Planning permission has been granted for Western Europe’s new tallest skyscraper – though it’s not in London or Paris as you might expect. Instead, the destination for the Tower & Village skyscraper, by Dorte Mandrup, is a small rural Danish town called Brande with a population of around 7,000.

Assuming it is indeed completed, the Tower & Village skyscraper will rise to a height of 320 m (1,050 ft), making it taller than Western Europe’s current tallest skyscraper, London’s Shard, by a little over 10 m (32 ft). Though not a skyscraper, Paris’ Eiffel Tower is just slightly taller at 324 m (1,062 ft) and in Eastern Europe, Russia hosts the huge 462 m (1,516 ft) Lakhta Center, which is Europe’s tallest skyscraper and is rated at 13th place in the world’s tallest rankings.

From the renders provided, the tower looks rather slim and takes the form of a simple glass-and-steel rectangle. At its base will be a series of low and mid-rise buildings that are topped by green roofs.

The project is being commissioned by fashion giant Bestseller, which actually originates from Brande. The skyscraper will serve as the firm’s headquarters and, it hopes, prove a real boon to the town.

“With the Tower & Village project, Bestseller rethinks the classic idea of a headquarters and creates a long-term plan for the company’s presence in Brande,” says Bestseller Project Manager Anders Krogh. “We consider the overall building project an investment in Brande, and the planned high-rise building will function as an icon for the new expansion. It will be a landmark that places Brande on the map, but it will also function as an architectural attraction benefiting hotel guests, students and other users of the building.”

The team will be aiming for DGNB certification (a green building standard), though we’ve no more information on any sustainable features at this early stage.

Additionally, a Bestseller representative confirmed that the skyscraper could still be some years away from construction, though the plans have received final council approval.

Western Europe’s tallest skyscraper planned… for a small Danish town [New Atlas]

Research collective Synflux has developed a system of digitised couture that reduces the amount of fabric needed to make clothes by creating garments that exactly fit the wearer’s body.

Called Algorithimic Couture, the project was presented at Design Indaba last month and involves 3D-scanning a body to determine its exact proportions, which are used to create customised clothing.

Synflux aims to disrupt the current system employed by the fashion industry, from design to factory production.

“The existing linear model created on the premise of mass production and consumption desperately calls for a change,” said the creators. “Looking to a more sustainable future, we must reconsider the holistic cycle of fashion.”

Synflux runs machine-learning algorithms over the data collected to find the optimum garment pattern that reduces fabric waste to zero. The programme then generates optimised fashion pattern modules comprised of 2D rectangles and straight lines.

These 2D modules that make up the overall garment are then modelled using computer-aided design (CAD) software to produce a fashion pattern for an item of clothing that is both comfortable and sustainable.

“By utilising 3D-scanning technology alongside computer-aided design (CAD) software, we are able to optimise garments to the unique body types of the user, independent from the prêt-a-porter system,” design engineer Kye Shimizu told Dezeen.

Algorithmic Couture is a collaboration between project lead and fashion designer Kazuya Kawasaki, Shimizu, designer Kotaro Sano and machine learning engineer Yusuke Fujihira, who together make up Synflux.

The team found that current methods of designing clothes result in a 15 per cent wastage of fabric, and looked for a solution in the digital world.

“Digital innovations have evolved the landscape of fashion. Adverts are aggregated to match our consumption and fashion trends are forecasted utilising our data,” said Synflux.

“There is a need to realign our incentives to more sustainable values, by looking at how we design in fashion.”

The standard system of sizing in the fashion industry, not only produces unnecessary waste but also results in an inferior fit for the customer.

“A lot of companies subscribe to the model of small, medium and large sizes, and a lot of the times that doesn’t work,” said Shimizu.

Synflux’s system also allows the user to customise the shape, fabric and colour of the final garment to reflect their personal style.

The idea of a bespoke garment harks back to historic notions of bespoke clothing, but unlike couture, allows the users to take part in the design process.

“Algorithmic Couture aims to democratise haute couture customisation culture prevalent in the 19th-century, by revitalising how we fashion our own style through personalisation in the digital design process,” said the team.

They also hope that it will be widely implemented to reduce waste and energy in the fashion production industry more generally. They are looking to work with major fashion brands to develop the technology.

Last year, US start-up Naked Labs launched an at-home 3D body-scanner, with the aim of user’s tracking their own health rather than helping make their own clothes.

Algorithmic Couture aims to reduce fashion industry waste with digital customisation [Dezeen]

A forty-metre long wall made from plywood and steel partitions the public from private spaces within this London office by Threefold Architects.

The 6,900 square-foot-space in London’s Covent Garden area is occupied by housing developers Pocket Living.

Laid out across the building’s unusually long floor plate, the office is split in two by a partition wall made up of Nordic white-stained spruce plywood panels fitted into a light grey steel structural framework.

Referred to as an “inhabited wall” and designed to split the office’s front and back of house activities, the partition incorporates various openings, meeting rooms, wellness rooms, break out spaces and a canteen along its length.

While some openings function as doorways, others are windows that frame views through the office and out across the cityscape beyond.

“The function of the wall varies,” explained Threefold Architects.

“It begins with banquet seating in a private meeting room at its very apex, in the main the workspace it contains extensive storage and display cabinetry along with spaces for discrete informal team meetings and solo working, and terminates by forming a fully equipped kitchen, dining space, and wellness room.”

The architecture studio chose to use modest and cost-effective materials such as plywood to reflect the company’s design-focused and affordable approach.

As well as plywood and light grey steel, Threefold used a matt midnight blue laminate on alcoves, display tops and kitchen counters.

The wall helps to create a flexible workspace that offers a mixture of open collaborative and studious private spaces, which the client reports has had a positive impact on the culture and working practices of the team.

“The simple architectural intervention successfully organises the space and has become the backbone of the office,” commented Angharad Palmer, head of design at Poket Living. “It’s created a calm and studious atmosphere giving us the perfect balance of lively collaboration and quiet concentration.”

Founded in 2004 by architects Matt Driscoll, Jack Hosea and Renée Searle, Threefold has previously completed a shared office building in south-east London, which features a 64-metre-long wooden structure that creates secluded workspaces, staircases and informal meeting areas.

Threefold Architects divides up London office with forty-metre long “inhabited wall” [Dezeen]

Portuguese studio Digitalab has won the rising star award at Stockholm Furniture Fair, with an innovative method of turning cork into thread.

Architects Brimet Silva and Ana Fonseca of Digitalab have together developed a method of turning cork into a thin thread that can be used in the manufacture of furniture, lighting, textiles and accessories.

Called CO-RK, the thread offers a sustainable, non-fibrous alternative to materials like plastic.

The Stockholm Furniture Fair Editors’ Choice jury, chaired by Dezeen founder Marcus Fairs, said the duo “used cork to produce a beautiful fabric that can be used to make products.”

“The winner exhibited creative exploration of an underused natural material,” they said.

Silva and Fonseca created the product for Gencork, an offshoot of 50-year-old Portuguese company Sofalca, which manufactures cork pellets using the branches of cork trees. This process is more sustainable than the typical manufacture of cork, which comes from tree bark.

The thread is formed by injecting water vapour through these cork pellets. This causes the pellets to expand, whilst the water bonds with the resin in the cork.

The mixture is then pressed and combined with a base layer of cotton fabric to produce a thin sheet that can be cut to a millimetre thick. The resulting threads are then washed to increase their flexibility and elasticity.

“It’s a robust and comfortable material, resistant to light traction and it’s also washable, keeping all the original physical properties of cork,” Silva told Dezeen.

“This super-material, cork, offers a huge range of advantages, because in addition to being an excellent thermal and acoustic insulator and as well as anti-vibration, it’s also a carbon dioxide sink, playing a key role in protecting the environment.”

The robust fibres can be woven into “complex generative forms” or mesh-like structures using an algorithm based on mathematical formulas.

“It is a high-tech and low-tech approach where craftsman practices are mixed in with technological processes,” said Silva.

“The aim was to develop and manipulate different mesh densities to apply to different scales and functions according to the product. For example, we are exploring higher densities that are strong enough to apply to seating solutions and space dividers, among other applications,” he explained.

Digitalab showed the products at Stockholm Furniture Fair between 5 and 9 February.

Pieces from the collection were displayed on a stand clad in the brand’s flexible cork wall-cladding in geometric and swirling patterns, an application made possible by applying algorithmic processes to the CO-RK thread. The wall-covering functions as a thermal and acoustic insulator while preventing sound or music-induced vibrations.

“The 100 per cent natural and sustainable expanded-cork agglomerate is transformed through generative design algorithms and advanced digital fabrication processes, expressing a new formal aesthetic,” said Silva.

“This creative and disruptive system not only optimises cork’s thermal and acoustic properties but also adds artistic value to traditional walls,” he continued.

The annual Editor’s Choice awards at Stockholm Furniture Fair are judged by a selection of editors from international design magazines. The judges this year were Marcus Fairs of Dezeen, Costas Voyatzis of Greek website Yatzer, Dana Tomic Hughes of Australian site Yellowtrace, and Beryl Hsu of Chinese magazine IDEAT.

The best product award went to the entire collection of furniture and fittings commissioned from various designers for the re-opening of Stockholm’s Nationalmuseum.

The best stand award was given to acoustic products brand Baux for a cube clad inside and out with its latest biodegradable acoustic panels, called Baux Acoustic Pulp.

Concerns about noise, lack of privacy and unhealthy working practices fuelled a rise in products aimed at improving wellbeing in the office at this year’s Stockholm fair.

Meanwhile, cork is increasingly being used as an architectural material. Dezeen recently highlighted seven projects that use the versatile material as cladding.

Digitalab turns cork into thread for sustainable furniture and lighting [Dezeen]

 

The Jewel is a massive new shopping, dining, entertainment, and accommodation complex that’s connected to the airport and open to everyone, not just travelers.

Designed by world-renowned architect Moshe Safdie at a cost of $1.3 billion, the space is housed inside a striking dome-shaped glass and steel facade that’s bound to catch the eye of passengers as they come in to land at Singapore’s main hub.

Besides the Jewel’s 280 shopping and dining outlets, the interior also features the Rain Vortex, the 40-meter-high centerpiece described as the world’s tallest indoor waterfall. The Rain Vortex was designed in collaboration with WET, an American company responsible for attractions such as the Fountains of Bellagio in Las Vegas, which uses state-of-the-art technology to create grand, water-based performances.

The Jewel also features the extensive and climate-controlled Forest Valley gardens. Home to thousands of trees, shrubs, and flowering plants, the beautifully landscaped space is lit up by natural light that filters in through the Jewel’s glass roof.

The location looks like it could become a popular destination for families, too, with plenty to keep the kids occupied, including Sky Nets that let you “walk on air,” an interactive Discovery Slide, “Foggy Bowls” where you can play in the mist, and the largest hedge maze in Singapore — a place you should probably avoid if you have a flight to catch.

The Jewel, which opens its doors on April 17, also features the first YotelAir hotel in Asia with 130 small but stylish cabins offering both connectivity and comfort.

Safdie — the man behind other architectural gems such as the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, and the U.S. Institute of Peace Headquarters in Washington, D.C. — told CNN in 2018 that with the Jewel, he wanted to create something not seen before.

“I wanted to explore a new kind of urban space,” he said, adding that he thinks his team won the bid because competing designs “looked like malls and felt like malls, while this one, you don’t think of it as a mall, because it’s a new kind of experience. It makes us rethink what urban centers could be like if we stretch our thinking.”

Changi Airport, home to Singapore Airlines, has already won literally hundreds of international awards. The Jewel looks set to bring it many more.

Singapore’s stunning airport complex could be a tourist destination in itself [Digital Trends]

In the future, building a house will take less time than buying one — and apparently, the future is now. Thanks to the nonprofit New Story and homebuilding technology company ICON, sustainable and affordable 3D-printed homes are finally becoming reality. The two organizations have teamed up to build the first 3D-printed neighborhood, scheduled to break ground in Latin America sometime this summer. To learn more about the technology behind ICON’s 3D-printing, Green Matters spoke with Jason Ballard, cofounder and CEO of ICON, and Brett Hagler, cofounder and CEO of New Story.

Ballard tells Green Matters that each 3D-printed house will take two days or less to build, and that the community will be made up of at least 50 homes. Homes will be printed in a semi-rural, undisclosed location in Latin America, which will be unveiled sometime soon. As Fast Company reported, each home will cost about $7,000 to build. Hagler tells Green Matters in an email that the the homes are being funded through donors, adding that 100 percent of donations go directly towards building homes, while operational expenses are covered by private donors. Fast Company noted that the houses are being created for families who make less than $200 a month, and that the families will pay a monthly fee (without interest) for their homes. That money will go into a community fund, and not to New Story.

New Story is a social housing nonprofit that “pioneers solutions to end global homelessness,” per its website. The company does that by building homes in low-income countries that are in need of housing communities. ICON is a construction technology company that has a goal of revolutionizing home construction by creating shelter where it is most needed, all while considering affordability and sustainability. The two companies partnered together in March 2018 to build the country’s first permitted 3D-printed house in Austin. New Story and ICON are using the same technology that went into that house to inform the new community of homes in Latin America, although these new homes will be about double the size of the Austin one.

Ballard’s excitement about this project finally preparing to break ground is palpable in his voice — especially when talking about sustainability. As Ballard tells Green Matters over the phone, he actually comes from a conservation biology background and years of working in the sustainable building field.

ICON’s 3D-printed homes are made out of concrete, and printed by the company’s 3D printer, the Vulcan II. Ballard explains that concrete has a high embodied energy, which is the total energy that goes into making a building material, including the process of extraction, manufacture, delivery, and more, as per Level. That makes embodied energy a way to measure a building material’s environmental impact. Because of concrete’s high embodied energy, some people may not see concrete as an environmentally-friendly material. However, in terms of lifecycle, “concrete or any resilient structure is going to last a lot, lot longer than most conventional building materials,” Ballard tells Green Matters over the phone. “So we think that on the full, zoom-out, wide analysis, that the slightly higher embodied energy of using a material like concrete is outweighed in the long run by transitioning to a way of building that’s much, much more resistant.”

“My hometown, for instance, has been destroyed by a hurricane twice in the last 11 or 12 years,” Ballard says, adding that homes and buildings were rebuilt with lumber and drywall. “And so even though lumber and drywall might have had a lower embodied energy, you had to basically rebuild the entire town twice in a decade. And if they had just built it out of a more resilient material from the beginning, the amount of waste that could have been saved, the amount of energy, the amount of water, the amount of everything that could have been saved…” He adds that ICON is a fan of the motto, “Resiliency is the new sustainability.”

Hagler notes another reason why 3D-printed homes are sustainable: “Because there is substantially less waste vs traditional construction,” he tells Green Matters. “The printer only uses the concrete that is needed so there’s not waste of construction materials with each home.” He also explained why 3D-printing is more efficient than regular homebuilding methods. “We have built 2,500 homes with traditional construction methods,” Hagler says of New Story. “Our hope for 3D-printing is that it will allow us to build more homes faster than ever, without sacrificing quality.”

Both Ballard and Hagler are optimistic that 3D-printed homes will become more prevalent in the future, especially when it comes to low-income communities. “3D-printing is a solution to finally put a dent in rising home costs,” Hagler writes to Green Matters. “The technology allows construction faster, cheaper, and with more flexibility (all without sacrificing quality) than traditional methods.”

“I can’t think of another way of building that goes so fast, so affordably, that offers these communities such design freedom and design choice,” Ballard tells us. “What resiliency translates into in low-income communities is low maintenance and operating costs. I can’t think of a better way.”

In our latest Dezeen x MINI Living video, we explore a proposal by Danish architect Sigurd Larsen to house Berlin’s growing population on the roof of an existing apartment building.

Larsen’s proposal would add dwellings set amongst a tree-lined linear park to the roof of a 270-metre-long apartment building located between the neighbourhoods of Kreuzberg and Mitte. It was first exhibited at last year’s Venice Biennale.

The new homes would be assembled using a modular system, centred on a basic wooden unit that can house single occupants or couples.

Each module would feature a large window occupying the outward-facing side of the home, offering views of the Berlin skyline.

Further plug-in modules could then be added to the unit to add up to two more bedrooms.

Larsen claims that this will encourage social diversity amongst the rooftop’s residents, as units can be optimised for families with children or groups of students.

The areas between the homes on the roof would be occupied by public lawns in which communal activities could take place.

By offering current residents of the building access to the shared facilities on the roof, the plan would offer benefits to current inhabitants as well as new arrivals, promoting social cohesion.

Larsen told Dezeen that the project has two aims – to densify Berlin’s sparse housing in order to tackle its growing population, and to activate areas of the city often neglected by urban planning and improvement initiatives.

According to Larsen, the scheme could be adapted to create new homes on the roofs of different kinds of buildings, and there are plans for a prototype to be built in summer 2019.

This movie is part of Dezeen x MINI Living Initiative, a collaboration with MINI Living exploring how architecture and design can contribute to a brighter urban future through a series of videos and talks.

Sigurd Larsen proposes modular village on apartment block roof [Dezeen]

Many employees hate open offices. Yet scores of them continue to be built around the world; after all, open plan designs likely save companies millions per year. Not content with its own open plan office, Ikea’s innovation lab, Space10, recently decided to redesign its Copenhagen headquarters to give its employees more privacy.

The Space10 redesign transformed the innovation lab’s three-story office, which serves as home base to its 27 employees as well as a rotating cast of designers and creatives that the lab collaborates with regularly. Spacon & X originally designed the office three years ago, and this refresh was meant to provide more privacy and give employees more flexibility in their individual work spaces.

The architects designed a series of modular pods that are a mix between an open desk cluster and a cubicle: each pod fits a small group of desks belonging to one team. The walls around the cube have inset acoustic panels made of recycled plastic to reduce noise and create more visual privacy as well. Teams that need more quiet time can add more of these panels to make the cube more isolated and peaceful, or the panels can be removed to open the space up to the rest of the office.

“The workstations are crucial for divvying up space for various activities, and people can customize their own work spaces as they see fit,” Kevin Curran, the program lead at Space10 who led the redesign, tells Fast Company via email. “By providing privacy and sound absorption, the solution means that those inside don’t get distracted–or distract others ‘outside.’”

Employees are also encouraged to move around, choosing their setting to suit what they’re working on, whether that’s a deep concentration cocoon, an armchair, or a standing desk–and the office provides all of these different kinds of environments to support that.

“The design accommodates both extroverts and introverts; catering to people who thrive from chatting to passing colleagues as well as those who need peace and quiet; providing space for creatives who prefer a neat desk as well as people who need to spread out sketches all around them to do their best work–so redesigning our space to accommodate subjective preferences was a necessity, not a luxury,” writes Polina Bachlakova, an editor at Space10.

Space10’s new office also includes a fab lab and technology studio, a test kitchen, event space, and a gallery, some of which is open to the public. In the last year, the lab has launched self-driving car concepts, a modular house prototype, research on coliving and AI, and even meatballs made of bugs. With a host of new projects coming, including a cookbook, it’s the perfect time for the lab to rethink how its space affects its creative output.

Following six years of construction, the Moshe Safdie-designed Raffles City Chongqing is nearing completion in China. Representing a genuinely impressive engineering achievement, the so-called horizontal skyscraper consists of a cluster of eight towers and a huge connecting skybridge. Developer CapitaLand reports that it’s now structurally complete and work is ongoing finishing its interior. The official opening ceremony is expected to take place in the second half of 2019.

Reminiscent of Safdie’s Marina Bay Sands, but even more ambitious, Raffles City Chongqing also involves engineering firm Arup. Its unusual design is inspired by the sails of the Chinese trading vessels that once plied their trade in the busy river that runs through the city.

The scale of the project is considerable, with a total floorspace of 817,000 sq m (roughly 8.8 million sq ft), spread over its eight towers. The curved skybridge, dubbed the Crystal, is its focal point and is supported by four 250 m (820 ft)-tall skyscrapers. It also connects another pair of 350 m (1,148 ft)-tall skyscrapers via two adjoining smaller skybridges.

The Crystal measures 300 m (984 ft) in length, which, if made vertical, would be almost the height of the Eiffel Tower. It’s clad in roughly 3,000 glass panels and almost 5,000 aluminum panels.

To get the Crystal into position some 250 m (820 ft)-high, it was divided into nine segments. Four pieces were built in place atop the towers and three middle segments were prefabricated on the ground and hoisted into place. The end pieces were mostly assembled in place, with finishing sections also hoisted up from the ground.

The Crystal’s interior will include two swimming pools, a gallery, large gardens with trees, and restaurants, and a viewing point, among other amenities.

The rest of Raffles City Chongqing will host residential and office space, as well as a shopping mall and a large landscaped site measuring 9.2 hectares (22.7 acres).

China’s amazing horizontal skyscraper nears completion [New Atlas]

Four designers from the Royal College of Art and Imperial College have developed a series of machines that turn seafood waste into a biodegradable and recyclable bioplastic.

The project, called Shellworks, saw Ed Jones, Insiya Jafferjee, Amir Afshar and Andrew Edwards transform the shells of crustaceans into a paper-like material that could act as a sustainable alternative to single-use plastics.

The material consists of a mixture of vinegar and a biopolymer called chitin – a fibrous substance that makes up the exoskeleton of crustaceans and the cell walls of fungi.

Despite being the world’s second-most abundant biopolymer, chitin needs to be chemically extracted from its source before it can be turned into a practical material.

After realising how expensive chitosan – the commercial version of chitin – is to purchase, and how time-consuming the available extraction processes were, the designers decided to develop their own method.

“We spent weeks trying to extract even a handful of chitosan, which was when we realised we needed the right tools for the job,” said the group.

They invented five manufacturing machines, called Shelly, Sheety, Vaccy, Dippy and Drippy, with which to transform the crustacean shells into different objects, being sure to not use any additives in the process that could affect the recyclability of the final product.

The first machine, called Shelly, is a small-scale extractor that enables the initial process of drawing out the chitin from the seafood waste.

“The extractor is designed to offer complete control over each parameter of the process in order to allow for further experimentation at the polymer level of the material,” explained the designers.

Each of the other four machines exploit a specific property of the bioplastic solution to demonstrate its potential, resulting in different products such as anti-bacterial blister packaging, food-safe carrier bags and self-fertilising plant pots.

Sheety, for instance, is an evaporative sheet former that uses heat and wind to transform the bioplastic solution into flat sheets of material. These can then be glued together using the liquid form of the bioplastic.

Vaccy, on the other hand, is a steam-heated vacuum former. The bioplastic sheets can be formed into moulded packaging, taking on the shape of whatever object is put in the vacuum former.

The Dippy machine is a heated dip moulder comprising two solid metal elements attached to a heat source, which are dipped in the liquid material and left to dry, forming 3D vessels like cups and containers.

The versatility of the material also enabled the designers to achieve different material properties by adjusting the ratios of the base ingredients. This meant they could control the stiffness, flexibility and optical clarity of the material, as well as its thickness.

Once dried into one of its three different forms, the material can later be turned back into the original bioplastic solution, making it infinitely recyclable.

This can be done using the Drippy hydro-recycler machine, which drips a liquid solution of water and vinegar into a cup containing scraps of the dried bioplastic, gradually turning it back into its liquid form.

Alternatively, it can be poured onto soil in its liquid form as a natural, non-polluting fertiliser.

The group hope that by developing their own manufacturing methods that are tailored to how the material behaves, the bioplastic will be more easily accessible and therefore more widely adopted by other designers. This in turn will help to achieve a more circular economy.

“By designing scalable manufacturing processes, applications tailored to the material, and eco-positive waste streams, we believe we can demonstrate how chitosan bioplastic could become a viable alternative for many of the plastic products we use today,” they said.

In a similar project, Chile-based designer Margarita Talep created a sustainable, biodegradable alternative to single-use packaging using raw material extracted from algae.

Shellworks turns discarded lobster shells into recyclable bioplastic objects [Dezeen]

Revery Architecture recently completed work on a performing arts center in Hong Kong’s Kowloon Cultural District. The Xiqu Centre features a striking facade made up of curved aluminum that envelops glazing. The firm likens the effect to a lantern shimmering behind a beaded stage curtain.

Created in collaboration with Ronald Lu & Partners, the Xiqu Centre has been in the works for quite some time (Revery Architecture was previously named Bing Thom Architects) and was built to a considerable budget of US$347 million. The aluminum facade comprises a total of 25,000 pieces that were CNC (computer numerically controlled) cut from untreated marine-grade aluminum piping in alternating patterns around the building. The result is quite unusual.
The interior of the building measures 320,000 sq ft (29,728 sq m) and is centered around a suspended theater. This was first built on the ground and then lifted into place and suspended on six large columns. The rest of the Xiqu Centre was then constructed around it. As well as being novel, the suspended design serves a practical purpose and helps, along with dampening and other measures, to mitigate the vibration and sounds from the surrounding city. This is crucial as a rail line runs underground beneath the theater.
“Qi (meaning flow) is expressed throughout the complex with curvilinear paths and forms and arched entrances designed around a mesmerizing, multi-level circular atrium,” says Revery Architecture. “The innovative design decision to suspend Xiqu Centre’s breathtaking 1,073-seat Grand Theatre at the top of the building 90 ft (27 m) off the ground, facilitates internal configuration of the atrium and public plaza while strategically isolating the auditorium from vibration and the high ambient noise levels of its surrounding urban infrastructure. This inventive design move was hugely beneficial in enabling construction to safely occur within and below the theater simultaneously, resulting in a reduced construction timeline.”
The elevated theater is flanked by two sky gardens offering choice views of Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour, while elsewhere in the Xiqu Centre lies a 200-seat Tea House theater, rehearsal studios, recording studios, education and administrative spaces, lecture rooms, and retail areas. The interior courtyard also includes exhibitions and stalls promoting the area’s cultural heritage.

We’ve covered a lot of very small dwellings here at New Atlas, but this has to be one of the tiniest yet. Created from an old diesel fuel tank, the aptly-named Bunker definitely wouldn’t suit claustrophobic types but includes lighting, shelving, and a bed.

Bunker brings to mind the professor who lived in a dumpster and came about when Argentinian artist and architect Martín Marro was inspired by the memory of the home he grew up in that happened to be converted from a roadside service station.

Marro sourced a fuel tank in his local area in Córdoba, Argentina, that was buried underground for 70 years next to a small roadside service station. Working with his brother, he cut it open and began to transform it into a cabin by adding ventilation, glazing, and an entrance, before installing lighting and electrical hookups.

The structure measures 3 m (9.84 ft)-long and 1.5 m (5 ft) in diameter. From the exterior, it looks pretty much like a standard fuel storage tank and is painted in yellow.

The Bunker was placed outside Marro’s family home for a while in 2017 and was also installed in an art fair in Córdoba in late 2018. In the future, additional exhibitions in Argentina are likely and the architect would also like to purchase his former family home, which is currently up for sale, and recreate the service station as an artistic installation with a residential element.

Fuel storage tank transformed into novel micro-shelter [New Atlas]

Acoustic products brand Baux has worked with a team of scientists specialising in biomimicry to create a line of biodegradable acoustic panels, called Baux Acoustic Pulp.

Made from a new paper-like, plant-based material, the series of nine panels was developed with Swedish industrial design studio Form Us With Love, in collaboration with scientists from the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH).

The new chemical-free pulp material is based on over 25 years of research and formed of organically modified cellulosic fibres taken from sustainably harvested Swedish pine and fir trees.

The wood is first broken down into a liquid cellulose form before this pulp is dried out, in a process similar to making paper.

The wood fibres are then modified to mimic the natural protective properties of various plants such as the fire-retardancy properties of grass roots, the water-repellency of lotus flowers, or the strength of the catalytic combination of potatoes, plant wax and citrus fruits.

Working with the manufacturer, the team initially experimented with mixing in shrimp shells, but these didn’t prove strong enough and they were unable to locate a sustainable supply chain for this ingredient.

Launched during this week’s Stockholm Design Week, which runs until 10 February, the panels feature one of three patterns that are cut using advanced laser-cutting technology.

The panel with straight indented lines is called Sense, whilst Pulse and Energy both have zig-zagged surfaces.

The laser-cut patterns form nano-perforated surfaces inspired by origami paper-folding techniques that allow sound waves to enter the panels and get trapped in the honeycomb chambers on the back.

The technology, which was once reserved for aircraft and spaceships, keeps material usage to a minimum and means that no waste or pollution is created during the production process.

Instead of paint, the acoustic pulp is coloured with non-genetically modified wheat bran resulting in a palette of restful neutral colours.

The panels are available in three slightly varying colours that are created by incorporating 30 per cent or five per cent wheat bran, or no bran at all into the pulp.

Next the brand will look into using natural dyes from lingonberries, blueberries and beetroot, or mineral to colour the product.

The team imagines that they will be used for sound-proofing and decoration in communal environments like offices, restaurants, schools and boardrooms.

“In the face of climate change, environmental pollution, and excessive consumerism, we as an industry can no longer afford to ignore the part we play,” commented BauxCEO Fredrik Franzon.

“Designing and prototyping for the future is not enough. We need to create a sustainable future today. The Acoustic Pulp sound absorbing panel is the result of our deep commitment to this vision.”

Founded in 2014, Baux is a joint venture by entrepreneurs Johan Ronnestam, Fredrik Franzon, and the founding members of the design studio Form Us With Love, Jonas Pettersson, John Löfgren, and Petrus Palmér.

The founding concept was to take conventional architectural products and make them more visually appealing. Its inaugural product was a type of acoustic panel called wood wool made from spruce wood, cement and water.

Since then, the brand has gone on to produce the wood wool tiles in various different colours, shapes and finishes. In 2017 it released a pattern library of 500 downloadable panel and tile designs for architects and designers.

Baux launches biodegradable acoustic panels made from a plant-based material [Dezeen]

Russian studio Asketik has designed a cafe with bright white interiors in Moscow, offset with many indoor plants to soften the industrial space.

Bloom-n-Brew occupies a former Soviet silk factory overhauled by Asketik, which also led the branding design, including a new logo and menu with a type-based graphic.

The cafe’s name refers to the fragrant smell that is released when brewing a fresh cup of coffee.

Defined by high ceilings and hardly any internal walls, the space measures 1,238 square feet (115 square metres) and is located in the Russian capital’s Factoria Park neighbourhood.

Areas for baristas and customers are arranged between various cabinets and exposed pillars, with large windows bringing light in.

White walls, white ceilings, and light grey floors create a stark backdrop, amplified by exposed pipes that have also been painted white.

“The inspiration was the history of the space,” Asketik told Dezeen. “We wanted to save this industrial view and original purpose of the space.”

Softening the cafe are numerous indoor plants in terracotta pots, and different seating nooks. The lush foliage pops against the stark space.

The square floor plan is organised around a central coffee area, with four counters that are wrapped in powder-coated profiled sheeting, commonly used for roofs and fences.

A nook alongside the windows accommodates distinct, high wooden table designs. Another high-top area features a series of barstools, with simple hooks designed by Asketik.

The studio was founded by designer Maxim Maximov, who started with one small object at a time to grow a full collection. Asketik’s shelves are also used at Bloom-n-Brew, along with other pieces.

Curved-back chairs and small round tables are included in white, black and light wood. Designed by Delo Design of Saint Petersburg, these pieces have an eclectic yet unified effect.

Also new to Moscow’s food and drink scene are a shiny pink pastrami joint and a concrete-clad restaurant with a geometric exterior, both by Crosby Studios.

Asketik creates stark white coffee shop in Soviet silk factory [Dezeen]

Back in 2016, Nike first announced its HyperAdapt 1.0 training shoes, which automatically tighten their laces around the wearer’s foot. Now Puma is getting in on the self-lacing game, with its Fit Intelligence (Fi) line of footwear.

Unveiled this Thursday in Hong Kong, Fi builds upon the company’s earlier AutoDisc system, which never reached the market.

It incorporates cables that run through the shoe’s upper, and that also go through an electronic module on the shoe’s tongue. After stepping into the shoe, users simply swipe their finger upwards on the module. This causes a micromotor within it to tighten the cables, securing the shoe to the foot – a proprietary sensing system reportedly “learns” the shape of the foot to ensure an optimum fit.

Users can subsequently fine-tune that fit via a smartphone app (it’s possible to select different levels of tightness), plus they can adjust it while they’re running, using their Apple watch. And when it’s time to remove the shoes, a downwards swipe of the module loosens the cables back off.

Fi will first appear in a training shoe designed for workouts and light running. It should hit the market in the Spring of 2020 (Northern Hemisphere), priced at US$330 a pair.

Puma unveils Fi self-lacing trainers [New Atlas]

With its tropical climate, Singapore is well-suited to greenery-covered architecture and boasts the award-winning Oasia Hotel and Kampung Admiralty projects. Serie Architects and Multiply Architects’ lush Oasis Terraces is another worthwhile addition to the architecture-rich city state, providing locals with a versatile mixed-use space that contains a community center and health clinics.

Oasis Terraces has a total floorspace of 27,000 sq m (290,625 sq ft) and takes its place very well among the surrounding buildings in the town of Punggol, with a style that complements the area’s existing architecture.

“Our design is informed by the open frames commonly found in the facades and corridors of HDB’s [Singapore’s Housing and Development Board] housing blocks of the 70s and 80s,” says Serie Architects’ Christopher Lee. “We’ve transformed this precedent into a light and open frame that captures and accommodates diverse programs for the community in a landscape setting – it is an architectural framework for communal life to unfold.”

The building is centered around a series of stepped garden terraces that create children’s playgrounds, an amphitheater, dining tables, and other outdoor spaces. Elsewhere lies retail and restaurant space, while a good chunk of the interior is taken up by health clinic facilities. A large sloping green lawn flanks the building and a sheltered plaza is situated near the edge of a waterway.

Oasis Terraces is topped by a large green roof that features planting beds to promote urban farming. The idea is that locals will be able to plant, maintain and enjoy their produce. The building was designed with passive ventilation and natural lighting in mind and is partially cooled by the prevailing breeze.

Lush Oasis Terraces is covered in greenery [New Atlas]

It’s been 30 years since Marty McFly donned a pair of self-lacing Nikes in Back to the Future II, but sneaker enthusiasts are still dreaming of the day they can slip into their own. Though special edition models have offered lucky individuals a taste of this in recent years, Nike is preparing to launch a new self-lacing basketball shoe for the masses that can also accommodate prescribed tightness settings.

Dutch architecture firm Mecanoo has added the finishing touches to an impressive interior space inside an old railway station, rebirthing it as an “urban living room” known as the LocHal Library. In reality, its a co-working space, library and cultural center rolled into one, styled to make its visitors feel at home through an open and playful layout that honors the history of the site.

Having previously designed a library in Birmingham, an arts venue in Manchester and the world’s largest performing arts center in Taiwan, Mecanoo has some experience in designing spaces for public enjoyment. This time around it has put its interior design talents to use in reimagining an old industrial building as a hub for innovation and creativity, with fellow Dutch firms Civic Architects and Braaksma & Roos taking care of the overall architectural design and restoration.

Constructed in 1932 in Tilburg, Holland, the building originally belonged to Dutch Railways and remnants of this can be seen after the renovation with old train tracks remaining in place on the concrete floor. Three large tables built on old train chassis can be wheeled up and down these tracks to combine and form larger tables or butt up against the bar of the cafe. They can also be pushed outside to serve as stages for outdoor events.

The exposed industrial columns with speckles of old paint are a further homage to the building’s history and line an interior street with stacked bookcases on either side. This thoroughfare is also filled with wooden tables and lighting to make space for studying and reading, and includes terminals to check books in and out of the library.

The book theme continues in the children’s library, which is inspired by a nearby fairytale theme park and features book shelves built into huge colored pencils and rulers. An uneven platform at the base of tiered seating nearby, meanwhile, is built out of stacks of old books topped in new oak counters for lectures and presentations.

Also found throughout the LocHal Library is a cosy writing room with both walls and a ceiling lined with books to create a sensation of literary immersion; a central cafe decorated in eye-catching red, brown and gold ceramic tiles; and meeting rooms and secluded working spaces with textile walls acting as soft dividing walls. The library is also a permanent home to the Kunstloc Brabant culture and arts center and Seats2Meet co-working spaces.

At first glance the Oskron looks like a regular sporty chronograph-style watch. It has a crown flanked by two buttons, comes with a masculine metal bracelet, and is large and weighty on the wrist. Push the crown and the magic happens — a previously invisible screen springs into life on the bottom half of the face. This small display shows scrolling notifications, step count for the day, a timer, and international time zones.

COMPASS POINTS THE WAY

We love the attention to detail here. When the screen activates the watch hands quickly move out of the way, making it easy to read the display. Leave the buttons alone for a moment, and the screen disappears, returning the look to that of a regular mechanical watch. The top button activates a find-my-phone feature, while the bottom button activates the built-in compass. This is an unusual feature addition, but is part of the company’s DNA, as it makes the same magnetic compass mechanisms for other smartwatch firms.

The compass is driven by the same gearbox mechanism that shifts the hands to show the display.  They rotate smoothly and quickly, always updating with your direction. Obviously this feature can be used for navigation purposes, but we’re not entirely sure how many people will find it helpful. We were told it works in conjunction with navigation apps on your phone, and the watch will vibrate and point in the direction you need to travel, which sounds helpful. We couldn’t test this at the time.

At its heart the Oskron smartwatch is a hybrid, but as they usually don’t have displays, this sits somewhere alongside the stunning Alpina AlpinerX. The screen is bright and clear, and although it’s small, provided the information is concise and glanceable you’ll be fine. We can’t imagine reading long messages though. The buttons have a soft, quality feel to them, and the body feels heavy and well made.

WHERE TO BUY

The case is big at 45mm and the face is covered in mineral glass, while the charging port on the back clips into place rather than using unreliable magnets. It syncs with both Android and iOS phones, and the battery is expected to last at least a week before needing a recharge, which is decent for smartwatches with a screen.

If you like the look of the Oskron smartwatch, how do you go about buying one? That’s the difficult part at the moment. Oskron sells it through the firm’s own website, which isn’t the best we’ve ever seen, plus it’s listed only in euros. It’s also for sale though Amazon Germany, and both places charge 450 euros, which converts over to about $520. There’s no doubt that’s expensive — less than the aforementioned Alpina AlpinerX, but equal to a feature-packed Apple Watch Series 4.

It’s always refreshing to see smartwatches like the Oskron that do something a little different, especially when they edge towards traditional watch styles, rather than overly technical pieces.

Think this smartwatch doesn’t have a screen? Think again [Digital Trends]

 

This elevated take on a cabin in the woods was influenced by such disparate sources as children’s book regulars the Moomins, A-frame lodges, and electricity towers. Located in a forest in Norway, it’s currently available for rent.

The Pan Treetop Cabins project was conceived in 2016 by Kristian Rostad and Christine Mowinckel, who commissioned architect Espen Surnevik, and was completed in late 2018. It consists of two identical cabins raised 8 m (26 ft) above the ground, plus a storage shed with a similar aesthetic on terra firma. They’re located on a rural farm in eastern Norway, near the Swedish border.

“The vision of the architect was to create something that would easily settle into the landscape without making a big change in the surrounding nature,” says a press release. “The forest itself has been the biggest source of inspiration, but also the North American A-lodges, modern power line constructions, and the houses of the Moomin characters have all been central in the creative process leading up to the design of the Pan Treetop cabins.”

The cabins are finished in matte black steel and have been carefully situated to maximize natural light inside. They are accessed by an enclosed spiral staircase and a small footbridge and have a total floorspace of 40 sq m (430 sq ft) each. The interiors are finished in spruce and pine, with a seating area, fold-down dining table, kitchenette and bathroom.

Each cabin sleeps six and includes one double bed and four singles. They both have water and electricity connections and the chill is kept at bay with both a wood-burning stove and underfloor heating.

For those who’d like to spend some time in one of the Pan Treetop Cabins, they are available to rent from 4,900 NOK (roughly US$575), per night.

Novel cabins reach new heights in Norwegian forest [New Atlas]

Vincent Callebaut Architectures (VCA) brings a taste of the outdoors into the workplace with its proposal for a new headquarters for French company Soprema. Named Semaphore, it will boast sustainable technology, including solar power and greywater recycling, and have a massive amount of greenery, with around 10,000 plants, shrubs and trees.

Semaphore is envisioned as a showcase for Soprema’s range of products, which includes waterproofing, solar panels and insulation, so these would naturally be used wherever possible. The overall form of the building is inspired by a terraced rice field.

In what must be a first for our office coverage, a real skeleton of a woolly mammoth, which was procured at auction by Soprema (the mammoth is the firm’s logo) will be on display. Another focal point is a large plaza with fitness, dining, and babysitting facilities for staff.

Though it will have meeting rooms and offices, the interior is meant to be flexible and will encourage workers to find a spot wherever they choose, laptop in hand. It certainly looks like a pleasant place to work, with lots of greenery inside and generous glazing ensuring that natural light permeates within.

This wouldn’t be a Vincent Callebaut-designed project without a bucketload of sustainable design and such is indeed the case with Semaphore. Besides all the greenery, VCA calls for large roof-based solar panel arrays that produce electricity and hot water, 20 wind turbines, a biomass generatorthat produces heat, and some kind of geothermal heating system.

Additionally, passive ventilation, rainwater collection and greywater recycling would be used, as well as sustainably-sourced timber.

The landscaping of the project is significant too and consists of bicycle paths, walkways and fields, plus a marina. Greenhouses will be installed to produce fruit and vegetables, while the grounds will host apple and pear trees.

Semaphore was produced as part of an international architecture competition and it’s not clear whether or not the design will be going ahead, but we’ve reached out to the firm for confirmation. Its much-anticipated Agora Garden Tower is also nearing completion too and we expect to hear more about that soon.

Vincent Callebaut-designed HQ brings nature into the workplace [New Atlas]

With 1,006 backers and $247,674 raised, the campaign claims that Cybershoes are the world’s first virtual reality shoe to immerse players using natural movement. I tracked them down at CES, and they swept me off my feet.

Happy feet

The booth featured two demo stations, one with Doom VFR and the other with Skyrim VR. Since I wasn’t up for the chaotic pace of Doom, I opted to try Cybershoes while playing Skyrim. After sitting down on the chair, the team quickly strapped on the shoes, placed a Vive headset on my head, and just like that — I was in the world of Skyrim.

At first, I was tried to skate along the dirt path. It wasn’t very effective. Then I was instructed to pick up my feet, and as I did, I started to move along at a rapid clip. Slow, awkward movements became quick, swift little kicks, and after a few minutes I was climbing hills and shooting arrows at wolves without thinking about what my feet were doing.

My experience didn’t last long. A giant came along and bashed me with a club, and that was that. Off came the headset and the shoes, and to my disappointment, the demo was over.

I put on the Cybershoes with some reservations. Surely, I thought, they wouldn’t be intuitive or feel natural. My skepticism has now melted away. The shoes seemed easy to use, comfortable, and translated well to playing an open-world game like Skyrim. I the real world I was anchored in one place, but in the game I roamed freely.

The Cybershoes bundle

Cybershoes outdoes its competition by being a more compact alternative to walking and running in VR. The simple design is a little off putting. It looks too simple to work. Yet that might be because other VR traversal solutions often look like something out of a sci-fi movie. The shoes require you to be seated, which might be a deterrent for some, but the upside is you won’t have to worry about tripping over furniture.

You’ll quickly realize, though, that Cybershoes aren’t as simple or compact as they look. You’ll need a laundry list of very specific items to use them properly. The list includes a stationary chair that spins on its axis like a barstool, at least 59 inches of carpet with short, even texture, and a VR headset that supports SteamVR apps — particularly those that utilize free locomotion.

Wire management is another beast you’ll have to tackle, as spinning in a chair means you’ll inevitably end up tangled. While you can find some pretty great suggestions for that on their Kickstarter page, it’s yet another thing you’ll need to consider when buying in. There’s a reason why the Kickstarter campaign offered Cybershoes bundles instead of only recommending items on Amazon.

Without the bundles, you’re likely going to be paying more just to recreate the perfect setup for these shoes.

These shoes let me stroll through ‘Skyrim,’ and I desperately want to go back  [Digital Trends]

The Helsinki Central Library Oodi, designed by ALA Architects, is topped with large open-plan reading room under an undulating roof punctured by circular skylights.

Finnish studio ALA Architects‘ design for the country’s flagship library, which stands opposite the Finnish Parliament, aims to “embrace technology and progressive values to provide a variety of innovative services alongside its lending collection of books.”

In fact, the 17,250-square-metre building contains a relatively small number of books – around 100,000 – with the majority of space dedicated to public amenities including a cinema, recording studios, a maker space, and areas for hosting exhibitions and events.

An existing facility in the neighbourhood of Pasila remains Helsinki’s main lending facility and the administrative centre for the city library.

The new building instead uses online services and book-sorting robots to offer users access to nearly 3.4 million books, which can be delivered to the building.

The €98 million (£88 million) library, which is called Oodi after the Finnish word for “ode”, occupies one of the last undeveloped sites in central Helsinki.

Its location facing the Finnish Parliament is intended to symbolise the relationship between the government and the citizens.

Oodi is situated within the Helsinki Cultural District, which also houses a nearby art museum featuring subterranean galleries topped with angled skylights that project up from the surface of a public courtyard.

The long and narrow site designated for the new library presented some technical challenges, including the need to consider the future construction of a tunnel crossing underneath the building.

The design also needed to respond to the diverse aesthetic styles of the various other civic institutions positioned around the Kansalaistori square, which include the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, the offices of the Helsingin Sanomat Newspaper and the Musiikktalo Concert Hall.

The architectural solution utilises a pair of steel arches that span over 100 metres to form a bridge-like structure supporting the tensioned reinforced-concrete floor slab.

Secondary steel trusses allow a cantilevering balcony and roof to be suspended asymmetrically from the arches. The design creates open, column-free interior spaces and the possibility for the road tunnel to extend beneath the building without compromising its structure.

The library’s ground floor is intended as an extension of the plaza, with the wooden roof overhanging a covered space that can be used for outdoor events. A glass wall containing the entrance creates a minimal threshold between interior and exterior.

The library’s main amenities are clearly visible and accessible from within the open ground floor, which accommodates the National Audiovisual Institute’s cinema, along with a restaurant that can extends out onto the plaza in the summer.

The middle floor contains multipurpose rooms used as offices, studios, meeting areas and maker spaces. These rooms are slotted into nooks and corners around the trusses of the bridge structure.

The building’s upper floor is known as “book heaven” and contains the library stacks in another predominantly open space topped with a distinctive undulating white ceiling.

“Here, the best characteristics of the modernist library meet the possibilities provided by 21st-century technologies,” said the architects of the upper storey. “The serene atmosphere invites visitors to read, learn, think and to enjoy themselves.”

Circular apertures in the ceiling allow natural light to flood down into the centre of the room, which features a wooden floor that slopes up to form a casual seating area in one corner.

Full-height glazing that wraps around the room provides expansive views across the city, with a balcony on the west side occupying the bulging section of the cantilevered roof.

Spaces for maintenance and logistics are located in the basement, while administration and storage spaces are kept to a minimum to maximise the publicly accessible floor area.

The library building is constructed using local materials including a prefabricated timber facade. The Finnish spruce cladding wraps across complex curved surfaces developed using parametric computer software.

ALA Architects is known for designing public and cultural buildings, with previous projects including an extension to a theatre in the city of Kuopio clad in crinkled fibre-cement panels, and a concert hall in Kristiansand, Norway, featuring an undulating oak ceiling.

Helsinki Central Library Oodi topped with translucent “book heaven” [Dezeen]

If you’re taking part in Veganuary this year, listen up…

Marks & Spencer has launched its first ever vegan shoe range for spring and it’s so affordable!

Until now, the high street store has only offered vegan options within food and beauty. But, due to customer demand it’s expanding its vegan offerings into womenswear, menswear and kidswear

Broadening the existing synthetic range, the brand can now say the process of making the fancy footwear is 100% vegan-friendly.

Shoppers will soon spot the same vegan logo found on M&S food products on shoes in store and online.

From chic sandals to colourful trainers, over 350 footwear styles across womenswear, menswear and kidswear will be vegan-friendly this season.

What’s more, the stylish shoes are super affordable! You can pick up a pair of on-trend beige sandals for just £19.50 or causal, white trainers with a sweet rainbow design for £25.

Rachel Smith, Senior Footwear Technologist at M&S said: “After increased customer interest in veganism and a rise in online searches for related products, we decided to investigate the possibility of expanding our vegan-friendly offering into footwear and accessories.

She added: “Over the year we have analysed our products and gone the extra mile to ensure we offer a great selection that comply with all vegan requirements.”

Marks & Spencer launches vegan-friendly shoe range for spring [Goodhousekeeping]