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Archive for the ‘Creativity’ Category

Mobile E-Home: Solar-Powered Electric Motorhome Recharges on the Road

22 Sep

[ By WebUrbanist in Technology & Vehicles & Mods. ]

Electric vehicles are often limited by recharge options, a design problem this Dethleffs camper tackles with solar panels and German engineering.

Their E.Home has a maximum range of over 170 miles but can potentially run indefinitely (at least by day) thanks to over 300 square feet of thin solar film covering most the exterior. These panels to generate up to 3,000 watts of electricity, powering up a sodium-nickel-chloride battery.

Of course, the less energy needed the better the range, so the manufacturers have also added phase change materials to help keep the interior warm when it’s cold and deflect heat on hot days. Infrared heating panels in the floors, walls and furniture also provide targeted supplement heating on demand.

Thinking forward, the camper includes various other cutting-edge technologies, like driver assistance and vehicle monitoring systems. Give it a few more years and these things will presumably end up driverless, too — the ultimate in automatic, go-anywhere mobile homes (with even more room to relax without a driver’s seat!).

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3D-Printed Muscle Straight Out of ‘Westworld’ Makes Robots More Realistic

21 Sep

[ By SA Rogers in Conceptual & Futuristic & Technology. ]

If you watched HBO’s ‘Westworld’ earlier this year, you probably remember the scenes where the nascent humanoid robots were strung up on circular frames like Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Vitruvian Man,’ with machines printing white muscle fibers onto their skeletons. While the process of constructing androids doesn’t quite resemble this sci-fi vision just yet, it’s surprisingly close, especially with a new breakthrough in synthetic muscle tissue announced by researchers at Columbia Engineering. Their tests show a bundle of white muscle held in the palm of a researcher’s hand, moving and expanding in response to low power sent through a thin resistive wire.

This self-contained ’soft actuator’ is three times as strong as natural muscle, so yes, it’s true: Skynet is going to kill us all. The creators took inspiration from living organisms, using a silicone rubber matrix with ethanol distributed through micro-bubbles to simulate muscle tissue. It’s capable of expanding up to 900% when electrically heated to 80 degrees celsius, and can perform all sorts of motion tasks when controlled by computers.

“We’ve been making great strides toward making robots minds, but robot bodies are still primitive,” says Hod Lipson, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Columbia and leader of the project. “This is a big piece of the puzzle, and, like biology, the new actuator can be shaped and reshaped a thousand ways. We’ve overcome one of the final barriers to making lifelike robots.”

“Our soft functional material may serve as robust soft muscle, possibly revolutionizing the way that soft robotic solutions are engineered today,” adds Aslan Miriyev, a postdoctoral researcher in the Creative Machines lab and lead author of the study ‘Soft Material for Soft Actuators,’ published by Nature Communications. “It can push, pull, bend, twist and lift weight. It’s the closest artificial material equivalent we have to a natural muscle.”

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[ By SA Rogers in Conceptual & Futuristic & Technology. ]

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Concrete Like You’ve Never Seen It: 15 Unexpected Furniture & Object Designs

21 Sep

[ By SA Rogers in Design & Furniture & Decor. ]

Concrete might typically be cold, hard, impersonal and impermeable, but treat it right and it’ll soften right up into surprisingly comfortable, accessible and usable everyday items, from pens and iPhone skins to rocking chairs and squishy-looking seating. Cast it from pillowy molds, 3D-print it in squiggles, brush it onto highly detailed objects, impregnate it into textiles or imprint it with delicate textures and you’ll have objects full of intriguing contradictions.

Concrete 3D Printer Enables Innovation

This 3D printer by Dutch company ROHACO spits out concrete in all manner of shapes, even squiggly lines, through a swivel head attached to a hose from a concrete mixer. Not only does this enable concrete to take unprecedented forms, it makes it possible to 3D print entire homes unsupervised, with the kinds of curves and details that would normally take an extraordinary amount of work.

3D-Printed Concrete Canoe

3D printing with concrete makes it possible to produce things like the skelETHon 3D printed concrete canoe, which won first place at the 16th Concrete Canoe Regatta competition in Germany. That’s right, it’s not even the first canoe to be made from concrete! The inner frame of this one is made of concrete reinforced with stiff steel fibers, while the shell is a two- to three-millimeter-thick waterproof concrete skin.

Concrete & Canvas Seating

These objects are a bit of a contradiction: simultaneously appearing soft and hard. That’s because they’re both, technically. ‘Fabric’ is an outdoor seating collection by Miriam Estévez, wherein soft fabric poufs are soaked in a liquid concrete and allowed to dry in order to create a surprisingly strong, durable, waterproof result.

Traditional Chair Covered in Concrete

You might imagine that someone took a mold of a traditional chair and then cast it with solid concrete, producing the detailed form you see before you. The truth is actually much simpler. Bentu Design teamed up with Guangzhou fine arts students to carefully cover an existing chair with concrete mixture, making sure to preserve every detail, from the scallops along the wooden frame at the top to each individual upholstery nail.

Delicate Persian & Islamic Patterned Tables

Concrete doesn’t take on the adjective ‘delicate’ easily, but every now and then, something qualifies. This disc-shaped tabletop, just a few millimeters thick, balances on the neck of a water-filled jug to form a beautiful recycled coffee table. Milan-based design studio Daevas printed the top with a traditional Persian pattern.

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Concrete Like Youve Never Seen It 15 Unexpected Furniture Object Designs

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Zero-Carbon, All Bamboo Sports Hall Features Organic 50-Foot Trusses

19 Sep

[ By WebUrbanist in Architecture & Public & Institutional. ]

A new sports hall in Thailand highlights the aesthetic power and physical strength of bamboo, a flexible and fast-growing natural material. In total, more carbon is captured in the bamboo than was used to treat, transport and use it for construction, rendering its carbon footprint neutral.

Located at the Panyaden International School in the Chiang Mai province, the new building was designed by Chiangmai Life Architects, a firm specializing in natural materials like bamboo and rammed earth.

The symbolic design was inspired by the lotus, an important Buddhist and Thai symbol. Its natural materials tie it to scenic surroundings while open sides allow for passive ventilation for cooling purposes.

Despite its organic appearance, the structure is engineered to resist earthquakes, high-speed winds and other forces of nature.

The complex is able to accommodate 300 students, spanning over 8,000 square feet, and is used to host games of basketball and futsal, a variation on soccer that takes place in a court. It can also be used for student gatherings and visiting speakers.

Like wood, bamboo is becoming an increasingly appealing material for architectural construction thanks to its rapid growth rate and ability to sequester carbon — the natural look and feel are a nice touch, too.

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Like a Music Festival, Minus the Dirt: Social Hostel Offers Indoor Camping

19 Sep

[ By SA Rogers in Boutique & Art Hotels & Travel. ]

If you love the sense of community at multi-day outdoor music festivals like Glastonbury, Coachella and Bonnaroo but hate the mud, dust, noise and filthy porta-potties, this hostel was designed just for you. Cao Pu Studio designed ‘Together Hostel’ as an indoor camping experience, with guests staying in translucent individual ‘tents’ under a common roof. The experience emphasizes socializing, with lots of shared interactive spaces, but provides a tad more privacy than the average hostel bunk room.

The tents are organized in groups of four or five, making the hostel ideal for small groups traveling together, or for travelers prioritizing making new connections with strangers. Each tent is equipped with power sockets, extension cords and reading lights. Each of the timber-framed structures is finished in frosted polycarbonate, which doesn’t offer total privacy, but at least gives occupants a sense of their own personal space within the larger hostel without shutting them off altogether. If you’re backpacking, you can even roll out your sleeping pad in the theater area at night instead of sleeping in a ‘tent’ for a lower rate.

There’s a food court with lots of seating, a shop, a bar, a small theater space, a kitchen, offices and plenty of private showers and restrooms in addition to the tents, which come in single or double sizes. Modular tables in the central hall fit together like puzzle pieces, creating larger or smaller surfaces depending on whether you want to sit with a big group or dine alone.

The concept capitalizes on growing trends (voluntary or not) toward living in smaller spaces and in closer quarters with others rather than spreading out in suburban-style homes. People who travel on the cheap are accustomed to giving up space and privacy in exchange for a good deal, and this design makes the experience feel cleaner and more intentional. Would you stay at the ‘Together Hostel?’

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[ By SA Rogers in Boutique & Art Hotels & Travel. ]

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Pop-Up Pavilions: 15 Playful Temporary Architecture Installations

19 Sep

[ By SA Rogers in Architecture & Cities & Urbanism. ]

Pavilions are like playgrounds for architects and designers, allowing them to show off what they can do when they really set their imaginations free. Unfettered by the typical limitations of a permanent structure, they can experiment with new materials and processes, potentially producing innovations they can apply to other structures. These pavilions are often subversive in the urban environment, too, taking over public spaces and giving them back to the people or creating micro housing that falls within grey areas of the law.

Transforming Street Cinema in Venice by Omri Revesz


Created for a V-A-C Russian contemporary art foundation exhibition at the Venice Film Festival 2017, this pop-up cinema celebrated the 100th anniversary of the start of the Soviet Revolution. The modular wooden structure is collapsible, its design inspired by the logic of Russian constructivism. Its wooden frame is on wheels set into rails so it can expand to make more space for performances, or contract to create a darker, more intimate setting.

Algae Dome in Denmark by SPACE10

IKEA’s ‘Future living lab,’ known as SPACE10, debuted its ‘Algae Dome’ in Denmark a couple weeks ago, demonstrating how we might be able to grow “the supercrop of the future.” Designed by a team of engineers, the dome-shaped structure supports a network of transparent hoses, regulating their sun exposure so algae grows in the water inside them. The dome produced 450 liters of microalgae in just three days of its demonstration, which SPACE10’s chef crafted into such foods as ‘spiraling chips.’

Super Hot Pavilion in Bucharest by Morag Myerscough

Designed for the 7th edition of the ‘Summer Well Festival’ in Bucharest, Romania by artist Morag Myerscough, the ‘Super Hot’ pavilion is envisioned as a fun and whimsical place to stage and take in performances. There’s space within the structure to hang out, dance, play or zoom down a slide.

Wave of Buckets in Mexico City by Factor Eficiencia

Hundreds of painter’s buckets are connected into a walkable structure that curls up into a wave at either end, occupying the central Alameda Park in Mexico City. Designed by Factor Eficiencia and 5468796 Architecture, the installation uses the bucket as a symbol of liberation of public spaces. In Mexico, it’s common for entrepreneurs to use buckets to block off certain areas of the city so they can aggressively charge for parking.

Urban Camouflage Pavilion in London by PUP Architects

PUP Architects wanted to disguise their pop-up, entitled ‘H-VAC,’ as ordinary rooftop mechanical equipment. Do you think they pulled it off? The designers are taking advantage of UK building legislation that makes it legal to install rooftop equipment without planning permission; they believe that if you can sufficiently disguise rooftop addition as infrastructure, thousands of new micro dwellings could be added to London and other cities. The temporary structure is clad in waterproof tetra-pak shingles and includes two rooms.

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Pop Up Pavilions 15 Playful Temporary Architecture Installations

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Shopping Block: 20 Deservedly Abandoned British Stores

18 Sep

[ By Steve in Abandoned Places & Architecture. ]

These charming British shops and boutiques just couldn’t compete with big box stores but that’s not the only reason they’ve bitten the biscuit.

Why try owning and operating a store selling niche items when Asda (owned by Walmart), Tesco and of course Amazon can stock most of their inventory in a single aisle? While lower prices and greater convenience are welcome benefits of this socioeconomic transformation, the carnage inflicted on Britain’s shopping streets was, is and continues to be staggering. Take “Bling” for example… an abandoned East Yorkshire accessories boutique displaying (as of March 2010) only a broke-ass Venus de Milo surrounded by stripped shelving units.

Let It Go

“Fridges, Freezers & Fridge Freezers” could be a follow-up to Monty Python’s legendary Spam sketch – all that Spam, Spam, Spam, Baked Beans & Spam needs to be stored somewhere, amiright? The erstwhile owners of this Doncaster, West Yorkshire kitchen chillling appliances outlet at least had sufficient space on the facade to display their phone number… twice.

Priceless Characteristics

Allow us to state right here and now that all of our featured images were captured by Flickr member and urban landscapes photographer extraordinaire leon S-D (littleweed1950). We’ve cherry-picked from well over a thousand eerily beautiful images of closed and abandoned UK shopfronts including the befuddlingly-named “Characteristics and Electrotec” in Bridlington, East Yorkshire. That’s just off the charts, even for Quainte Olde Englande.

What the heck did this store sell (or at least TRY to sell), anyway? Radios, CBs, “Fancy Goods”… is that last one a euphemism for something? Who can put a price on “Characteristics”? Nobody now, it would seem. In any case, the photographer thought this shopfront was so nice, he visited it twice – in September of 2009 and again in January of 2013. Curiously, though the shop remained abandoned the facade was mildly rejuvenated with a coat of blue-green paint, thus improving its visual characteristics.

We All Float

“I’m going to need to stock up on unsinkable meats and produce,” said no one ever. Seriously, even the captain goes down with the ship and he’s not going to be upstaged by some leftover broccoli. You’ll find the bubbly former “Buoyant Foods” store in Town Centre, Grimsby, Lincolnshire where it looked rather grim in November of 2009.

Keep Us In Sus-Pants

Have you noticed that British real estate agents use the term “To Let” on their “for sale” signs? Have you also noticed the two-word phrase looks alarmingly like the one-word er, word “Toilet”? Even more so here in beautiful downtown Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire, where the agent’s typical triangular sign leaves the former store’s name as “S-TY PANTS”. Now what could that really be, hmm? We’re sure the neighboring shop’s sign (“The POO”?) isn’t influencing our thoughts at all.

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Shopping Block 20 Deservedly Abandoned British Stores

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[ By Steve in Abandoned Places & Architecture. ]

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Swiss Army Bed: The Ultimate Modular & Multifunctional Furniture Design

16 Sep

[ By WebUrbanist in Design & Furniture & Decor. ]

It’s hard to imagine a more flexible and functional piece of furniture to spend a third of your life in than this one from Singapore, featuring an array of creature comforts and high-tech customizations.

USB ports and plugs tie into charging and speaker systems for lounging around with tunes and devices, while an optional massage chair can help relax the restless before sleep.

An array of benches and loungers lets users lay down or sit up in any number of positions, while a fold-out desk attachment allow for laptop use as well. Storage options include a linen-and-pillow trunk beneath the bottom-of-bed bench and a built-in safe for valuables, plus a bunch of shelves and cabinets.

Perhaps the best part: all of these features can be swapped out because the modules around the bed itself are not permanently fixed. Buyers can choose which ones they want to prioritize then surround themselves with choice luxuries accordingly.

At $ 500 to $ 1000 depending on options, materials and finishes, they are pretty reasonably priced, too, though be sure to check the measurements: they are designed for the Asian market and shorter individuals, so tall people may want to consider them inspiration rather than potential purchases.

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Ford Disguised a Person as a Seat to Test How We React to Driverless Cars

16 Sep

[ By SA Rogers in Technology & Vehicles & Mods. ]

A Ford van zooming around the Washington D.C. area last month, seemingly without a human in the driver’s seat, wasn’t self-driving after all: it was a man in a ‘seat suit.’ A fake driverless car might seem like a weird experiment, especially considering the fact that there’s an entire fake town for testing self-driving vehicles at Ford’s disposal. But as it turns out, they have their reasons: observing how people react to seeing it. While Virginia Tech has already been testing autonomous vehicles in the area, they’re still using human overseers to take over the wheel in case something goes wrong.

In the video above, a few people muse aloud, “Is that a self-driving car?” Slow-motion shots show the vehicle passing by with a seemingly empty driver’s seat. But the fact that there’s a man camouflaged as a car seat is almost more interesting, anyway. After learning of the stunt, Adam Tuss of NBC Washington followed the car around until he could pull up next to it at a red light and get a shot of the interior, revealing the driver’s hands and legs. “Brother, who are you?” he asks in the video. “What are you doing? I’m with the news, dude.”

John Shutko, a Ford self-driving researcher, divulges some answers in a piece on Medium.

“We’re teamed up with [Virginia Tech] to test our communications method and to explore how pedestrians and bicyclists react to self-driving vehicles with no human in the driver’s seat. Of course, we do need someone in the seat right now, so we dressed a human up in a seat suit to make it appear as though there was nobody inside our simulated self-driving Ford Transit Connect. This seat suit allowed us to collect real-world reactions to an autonomous vehicle driving on miles of public roads in northern Virginia, without actually using an autonomous vehicle.”

Six different drivers wore the suit throughout August, reporting that they started out on a test track before moving onto the streets, and that the suit was definitely uncomfortable.

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Cooling Cities: L.A. is Painting Streets White to Combat Heat Island Effects

15 Sep

[ By WebUrbanist in Architecture & Cities & Urbanism. ]

Thanks in part to heat-absorbing materials and colors, cities tend to be warmer than their natural surroundings, and in hot places with lots of dark roads like Los Angeles that can prove a serious public health hazard.The mayor has pledged to reduce temperatures in the city by 3 degrees over the next 20 years, in part by dealing with urban heat island effects in new and different ways.

As part of this promise to help make bring down temperatures for its millions of residents, LA is trying something that could dramatically change its urban landscape: repainting roads in white. The aim is to reflect rather than absorb heat and so far the results are extremely promising.

“We found that on average the area covered in CoolSeal is 10 degrees cooler than black asphalt on the same parking lot,” said Greg Spotts, the assistant director of the Bureau of Street Services for San Fernando Valley, an area with particularly severe heat problems.

It’s not just about open public spaces either: reducing exterior temperatures has impacts on adjacent interiors. Heat reductions outside and mean cooler spaces inside area homes and businesses. In turn, this can help residents and owners save on cooling costs. It also isn’t just a daytime problem: heat captured during the day is released into the night air, keeping things hotter around the clock.

The process doesn’t come cheap, however: each coat lasts for around seven years but prices out around $ 40,000 per linear mile. If it works, though, the cost could be offset in part by savings on other fronts, in addition to making for a more healthy metropolis all around. Meanwhile, other strategies are also in play — the city is looking to make roofs brighter, for instance, and bring more green into the mix. (via Inhabitat and L.A. Times, images by Greg Spotts and Giuseppe Milo).

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