Nurturing creativity with art, animals, and science fiction

Category: Architecture Page 1 of 2

“The shortest day—the longest darkness—takes place in a cold season when everything lies fallow. In the earliest ages, it was a time of privation, often of hunger, of death. A sort of nadir for the year.” – From “Berwyn’s Solstice Story,” in “A Bone to Pick” ©2021 by Jan S. Gephardt. The words appear against a black background. At lower left, a single red candle burns in a darkened environment sprinkled with small red holiday lights among a drift of sparkly red confetti.

Berwyn’s Solstice Story

By Jan S. Gephardt

I hope you’ll enjoy something a little different for today’s blog post, Berwyn’s Solstice Story. This post goes live on the exact day of the Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere where this blog, Artdog Studio, and Weird Sisters Publishing are based. So it seemed an appropriate time to share it.

This excerpt comes near the end of A Bone to Pick, the second novel of my science fiction mystery XK9 “Bones” Trilogy. It is ©2021-22 by Jan S. Gephardt (aka: Me), so please don’t borrow it without attribution or claim it as your own work! Fair warning: I have edited it slightly from the book version in a few places. I did it to make a few references clearer and take out a couple of spoilers for anyone who hasn’t read the book yet.

The viewpoint character is the Trilogy’s protagonist, Rex Dieter-Nell. He is an XK9, an uplifted (human-level intelligence) police dog. He, his Pack of nine other XK9s, and their human (detective) partners live on a large space station in another star system from ours, several hundred years in the future. It’s their job to track down the mass murderers who blew up a ship that had been docked in their jurisdiction’s part of the Rana Station space docks.

XK9 Pack portrait “Head Shot” illustrations for Razor, Shady, and Rex – the three XK9s in this story. Artwork ©2020 by Lucy A. Synk.
I don’t (yet) have appropriate portraits to share of the three humans who play a part in this scene. The three XK9s in this sequence are (L-R): Razor, Shady, and Rex. Artwork ©2020 by Lucy A. Synk.

Setting the Scene

This excerpt takes place in the specialized clinic that fulfills the Pack members’ health care needs. At this point in the story, we’ve had some wounded in action. I can’t say more without giving spoilers, but I hope you’ll enjoy Berwyn’s Solstice Story:

The retreat room was small, narrow, and pretty much maxed out, once three humans and three XK9s had squeezed themselves inside. Humans Berwyn, Shiv, and Liz all smiled a greeting, while Razor wagged his tail.

“Rex. Shady. Wow,” Berwyn said. “Would you like to observe the Solstice with us?”

“We came to wait with you,” Rex said.

“Then please join us. I was explaining to the others . . . What do you know about Solstice?”

“It is an astronomical phenomenon observable on many planets,” Rex said. “If there are seasonal variations in the length of daylight and darkness, then the longest and shortest days are solstices, and the days which are divided equally between darkness and light are equinoxes.”

Berwyn’s smile held a trace of sadness. “You sound like Cinnamon, when I first explained it to her.”

“We all attended the same planetary astronomy class,” Shady said.

“Well, let me tell you about the way my Family observes the Solstice.” He gestured toward a low table in the center of the room. Someone had placed a lighted, mostly-burned candle on it, next to a tall, new, unburned one.

Both appeared to be the same brownish-dark-gray tone to Rex. Humans probably saw them as one of the colors XK9s couldn’t distinguish, such as red or green. Between them, a small case pad ticked a silent countdown.

“The shortest day—the longest darkness—takes place in a cold season when everything lies fallow. In the earliest ages, it was a time of privation, often of hunger, of death. A sort of nadir for the year.” – From “Berwyn’s Solstice Story,” in “A Bone to Pick” ©2021 by Jan S. Gephardt. The words appear against a black background. At lower left, a single red candle burns in a darkened environment sprinkled with small red holiday lights  among a drift of sparkly red confetti.
Candle image is courtesy of Paula Onysko’s blog post “Light a Candle Ritual for Winter Solstice.” Words & design are ©2021-2022 by Jan S. Gephardt.

Berwyn’s Solstice Story

“My Family follows an ancient tradition that observed these variations on Mother Earth and found spiritual meaning in them. The shortest day—the longest darkness—takes place in a cold season there, when everything lies fallow. In the earliest ages, it was a time of privation, often of hunger, of death. A sort of nadir for the year.” Berwyn stared at the flickering candle flame for a moment. “This year, I’ve been able to very personally relate.”

“Oh, man, I hear you!” Liz’s eyes brimmed with tears. She reached over to squeeze Berwyn’s shoulder. Shiv clasped Berwyn’s hand. He did not speak, but he looked almost as haggard as Berwyn and Liz.

Rex’s throat tightened. Having almost lost his partner Charlie just a few weeks ago, he thought he understood some of what they must feel. Shady nuzzled him.

“But at the end of every ‘longest dark,’ the light begins to return,” Berwyn said. “It starts at that very moment when darkness and cold seem to conquer the world. The light comes back. The warmth begins to grow. New hope rises up, and the faith that things will get better.”

He looked at Liz, Razor and Rex. “We will heal and grow stronger.”

He met Shady’s eyes. “We will rise again to new heights.”

He turned to Shiv. “Unexpected new things may . . . may dare to take root.” The fearful hope in both men’s faces and scent factors filled Rex’s heart with empathic, joyful yearning and set Shady’s tail to thumping.

Berwyn drew in a breath. “Oh. It’s already later than I thought. In my Family, it’s our tradition to extinguish the old year’s candle at 23:50, which is .… now.” He blew out the candle.

“We extinguish the old year’s candle . . . Our tradition is to banish distractions, sit in silence, and let our minds find a centering peace.” – From “Berwyn’s Solstice Story,” in “A Bone to Pick” ©2021 by Jan S. Gephardt. Smoke from a blown-out red candle at lower left drifts upward and to the right on a black background.
Candle photo by Vit Krajicek/123rf. Words & design are ©2021-2022 by Jan S. Gephardt.


The Retreat room went pitch dark.

“Our tradition is to banish distractions, sit in silence, and let our minds find a centering peace.”

No one answered. Six hearts beat quietly, although at different rhythms. Six presences breathed in and out. Rex noted that more than one ran a breathing pattern of the sort he’d learned from Charlie. Liz shifted in her seat. An itch prickled along his right shoulder blade. He lifted a hind paw to scratch it, then refrained. Stilled himself. The itch burned a moment or two longer, then died.

They abided in silence.

Gradually, their breathing fell into a common rhythm. Their heartbeats slowly synchronized, too. The humans couldn’t consciously hear it, but somehow they also attuned.

A deep calmness and peace fell over Rex. A sense of oneness with his companions, and of resting after strife. He abided in the moment, content.

Soft bells chimed. They grew louder, a building carillon. They crescendoed into joyous, triumphant peals. The bells seemed to say, Darkness is banished. Light will prevail. Things will get better! Rejoice!

The sound broke over him, balm for his heart. Light and hope for his mind and spirit.

A scratch and a flare of flame. Sharp bite of burning struck his nose. Berwyn lit the new candle, then touched his case pad. The bells faded out. “Nadir has passed. The light is returning.”

On a black background, the words read: “It starts at that very moment when darkness and cold seem to conquer the world. The light comes back. The warmth begins to grow. New hope rises up, and the faith that things will get better.” – From “Berwyn’s Solstice Story,” in A Bone to Pick ©2021 by Jan S. Gephardt. At right, a tall new red taper candle burns in darkness.
The taper candle image is courtesy of Stone Candles. The words & design are ©2021-2022 by Jan S. Gephardt.

Nadir has Passed

“The light is returning,” Shiv murmured.

Berwyn straightened. “The light is returning, indeed.” He sat back with a sigh and a smile. “Thank you. Thank you, all of you. I thought I’d be doing this alone.” His dark eyes glistened with excess moisture.

Shiv shook his head. Gave Berwyn’s hand a gentle squeeze. “Not alone. Not tonight.”

“I know I needed to be here,” Liz said. “Thank you. Thank you for sharing this with us.”

Razor dipped his head. “Very much. That was amazing.”

Berwyn’s gaze swept the room. “Solstice blessings abound.”

I sincerely hope you enjoyed Berwyn’s Solstice Story. If it has sparked your interest in learning more about the series, click this link. For more about A Bone to Pick, click the link in the title.

If you’d like to read more short fiction about the XK9s and their people, you might enjoy a FREE subscription to my monthly Newsletter. Signing up for the Newsletter also scores you a FREE ebook copy of my prequel novella, The Other Side of Fear. In case you’re wondering – no, the Trilogy’s not done yet, and yes – I’m writing as fast as I can! Bone of Contention is scheduled for publication in September 2023.

Two visualizations of “A Bone to Pick” by Jan S. Gephardt: at left the ebook cover is shown on a tablet. At right “A Bone to Pick” is visualized as a fat trade paperback. Below the two pictures a line of type reads: “Cover art ©2020 by Jody A. Lee.
This story is an excerpt ©2021-2022 by Jan S. Gephardt from her novel A Bone to Pick. It’s the second book of the XK9 “Bones” Trilogy. The cover artwork is ©2020 by Jody A. Lee.


I have a lot of people to thank for the images in this post. First of all to my dear friend and frequent illustration source, Lucy A. Synk, I want to lift up a hearty “thank you!” If you’d like to see more of her amazing artwork, check out her website and her Facebook page!

Likewise, I want to thank another longtime friend, Jody A. Lee, who does such a stellar job on the cover art for the “Bones” Trilogy. That’s her work on A Bone to Pick. You also might enjoy her website, Facebook page, and (while there’s still a Twitter) her Twitter feed.

The other sources are considerably more varied. I’ve credited them in the cutlines under the pictures, but here’s a rundown, for the record. Much gratitude to Paula Onysko’s blog post “Light a Candle Ritual for Winter Solstice,” for the candle photo used in the first candle picture with the opening quote from Berwyn’s Solstice Story. You also might enjoy reading Paula’s suggestions for a different kind of solstice candle ritual.

Deepest thanks to Vit Krajicek and 123rf for the evocative photo of the smoke from the blown-out candle in the second from that sequence. And I also thank Stone Candles for their photo of one of their beautiful red taper candles, used in the third candle-with-quote image. I deeply appreciate all!

Photos of five featured buildings, “Bosco Verticale,” Parkroyal on Pickering, Namba Parks, Ivry-sur-Seine, and the Chicland Hotel.

Literally Green Buildings

Happy 51st Earth Day! Followers of Artdog Adventures may remember earlier posts about environmentally-friendly architecture. I tend to post them around Earth Day. People sometimes talk about “green buildings.” But there’s “green” as in eco-friendly, and then there’s “green” as in literally green buildings. And some are both.

What do I mean by “literally green buildings”?

When I say “literally green buildings,” I mean green with plants. Lately, more and more architects think about plants from the very start of planning. This goes way beyond landscaping for curb appeal. They plan to make the plants part of the building.

I have lots of reasons to be interested in this intersection of beneficial plants with built environments. I’m both a lifelong gardener and the daughter of an architectural design professor who instilled a love of buildings in me. And Rana Station, the fictional setting for my XK9 stories, is kind of the ultimate “built environment with plants.”

This montage shows “25 Verde,” Boeri’s “vertical forest,” and the Chicland Hotel with vines cascading from each balcony.
At left, two views of “25 Verde,” in Turin, Italy (Haute Residence). In the center, three views of the “Bosco Verticale” or “Vertical Forest” in Milan, Italy (stacked photos: Stefano Boeri Architetti. Full-length view: Green Roofs / Laura Gatti), and two views of VTN’s concept design for the Chicland Hotel in Da Nang, Vietnam (ArchDaily / VTN).

In previous posts I’ve spotlighted projects such as Luciano Pia’s “urban treehouse25 Verde, and Stefano Boeri’s Bosco Verticale, or “vertical forest.” The Italians don’t have a corner on that market, of course. VTN Architects in Vietnam create many spectacular, plant-centric designs. So do others.

Literally green buildings since before history

People have always loved to incorporate plants into their living spaces. That’s nothing new. Trees probably provided our first shelter. And evidence of prehistoric and early-historic dugout shelters can be found all over the world. Sod roofs date into antiquity in Scandinavia for highly practical reasons.

Green roofs then and now, as described in the cutline.
Green roofs are nothing new. At left, sod roofs on log buildings in the outdoor Norsk Folkemuseum of Oslo Norway (by Kjetil Bjørnsrud – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 / Wikimedia), contemporary green roofs that include trees on a high-rise complex (Urbanscape Architecture), and Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant in Sister Bay, Wisconsin, where goats graze on the grassy roof (Country Living / Flickr / Jesse Lisa).

In the same way, sod homes for European migrants on the North American plains, winter houses for Aleut peoples in Alaska, and others have sheltered humans for centuries. Often grasses grew/grow on them. Sometimes animals graze on them. “Green roofs” started to get popular on city buildings in the early 1970s. That trend is still growing. They offer quite a list of benefits.

Literally green” means built for plants as well as people

For this post I’ve chosen developments that bring green spaces and plantings into exterior architecture. They are literally green buildings. Many studies have shown the benefits of green spaces and trees. And that goes double for cities.

People also incorporate “Green Walls” into indoor and outdoor spaces. I’ll focus on them in a future post. But for now, here are glimpses of three that caught my eye. I hope you like them, too.

Ivry-sur-Seine, Paris, France

Welcome to Communist France! Ivry-sur-Seine, a Paris suburb, is organized as a commune—one of several in France. And communist ideology inspired this residence development. The married architectural team of Jean Renaudie and Renée Gailhoustet designed them as affordable housing. Built between 1969 and 1975Les Etoiles” (“the stars”) are built with sharp angles on multiple levels, with many green spaces. They’re quite a unique vision. They’re also literally green buildings.

Five views of the Ivry-sur-Seine housing complex near Paris France.
Called “Les Etoiles” (“the Stars”) because of their angled shapes, these buildings present an earlier melding of nature and architecture than our other spotlighted sites. The two photos on the left are from the “KUDOYBOOK” blog, the center photo comes from @TopAmazingWorld on Twitter, and the two on the right are from Solarpunk Aesthetic on tumblr.

Namba Parks Shopping Center in Osaka, Japan

The curving lines, many levels, and distinctive plantings make this beautiful shopping district a Pinterest favorite. That’s where I first glimpsed it. Winner of an Urban Land Institute Award of Excellence in 2009, it creates a “natural intervention” in Osaka’s dense urban space. There’s a rooftop park, a “canyon” walkway, and eight levels of offices, shops, dining, and places to relax. Next door: a 46-story residential tower and a 30-story office tower.

4 views of Namba Parks from above.
Photographers from high above in neighboring high-rises have caught some great photos of Namba Parks. Top left and right, as well as the bottom photo are from ArchDaily’s article “Namba Parks / The Jerde Partnership.” Top-center “View from Above Namba Parks” is by 663highland, CC BY 2.5, via Wikimedia.

The Parkroyal Hotel in Singapore

Billed as a “Modern-Day Hanging Gardens of Babylon,” the sustainably-designed Parkroyal Hotel on Pickering opened in 2013. It gives another eye-opening melding of plants with architecture. The Singaporean architectural firm WOHA was already known for incorporating a lot of greenery into their buildings. They designed the balconies and other green spaces to support the weight and root systems. They also designed the plantings and specifically chose the species for ease of maintenance. I think it’s safe to say that the luxury Parkroyal on Pickering really takes the “park” part seriously.

8 photos of the Parkroyal on Pickering from a variety of angles.
If the Parkroyal Hotel on Pickering isn’t the most-photographed hotel in Singapore, it’s got to be right up there in the top ten. I found so many great shots of this place it was hard to narrow it down to just eight! Most of the photos in this collection are from Trip Advisor’s enormous gallery in its article on this highly-rated luxury hotel. That includes the one at lower left from a contributor identified as “Mcfulcher,” and the dizzying view down past the balconies to the street next to it, by a contributor identified as “cwydyy.” Others came from the hotel itself, except for the side-by-side photos at top far left and left. They’re courtesy of Forbes, provided by WOHA, the architectural firm that designed this unique bulding. You can especially see the deep, sturdy structure that securely supports all the verdant plant life in the photos at far left.


It worked out better this time to ID the photo credits in the cutlines for each montage. See those for the most complete information.

The exception is the Header photo. In that montage, which doesn’t get a cutline. I collected five of the most unique buildings featured in this post. L-R: First the “Bosco Verticale” or “Vertical Forest” in Milan, Italy (Green Roofs / Laura Gatti). Next, the Parkroyal Hotel on Pickering in Singapore (Trip Advisor / “cwydyy”). At center, “View from Above Namba Parks” in Osaka, Japan (663highland, CC BY 2.5 / Wikimedia). Next comes a view of “Les Etoiles” of Ivry-sur-Seine near Paris, France (@TopAmazingWorld / Twitter). At far right, VTN’s concept for the Chicland Hotel in Da Nang, Vietnam (ArchDaily / VTN).

With a photo of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as its backdrop, this quote from Dr. King reads, "If we are to have peace on earth . . . our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective."

Freedom of religion

Monday’s post was partially inspired by a column I saw in the newspaper. Today’s post is, too. Same issue of the Kansas City Star, actually. But this one originated in The Times of IsraelSorry to say, it has a pretty dark tone. I’m talking about freedom of religion.

Yes, I mean the clause in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that goes, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” 

This illustrated quote from Thomas Jefferson uses a portrait of him, alongside his words, "The constitutional freedom of religion is the most unalienable and sacred of all human rights."

But I’m also talking about more than that. The need for–and the attacks against–individuals’ freedom of religion is a worldwide issue. And 2019 was a challenging year for those who support the ideabecause it was a pretty scary time to assemble for worship.

Fire in the holy places

I could approach this topic of attacks on places of worship from several directionsWarterrorismhate crimesshootingsbombingsarson (whether intentional or negligent) . . . Some took worshipers’ lives. Some “only” took historic buildingsholy books, or other sacred objects.

But all took peace of mind. All took traditions and cherished ways of being. And all scarred people’s lives.

St. Mary Baptist Church was the first of three historically black churches burned near Opelousas, Louisiana by an arsonist now charged with hate crimes. (photo by Natalie Obregon/NBC News).
St. Mary Baptist Church was the first of three historically black churches burned near Opelousas, Louisiana by an arsonist now charged with hate crimes. (photo by Natalie Obregon/NBC News).
Firefighters eye the smoldering remains of the Adas Israel Congregation's 118-year-old synagogue, which went up in flames this year. Although not the result of a hate crime, it was an example of irresponsible behavior that resulted in devastating loss. (Photo from MPR/Dan Kraker, via Jewish Telegraphic Agency).
Firefighters eye the smoldering remains of the Adas Israel Congregation’s 118-year-old synagogue, which went up in flames this year. Although not the result of a hate crime, it was an example of irresponsible behavior that resulted in devastating loss. (Photo from MPR/Dan Kraker, via Jewish Telegraphic Agency).
Assailants burned statues and holy books in a southern Sindh Province Hindu temple. The brazen attack sparked censure from the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan on his Twitter feed. Police officials promised an independent investigation, while the advisor to a local Hindu council demanded greater security for Hindu temples. (Photo from Imran Khan/Times of India).
Assailants burned statues and holy books in a southern Sindh Province Hindu temple. The brazen attack sparked censure from the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan on his Twitter feed. Police officials promised an independent investigation, while the advisor to a local Hindu council demanded greater security for Hindu temples. (Photo from Imran Khan/Times of India).
With a bonfire in the background, this quote from boxing coach Cus D'Amato says, "Fear is like fire. It can cook for you. it can teat your house. Or it can burn you down."
Without respect for others, we all live in peril from that third kind of fire.

Bullets, Bombs, and other Explosives

It isn’t only fire that’s been a threat to holy places this year. Even more destructive to the lives of worshipers is violent intent. People have fired hundreds of rounds, or lobbed bombs and grenades into sacred spaces. Into peaceful crowds of people just practicing their faith

It’s hard for me to grapple with the depth of dysfunction and twisted logic that makes such an act seem rational to anyone. But the evidence that it can be rationalized was overwhelming this year.

A soldier stares at the destruction of a Roman Catholic cathedral in Jolo, Philippines. Two suicide bombers detonated their explosives during Mass last January (photo from WESMINCOM Armed Forces of the Philippines Via AP/Times of Israel)
A soldier stares at the destruction of a Roman Catholic cathedral in Jolo, Philippines. Two suicide bombers detonated their explosives during Mass last January (photo from WESMINCOM Armed Forces of the Philippines Via AP/Times of Israel)
In a possible retaliation for the cathedral bombing, two Muslim scholars died and four others suffered injuries in a grenade attack on a mosque in Zamboanga. (Photo from Armed Forces of Philippines via AP/Al Jazeera)
In a possible retaliation for the cathedral bombing, two Muslim scholars died and four others suffered injuries in a grenade attack on a mosque in Zamboanga. (Photo from Armed Forces of Philippines via AP/Al Jazeera)
Mourners outside the Al-Noor Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, where a white supremacist gunned down 40 people on March 15 (Photo from Agence France-Presse/Reuters via VOA)
Mourners outside the Al-Noor Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, where a white supremacist gunned down 40 people on March 15 (Photo from Agence France-Presse/Reuters via VOA)
Bombs went off on Easter Sunday during services in several locations in Sri Lanka. Here's what was left of the sanctuary at St. Sebastian's Church, where 104 people died. (Photo from AP/Chamila Karunarathne via The Times of Israel)
Bombs went off on Easter Sunday during services in several locations in Sri Lanka. Here’s what was left of the sanctuary at St. Sebastian’s Church, where 104 people died. (Photo from AP/Chamila Karunarathne via The Times of Israel)
On the final day of Passover, a gunman opened fire on congregants at the Chabad of Poway Synagogue (California). This picture shows a makeshift memorial set up across the street. (Photo from AP/Gregory Bull via The Times of Israel).
On the final day of Passover, a gunman opened fire on congregants at the Chabad of Poway Synagogue (California). This picture shows a makeshift memorial set up across the street. (Photo from AP/Gregory Bull via The Times of Israel).

Can’t we make it stop?

Are you exhausted by the carnage yet? We’ve only made it to the end of April 2019, with our latter set of photos above. There’s been lots of violence since then, but I think we all more than get the point

There are dangerous people out there. They have guns, bombs, grenades, and flames–and they’re not afraid to use themDon’t seem the least bit ashamed to attack innocent people in worship services, although any such act is shameful and cowardly. They don’t care if a place has historic significance, or if it means something to others, although that attitude is invariably brutish and self-serving. Nothing within themselves seems to hold them back, and no security system will stop them all. 

But we can and must do better than this

We must support broader access to mental health care and social services–not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because it can help defuse the human hatred that sets off all-too-literal bombs. Keep pushing back till commonsense curbs put access to deadly weapons of mass destruction out of unauthorized reach. Strive for greater educational and economic opportunity for all, since we know that inequity breeds resentment and hatred. Stay alert for problems festering in our midst, and fearlessly call them out.

Freedom of religion isn’t only an American concept. It’s a basic universal human right (see Article 18)If we don’t uphold and defend it as a right for all, then it is secure for none of us.

With a photo of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as its backdrop, this quote from Dr. King reads, "If we are to have peace on earth . . . our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective."


Many thanks to AZ Quotes for the wisdom from Thomas Jefferson. I am indebted to NBC News and Natalie Obregon for the photo of St. Mary Baptist Church in Louisiana; to Jewish Telegraphic Agency for the MPR/Dan Kraker photo of the burned remains of Adas Israel Congregation‘s synagogue; and to Imran Khan, via The Times of India for the photo from the temple in Kumb. I’m grateful for the quote about fear and fire by boxing coach Cus D’Amato, from Authentic Traveling with Andrew Scott

Many thanks to the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Associated Press, via Times of Israel and via Al Jazeera, for the photos of aftermaths from the two Philippine bombings. I’m also grateful to Agence France-Presse/Reuters via VOA for the photo from New Zealand, and to the AP and Chamila Karunarathne via The Times of India, for the photo from inside the sanctuary of St. Sebastian’s. Thanks also to AP and Gregory Bull via The Times of Israel, for the photo from Poway, CA.

Finally, I deeply appreciate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s wisdom, and the image from The Peace Alliance that gives it a dramatic presentation.

Here's an aerial view of the Burwood Brickworks Shopping Center in Melbourne Australia

A sustainability ethos

The Artdog Images of Interest

I have a thing for “green” architecture. I think the potential to build things that actually improve the environment is amazing. Much better than conventional projects that blight or destroy it. All over the world, I’m delighted to see a sustainability ethos begin to rise up. We all need a sense that we have a moral obligation to do better.

All over the world, but not as much in the USA. That’s not to say we have nothing of the sort hereSeveral local projects in the Kansas City metro have included a sustainability ethos in their planning. But other countries are building most of the cutting-edge projects.

The quote from "Light of Mine" says: "Sustainable development is the masterful balance of meeting our own needs without jeopardizing future generations' ability to do the same."

I recently learned about three different sustainable projects that could guide part of a solution to our climate crisis. I’ve posted about them on social media. But I also wanted to collect some thoughts about them here. Each one demonstrates a great sustainability ethos.

Humanscapes of Auroville, India

This sustainable housing complex has already been built (from locally-sourced materials). Auroville has a rather extraordinary visionary origin, itself. Humanscapes fits right in. It’s a net-positive energy project, which generates more energy than it uses. 

It’s also part of a long-term study of how built spaces can foster community among those who live or work there. Designed for young adults, students and faculty, it features beautiful and flexible common areas among its innovations.

The complex was designed by the local firm Auroville Design ConsultantsRead more about it on Inhabitat and Arch Daily.

Net-positive housing in Auroville, India, with common space at left.
Humanscapes of Auroville, India, is part of an experiment in sustainable living and community-building. (Akshay Arora/Auroville Design Consultants)
This illustrated quote from Phil Harding says, "Without environmental sustainability, economic stability and social cohesion cannot be achieved."

Planners and designers overlook the sustainability element in the economic and social picture far too often. But when you fail to evaluate the complete “footprint” of a project, you can get into trouble fast.

Burwood Brickworks Shopping Centre of Melbourne, Australia

Trumpeted as the “World’s most sustainable Shopping Centre,” this is another interesting project. According to The Sydney Herald the Burwood Brickworks shopping center won’t quite be a net-positive energy project like Humanscapes. But it will “produce a large chunk of its energy needs.”

But according to Broadsheet Media of Melbourne, it will meet the Living Building Challenge (LBC) certification standards. LBC-certified buildings have zero carbon footprint. They produce zero waste. They provide more electricity and water than they use. And they grow agriculture on 20 per cent of the site. On top of all that, builders use non-toxic and recycled materials

That sounds net-positive to me, but I’ll let them sort it out. It’ll be considerably more eco-friendly than conventional shopping centers, either way. And definitely informed by a sustainability ethos.

Here's an aerial view of the Burwood Brickworks Shopping Centre with its garden-intensive green roof.
Designers built the Burwood Brickworks Shopping Centre in Melbourne, Australia with a “rooftop farm.” It reminds me of the ubiquitous rooftop farming I imagine for the habitat wheels of my fictional Rana Station.

Smart Forest City of Cancun, Mexico

Anyone who follows green innovations knows the architectural firm behind the Smart Forest CityStefano Boeri Architetti is based in Milan, Italy. One of its earlier projects there, the groundbreaking Bosco Verticale, looks a whole lot like the “White Space Tree” I blogged about last May (note Bosco Verticale came first). 

Here's an architect's conception of a canal in Smart Forest City with boats on the clear water and both trees and buildings lining the ban
Canals will run through much of Smart Forest City. They’ll bring water to the agriculture that’ll make the place food-self-sufficient. This picture reminds me of a Solarpunk city design like those of Tyler Edlin or MissOliviaLouise.

Stefano Boeri intends his latest project, the still-in-the-process Smart Forest City, to be “a model for resilient and sustainable urban planning.” The firm is designing it to be “completely food and energy self-sufficient.” Not only net-positive (or at least net-neutral) energy, but able to produce its own food.

I’m flashing on my fictional Rana Station again. Rana is an island in space that is 23 hours away from the nearest planet. Its very survival depends on its self-sufficiency. Therefore, every available space is used for agriculture.

The illustrated quote from William McDonough says, "Sustainability takes forever. And that's the point.

 Smart Forest City takes kind of the same approach. It’ll have green roofs, vertical gardens, and an agricultural belt that surrounds its perimeter. The Mexican project should be able to feed all 130,000 projected residents from its own agriculture. Talk about building with a sustainability ethos!

Welcome to Rana Station

Where did Rana Station Come From?

The first of the XK9 “Bones” Trilogy, What’s Bred in the Bone, is now available on Amazon as a paperback or in Kindle format. It explores ideas I’ve been developing for a long time.

Its setting, Rana Station, is almost a character in its own right. That’s partially because of the culture, partially because of the communities, and partially because of the incessant need to grow food everywhere possible.

I chose the classic Stanford Torus as the basis for my design, but–like many sf authors–I’ve adapted it.

Here's the original 1975 Don Davis painting of a Stanford Torus space habitat. It has a large mirror at an angle to the wheel part of the structure, to shine light into secondary mirrors. There's a central hub structure and what look like the spokes of a wheel connecting the outer ring to the center.
The Stanford Torus space habitat design: In this 1975 painting by Don Davis, we see the single stationary mirror that would capture solar energy and reflect light to the secondary mirrors around the single torus.

For one thing, there isn’t a single torus on Rana, but rather a series of eight tori, counter-rotating for better balance and stability, and linked by a long central “Hub,” kind of like an axle linking the eight habitat wheels. For another, the tori are bigger, based on tech first extrapolated for a Bishop Ring.

I have tried numerous times and in numerous ways to visualize for myself how Rana would look on approach. The best way I’ve managed so far to approximate an exterior view is a “quick & dirty” extrapolation in Adobe Illustrator, using a PNG of a bicycle wheel with a transparent background. 

It’s still not right, because it doesn’t recreate the space docks and the manufacturing structures. but if you think of the spokes as symbolic of all the elevators from various parts of the 1-G habitat to the Hub, it does give a general idea of what the “wheels” would kinda look like.

Eight bicycle wheels in pairs (one pair is smaller in diameter than the other three pairs) are lined up along a central Hub, to approximate the eight wheels of Rana Station.
Admittedly, both quick and dirty, but it gives a general feel. The smaller wheels represent the ozzirikkians’ habitat wheels. Never met an ozzirikkian? You can change that! Read the book! You’ll meet several.

If you think this “wheel” structure looks familiar, that’s because it does. Ever since the Stanford Torus was introduced, it’s seemed to many the most earth-like, understandable, and workable of the space-colony habitat designs . . . at least, as far as movies and TV go.

This is an artist's conception of the space-based habitat in the movie "Elysium." It looks like a long strip of flat valley floor that curves upward the farther it is away from the viewer, until it disappears above the edge of the "sky" surface, which is some kind of mostly-clear looking window-like curving structure.
Interior concept art for the Elysium space station, 

We aren’t likely to be able to provide “artificial gravity” that works like magnetism and switches on or off, at least, not by using any laws of physics that we currently know. Therefore, the gravitation needs to be provided by centrifugal force, created by building rotating megastructures in space.

I’ve created several posts about space station designs that I considered and studied in the course of my “Space Station DIY” series, when I was trying to figure out what kind of space station design I would use for the setting.

I considered  space stations/colonies in generalDyson structures, Bernal spheres, and O’Neill CylindersBut the torus seemed to me the most likely to provide a reliable 1-G environment that was comprehensible to terrestrial human brains.  I liked it better, and I got to be the decider because it’s my story. 

I’m planning future posts about aspects of life inside those wheels, including a look at some of the maps and 3D elevations I’ve been creating as paper sculpture, to help me more realistically understand, develop and describe the settings inside this world I’m creating. Stay tuned.

IMAGE CREDITS: Many thanks to Wikipedia for a good file of the painting by Don Davis  – NASA Ames Research Center (ID AC76-0525), of the original Stanford Torus, which is now in the Public Domain.

To my chagrin, I can’t relocate the source of the PNG image I used to create my “quick & dirty” Rana Station visualization.  I apologize! 

Thanks also are due to Geeks of Doom, who provided the Elysium concept art. 

Wishing you a magical Summer Solstice

The Artdog Image of Interest

Do you love time lapse photography? I certainly do. I went looking for a good image to wish you a magical Summer Solstice, for this post. When I stumbled across a time lapse image of the sun rising at Stonehenge on the Summer Solstice, I was delighted. I hope you are, too!

This sequence was taken at Stonehenge, in Wiltshire, UK, in 2018. Just watching the video made me feel a little bit the way I did after the eclipse in 2017 (even though it was cloudy, it was still magical). I can imagine how breathtaking it might be to see the Solstice at Stonehenge in person

Incidentally, the people-watching is pretty interesting, too. 

My Beloved, of course, puts his own spin on Solstices. He traditionally greets the Winter Solstice in shorts, flipflops, sunglasses, and maybe a Hawaiian shirt, to crow about how it’s all going to be warmer and brighter from here on out. Conversely, the Summer Solstice is his cue to bemoan the the fading of the light. “Can’t you feel the chill already?”

However you spend it, I hope your Summer Solstice is warm, bright, wonderful . . . dare I say magical? And ideally, also full of interesting characters.

A design image of a yellow and orange sunrise, with summer prairie plants, butterflies, and grasses in dark orange and dark brown silhouette form the background of this image. across the top and bottom are white letters in a decorative font that read, "Wishing you a magical Summer Solstice."

IMAGE CREDITS: Many thanks to English Heritage, for the marvelous time lapse video taken at Stonehenge on the Solstice in 2018. 

The “Wishing you a magical Summer Solstice” image has a multi-part history. I wasn’t able to find a current website for Avalon Raven Design. According to the invaluable TinEye Reverse Image Search, it began life as a stock vector image in 2008. However it evolved, I hope you enjoy the final image!

How does “productive” architecture go beyond sustainability?

The Artdog Image of Interest

TEDx speaker, architect Dong-Ping Wong, lays out a case for moving past “sustainable” and transitioning into “productive” architecture. Specifically, he describes architecture that produces three kinds of benefits:

Solar and wind energy (see below).

Solar and wind energy (see below).

Clean water filtration in a river, via his +POOL project.

Agricultural crop yields in the middle of a city (strong echoes of my Rana Station, here! Who knew?). He calls it an “urban quilt of productivity.”

At left is an overview map of the peninsula jutting out from Copenhagen that was chosen for the development. At right is a detail of an area with several arable fields and even a water treatment facility.

I’ll warn you: this is longer than my usual “Image if Interest” video. But I thought the direction he’s going, and the solutions he outlined, might be just as fascinating to you as they were to me.

Moving into the 21st Century by moving beyond “first thoughts” about sustainability is, to me, an essential next step. 

I liked Wong’s example of housing conceived as a solar array. It’s designed as a five-tower residence in LA, the largest city in a state that has already mandated that as of 2020 solar panels be incorporated into all houses). 

The illustration shows three images: a traditional rectangular-block building that captures higher wind velocity along one edge of the roof at left, then in the middle is Wong's triangular shaped building with wind turbines staged all along the hypotenuse of the right triangle (it actually would be a prism in 3-d). On the right is an artist's visualization of what the triangular-shaped buildings might look like.
Instead of capturing increased wind velocity at just one point,  Wong and his colleagues designed structures to create a whole surface capturing much more energy, to the point that they become more than self-sufficient.

He also describes a south-Dallas project designed to capture enough wind energy to “power a 600-unit housing block,” and actually produce more energy than it needs.

If we are actually to have a chance of slowing climate change and ameliorating its effects, we must react intelligently.

I think our responses must resonate all the way down into basic design principles, built on entirely new assumptions about the purpose of our built environment. It starts with thinking the way Wong and his colleagues are.

IMAGES: Many thanks to TEDxDumbo 2012, a TEDxCity2.0 event, for this video. I screen-captured the still images from Wong’s presentation.

The photo shows a wide shot, possibly photgraphed from a drone, of the 24 Verde apartment complex, complete with its urban forest, from about a block away and a fairly high vantage point.

A different take on a “urban forest”

The Artdog Image of Interest

I’m focusing on “green” architecture this month. Not only green as environmentally sustainable, but green as in there are lots of plants incorporated into the design. In this case, it’s an urban apartment building that is designed to incorporate a small “forest” of about 50 trees.

This video shares photos and several people’s thoughts about a project called 25 Verde in Turin, Italy. It’s an apartment building designed by architect Luciano Pia.

As a gardener, I definitely understand the concern by the gentleman from the German Green Building Council over the high-maintenance aspects, but it sure is a cool-looking place to live!

VIDEO: Many thanks to international broadcaster Deutche Welle for this YouTube video. I also am grateful to DesignBoom and photographer Beppe Giardino for the featured image.

8 incredible environmentally friendly buildings

The Artdog Image of Interest

In honor of Earth Day, this month I’m exploring YouTube videos that show some amazing environmentally efficient architecture

Today’s video explores eight different buildings on the cutting edge of sustainability. Several even generate more energy than they can use.

VIDEO: Many thanks to All Things Human’s YouTube Channel, for this video.

Trees on buildings: a growing trend

The Artdog Image of Interest

A major theme in environmentally sustainable architecture is the incorporation of plants into design. This requires some unusual logistics, but confers such research-established advantages as mitigating urban heat islands, carbon sequestration, and psychological benefits for people using the buildings.

In the small but burgeoning sub-genre of speculative fiction called Solarpunk, incorporation of plants into urban life and buildings (along with rivers and streams, solar and other sorts of sustainable power, and sustainably-sourced materials) is also a prominent element.

My own forthcoming novel, What’s Bred in the Bone (to be released May 22, 2019) probably doesn’t count as Solarpunk per se, because it’s not set in our Solar system. But its setting, a habitat space station designed to be self-sustaining, and powered by light from the local system’s day-star, is almost a character in its own right. I’ve drawn heavily on recent developments in architecture, intensive gardening, and related areas.

VIDEO: Many thanks to The B1M on YouTube for this excellent video survey of tree- and plant-enhanced architecture. My subscribers may notice I posted this a day earlier than normal for an Image of Interest; I have a special series running next week for Library Week that starts on Sunday, so I rearranged the posting dates just a bit. (Oh, and . . . sorry for the pun in the post’s title. I couldn’t resist.)

Page 1 of 2

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén