Solutions from the past can often provide practical answers for the problems of the future; as the London-based design and research firm, Space Popular demonstrate with their "Timber Hearth" concept. It is a building system that uses prefabrication to help DIY home-builders construct their own dwellings without needing to rely on professional or specialized labor. Presented as part of the ongoing 2018 Venice Biennale exhibition “Plots Prints Projections,” the concept takes inspiration from the ancient "hearth" tradition to explain how a system designed around a factory-built core can create new opportunities for the future of home construction.
Carefully designed or relegated to its mere functionality, lighting can be a determining factor in the quality of a space, influencing the way it is perceived and inhabited by the user.
Although it has been considered an object independent of most architectural elements, lighting often interpenetrates walls, ceilings, and floors, disappearing almost entirely to make its radiance appear only when the user needs it. How do you subtly illuminate a structure, while simultaneously creating an impressive atmosphere?
There is nothing more rational than taking advantage of natural lighting as a guarantee to improve the spatial quality of buildings, as well as saving energy. The awareness of the finitude of natural resources and the demands for reducing energy consumption has increasingly diminished the prominence of artificial lighting systems, forcing architects to seek more efficient design solutions. With this goal in mind, different operations have been adopted to capture natural light.
These systems can also guarantee excellent spatial properties if projected correctly. Below we have gathered five essential systems for zenithal lighting.
Spiral staircases save valuable square meters because they occupy a much smaller area than a conventional staircase. With daring shapes and diverse configurations, they can also be iconic objects in projects. However, the design of these staircases requires careful attention so that you can prevent an uncomfortable or dangerous outcome. Although BIM software simplifies this process, it's always important to understand the restrictions and the underlying concepts.
Let's think of a paper sheet. If we tried to stiffen it from its primary state, it couldn't support its own weight. However, if we bend it, the sheet achieves a new structural quality. The shells act in the same way. "You can't imagine a form that doesn't need a structure or a structure that doesn't have a form. Every form has a structure, and every structure has a form. Thus, you can't conceive a form without automatically conceiving a structure and vice versa".  The importance of the structural thought that culminates in the constructed object is then, taken by the relationship between form and structure. The shells arise from the association between concrete and steel and are structures whose continuous curved surfaces have a minimal thickness; thus they are widely used in roofs of large spans without intermediate supports.
In structural terms, they are efficient because they resist compression efforts and absorb at specific points on their surface, especially near the supports — small moments of flexion.
We already know that the ramp, aside from its different design possibilities, allows—without forgetting the notion of promenade architecturale—its users to overcome physical barriers in the urban and architectural context.
Although it basically consists of a continuous surface with a particular angle of slope, it is necessary to point out the many constructive specifications, which of course may vary due based on the standards of different governing bodies. The following clarifications are intended to assist and determine the appropriate dimensions for comfortable and efficient ramps for all, based on the concept of universal accessibility.
To what extent can the slope of a ramp be modified? How can we determine its width and the space needed for maneuvering? What considerations exist regarding the handrails? Here we review some calculations and design examples for different ramps, below.
Colors and their perceptions are responsible for a series of conscious and subconscious stimuli in our psycho-spatial relationship. Despite its presence and its variations, it is present in all places. Have you ever wondered what its role is in architecture?
As well as the constructive elements that make up an architectural object, the application of colors on surfaces also influences the user's experience of the space. According to Israel Pedrosa, "a colorful sensation is produced by the nuances of light refracted or reflected by a material, commonly the word color is designated to those shades that function as stimuli in a chromatic sensation." 
Ever wondered about the hardest and softest woods in the world? As architects, we're all pretty familiar with the softest: Balsa. Its material qualities are what make it so attractive to make models. But what about the the strongest wood in the world? Ever pondered just how many pounds or kilos of force they can withstand?
Through his extensive research, inventions and structural experiments, Buckminster Fuller created the term tensegrity to describe "self-tensioning structures composed of rigid structures and cables, with forces of traction and compression, which form an integrated whole" . In other words, tensegrity is the property demonstrated by a system that employs cables (traction) and rigidity of other elements (usually steel, wood or bamboo) capable of acting under the intrinsic stresses (traction and compression) together and simultaneously, giving greater resistance and formal stability. It creates an interconnected structure that works biologically like muscles and bones, where one element strengthens the other.
Neri Oxman and MIT have developed programmable water-based biocomposites for digital design and fabrication. Named Aguahoja, the project has exhibited both a pavilion and a series of artifacts constructed from molecular components found in tree branches, insect exoskeletons, and our own bones. It uses natural ecosystems as inspiration for a material production process that produces no waste. “Derived from organic matter, printed by a robot, and shaped by water, this work points toward a future where the grown and the made unite.”
As wood is one of the most widely-used materials in the world, architects are accustomed to being able to easily obtain sawn wood at a nearby store. However, many of us know little about its manufacturing process and all the operations that determine its appearance, dimensions, and other important aspects of its performance.
The lumber we use to build is extracted from the trunks of more than 2000 tree species worldwide, each with different densities and humidity levels. In addition to these factors, the way in which the trunk is cut establishes the functionality and final characteristics of each wood section. Let's review the most-used cuts.
A few weeks ago we published an article on a recent sustainability crisis that often goes unnoticed. The construction industry has been consuming an exorbitant amount of sand, and it's gradually depleting. When used for manufacturing concrete, glass, and other materials, it is a matter that should concern us. Construction is one of the largest producers of solid waste in the world. For instance, Brazil represents about 50% to 70% of the total solid waste produced. But how can we change this situation if most of the materials we use are not renewable, and therefore, finite?
Popularized in Europe and gradually gaining attention in the rest of the world, Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) stands out for its strength, appearance, versatility, and sustainability.
Polished concrete is a versatile material that is easily customizable in its appearance, using stunning aggregates, quartz, and colors to create a sense of industrial sophistication in both homes and commercial buildings. Its reflective surface creates an evocative quality under light, which can be suitable for a variety of programs.
While still mainly used as a material for interior flooring, architects have been pushing the limits of polished concrete for years, using it for feature walls, patio floors and even large exterior panels such as in David Chipperfield’s extension to the Saint Louis Art Museum.
French designer, Nathanaël Abeille's metalized pieces in 'Proyecto Reflexión' shows how a building could reflect sunlight and share it with another building in some of the narrow spaces of Villa 21 de Barracas, Buenos Aires. These "metal bricks" came about as a combined team effort with architects Francisco Ribero and journalist Cecilia Fortunato.
Review the full project after the break.
In architecture we are so caught up in creating something new, we often forget about what happens at the end of a building’s life cycle—the unfortunate, inevitable demolition. We may want our buildings to be timeless and live on forever, but the harsh reality is that they do not, so where is all the waste expected to go?
As with most non-recyclable waste, it ends up in the landfill and, as the land required for landfill becomes an increasingly scarce resource, we must find an alternative solution. Each year in the UK alone, 70–105 million tonnes of waste is created from demolishing buildings, and only 20% of that is biodegradable according to a study by Cardiff University. With clever design and a better awareness of the biodegradable materials available in construction, it’s up to us as architects to make the right decisions for the entirety of a building’s lifetime.
From ceramic tiles and metal sheets for roofs to wooden decks and floating cement tiles for roofing, roofing materials not only contribute to the drainage and protect the lower layers from solar radiation and wear, but also have an important aesthetic function.
Currently, when choosing the roof covering, you can find a wide variety of materials and dimensions, each with specific characteristics, determined by the type of roofing, the location of the project, and its future maintenance.
Review a catalog of options to incorporate creatively into your designs, below.
This question can be basic and you may know the answer, but it's always good to remember some elementary calculations that help us to streamline the design process.
As we know, a staircase consists basically of a series of steps, which in turn consist of a tread (the horizontal part, where the foot will rest) and a riser (the vertical part). Although it can vary in its design, each step must also have one or more landings, handrails, and a small nosing. The latter protrudes from the tread over the lower step, allowing to increase its size without adding centimeters to the overall dimensions of the staircase.
Check the effective formula developed by French architect François Blondel, which allows you to determine the correct dimensions of a comfortable and efficient staircase according to its use.
Sand is the most-consumed natural resource in the world after water and air. Modern cities are built out of it. In the construction industry alone, it is estimated that 25 billion tons of sand and gravel are used every year. That may sound a lot, but it’s not a surprising figure when you consider how everything you’re surrounded with is probably made of the stuff.
But it’s running out.
This is a scary fact to think about once you realize that sand is required to make both concrete and asphalt, not to mention every single window on this planet. The United Nations Environment Programme found out that from 2011 to 2013, China alone used more cement than the United States had used in the entire 20th century and in 2012, the world used enough concrete to build a wall around the equator that would be 89 feet high and 89 feet thick (27 by 27 meters).