the way we live

ice cap goodbye

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the other day i spotted an even scarier assessment of the current climate crisis our planet is facing.  treehugger had an article in which they were citing a new calculation that claimed the arctic ice cap could be gone by as earlier as this summer.  while earlier estimates ranged from 5 to 100 years, two of the more well known are 2013 and 2030.  of course the process by which the polar ice caps disintegrate is exponentially sped up by increasingly lower and lower local and global albedo levels.  that is to say, as the ice melts by means of a hotter climate due to global warming, less and less bright white, reflective ice remains on the globe to reflect large quantities of sunlight.  in turn, more and more dark bodied water is exposed that absorbs more and more of the sun’s heat, thus speeding the process exponentially.  when the polar ice caps disappear there will be little to nothing left to stem the tide of global warming: fears of dramatically rising sea levels inundating coastal cities, desertification of the subtropics, unpredictable and violent weather patterns (not to mention the exposure to increasingly vast amounts of ultraviolet rays and heat in general), and biological effects galore such as species collapse.

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of course not everything is doom and gloom; no arctic ice cap means the opening of the famed northwest passage including increased coastlines at the poles.  the world’s food producing locations and robust economies will surely shift poleward as well.  of course, the precious few benefits come at devastatingly alarming costs.  regardless, let’s all hope we can get our acts together and stem the tide of global warming.

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5 March 2008 Posted by | green, society, technology | Leave a comment

mile high v2.0

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coming just days on the heels of the hyder consulting announcement that they are working on a mile high skyscrapper comes the announcement that populararchitecture is also working on a mile high tower of their own. if built, the populararchitecture tower would be located in london. unlike the hyder structure, populararchitecture has released renderings that show the immense scale of such a building, a scale that as i accurately hypothesized before, is completely out of touch with everything human. according to inhabitat, the tower would rise some 500 stories and, “would contain schools and hospitals to shops and pubs, and everything else under the sun.”

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additionally, this structure is to be environmentally friendly, though any skeptic would be quick to point out the sheer absurd abundance of materials, resources, and energy required to build and maintain such a structure. though it is true, such a design emphasizes efficiency in the way we live and minimizes our literal footprint on the earth’s surface as a function of living vertically as opposed to horizontally. personally, i don’t see any way either of these towers get the go-ahead anytime in the near future. regardless, i should hope at the least these proposal generate discourse about the way we live and how we should be living. are towers of this size necessary? despite being green, what are their environmental impacts? how do incredible dense footprints such as this affect the vibrancy of the neighborhoods surrounding them? surely though possible, the designers don’t actually intend the residence never leave the structure? while certainly fascinating ideas, i for one prefer not to see these built for fear of shattering delicate urban fabrics and destroying the delicate scalar balance of human existence.

1 March 2008 Posted by | architecture, green, modern, society, technology, urban planning | 3 Comments

icecraft

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this part houseboat, part fan boat, looking contraption is actually an ice hovercraft school bus for a small rural community in wisconsin. the village in question happens to be an ice-locked island in lake superior. the 250 hearty souls who call la pointe, wisconsin home have to juggle the sometimes liquid water commute against the usually frozen crossing. their solution happens to be this ingenious hovercraft designed specifically for ice situations. maxing out at some 18 mph, the craft is hardly a powerhouse. what the vehicle lacks in power it makes up for in utility. what fascinates me though is the utter mobility of what amounts to a house (something i’ve been working with in my own thesis). these icecrafts make me think about archigram’s plug-in city. i can’t help but wonder why these little red guys haven’t populated the surrounding waters as motor homes of the north, providing access and mobility to thousands who would otherwise be stuck inside.

25 February 2008 Posted by | architecture, modern, society, technology | 3 Comments

mile high

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today archinect pointed me to a fascinating press release by hyder consulting in which they claim to be designing a 1600m tall building…that’s one mile high.  of course immediately i’m reminded of the infamous frank lloyd wright design for the illinois, a mile high building itself (below).

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the current world’s tallest, though not yet completed is the burj dubai in dubai, uae slated to rise some 800m, or half as tall as this recent proposal (below).

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bldgblog whipped up the comparative picture at the top of the post; additionally though, a recent bldgblog post has even more significance with the announcement of a mile-high structure.  tapei 101, the world’s tallest structure prior to the burj dubai, has actually caused the land around it to become tectonically unstable (it was previously 100% safe), ie. prone to earthquakes.  the massive weight of the building itself is essentially causing earthquakes.  i can only imagine what kind of forces a mile high structure would impose upon the earth.  but the bigger issue here is not environmental effects or even architectural articulation of such structure, but the sociological implications they bring with them.  are supertall, supermassive, buildings ideal for living in?  isn’t there a serious concern with scale, at a point these buildings are no longer in line with any human scale.  furthermore, are these building even applicable to the way we live?  in a world of global transience, impermanence, and instant everything we no longer live like we used to (see the thesis category).  i can’t help but wonder if it’s even worth designing such a tower regardless of whether or not we can practically build it.

20 February 2008 Posted by | architecture, society, technology, thesis | Leave a comment

no drip carafes

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from an ingenious portfolio on behance network comes this proposal for an elegant carafe utilizing two lip system to eliminate dripping. the noro no-drip employs a wonderfully creative system of two-lips that allows for the reacquisition of dripping liquid, thus eliminating sticky tables and carafes everywhere (below).

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as if the engineering behind the carafe wasn’t enough for me to want to see this product brought to market the bottle’s form is simply stunning (top). gentle curves and counter curves of clear glass come to life when filled with liquid. the two lip system at the top almost appears as a motion blur ghost of a lip. it’s a pure, simple, functional, design that does nothing more than improve the way we live.

26 December 2007 Posted by | materials, modern, products, technology | 2 Comments

oil end game

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in the most recent addition to the already stellar series of podcasts from ted is a talk given back in 2005 at the conference by amory lovins.  in the talk mr. lovins discusses environmental policies/attitudes and specifically our dependence on oil and the need to kick it.  but here is where this talk stands out from most doom and gloom discussions pertaining to petropolitics, environmental policies, and world economies: mr. lovin’s asserts that, contrary to popular belief, transitioning the way we live to sustainable sources of fuel will actually increase economic prosperity worldwide.  mr. lovin’s rightfully states, “it is cheaper to save fuel than to buy fuel.”  in fact he cites that companies who already do this, companies that have invested in alternative sources of fuel, streamlined production lines, and rethought the way the do business have seen their bottom dollar increase.  climate protection is not costly as most people portray it as and we do not need to do something painful to avoid it; rather, we need to approach it as a design problem.  we must use intelligence. mr. lovin’s uses the example of the mclaren sports car in which new space-age composite materials cut down on weight (and thus reduce fuel requirements and in turn increase fuel economy) while making the car safer than by traditional construction.  we must streamline our approaches to manufacturing and other labor and evironmentally intensive areas.  here amory cites the example of car manufacturers cutting out the paint shop entirely, which is by far one of the most labor intensive and environmentally destructive phases of construction.  rather he proposes impregnating the raw materials and body panels of the automobile with color themselves.  we must also design efficiently.  companies’ engineering departments must go back to the drawing boards and rethink production, assembly, and product transportation.  if these three things can be accomplished, if the problem can be treated as a design problem, then it becomes an economically viable alternative.

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mr. lovin’s asserts that we can be off oil by 2040 and have a bigger, more robust, and diverse economy.  we don’t have to suffer hardships in doing so, we can actually increase world and domestic security in the process, reduce price volatility, and save the environment from otherwise imminent catastrophic collapse.  in fact, amory’s book is available as a free pdf download at his website, winning the oil end game.  mr. lovin’s talk was both inspiring and fascinating; if you don’t already subscribe to the ted talk podcast series from itunes or the ted website, i highly recommend it.

17 December 2007 Posted by | products, society, technology, urban planning | 2 Comments

google renewables

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yesterday abc news was reporting that everyone’s favorite search giant, google, is venturing into the utility business.  with a goal of making renewable energy as cheap as coal, google announced they plan in invest hundreds of millions of dollars in research, design, engineering, and implementation of three different renewable systems: solar thermal, geothermal, and high-altitude wind.  google’s rationale for the move is two-fold: first, google’s servers use an incredible amount of energy themselves and investing in renewable resources to meet these power demands makes good business sense.  second, according to google, they recognize the reality of the seriousness of climate change and they feel that they have both the brain power and the money to change the way we live.  regardless of their motivations, a company like this investing heavily in renewable energy research and development is extremely commendable.  if google can, in fact, manage to develop technology that reduce the cost of renewable energy into the range of coal it would be a huge positive for the world around us.

28 November 2007 Posted by | green, society, technology, urban planning | 2 Comments

design and climate change

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i found thomas matthews book, “ten ways design can fight climate change” over at mocoloco yesterday.  now to most of us there is nothing earth shattering in those pages and much of it is very basic.  nonetheless, i think that’s where the book’s success lies.  the simple matter-of-fact way in which mr. matthews spells out ten logical, rational, and simple ways to use design to fight climate change is wonderfully commendable.  the book is brief, to the point, and punctuated with very small examples (often personal) for each topic.  the best part though, is that the treatise is available free via pdf, which, of course, just goes hand in hand with being sustainable.  i would recommend this quick read to everyone, even if you are well versed in the areas of environmentally responsible design it’s worth reading through to remind yourself.  you can view/download the book here.

22 November 2007 Posted by | architecture, green, society, technology | 2 Comments

plumen project

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according to the plumen project’s website, “the plumen low energy light bulb prototype is a reaction to the lack of real diversity, imagination, and personality offered by the market today.” as a hugler spin-off the plumen design was inspired by contemporary “lightwriting.”

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using the tublar form of the bulb’s fluorescent cavity to their advantage, the designers spun up some surely fantastic forms.

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i find it fascinating to see the wide variety of forms the plumen folks came up with. after all, why does a light bulb have to be pure utility? can’t it too be activated by design? the folks working on the plumen project sure think so and i for one agree. these are fun (and at 2700 kelvin a nice warm cfl light), i certainly hope they find their way to the market.

21 November 2007 Posted by | green, materials, modern, products, society, technology | Leave a comment

switch mouse

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featured in the november issue of metropolis magazine, this unassuming mouse is more than meets the eye. designed by manuel saez of humanscale, the switch mouse is the model of ergonomic efficiency. some of the more notable design developments include the following: the scrolling wheel was replaced by a pad that allows the user to scroll around the page without the hurtful repetitive motion previously required. also, the mouse can expand in the middle so as to fit up to 95% of hand sizes. finally, included are removable “stabilizer blades” that keep the mouse titled at a 45 degree angle so as to keep your hand in a more natural position while using the mouse (seen below).

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additionally, the mouse was made to be ambidextrous, meaning either lefties or righties can use the mouse equally successfully. finally, the mouse was designed of recycled plastic and conforms to european standards for the amount of hazardous substances in electronics. my favorite part, however, is the elegant design of the mouse itself. mr. saez has done just the right amount of contouring and tailoring the lines of the mouse to update the outdated yet familiar design. the sleek and vibrant black and white coloring seems to add to the bold aesthetic of the design. available in january 2008, i can’t wait to see and use this in person.

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19 November 2007 Posted by | modern, products, technology | Leave a comment