Contour Crafting Picks Up Speed

In 2006, Dr. Behrokh Khoshnevis, professor at the University of Southern California, introduced the world to Contour Crafting: the idea of applying Computer Aided Design and to homes and eventually larger buildings. As Dr. Khoshnevis explains in this TED Talk, Contour Crafting uses a giant 3D printer that hangs over a designated space and robotically builds up the walls of that building with layers of concrete. The robot can paint the walls and tile surfaces and even knows to construct plumbing and electrical wiring as it goes (Dvice). The idea is that by automating the construction process – one of the only processes humans still do largely by hand – homes will be cheaper and more quickly erected, with significantly lower labor costs. More importantly, Khoshnevis believes that Contour Crafting is essential to creating a more “dignified” architecture by eliminating slums in developing countries and aiding areas in the immediate aftermath of a .

While Dr. Khoshnevis continues to develop Contour Craft, Dutch architect Janjaap Ruijssenaars has already come up with the first house design that can be printed using this up-and-coming technology.

More after the break… (more…)

How to Pleasantly Demolish a High-Rise

As the Atlantic best describes, “Leave it to to turn one of the dirtiest and noisiest processes of the urban lifecycle – the demolition of highrises – into a neat, quiet and almost cute affair.”

Japanese construction company Taisei Corporation has discovered a new, more efficient way to disassemble, rather than demolish, a tall building over 100 meters. The process, known as Taisei’s Ecological Reproduction System or Tecorep, begins by transforming the structure’s top floors into an enclosed “cap”, which is then supported by temporary columns and powerful jacks. As demolition workers begin to disassemble the building from within, they use interior cranes to lower materials. After dismantling an entire floor, the jacks quietly lower the “cap” and the process is repeated.

“It’s kind of like having a disassembly factory on top of the building and putting a big hat there, and then the building shrinks,” says one Taisei engineer, according to this report in the Japan Times.

Learn about the advantages of this process after the break.

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Biological Concrete for a Living, Breathing Facade

© cowbite

The future of design requires thinking innovatively about the way current construction techniques function so we may expand upon their capabilities. Sustainability has evolved far beyond being a trend and has become an indelible part of this design process. Sustainable solutions have always pushed against the status quo of design and now the Structural Technology Group of Universitat Politècnica de CatalunyaBarcelonaTech (UPC) has developed a concrete that sustains and encourages the growth of a multitude of biological organisms on its surface.

We have seen renditions of the vertical garden and vegetated facades, but what sets the biological concrete apart from these other systems is that it is an integral part of the structure. According to an article in Science Daily, the system is composed of three layers on top of the structural elements that together provide ecological, thermal and aesthetic advantages for the building.

More after the break. (more…)

The Evolution of Elevators: Accommodating the Supertall

Ping An Finance Center © KPF

have been around for quite a long time; maybe not those that soar to hundreds of feet in a matter of seconds, but the primitive ancestors of this technology, often man-powered, were developed as early as the 3rd century BC.  These early wheel and belt operated platforms provided the lift that would eventually evolve into the “ascending rooms” that allow supertall skyscrapers (above 300 meters) to dominate skylines in cities across the world. Elevators can be given credit for a lot of progress in architecture and urban planning.  Their invention and development allowed for the building and inhabiting of the structures we see today.

Supertall skyscrapers are becoming more common as cities and architects race to the top of the skyline, inching their way further up into the atmosphere.  These buildings are structural challenges as engineers must develop building technologies that can withstand the forces of high altitudes and tall structures.  But what of the practical matter of moving through these buildings?  What does it mean for vertical conveyance?  How must elevators evolve to accommodate the practical use of these supertall structures?

Local Solutions: Floating Schools in Bangladesh

© Joseph A Ferris III

In Bangladesh, where rising sea levels are having profound effects on the landscape, one nonprofit organization called Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha run by architect  is fighting back by adapting, a true quality of resilience.  Rising water levels and the tumultuous climate is displacing people by the thousands; a projected 20% of Bangladesh is expected to be covered in water within twenty years.  For a country that is one of the densest populated state on the planet, this figure has disastrous consequences for a population that has limited access to fresh water, food, and medicine.  In response to these conditions, Shidhulai has focused on providing education, training and care against the odds of climate change by adapting to the altered landscape:  moving schools and community centers onto the water – on boats.

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Adaptation: Architecture, Technology, and The City / INABA

Adaptation Publication via

Adaptation: Architecture, Technology and the City is a publication that is a result of the collaboration between INABA and Free that brings interviews and art works into a conversation about the advancement of digital and its place in the built environment. The publication is a fascinating study into the dialogue between technological advancements in transportation and communications and the tangible environment with which is inextricably linked. (more…)

iPad App Provides Guide To Building The Perfect Sustainable City

Inspired by the Harvard Graduate School of Design‘s book, Ecological Urbanism, published in 2010, the school commissioned Portland-based interactive studio Second Story to transform the book into an iPad app. This app aims to be a resource that draws from the original text, focusing on sustainable city-building, but can also be updated with new projects and papers as needed, which is something a physical book would not be able to do. Available now for free here, the app shows how dynamic areas of study can benefit greatly from equally dynamic texts. With the world moving so fast, books can’t keep up – thus allows books to remain updated and relevant to our lives.

Courtesy of Fast Co. Design

Dutch Firm wins Best Future Concept with Smart Highways

Courtesy of

Imagine driving down a road at night without street lights with the light-emitting road guiding your way. As the temperature outside drops the road starts to reveal images of ice crystals, signaling to you, the driver, that conditions are now icy and slippery. This futuristic concept may soon be a reality as Dutch design firm Studio Roosegaarde and the engineers at Heijmans Infrastructure team up to develop “Smart Highways” – a design agenda for interactive, sustainable and safe roads. The concept won the two firms at the Dutch Design Awards 2012. Join us after the break for more.

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Post-Hurricane Sandy: Solutions for a Resilient City

Hurricane Sandy damage north of Seaside, N.J. on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012. © Governor’s Office / Tim Larsen

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, as communities band together to clean up the devastation and utility companies work tirelessly to restore the infrastructure that keeps City running, planners and policy makers are debating the next steps to making the city as resilient to as we once thought it was. We have at our hands a range of options to debate and design and the political leverage to make some of these solutions a reality. The question now is, which option or combination of options is most suitable for protecting City and its boroughs? Follow us after the break for more.

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TEDx: Brilliant designs to fit more people in every city / Kent Larson

With industrialization came unchecked suburbia and car-centric lifestyles. But now, in the rapidly approaching age of the super city, our current standards of living will not suffice. According to MIT Research Scientist Kent Larson, 21st century will account for 90% of global population growth, 80% of all global CO2, and 75% of all global energy use.

Understanding that the global population faces serious issues of overcrowding, affordability and overall quality of life, Larson presents new technologies that intend to make future cities function like the small village of the past. Folding cars and quick-change apartments with robotic walls are just a some of the fascinating innovations he and his colleagues are currently developing.
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Datagrove / Future Cities Lab

© Peter Prato

Design:  Jason Kelly Johnson & Nataly Gattegno at Future Cities Lab
Team: Ripon DeLeon (lead), Osma Dossani, Jonathan Izen, assisted by David Spittler

Client: ZERO1, Public Art Program, National Endowment for the Arts
Consultant: Elliot Larson created the Twitter trends [xml link]

Technology: Text to Speech Module by TextSpeak, Arduino Mega and Uno, WiFly Shield by Sparkfun, Verizon Mifi, LCD panels by Sparkfun, LEDS by superbrightleds.com, IR sensors by Sharp
Photography: Peter Prato

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U.S. Forest Service develops Wood-based Nanomaterial

Micrograph picture of cellulose nanocrystals combined with PMMA fibers. Courtesy of U.S. Forest Service

A wood-based composed of cellulose nanocrystals and cellulose nanofibrils is being evaluated at the Forest Products Laboratory, in support of a project at the Army Research Laboratory in Aberdeen, Maryland. The material, presumably stronger than Kevlar, is being produced to create clear composites as reinforced glass for clear applications.  US Forest Services has opened a $1.7 million pilot plant in Wisconsin to develop the wood-based , whose future applications may include windshield and high performance glass.

Under development for three years, the material has the potential to be the strongest and optically clearest version of celllulose nano-fibrils.  Because wood is a renewable resource, the Forest Products Laboratory is optimistic that as the material enters the market, it will help reduce fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, while promoting industry growth in rural areas.

Reference: Architect MagazineForest Products Laboratory

KamerMaker: Mobile 3D Printer Inspires Potential for Emergency Relief Architecture

 

3-D Printing technology is developing at quickening pace as both engineers and architects experiment with its technological and social potential.  Consider Enrico Dini’s D-Shape printer that prints large scale stone structures out of sand and an inorganic binder or Neri Oxman’s research at MIT which involves a 3-D printing arm and nozzles that can print with a variety of different materials, from concrete to recycled plastic.  

Dutch firm DUS Architects, in collaboration with Ultimaker Ltd, Fablab Protospace, and Open Coop, have added another 3-D printing machine to the list known as KamerMaker, the room builder.   is the world’s first mobile 3d printer and has the ability to print “rooms” that are up to 11 feet high and 7 feet wide.  The machine was unveiled at OFF PICNIC, a precursor to Amsterdam’s annual PICNIC technology festival.

Join us after the break for more. (more…)

An Erupting Stability: Tornado Proof Suburb / 10 DESIGN

Courtesy of

“Erupting Stability: Tornado Proof Suburb” is a project being developed by Ted Givens, AIA, of 10 Design in Hong Kong.  He and his team are researching ways to apply kinetic design to architecture in order to provide safe options for shelter in climatically unsafe environments.  The goal is to break free from static ways of building and create a method of using that learns from and responds to the environment in a dynamic way.  ”Erupting Stability” assesses the forces of tornadoes and high velocity winds, specifically, by the way that he and his team are thinking about architecture opens up a range of possibilities for applications in any disaster scenario.

Join us after the break for more on the project and a video that demonstrates how it works. (more…)

The World’s Most Epic Material Library

Keeping the material library organized is a difficult task for many architects, let alone keeping it up-to-date with the latest, most innovative materials. Well, today we stumbled on this video, by The Economist, that highlights Andrew Dent, vice-president of Material ConneXion, and his thoughts on the evolution of material science. has created the world’s largest resource for advanced, innovative and sustainable materials and processes. Their online archive and material libraries, based in seven world-wide, feature over 6,500 of the world’s most cutting-edge materials that are all commercially available for use.

Andrew Dent believes Material ConneXion will help bridge the gap between science and design as we move from the “synthetic century” into a “biological century”, where intelligent, nature-inspired materials consume less resources and less energy. (more…)

The Future of the Building Industry: BIM-BAM-BOOM!

HOK Chief Executive Officer Patrick MacLeamy, FAIA, explains why the term “” doesn’t convey the real promise of building information modeling over time. In this video, MacLeamy breaks down the mega acronym “BIM-BAM-BOOM!” and addresses the real promise of this new approach across three basic phases of a building’s life.

It all begins with BIM; the architect uses 3-D modeling to investigate options and test building performance early on in order to optimize the building’s design. The design is then handed off to the contractor who streamlines the building process with BAM (Building Assembly Modeling), which allows for a significant decrease in construction costs. Once complete, BAM is turned over the owner and becomes BOOM (building owner operator model). This allows the owner to manage the building over time and ensure optimized building performance throughout its entire life cycle.

The real promise of “BIM-BAM-BOOM!” is “better design, better construction, better operation”. (more…)

Disruptive minds: James Ramsey, designer of the Low Line

Renderings of the Low Line by Raad Studio. Courtesy of and Dan Barasch

The disruptive minds series is in partnership with smartwater.
smartwater, simplicity is delicious. Click here to learn more.

Usually when one studies architecture, one does architecture. But that’s just not enough for some people. James Ramsey, most famous for the sci-fi-like renderings of the Low Line, an underground park which has captured the imagination of thousands, is one of those people. An architecture grad from Yale University, Ramsey went on to be a satellite engineer for NASA, before coming back to architecture and starting up his own design studio, Raad Studio. Oh yeah, and along the way he came up with a fiberoptic technology that would allow you to bring natural light (and thus grow plants) underground.

Read the full interview after the break

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Video: phototropia / materiability

Phototropia is part of an ongoing series on the application of smart materials in an architectural context and was realized in April 2012 by the Master of Advanced Studies class at the Chair for Computer Aided Architectural Design (CAAD). The project combines self-made electro-active polymers, screen-printed electroluminescent displays, eco-friendly bioplastics and thin-film dye-sensitized solar cells into an autonomous installation that produces its required energy from sunlight and – when charged – responds to user presence through moving and illuminating elements.

Find more information at Responsive Design.

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