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Constructing The Floating Piers: How the Last Great Work of Christo and Jean-Claude was Built

08:00 - 30 June, 2016
Constructing The Floating Piers: How the Last Great Work of Christo and Jean-Claude was Built, © Wolfgang Volz
© Wolfgang Volz

Until July 3rd, you can experience the latest and last work of artist duo Christo and Jean-Claude. Called The Floating Piers, the floating dock extends over the water of Italy's Lake Iseo.

The work consists of a three kilometer walkway wrapped in 100,000 square meters of yellow cloth, which is supported by a floating dock system composed of 220,000 high-density polyethylene cubes. These elements naturally undulate with the movement of the waves at Lake Iseo, which is located 100 kilometers east of Milan and 200 kilometers west of Venice. The floating yellow roads extend from the pedestrian streets of Sulzano, connecting the islands of San Paolo and Monte Isola.

The Floating Piers is the first large-scale work of Christo for more than a decade after making The Gates in 2005 with Jeanne-Claude, who passed away four years later. Due to the importance of Christo and Jeanne-Claude's work and the inspiration they have given to many architects, we wanted to investigate the process of building this spectacular project, which makes the dream of walking on water a reality.

February 2016: At geo – die Luftwerker, 75,000 square meters of yellow fabric are sewn into panels. (Lübeck, Germany) Image © Wolfgang Volz June 2016: Final installation of the docks, and covering with the yellow fabric. Image © Wolfgang Volz Noviembre 2015: Christo in his studio working on a preparatory drawing for The Floating Piers. Image © Wolfgang Volz May 2016: Workers install the felt that will cover the floating cubes before the yellow fabric is installed Image © Wolfgang Volz +31

Georges Batzios Architects Propose Cultural Center Made Entirely of Straw

06:00 - 30 June, 2016
Georges Batzios Architects Propose Cultural Center Made Entirely of Straw , Courtesy of Georges Batzios Architects
Courtesy of Georges Batzios Architects

A proposal from George Batzios Architects for the Konaki Averof Cultural Center in Greece uses a cutting edge, sustainable approach to revive a deeply historical site. The design intertwines elements of architecture and agriculture to refit an existing structure with reference to the Thessalian plains on which it lies. The new architecture recreates the existing envelopes with straw cladding, regenerating the "golden environment" which defined the place in the late 19th century.

Material Focus: The Great Wall of WA by Luigi Rosselli

10:00 - 29 June, 2016
Material Focus: The Great Wall of WA by Luigi Rosselli ,  The Great Wall of WA / Luigi Rosselli. Image © Edward Birch
The Great Wall of WA / Luigi Rosselli. Image © Edward Birch

This article is part of our new "Material Focus" series, which asks architects to elaborate on the thought process behind their material choices and sheds light on the steps required to get buildings actually built.

The Great Wall of WA, designed by the Australian firm Luigi Rosselli Architects, and selected as one of Archdaily’s Best Building of the Year 2016, provides a unique example of rammed earth construction. At 230 meters in length, the Great Wall of WA is the longest structure of its kind in Australia and possibly the South Hemisphere, according to its architects. Built in remote North Western Australia, the building is made from locally available materials whose thermal properties help it to endure a variable climate. We spoke with the architect Luigi Rosselli to learn more about his compelling choice of material and the determining role it played in his concept design.

 The Great Wall of WA / Luigi Rosselli. Image © Edward Birch  The Great Wall of WA / Luigi Rosselli. Image © Edward Birch  The Great Wall of WA / Luigi Rosselli. Image © Edward Birch  The Great Wall of WA / Luigi Rosselli. Image © Edward Birch +13

This New "Fancy Fence" System Retracts Gate Directly Into Ground

08:00 - 28 June, 2016

A new fencing system uses the same tried and tested hardware as a standard sliding gate, but with a twist; the vertically operable slats sink into the ground in less than five seconds, disappearing completely. The Fancy Fence was created to streamline accessibility, while also improving the visual bulk of traditional fences by removing all horizontal elements. The system can be installed in an infinite number of configurations and incorporates elegantly designed fixed slats, the retractable gate and an "invisible" walkway gate.

SUTD Professors Design 3D Printed Mesh Pavilion

08:00 - 18 June, 2016
SUTD Professors Design 3D Printed Mesh Pavilion, © SUTD : Felix Raspall + Carlos Bañón
© SUTD : Felix Raspall + Carlos Bañón

Professors Felix Raspall and Carlos Bañón from SUTD Singapore have designed a 14.5-meter-long fibrous mesh made out of metal and nylon 3D printed nodes and aluminum bars for the SUTD Open House 2016.

Rather than utilizing 3D printing to create a scaled model, the pavilion project applied 3D printing technology directly to functional architectural components at a large scale.

Let Your Building "Breathe" With This Pneumatic Façade Technology

09:30 - 11 June, 2016

Have you ever seen a building that breathes through thousands of pores? That may now be a possibility thanks to Tobias Becker’s Breathing Skins Project. Based on the concept of biomimicry, the technology is inspired by organic skins that adjust their permeability to control the necessary flow of light, matter and temperature between the inside and the outside. In addition to these performative benefits, the constantly changing appearance of these façades provides a rich interplay between the exterior natural environment and interior living spaces.

Courtesy of The Breathing Skins Project Courtesy of The Breathing Skins Project Courtesy of The Breathing Skins Project Courtesy of The Breathing Skins Project +8

RMIT Researchers Develop a Lighter, Better Brick Made With Cigarette Butts

16:00 - 10 June, 2016
RMIT Researchers Develop a Lighter, Better Brick Made With Cigarette Butts, © Flickr cc user letsbook. Licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
© Flickr cc user letsbook. Licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

One man’s trash is another man’s building material. Researchers from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (commonly known as RMIT University) have developed a technique for making bricks out of one of the world’s most stubborn forms of pollution: discarded cigarette butts.  Led by Dr. Abbas Mohajerani, the team discovered that manufacturing fired-clay bricks with as little as 1 percent cigarette butt content could completely offset annual worldwide cigarette production, while also producing a lighter, more efficient brick.

The Compact Wooden City: A Life-Cycle Analysis of How Timber Could Help Combat Climate Change

10:45 - 2 June, 2016
The Compact Wooden City: A Life-Cycle Analysis of How Timber Could Help Combat Climate Change, Sou Fujimoto and Laisné Roussel's proposal for a tall wooden building in Bordeaux. Image © SOU FUJIMOTO ARCHITECTS + LAISNÉ ROUSSEL + RENDERING BY TÀMAS FISHER AND MORPH
Sou Fujimoto and Laisné Roussel's proposal for a tall wooden building in Bordeaux. Image © SOU FUJIMOTO ARCHITECTS + LAISNÉ ROUSSEL + RENDERING BY TÀMAS FISHER AND MORPH

Nowadays the main building materials used in the construction industry are concrete, steel and timber. From the point of view of ecological sustainability, there are four important differences between these three materials: first, timber is the only material of the three that is renewable; second, timber needs only a small amount of energy to be extracted and recycled compared to steel and concrete (but the implementation of its potential is not as developed yet); third, timber does not produce waste by the end of its life since it can be reused many times in several products before decomposing or being used as fuel and; and fourth, timber traps huge amounts of carbon from the atmosphere – a tree can contain a ton of CO2 [1] – and the carbon absorbed remains embedded as long as the wood is in use.

Considering the fact that 36 percent of total carbon emissions in Europe during the last decade came from the building industry,[2] as well as 39 percent of total carbon emissions in the United States,[3] the materiality of construction should be a priority for governments’ regulations in the future as measurements against global warming. The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere and the level of carbon emissions of the big economies across the globe are big issues that need to be solved with urgency in order to avoid larger, more frequent climate catastrophes in the future. The current regulation in several countries of the EU, which is incentivizing the use of renewable materials in buildings, is showing the direction the building industry in many other parts of the world should follow. And if these measures are adopted across the EU and beyond – if other countries start to follow this tendency as well – there will be significantly more wood in cities.

In order to raise awareness of tall wooden buildings, last year Michael Green Architecture reimagined the Empire State Building as a wooden structure. Image © Metsä Wood Limnologen in Växjö, Sweden. Image © Midroc Property Development Early construction of Acton Ostry Architects' Brock Commons Student Residence at the University of British Columbia. When complete in 2017, the 18-story building will be the world's tallest timber building. Image © Acton Ostry Architects Inc. & University of British Columbia Michael Green Architecture was part of a team that proposed the world's tallest wooden buildings as part of the Réinventer Paris competition. Image © MGA +7

With Recent Innovations, Where Will Elevators Take Us Next?

09:30 - 27 May, 2016
With Recent Innovations, Where Will Elevators Take Us Next?

Many technological advancements have changed the way we design in the past 150 years, but perhaps none has had a greater impact than the invention of the passenger elevator. Prior to Elisha Otis’ design for the elevator safety brake in 1853, buildings rarely reached 7 stories. Since then, buildings have only been growing taller and taller. In 2009, the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, maxed out at 163 floors (serviced by Otis elevators). Though a century and half separates those milestones, in that time elevator technology has actually changed relatively little - until recently.

SCI-Arc’s Close-up Exhibit Explores the Potential of Digital Technologies on Architectural Detail

12:00 - 14 May, 2016
SCI-Arc’s Close-up Exhibit Explores the Potential of Digital Technologies on Architectural Detail, SCI-Arc's "Close-up" Exhibtion Explores Architectural Detail in an age of digital manufacturing and design. Image © Joshua White
SCI-Arc's "Close-up" Exhibtion Explores Architectural Detail in an age of digital manufacturing and design. Image © Joshua White

SCI-Arc’s “Close-up” exhibition is currently on display at the SCI-Arc gallery, featuring architectural details designed with the use of digital technology by top architects in the field. The exhibit, curated by Hernan Diaz Alonso and David Ruy, seeks to explore the impact of new computational tools not only on large-scale building analysis, but also on the “traditions of tectonic expression” associated with architectural detail.

“Out of the many critical shifts that the discipline has gone through in the last 25 years with the explosion of new technologies and digital means of production, the notion of the construction detail has been largely overlooked,” Diaz Alonso said. “This show attempts to shed light on the subject of tectonic details by employing a fluid and dynamic movement of zooming in and zooming out in the totality of the design.”

The 16 exhibitors include architecture firms like Morphosis, Gehry Partners and UN Studio – see preview images of them all after the break.

By UN Studio. Image © Joshua White By Gehry Partners. Image © Joshua White By P-A-T-T-E-R-N-S. Image © Joshua White By Tom Wiscombe Architecture. Image © Joshua White +37

New Material From Harvard Researchers Folds and Changes Shape On Its Own

08:00 - 14 May, 2016

A material produced by Harvard researchers changes size, volume and shape all by itself, reports The Harvard Gazette. The new material, inspired by the “snapology” technique from origami is composed of extruded cubes that have 24 faces and 36 edges.

At Kunstmuseum Basel, iart Creates a Frieze with a Technological Twist

09:30 - 13 May, 2016

Though it was once an essential element of all classical structures, the frieze has largely been left behind by architects looking for contemporary façade systems. But at the recently-opened addition to the Kunstmuseum Basel, designed by Swiss architects Christ & Gantenbein in collaboration with design group iart, the frieze returns with an eye-catching, technological twist, as hidden pixels within the facade light up to display moving images and text to those below.

© Derek Li Wan Po, Basel © Derek Li Wan Po, Basel © Derek Li Wan Po, Basel © Derek Li Wan Po, Basel +15

Material Focus: OE House by Fake Industries Architectural Agonism + Aixopluc

09:30 - 7 May, 2016
Material Focus: OE House by Fake Industries Architectural Agonism + Aixopluc, © José Hevia
© José Hevia

This article is part of our new "Material Focus" series, which asks architects to elaborate on the thought process behind their material choices and sheds light on the steps required to get buildings actually built.

In the Catalan countryside, on the outskirts of the small town of Alforja, sits an incongruous sight: among the scattered stone masia houses is a structure of steel and glass, a resolutely rectilinear box among the traditional housing forms. But once inside the OE House, designed by Fake Industries Architectural Agonism and Aixopluc, one realizes that the building is not so different to its neighbors after all: on the upper floor, the roof incorporates a system of ceramic vaults taken almost directly from traditional vernacular design. This feature then combines with plywood and OSB to create a truly eclectic material pallette. We spoke with the design's architects, David Tapias of Aixopluc and Cristina Goberna and Urtzi Grau of Fake Industries Architectural Agonism, to find out what lay behind these unusual material choices.

Conference: Facade Tectonics World Congress 2016

18:00 - 2 May, 2016
Conference: Facade Tectonics World Congress 2016, Facade Tectonics World Congress 2016
Facade Tectonics World Congress 2016

The Facade Tectonics Institute announces its 2016 Annual Conference and inaugural World Congress. The summit will include speaking and poster presentations, panel discussions, exhibitors and workshops addressing themes related to Design Processes, Historical Evolution, Facade Futures, and much more. 

The Inflatable Architecture of Plastique Fantastique

12:30 - 30 April, 2016

Plastique Fantastique's pneumatic structures were originally conceived in 1999 through necessity: "The fact that we used plastic was just due to the fact that we had no money," explains the firm's founder Marco Canevacci. "So, plastic was just the cheapest material we could imagine, and you can join parts very easily and you can create very simple architectures. By using a hot air blower, those architectures become warm places to stay." By using warm air to inflate the structures, their office became a landscape of heated pods in an otherwise cold space. However, through their continued experiments over almost two decades, Plastique Fantastique's pneumatic interventions have now come to make the case for an ephemeral, temporary, and whimsical architecture. Their work now continues a lineage started by the experimental utopian group Haus-Rucker-Co, whose own pneumatic structures of the 1960s were disposable, free-wheeling creations which both literally and metaphorically played with the boundaries of a world they saw as staid, rigid, and dull.

Last year, Plastique Fantastique was invited to the 180 Creative Camp held by Canal 180 in Abrantes, Portugal, where their giant, inhabitable Strawberry Ice Cream Cone took over a public place to provide a unique and fun spatial experience. To mark this event, Canal 180 produced a short film highlighting some key recent projects by the firm and documenting the construction of their latest work. Watch the video above, and read on to see more images of the installation in Abrantes.

© Miguel Oliveira and Bárbara Moreira © Miguel Oliveira and Bárbara Moreira © Miguel Oliveira and Bárbara Moreira © Miguel Oliveira and Bárbara Moreira +19

US Architecture School Bans Styrene as Model Making Material

14:00 - 20 April, 2016
US Architecture School Bans Styrene as Model Making Material, via Madeleine Underwood, Student Life
via Madeleine Underwood, Student Life

By next Fall, the architecture students of Washington University in St. Louis will no longer be allowed to use Styrene on their projects. The university's newspaper, Student Life reports that the commonly used white plastic material was deemed in 2014 by the National Research Council's National Toxicology Program as "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen." Thus the Sam Fox School of Design is taking its own measures to protect their student's health. A number of other schools and cities have already banned Styrene since the NRC's ruling. 

Translucent Wood? Meet the New Material Developed by KTH

14:00 - 13 April, 2016
Translucent Wood? Meet the New Material Developed by KTH, © Peter Larsson / KTH
© Peter Larsson / KTH

A group of researchers from KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm has developed Optically Transparent Wood (TW), a new material that could greatly impact the way we develop our architectural projects. Published in the American Chemical Society's journal Biomacromolecules, the transparent timber is created through a process that removes the chemical lignin from a wood veneer, causing it to become very white. This white porous veneer is then impregnated with a transparent polymer, matching the optical properties of the individual cells and making the whole material translucent.

Kengo Kuma Uses Carbon Fiber Strands to Protect Building from Earthquakes

16:00 - 8 April, 2016
Kengo Kuma Uses Carbon Fiber Strands to Protect Building from Earthquakes, © Takumi Ota
© Takumi Ota

Japan-based Komatsu Seiten Fabric Laboratory has created a new thermoplastic carbon fiber composite called CABKOMA Strand Rod. The Strand Rod is a carbon fiber composite which is covered in both synthetic and inorganic fibers and finished with a thermoplastic resin. The material has been used on the exterior of Komatsu Seiten’s head office.