and architects to tranform these under-utilized spaces into experiences within the fabric of the urban environment. The focal point of the design intervention was at the University of the Arts lot on 313 S. Broad Street, just a few blocks from Philadelphia’s center. It featured a reinterpreted map of Philadelphia by PennDesign students and Marianne Bernstein’s Play House, an 8′x8′ aluminum cube which, in its simplicity, could unlock the potential of this particular lot. But this engagement of vacant land was just one such intervention in a series artist installations throughout Philadelphia.  Another such intervention, GroundPaper, was designed by two collaborating artists, Mike Ski and KT Butterfield.  The site of their choosing was along the banks of the Delaware River in Fishtown, a neighborhood of Philadelphia.

Read on to see what artists can accomplish with no budget, a vacant lot and an inspired idea.

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Formula 1 Project / Populous

Courtesy of

Following Populous’ recent success with the redevelopment of the home of the British Formula One Grand Prix, Silverstone, the ground breaking ceremony for the next Populous Formula 1 project, the 4.7km Velociudad Speedcity circuit, recently took place in , Argentina, on December 16th. More images and brief project description after the break. (more…)

Maynilad Water Complex Proposal / HartnessVision

Courtesy of

Located in front of Manila City Hall, the proposed project by HartnessVision integrates ‘water branding’ into the architecture of this Maynilad customer facility. The site is organized around 3 programmed axes (nature, access, amenities) in which pedestrians have priority. The expression of water-channeling and healthy clean water resources play important roles in their concept. More images and project description after the break. (more…)

Christo and Jeanne-Claude “Over the River” Project – Approved to Stretch Across Arkansas River

Photo: Wolfgang Volz // © 1999 Christo

Controversial artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude – known for making large-scale architectural interventions in urban and rural environments – have finally gotten approval from the Bureau of Land Management to construct their most recent project “Over the River”, which will stretch along 5.9 miles along the Arkansas River in Southern .

Read on for details of the project and more images! (more…)

The Citizen Office Concept by Vitra

Courtesy of Vitra

Vitra presents an office of possibilities called Citizen Office – one in which employees control the way they interact with their work environment. Through the creative implementation of products and arrangements that stimulate the flexible use of space for each individual, employees can choose how their work will be most productive.  This promotes physical and mental well-being and reflects positively on employee performance.  According to Katharina Weisflog, Marketing & Public Relations Manager for Vitra, “feeling at ease makes people more motivated and productive” which is why at Citizen Office “the workers decide autonomously which rhythm and which form is right for their respective activity at which location”.

Click through for images of the working environment created within Citizen Office. (more…)