Three places to live and/or work that may change your mind about sustainable architecture

Although not everyone in the US Congress seems to have gotten the memo, in this age of impending global climate change people all over the world are seeking out new and better ways to live sustainably–and it’s a very hot trend in contemporary architecture. Here are three visually striking examples you may find game-changing.

8 House in Copenhagen
Built in the shape of a figure 8 (if viewed from above), Bjarke Ingels8 House is a mixed-use development in a southern suburb of Copenhagen, Denmark

The biggest innovation is the designer’s idea to create an intimate kind of urban environment by “stacking the various ingredients of an urban neighborhood into layers,” (Wikipedia) so the development’s walkability and convenience is greatly enhanced. Other sustainable features include the strategic use of the “heat island” effect, and green roofs.

8 House, when under construction: the reason for the name becomes clear.
Everyone has an interesting view in 8 House.
Evening waterside view of 8 House.

O14 Tower in Dubai
Dubai is a product of its rulers’ particular vision: wealthy from oil, but focused on making itself “cutting edge” in many ways, while the oil wealth lasts and can be used to build something more sustainable. Interestingly for a place literally built with oil money, there seems to be considerable support for sustainability in recent projects (could these guys please have a heart-to-heart with the Koch Brothers?). 

The 22-story O14 Tower’s structure is specifically designed for the desert climate of Dubai, with a 16″-thick outer facade covered with circular perforations. The holes provide light and air, but the rest of the “exoskeleton” acts as protection for the windows, and a solar shield. A one-meter gap between the facade and the building inside also provides passive cooling because creates a chimney effect in which the hot air rises.

RUR Architecture’s innovative design for the O14 Tower creates a visually striking building with many practical features.
The holes provide access for more than light and air, when needed.
This view of O14 Tower under construction gives an idea of its scale.

FTP University in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Another example of innovative design that is much more literally “green” than our first two designs is the FTP University, now under construction in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (all the images are renderings, because the project isn’t finished yet). 

Designed as something of a sustainable answer to the flat landscape and vertical buildings that dominate the city, the FTP University buildings are supposed to appear as “an undulating forested mountain growing out of the city of concrete and brick” (Vo Trong Nghia Architects). It actually will create more greenery than it is displacing as it is being built. 

An “undulating forested mountain” is coming to Ho Chi Minh City. 
It almost looks as if the forest has taken over–but looks can be deceiving Down below the “canopy,” the humans will still hold forth.
Down under the trees it will be cooler and quieter. What a great place to study for one’s final!

IMAGES: Many thanks to World Landscape Architect for the 8 House-under-construction image, and to E-Architect UK for the images of the courtyard and waterside view. All three photos of the O14 Tower are courtesy of Inhabitat. The renderings of buildings for FTP University are courtesy of Vo Trong Nghia Architects, designers for the project.

Did you feel a tug, just now?

Better if we don’t unravel it . . . 

IMAGE: Many thanks to The Earth Friendly Family, via QuotesGram, for this beautiful image!

Will it float? Yes, it will!

Last week’s Artdog Images of Interest showed photos from the island of Manhattan, when it flooded during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The post closed with a look at the way climate change flooding predictions are challenging city planners to consider creative new approaches.

The Ultimate Flood-Proofing: FloatingOne of the intriguing ideas I encountered to “flood-proof” a city was to make it float. This is scarcely a new idea. Villages all over the world have been built to float, for practical reasons. Take Ko Panyi, Thailand, for example.

The fishing village of Ko Panyi is mostly built on stilts in Phang Nga Bay, but it does have a floating football pitch.

Halong Bay Village, Vietnam, does them one better: the entire village floats. Here’s a great view from Getzel Photography.

No stilts for these hardy fisher-folk: they’ve built their village to literally float.

And it would be rude not to also mention the Uru People of Peru and Bolivia, who have hand-made 42 of their own islands (not to mention homes and boats and lots of other things) in Lake Titicaca from the local totora reeds.

The creative and resourceful Uru people build their own islands, homes, and very striking boats from the local totora reeds. 

Contemporary Innovations
Today’s architects and planners are taking that idea in new directions, with new technology. Here’s one example: a floating house on the Thames River by Baca Architects.

This house was specifically built to spare the damage of flooding on its flood-prone lot. 

Another example of an approach to sustainability that embraces the advantages of floating architecture is the Science Barge by Groundwork Hudson Valley.

Groundworks Hudson Valley has produced The Science Barge, a floating greenhouse and demonstration project in sustainability that is paving the way.

Visions of the Future:
Swale, the Floating Food Forest actually is a not-so-far-future concept: it’s supposed to float into New York City this summer! The project’s website is a cornucopia of creative sustainable ideas.

Concept rendering for how Swale Floating Food Forest will look in New York Harbor this summer (well, we HOPE the smog isn’t that bad!).
Concept rendering for an interior view of Swale Floating Food Forest.

Blue 21 is a futuristic floating city concept that incorporates flood-proofing, sustainable architecture, and locally grown food.

Floating city “Blue 21” is an ambitious and comprehensive design from Delta Sync of the Netherlands. They have many other cool projects on their website.

IMAGES: Many thanks to P. Transport, for the photo of Ko Panyi, Thailand. The magnificent photo of Halong Bay Village is courtesy of Getzel Photography. The photo of an Uru island is from the website Places to See in Your Lifetime, and it includes a lot more great images of these amazing constructions. 
The informative video about Baca Architects’ amphibious house on the Thames is courtesy of YouTube, via Inhabitat. I found the striking night image of the Science Barge on a page by EcoFriend, which does not seem to be online anymore! 🙁 The “outside view” of Swale Floating Food Forest is courtesy of PSFK. The interior view is from the Project’s own website.
The Blue 21 floating city image is courtesy of Inhabitat, which offers a slideshow of other views, too. 

When was the last time you did this simple, eco-friendly thing?

It’s always a good idea to plant trees!

But better if you do the research! Know which trees are native to your area, and seek out the best of those to suit your space and purpose. 

Make sure you plant things that help sustain the local wildlife! Otherwise, it’s almost like you’re planting something plastic!

IMAGE: Many thanks to “Ecoisms” for the quote and to EskiPaper for the photo of the forest.

Is your city flood-proof? More creative approaches needed!

Today’s Artdog Images of Interest focus on the flooding of Manhattan that happened during superstorm Sandy in 2012. It’s part of this month’s ongoing focus on the environment. Let’s take a look at what happens when a city is unprepared.

The Plaza Shops of Manhattan, after Hurricane Sandy in 2012
Construction sites didn’t fare well either. This is the Ground Zero site in 2012.
Commuter nightmare: still-flooded South Ferry subway station in lower Manhattan, a week after Hurricane Sandy.

Recent thinking among some city planners for coastal cities around the world is that the floods will come. Old-style thinking calls for building higher levees and praying a lot (ask New Orleans how that worked out). 

More creative approaches, however, are calling for flood-conscious building–that is, knowing the floods will com, but being ready for them. An article reposted on Arch Daily from ArchitectureBoston calls it taking a layered or tiered planning approach.

Manhattan flooding predictions from the Union of Concerned Scientists. Will they be better prepared next time?

How can cities proactively plan to minimize flood damage? Avoid building in floodplains (What an idea!). Reclaim “buffer” wetlands to mitigate storm surge. Build so lower levels are flood-ready, and place more vulnerable parts on higher levels. Making some parts of the city “floatable.” These are just a few of the more creative and environmentally savvy approaches proactive planners are trying.

IMAGES: Many thanks to for the photo of the flooded Plaza Shops, to NBC News for the photo of Ground Zero, to The Atlantic for the flooded subway picture, and to Kat Friedrich for the apocryphal map from the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Space Station DIY: Where to start?

That’s no moon . . . 

I needed to create a space station. 

I had a cast of characters, the makings of a plot, and a big-picture concept of how my universe had turned out as it did. 

But now it was time to get down to creating the habitat space station on which my characters would live.

Where does one start?

One goes back to the 1970s, I discovered. That was the era when I first learned the concept of a “space station,” much less that people were seriously thinking about how one might actually build one someday. 

My earliest book on the
subject, with a great
John Berkley cover!

I was a college kid when I went to a movie called Star Wars, for the scandalously high price of three dollars per ticket. My then-boyfriend Pascal (now husband of 37+ years) and I went back to see it over and over again, as often as we could afford to (pre-video tape–but then, I’ve already admitted I’m older than dirt). 

I didn’t know it when I was bankrupting myself at the movie theater, but just a couple of years earlier a bunch of rocket scientists and other geniuses had gotten together at Stanford University for the 1975 NASA Summer Study, to try and figure out how it might be possible to build a space colony. 

They came up with something the shape of a bicycle wheel, with mirrors mounted on the hub. Artificial gravity was to be created by centrifugal force inside the outer ring. Being scientists, they didn’t call it a doughnut or wheel-shape, but a torus. It is still known as the Stanford Torus.

This is Donald E. Davis’s rendition of the exterior of the torus.

According to Wikipedia’s article about the project, it was based on earlier ideas proposed by Wernher von Braun and Herman Potocnik. The concept was known to science fiction writers, but the scientists really got going on it in 1975.

The idea of using centrifugal force to create gravity in a wheel-like structure also was suggested in the 1957 Russian film, Road to the Stars, which is fascinating to watch. Indeed, we’re still speculating on some of the same things they did, and a lot of the speculation doesn’t seem to have changed all that much. The entire 49-minute opus is available for viewing on You Tube. If you have time, take a look.

In 1957, Pavel Klushantsev’s film Road to the Stars included a space station with a torus of sorts, that produced artificial gravity.

If you look at the list of contributors to the 1975 Summer Study, it really did take a village to work out the myriad of details to arrive at something that might actually work. It’s now all freely available online

Although it’s been used in many movies, from 2001: A Space Odyssey to Elysium, the “classic” Stanford Torus isn’t the only prototype space station shape from which the would-be sf author can choose, however. In upcoming posts from this “DIY Space Station” series, I’ll look at Bernal and Dyson Spheres, the O’Neill Cylinder, and Bishop Rings.

IMAGES: Many thanks to TurboSquid for the picture of the Death Star, and to Abe Books for the cover art for Colonies in Space. The wonderful Don Davis painting of the torus, NASA Ames Research Center (ID AC76-0525), is now in the public domain. I got it from Wikipedia. The image of Klushantsev’s proto-torus design is a screen-capture from Road to the Stars, as seen on You Tube.

Please excuse my setup difficulties

I’m looking at a steep learning curve.

I have been advised to switch from Blogger to WordPress, so my blog can appear on my website. This is no small task, since I’ve been blogging for close to a decade on Blogger, at my Jan S. Gephardt’s Artdog Adventures blog.  

It’s been closer to twenty years, since I last set up a website. I’m looking at a steep learning curve and short periods of time to devote to this, so I predict an, um, interesting time. I think persistence is going to be my only hope.

I haven’t had time to look too deeply into creative solutions or design. So far, I’m still trying to figure out how to “import an XML file.” (I’m certain that means something clear and helpful to many people with a broader background in websites than I have).

Wish me luck!

IMAGE: Many thanks to “Marketing for Hippies,” for the highly appropriate image.

P.S. Meanwhile, please check out my current post on the Blogger site.