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See the Beauty in Programmable Materials in this Mesmerizing Video

In his TED Talk showcasing his work at MIT's Self Assembly Lab, computational architect Skylar Tibbits does an excellent job of explaining the functional possibilities of programmable materials and four-dimensional printing - from structures that assemble themselves in space, to infrastructure that can adapt itself to changes in demand. But there is one property of these materials that he fails to mention: they can be truly beautiful in action.

But in this video by Dana Zelig, a masters student in industrial design at Jerusalem's Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, the beauty of these processes is placed front and center. Using nothing more than 12 sheets of shrinkable pre-stressed polystyrene taken from children's creativity sets, a home printer and an infra-red light, Zelig's "Traces" project has created a series of self-forming shapes that delicately transform in front of our eyes.

Gramazio Kohler's Robotic Arm Creates an Elegant Twisting Brick Facade

Advances in computers and fabrication technology have allowed architects to create fantastic designs with relative ease that in years past would likely require the labor of countless master craftsmen. Architecture firms like Gramazio Kohler Architects are known for their innovative approach to digital fabrication, adapting technology from a variety of fields. To create this stunning new brick façade for Keller AG Ziegeleien, Gramazio Kohler used an innovative robotic manufacturing process called “ROBmade,” which uses a robot to position and glue the bricks together. 

Courtesy of Gramazio Kohler Courtesy of Gramazio Kohler Courtesy of Gramazio Kohler Courtesy of Gramazio Kohler

This New Brick by MIT-Researchers Uses Little Energy and Helps Deplete Landfills

Traditional Red Bricks. Image Courtesy of MIT Tata Center
Traditional Red Bricks. Image Courtesy of MIT Tata Center

India has one of the fastest growing populations in the world and to accommodate it, a better building material is needed. Currently over 200 billion of the country’s traditional clay fired bricks are manufactured every year, resulting in numerous pollution and environmental problems. To address these issues, a team from MIT –- composed of students Michael Laracy and Thomas Poinot, along with professors Elsa Olivetti, Hamlin Jennings and John Ochsendorf -- has developed Eco-BLAC bricks: an alternative to traditional bricks that reuses industrial waste and is low-cost and low energy. 

Building Elements Come Alive with this Pinecone-Inspired Material that Reacts to Moisture

Reactive materials hold huge potential for architects and engineers in the near future, offering forms of interactive and customizable construction that could, if used properly, seriously alter the way in which people interact with their built environment. The massive expansion in the capabilities of touch screens and other glass based technologies have opened up user interfaces to levels where interactive cityscapes are becoming reachable - but creating materials which are themselves reactive is a much less-explored solution. Water Reaction, a project by Royal College of Art student Chao Chen, is an attempt at exactly that: creating a material that reacts to external conditions with no human input required.

An artificial pinecone proof of concept. Image © Chao Chen The reactive surface when open. Image © Chao Chen The reactive canopy when dry. Image © Chao Chen The reactive canopy when wet. Image © Chao Chen

How Newlight Technologies Creates a Plastic From Air and Greenhouse Gases

The 20th century was an era of unbelievable change, with more revolutionary ideas and scientific developments than perhaps any era before it. But among the many developments in the material sciences, one stands as perhaps the most revolutionary: plastics. An experimental group of materials at the turn of the century, artificial plastics are so ubiquitous now that it's almost impossible to imagine life without them.

However, in the 21st century plastics have gained a bad reputation; commonly produced from oil, plastics are a non-renewable resource and, after spending decades or even centuries polluting our environment, most plastics will eventually degrade to release their carbon into the atmosphere. Recycling plastic will go some way to slow this problem, but with so many modern products relying on plastic - and our tendency toward increasing consumption showing no signs of slowing - recycling can only do so much.

But what if there was a way to use plastics to actually reverse the release of greenhouse gases? That's exactly what Newlight Technologies is attempting to do with their carbon-negative plastic, AirCarbon.

SageGlass Unveils Latest Developments in Smart Glass Technology

With the demands of sustainability today placing tight restrictions on performance metrics such as how airtight a building is, one of the sacrifices that often has to be made is user control. Windows are often no longer openable; shades and blinds often replaced with non-openable louvers. In recent years new technology such as smart glass (sometimes called "switchable glass) has promised a modicum of compromise, allowing windows to be tinted on demand. But smart glass is limited - it's either on or off, clear or tinted.

Until now, that is. At the AIA convention in MaySageGlass revealed a range of innovations that greatly increase the options available to designers when specifying smart glass.

LEGO Invests $150 Million in Sustainable Materials Research

LEGO recently made architecture news with their BIG-designed "LEGO House," a museum and "experience center". Image Courtesy of LEGO Group
LEGO recently made architecture news with their BIG-designed "LEGO House," a museum and "experience center". Image Courtesy of LEGO Group

LEGO has long been recognized by architects as a key inspiration in the world of creative building - but the Danish toy company's influence over the construction industry may be about to get a whole lot more direct. Yesterday, LEGO announced the establishment of its own sustainable materials research center, with an investment of 1 billion Danish Krone ($150 million US), which will search to find sustainable alternatives to the plastic used in their products and packaging.

Introducing Our New Materials Catalog

During the past few months we have been working hard to upgrade our Materials catalog to improve search functionality and user experience. Today we are happy to launch the first of many improvements!

Matter Design's "Helix" Stair Takes Concrete to the Next Level

Exhibited at the BSA Space as part of the Boston Design Biennial in 2013, Matter Design's Helix is a concrete spiral staircase that is full of surprises. Chief among these is its size - the stair was built at half-size to address the practical issues of weight, liability and access - but more important are the details of its assembly. While the steps of most spiral staircases are supported from either the stair's perimeter or a central column, Helix transfers loads directly through the steps below to its base which, rather than resting on the floor as it appears, is in fact suspended from a beam in the ceiling.

Exploded diagram of the casting process. Image Courtesy of Matter Design Diagram of the assembly. Image Courtesy of Matter Design Courtesy of Matter Design Courtesy of Matter Design

Material Masters: The Traditional Tiles of Wang Shu & Lu Wenyu

Wang Shu and Lu Wenyu of Amateur Architecture Studio are known for their distinctly contextual attitudes towards design which prize tradition and timelessness above anything else. In many cases, their use of materials is governed by local availability of salvaged building elements. Tiles, in particular, represent a material used repeatedly by Amateur Architecture studio and for Wang Shu, who won the 2012 Pritzker Prize, they offer a political as well as an architectural message.

Bamboom: Elora Hardy's TED Talk on Bamboo's Exploding Popularity

Perhaps the most surprising thing about bamboo - besides being an entirely natural, sustainable material with the tensile strength of steel that can grow up to 900 millimeters (3 feet) in just 24 hours - is that it's not more widely recognized as a fantastic construction material. Like many traditional building materials, bamboo no longer has the architectural currency that it once did across Asia and the pacific, but the efforts of Elora Hardy may help put it back into the vernacular. Heading up Ibuku, a design firm that uses bamboo almost exclusively, Hardy's recent TED Talk is an excellent run through of bamboo's graces and virtues in construction, showing off sinuous private homes and handbuilt school buildings.

Karawitz's open shell of bamboo. Image Courtesy of Karawitz Architects The Green School in Bali. Image Courtesy of PT Bambu One of Elora Hardy's bamboo bridges. Image Courtesy of PT Bambu The Green School in Bali. Image Courtesy of PT Bambu

Watch These Italian Artisans Create Bubble-Wrap Inspired Glass

For Maya Lapp and Denis Perera, owners of the company Glass MaDe in the Italian town of Belluno, bubble wrap is just about the most everyday material they know. It is the utilitarian material they use to protect their products from damage - yet despite this, it still holds a certain amount of fascination, resulting in their latest project, "Fragile." This video by Studio Meddle shows the making of the project, as the glassmaking duo create a mold of the bubble wrap, cast the glass and finally drape the resulting product over a wrinkled wire mesh to create an almost eery facsimile of the original, subverting our usual expectations of the familiar bubble pattern. Check out Studio Meddle's Video above (make sure the captions are turned on), and see more images of the completed work after the break.

Courtesy of Studio Meddle Courtesy of Studio Meddle Courtesy of Studio Meddle Courtesy of Studio Meddle

Material Minds: The Possibilities Of Ultra High Performance Concrete

Since the beginning of the Modernist era a century ago, concrete has been appreciated by architects for its strength, versatility and sculptural potential. For many countries, concrete played a key role in their recovery from the Second World War, and in their continued modernization during the second half of the 20th century. But in recent years - while it is still as widely-used as ever - concrete has fallen on something of an image problem, with criticisms of its environmental impact and its aesthetic appearance becoming commonplace.

That hasn't stopped some companies continuing to innovate with concrete. Among these companies is TAKTL, a facade panel designer and manufacturer that works exclusively with Ultra High Performance Concrete (UHPC). To find out what UHPC can offer to architecture, ArchDaily spoke to TAKTL about the potential of this material, and the future of concrete construction.

AD Round-Up: 9 Projects That Make Creative Use Of Cor-Ten Steel

One of the most interesting trends in architectural materials of recent years is the increase in use of weathering steel - more commonly referred to by its trademark name, Cor-Ten. Thought the material has been around for decades, first being used for architectural purposes in the Eero Saarinen-designed John Deere Headquarters in 1964, the material has seen a surge in popularity in the last decade or so, being used in everything from individual houses and tiny kiosks, to SHoP's design for the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, which used a staggering 12,000 weathering steel panels.

To celebrate this material we've rounded up nine of the most innovative and striking uses of weathering steel from recent years: Haworth Tompkins' tiny Dovecote StudioFeilden Clegg Bradley Studios' offices and student housing at Broadcasting Place; the perforated facade of IGC Tremp by Oikosvia Arquitectura; the rusted ribbons of Ron Arad's Design Museum Holon; vertical striations on The Corten House by DMOA ArchitectenTony Hobba Architects' Third Wave Kiosk and its corrugated Cor-Ten walls; striking patterned facades in Santiago's Gabriela Mistral Cultural Center by Cristian Fernandez Arquitectos, Lateral Arquitectura & Diseño; weathered facades and louvers in Guillermo Hevia's Ferreteria O´Higgins; and finally the folding garage-style doors of Origin Architect's Refurbishment of the Offset Printing Factory.

Broadcasting Place / Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios. Image © Sapa: Architectural Aluminium Solutions IGC Tremp / Oikosvia Arquitectura. Image Courtesy of Oikosvia Arquitectura Design Museum Holon / Ron Arad Architects. Image © Ron Arad Architects The Corten House / DMOA Architecten. Image © Luc Roymans Third Wave Kiosk / Tony Hobba Architects. Image © Rory Gardiner Gabriela Mistral Cultural Center / Cristian Fernandez Arquitectos, Lateral Arquitectura & Diseño. Image © Nico Saieh Ferreteria O´Higgins / GH+A | Guillermo Hevia. Image © Nico Saieh Refurbishment of the Offset Printing Factory / Origin Architect. Image © Xia Zhi

11 Tips You Need To Know Before Building A Shipping Container Home

One of the more niche trends in sustainable design of the past few years has been the re-use of shipping containers in order to create the structure of a building. Due to their convenient size, shipping containers are well-suited for use in houses and their appeal lies in their apparent simplicity: you get a room delivered in one piece, and you can stack them together to make multiple rooms or join them up to make larger rooms.

But of course, things are never so simple, and using shipping containers to make a house is still fraught with challenges - particularly as the idea is still relatively new, so there are few people with the expertise required to build one without a hitch. That's why the folks over at Container Home Plans reached out to 23 experts from around the world - designers and owners who have overcome the challenges to build their own container houses - to ask them what they wish they'd known before taking on this challenge. Check out their 11 top tips after the break.

Shipping Container House / Studio H:T. Image © Braden Gunem Manifesto House / James & Mau, for Infiniski. Image © Antonio Corcuera Containers of Hope / Benjamin Garcia Saxe Architecture. Image © Andres Garcia Lachner Incubo House / María José Trejos. Image © Sergio Pucci

Santiago Calatrava's Florida Polytechnic Building Awarded "Best in Steel Construction" by AISC

Last week, the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC) presented its Innovation Design in Engineering and Architecture with Structural Steel Awards program. Recognizing exemplary work in steel for both its architectural and structural merits, the AISC awarded Santiago Calatrava's Innovation, Science, and Technology (IST) building at Florida Polytechnic University in Lakeland, Florida with the national award in the $15 million to $75 million category.

AD Materials Round Up: Wire Mesh

Though it can sometimes be overlooked in favor of materials which are more decisively either transparent or opaque, wire mesh is a tremendously versatile material that can be used for anything from delicate screens to a rough industrial interior. Here, ArchDaily Materials presents five projects that use wire mesh to great effect: Camenzind Evolution's "Coccoon" building which shrouds the entire facade in a silvery screen; the Ibiray House by Oreggioni Prieto, which uses a loose mesh to grow plants for seasonal shading; Melaten Car Park by KSG Architekten, which uses a mesh facade to create an "out of focus" effect; Nickl & Partner Architekten's Renovation and Extension of the Hameln County Hospital, which uses motorized mesh screens to shade patient rooms; and finally the Croatian Pavilion for the 2010 Venice Biennale, with an interior space dramatically carved from a block of 32 tons of welded wire mesh.

Ibiray House / Oreggioni Prieto. Image © Leonardo Finotti Massively out of Focus – the Melaten Car Park / KSG Architekten. Image © Jörg Hempel Renovation and Extension of the Hameln County Hospital / Nickl & Partner Architekten. Image © Nickl & Partner Architekten Croatian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. Image © Zelimir Grzancic

Mexican Company Develops Wood Substitute from a Tequila Byproduct

Searching for an alternative to costly and resource intensive materials, Mexican company Plastinova has developed a wood substitute from a byproduct of tequila and recycled plastic which it claims is not only renewable, but also stronger than the materials that it hopes to replace.