April 12, 2011

Scaffolds

scaffold photograph in Kabul

Let us now sing the praises of scaffolding...those wispy yet strong, temporary yet often permanent, completely utilitarian yet often stunningly beautiful skeletons that exist not for their own sake, but in noble service to some other edifice.

The SCAFFOLDAGE website proudly displays great photos of scaffolding from around the globe...everything from hand-tied bamboo structures to massive steel exoskeletons enclosing some of the world's biggest construction projects.

Comments welcome via email to comments-at-spurgeonworld.com

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March 29, 2011

Bole hardwood floors

photo of Bole floor

One of the hallmarks of great architecture is the way it combines the man-made with the natural world it replaces. Think of Fallingwater, or Fay Jones' chapel, or Japanese shoji.

The Dutch company Bolefloor has come up with a method to give any hardwood floor a more natural feel. Their floor-boards are not cut into straight strips like traditional hardwood floors. Rather, they are cut into long sinuous curves that follow the natural grain of the wood. This makes each of their floors unique creation that reflects the way trees actually grow.

The floors are made of oak, and can be stained in a variety of shades. The company is currently looking for dealers and hope to have their floors available in April. Full details at bolefloor.com

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April 22, 2008

Want a used Ferris wheel?

Photo of the Ferris wheel at the Santa Monica pier

Heads up! You've got just a couple of days to pick up the best backyard accessory EVER. The city of Santa Monica has put their famous Ferris wheel up for auction on eBay. The wheel (technically called the "Pacific Wheel") is staring to show its age a bit, and is scheduled to be replaced with a brand new model later this spring. So it's got to go! From the auction description...

You are bidding on Pacific Park's high-flyin', 90-feet-tall, famous Ferris wheel, which weighs 122,000 pounds, is 30 feet wide, reaches speeds of 3 RPM, includes 20 gondolas with a maximum six riders per car, accommodates up to 800 riders per hour and illuminates with 5,392 light bulbs. Please note: Base support structure of Wheel is not included in price and can be purchased separately, if buyer so chooses. One Pacific Wheel hub included in sale. Other hub donated to Santa Monica Historical Society.

Right now the winning bid is $50,000. A steal! Why not place a bid of your own? (Just remember: the winning bidder has to pick up the Ferris wheel, and PayPal is not accepted).

The LA Times has an article about the auction.

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March 27, 2008

A new hat for the Eiffel Tower

image of the Eiffel Tower with new addition

Sacré bleu! The Eiffel Tower is about to get a makeover. In honor of the Tower's 120th anniversary, the viewing area at the top of the Tower is being expanded, allowing twice as many tourists to take in the view at once.

Visually, the addition will look like a large round platform way up by the peak of the Tower. Now obviously, changing one of the world's most famous architectural silhouettes is not without controversy. To mitigate the anger, the architects of the addition have designed it so it can be added and later removed from Tower without damaging the original structure. (It'll be attached via a mesh of high-strength Kevlar cables).

The addition will be unveiled, accompanied by a blizzard of snidey architecture critic essays, next year. Here's an article in the Guardian newspaper about it.

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March 09, 2008

Surfing London

Image of the surf pool at Venture Xtreme

Incredible as it seems, Brits like to surf. Thousands of 'em don wetsuits and hit the coast (Cornwall is a popular destination) while others head to Africa, Asia, and here in America. But soon there'll be a new destination for those itching to catch a wave(*), London.

A massive new sports complex called Venture Xtreme is being built in an industrial area of London. When it opens in 2011, it'll feature rock walls, skate parks, an artificial whitewater kayaking run, and... jutting out into the river Thames... an artificial wave pool for surfers.

The pool will have waves up to 6 feet high, though they'll often be set lower for newbies and shoobies who can't handle the big stuff. Did I mention the surf will be heated? An hour will set you back 30 pounds.

(*) The new London Venture Xtreme surfing venue is an exception to the rule "When you're itching to surf, the only lotion is the ocean."

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March 01, 2007

Build your own control room

Barco control room

What geek hasn't dreamt of having their own high-tech control room...an inner sanctum where you become one with your inner omniscient child?(*) Well, do I have the company for you!

A Belgian company named Barco specializes in designing control rooms for utility companies, broadcast networks, government agencies and the like. Their photo gallery will blow you away.

(*) I once got to go inside of Mission Control at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and they practically had to have the guards drag me out of there.

(Thanks Pruned).

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February 21, 2007

Habitat turns 40

photo of Habitat'67

It turns out this is the 40th anniversary of one of North America's coolest bits of architecture, the Habitat'67 housing project in Montreal. The project, created for the Expo '67 World's Fair (hey, whatever happened to World's Fairs anyway? It turns out there's an international organization that sanctions World's Fairs.)

Habitat is built out of pre-cast concrete modules that hook together in a wide variety of combinations. Think of it as LEGO blocks on steroids. Each apartment in the complex is made up of one or more modules (the biggest apartment is an eight-module palace). The modules are cleverly designed, with flooring, cabling and plumbing, etc., cast right in.

The finished structures are surprisingly livable...even the single module apartments have a balcony and a street entrance. And taken as a whole the entire structure has a great, crinkly, look to it.

The official website for Habitat '67 appears to be a truly awful one by McGill University. There's also a write-up about it on Great Buildings Online. Interested in living there? The Habitat '67 management company would love to talk with you.

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February 14, 2007

Mecca to get four-level pilgrim bridge

artist rendering of the Jamarat Bridge

A while back I wrote about efforts to control pedestrian traffic at the Muslim Hajj in Mecca. The landscape architecture blog Pruned has some great illustrations of one of the new safety measures being implemented...a massive four-level bridge that will funnel the millions of pilgrims safely through their rounds.

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January 30, 2007

Portland's tram

photo of the Portland tram. Image available at http://www.flickr.com/photos/theonetruebix/370435783/ available under a Creative Commons license

Congratulations to Portland Oregon for building that most civilized of all mass transit systems...an aerial tram. The $57 million dollar tram system runs more than half a mile from the bank of the Willamette River up the hill overlooking the city. Here's an article about it in the New York Times.

(Photo by The One True b!X/flickr.com)

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November 30, 2006

Train station legally declared work of art

Berlin station

Berlin's massive new train station may have to be partially rebuilt, in the wake of a judge's ruling that the building is a work of art that has been "defaced" by its owner.

The station's architect, Meinhard von Gerkan, designed a cathedral-like vaulted ceiling for the station. The railway company that owns the station decided that ceiling cost too much, so they stuck in a dull, crappy looking flat metal ceiling instead. von Gerkan sued and the judge ruled in his favor, saying the building's design constituted a work of art that had suffered defacement at the hands of the railroad. Take that, all of you rich clients who think that paying the bills automatically makes you know what looks good.

There's an article about the ruling on the Guardian's website.

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November 19, 2006

Sprouting business card

Tur & Partner business card

The business card for the Swiss landscape architecture firm Tur & Partner is an example of their practice writ small. Water the card and in a few days seeds embedded within the card begin to sprout. (I wonder if they have to always give clients two cards... one to water and one to keep.

Thanks once again to Geoff Manaugh's BLDGBLOG, which is constant source of interest.

My business cards don't grow or glow or change color or anything, but they are clever and clear and beautiful. They're the work of L.A. designer/photographer Nicholas Ashbaugh.

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November 10, 2006

International symbol for breastfeeding

finalist for the breastfeeding icon contest

AIGA elevator symbolEver since the AIGA designed 50 universal travel icons (like this elevator symbol) back in the 70s, they've become part of the venacular of modern life.

But those symbols don't cover every situation. Recently Mothering magazine sponsored a contest to design a universal symbol for a breastfeeding area. Check out the 12 semi-finalists in the competition, as well as some also-rans.

The magazine will announce the winner on November 13, and release the winning image into the public domain for free worldwide use.

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October 27, 2006

Clark Sorenson's flower urinals

flower urinal

Need to trick out that spare bathroom? May we suggestone of these beautifully crafted urinals? These custom fixtures are the work of Utah-based ceramics artist Clark Sorenson. Sorenson has created a variety of urinal designs based on different orchids, lilies, tulips and other flowers. There's also a couple of designs based on Nautilus shells. Prices run between $6,000 and $10,000 dollars. Check out the full line at clarkmade.com.

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October 07, 2006

Free-form advertising on a building in Amsterdam

photo of The Sandberg Institute building in Amsterdam

The owners of The Sandberg Institute building in Amsterdam want to pick up some extra cash, so they've turned the facade of the building into a free-form ad canvas. Each square on the building (about 10 inches square) cost 20 Euros per month. Since the building's ad contracts are as short as a month, it means the building's appearance is constantly changing. This is such a great contrast to the usual state of affairs with building murals and the like, where you better like what you see, 'cause it's gonna be there for the next 40 years.

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October 01, 2006

The iBar illuminated bar

photo of iBar interactive bar

My brain is sufficiently simple to make me happily stare at pretty much any changing pattern of light. Add alcohol to the mix and I am totally on board. So I would no doubt spend many happy hours hanging in a bar equipped with the iBar interactive bar counter. Any object that touches the bar (a glass, an ashtray, a patron's hand) generates a soft glow within the bar surface. Lines of light shoot through the bar connecting the objects in constantly changing patterns. The photo gives you a little taste of what it's like, but you really need to watch the video to get a full sense of the thing in action. The iBar is the work of a British company called Betaminds, which has made a number of clever and beautiful interactive systems.

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September 23, 2006

Live inside a Yes album cover

sketch of Roger Dean's Willowater village

It turns out that Roger Dean, the artist who created those mind-blowing Yes album covers back in the 70s, has been delving into architecture in the recent years. He's offering his own design of homes... a rounded, hobbit-looking pre-fab affairs that would be right at home in one of his paintings. The homes are very cleverly designed, made of cast concrete sections that are then quickly and easily assembled on-site. Dean also has plans for an entire village, called Willowater, to be built in the English countryside.

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September 21, 2006

Time lapse of Second Life's hotel

image from the time lapse film of the construction of the Starwood Hotel in Second Life

In the last couple of months there's been a real explosion of commercial promotion and advertising in the online world Second Life... things like American Apparel opening a store in Second Life and Toyota seeding Second Life with virtual Scion automobiles.

Now add the new upscale Aloft Hotel chain to that list. Aloft is building a full size model of one of their hotels in Second Life, and they've just posted a cool time-lapse movie of the hotel's construction. It's interesting to see the similarities and differences of virtual vs. real construction (even in a virtual world ya gotta grade the land first, but you don't have to worry about walls collapsing, so it's OK to build the walls of a five story building without any trusses or bracing, something that would be impossible in the physical world).

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August 15, 2006

Come see the glass house!

shot of Philip Johnson's Glass House

Philip Johnson's Glass House, one of the great masterpieces of modern architecture, is going to be open to the public. As laid out in this New York Times article (note: boneheaded registration may be required), the National Trust for Historic Preservation will conduct tours through the house in New Canaan, Connecticut beginning next April.

Like other revolutionary works of modern art (Andy Warhol's brill-o boxes come to mind) Johnson's glass house drew a lot of derision and insult when it was unveiled in 1949. Now of course it's seen as one of the world's great works of art. I am so there the next time I'm in New England.

Want to see the glass house? Send an email to glasshouse@nthp.org for details on reservations.

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August 14, 2006

Michael Jantzen's Wind Shaped Pavillion

image of wind-shaped pavillion

Maybe it's because I've recently developed an interest in the architectural possibilities of Second Life, but I've been taking increased notice of buildings that seem iprobable if not downright impossible.

For instance, check out Michael Jantzen's proposed Wind Shaped Pavillion. It's a six-story tall ampitheater with a stretched fabric outer shell. Each floor acts as a giant wind vane, causing the floor to rotate independently as the breeze changes.

This structure seems eminently doable, I look foward to it being built.

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August 07, 2006

Pictographs for Beijing Olympics unveiled

olympic archery pictograph

The summer Olympics are still a couple of years away, but when it comes to the graphic design of the Games, today marks one of the big milestones. The Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (that's quite a mouthful!), the folks in charge of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, just released the pictographs they'll use to indicate the various sports.

The creation of these pictographs (you can see them all here) is one of the dream gigs in all of graphic design. This time the pictographs are influenced by inscriptions on bones and bronze objects in ancient China.

It's interesting to see how the pictographs of the various Olympics mirror the changes in graphic design in general. You can compare samples from the last 40 years of Olympics here.

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July 21, 2006

New McDonalds billboard hits Chicago

McDonalds billboard in Chicago

McDonalds has rolled out a clever new billboard in Chicago, turning the billboard into a giant sundial, and the McDonalds' logo into the sundial's gnomon, casting its shadow onto the recommended food for that hour.

There's an article about it in Chicago Business magazine, and on the BILLBOARDROOM blog.

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July 10, 2006

The Real Life People and Places of "Cars"

cars before imagecars after image

The success of the latest Pixar film, "Cars", has triggered a wave of renewed interest in Route 66, and a whole new audience for the tremendous Route 66 News blog. This blog a real labor of love...dozens of posts each week covering everything from the latest renovation of some store or theater along the route to reviews of books about the highway and its history.

One of the recent gems is an amazing post about the real-life people and places portrayed in "Cars". For instance, did you know Sally the Porsche, portrayed in the film by Bonnie Hunt, is based on Dawn Welch, owner of the historic Rock Cafe in Stroud, Oklahoma? Or that Fillmore, the VW microbus voiced by George Carlin in the film, was inspired by Route 66 artist Bob Waldmire, who drives up and down Route 66 in his own VW microbus selling his wares? Or that the bridge that Sally and Lightning McQueen drive over is actually the Colorado Boulevard Bridge in Pasadena? Or that Ramone's body-art shop in the film (see images above) is directly inspired by the U-Drop Inn, a recently restored Art Deco gasoline station and restaurant complex in Shamrock, Texas? Check out the blog post for the real-life stories behind the people and places in the film.

Tags: cars  Route 66.

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July 08, 2006

Dinner In The Sky

dinner in the sky image

Oh man, I am so doing this when I become a billionaire. Dinner In The Sky is a company that will set you and twenty of your friends around a dining table, and then hoist the table, along with you and your friends (not to mention a gourmet chef and a couple of waiters) 50 meters into the air. Brilliant!

(The pesky details... it costs about 8,500 Euro, plus extras like the food and wine, photographer, permit costs, etc. But you get the set-up for 8 hours. You are wearing 4-point chest belts while in the seats, which could be a bit of a problem with evening wear. The seats swivel 180 degrees, giving you a great view, as well as making it easy to flirt with strangers on both sides of you).

If someone set this up over here in L.A. for an after-Oscar party they would rule.

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July 01, 2006

Check In to the Hotel of the Future

sketch from WATG's Lost DiVinci notebook

When it comes to hotels, you may not be thinking past your next check-in, but a lot of thought is going into the hotels and resorts of the future. The international architectural design firm WATG recently got together with a bunch of hotel chains, manufacturing companies, Hospitality Design magazine, and a bunch of other folks to brainstorm. You can see some of their ideas... and get some sense of what your luxury hotel room might be like in 20 years, in this PDF that re-casts Leonardo DiVinci as a hotel guest.

WATG does a lot of thinking about extreme architectural futures. Check out their sketches for a undersea hotel.

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June 13, 2006

Substations as houses

transformer house

The new issue of Cabinet Magazine is devoted to electricity (my second favorite utility-supplied substance (after water, but before natural gas, cable TV, and telephone)) and there's an interesting photo essay by Robin Collyer on Toronto's transformer houses.

Back in the 1950s and '60s the electric utility in Toronto built their substations so they would blend into the surrounding neighborhoods. No concrete block buildings with a chain-link fence around it...instead houses complete with windows, front doors, and landscaping. But no one inside, just lots of big-ass humming transformers.

You can see more photos on BLDGBLOG.

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