Category Archives: USA

We Built This City…On A Ship?

Remember that Starship song from the 80’s? Well, a California based start-up is taking the concept of urban design and community to an entirely different direction. Literally. As in on a ship. Out at sea. Based in Silicon Valley, Blueseed is looking to convert an old cruise ship into a self contained community parked 12 miles off the US coasted in international waters in an effort to draw foreign entrepreneurs otherwise discouraged by American immigration bureaucratic policy. Rather than obtain a work visa, denizens would simply require a simple business visa where they would take a 30-minute boat trip to the mainland once or twice a week. The ultimate plan is for residents to stay on board for up to six months which will require designers to create open inviting space with plenty of natural lighting. To further promote a sense of community, like any land based community, there will be tree lined promenades, shops, and cafes as well as an open workspaces. The project will cost $27 million of which Blueseed still needs $18 million but considering the potential this concept can have in the US and around the world, I could see this happening several times over.

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Images courtesy Houzz

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Hemp. You can eat it, wear it and now…build with it

Hemp is a topic of much debate and controversy  due to its association with its more potent cousin, marijuana but hemp has no psychoactive qualities and is highly versatile and sustainable. Due to the U.S. government unable or unwilling able to make the distinction between hemp and marijuana, it is illegal to cultivate though it is a net importer and hemp products are readily available in certain parts the country. Among these, hempcrete, which is a mixture of hemp hurds and lime and offers a eco-friendly alternative to concrete and is not as brittle however, it lacks the compressible strength of concrete so application is somewhat limited in larger structures. As an added bonus, it is carbon negative which means it absorbs carbon dioxide.

Though widely used in several countries around the world, it’s adoption in the United States has been extremely limited as widespread industrial usage of hemp would require to cultivation which means challenging federal and state drug laws governing Cannabis. This has not stopped North Carolina home builder, Hemp Technologies from taking on the uphill battle of convincing local and federal officials the environmental benefits of hempcrete and hopefully repeal laws banning hemp production.  They have already constructed homes in several states including the home below in Asheville, their first.

Images courtesy of Tradical (brick) and Hemp Technologies (house)

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This is Wendy and she’s here to clean the air and say ‘hi’.

Sorry, Wendy is not an actual person but a big blue star encased an elaborate scaffolding apparatus and employs fabric coated in nanoparticles which neutralizes airborne toxins. Designed by New York firm, HWKN, it is to be constructed at MoMA’s  PS1 location in Queens for the summer where ‘she’ will host music festivals and remove the equivalent of 260 cars worth of pollutants.

Images courtesy of HWKN

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Dick Clark’s cave house

OK, so this isn’t exactly futuristic architecture though Fred Flintstone might be impressed with the modern amenities and glass windows. Owned by Dick Clark, who recently passed away, who in addition to being well-known for American Bandstand and being a staple of the New Years’ Eve ball drop in Times Square, was also known for his cave house in Malibu. The one bedroom home is straight out of the Flinstones right down to the furniture and decor. Put on the market before Clark’s death, it can be yours for $3.5million.

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Ominous prison is actually a kinder, gentler prison

Looking like something straight out of a dystopian science fiction move, there is actually a method to the madness in this design. Where as traditional jails and prisons are stark sterile complexes isolated from the general population, the building would plunked down in the middle of Jersey City (across the river from Manhattan) and is built in a series of arches, each representing a succession of phases throughout an inmate’s incarceration; from the actual jail cell, to work release, halfway house and finally the release programs. The centralized location allows inmates to be close to family as well as access to community programs and work. While just an idea kicked around by a couple of University of Pennsylvania architecture students, it offers a different perspective to the often harsh American prison system.

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Images courtesy of Andreas Tjeldflaat

Via Co.Design

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Transforming Greenhouse allows for year-round urban farming

This Greenhouse Transformer  would allow for gardening all year due to an ingenious roof that opens and closes depending on the weather. The design was up for an honorable mention in an ideas competition for the redevelopment for a disused marine transfer station in Harlem.

Via Co.Design

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Images courtesy PRAUD

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A plan to waterproof Manhattan to fend off the sea

File this under “Way out there” but University of Pennsylvania students, Tingwei Xu and Xie Zhang have come up with a rather unique solution for when New York City eventually succombs to rising sea levels, a lattice like “membrane” to waterproof the buildings from the flooding. While this has little chance of ever being realized and any real danger of serious flooding given current climate trends is at least a few centuries away, it is interesting to see ideas embracing our potential reality rather than make futile attempts to fight it.

Via eVolo

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A retro-modern school in NYC

When it was time to expand, the Reece School decided to opt for a mid-century modernist look for their new building. Situated among more traditional brownstones, the building includes classrooms, a gym, library and office space for faculty.

Via ArchDaily

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Image courtesy of Jonathan Wallen

Starbucks Built Out Of Shipping Containers

Starbucks has taken a unique approach in its Tukwila, Washington restaurant by constructing the building out of four retired shipping containers. This drive-thru only store is the only one (and planned) so far but its part of the companies initiative to make itself more sustainable and reduce its energy consumption. Using shipping containers as buildings is far from a new phenomenon but a first for this sort of thing.

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AMOA Arthouse, Austin

Architects converted the 150 year-old former Queen Theater into Austin Museum of Art’s new Arthouse. While drastically remodeled with a modern facade complimented with LED lighting, the structure does retain much of its original features such as stucco murals and exposed wooden ceilings.

Image Courtesy of Michael Moran

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