Monday, 31 January 2011

Incredibly Leaf-Like: 12 Bio-Inspired Plant-Based Designs

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Incredibly Leaf-Like: 12 Bio-Inspired Plant-Based Designs: [ By Steph in Art & Design, Nature & Ecosystems, Science & Research. ]

Sometimes, nature can influence design in the most unexpected ways. Would you ever think of looking to a calla lily for an ultra-efficient impeller design, or a mangrove tree ecosystem for a futuristic set of skyscrapers? These 12 biomimetic designs and concepts apply biological aspects of flowers, lily pads, leaves and trees to solar panels, tents, towers and entire cities to make them energy-smart and sustainable.

Calla Lily-Based Impeller

(image via: ecoinnovate)

Jay Harmon, founder of PAX Scientific, looks around him and sees in the natural world the perfect models for modern technology. And some connections are more obvious than others. PAX based a fan on the shape of a hurricane, but also created an incredibly efficient impeller in the same spiraling design as a calla lily.

Lilypad Floating City

(images via: inhabitat)

When the seas rise to flood coastal cities, where will all those citizens go? To man-made lilypad cities that float on the surface of the water, or so imagines architect Vincent Callebaut. The Lilypad is entirely self-sufficient, designed to hold 50,000 people within three ridges of housing around a central man-made lagoon which helps stabilize the city. Callebaut says that the design is directly based upon the “highly ribbed” leaf of the Victoria Regia lilypad, increased to 250 times its natural size (the leaf can reach spans of six feet!).

Water-Based ‘Artificial Leaf’ Produces Electricity

(image via: science daily)

Solar cells that mimic nature could be less expensive and more environmentally friendly than current solar technology. In 2010, researchers at North Carolina State University developed water-gel-based solar devices that are essentially ‘artificial leaves’ that couple plant chlorophyll with carbon materials, mimicking the way nature harvests solar energy. They’re flexible, which is a huge improvement over today’s problematically brittle cells.

Solar Cell Self-Repairs Like a Plant

(image via: drcornelius, oregondot)

When leaves are damaged by intense ultraviolet light, they’re able to repair themselves, constantly producing new cells to replace the damaged ones. If only solar cells could do the same thing, they’d last a lifetime. Luckily, scientists have found a way to replicate that natural process using proteins, bacteria and water. These solar cells can’t compete with silicon cells just yet – it will take decades of research to improve them – but it’s an impressive start that could improve ‘artificial leaf’-type solar cells even further.

Tent Design Mimics a Leaf

(image via: design boom)

The vein structure of a leaf inspired the shape of this tent by designer Ondrej Vaclavik, theoretically strengthening the design through the strategic placement of the tent poles. It certainly makes for an interesting tent, which is almost more reminiscent of a ‘leaf bug’ than a leaf itself.

Habitat 2020′s Breathing Leaf-Like Skin

(images via: inhabitat)

Just like the surface of a leaf, the ‘skin’ of the Habitat 2020 building reacts to external stimuli, opening, closing and breathing throughout the day through a system of ‘cellular’ openings that allow light, air and water into the apartments contained within. Designed for China, Habitat 2020 improves indoor air quality and provides natural air conditioning – the skin can even absorb moisture from the air and collect rainwater before purifying and filtering it so it can be used by the building’s inhabitants.

Swaying Shelters Act Like Pine Trees

(image via: archdaily)

A beachside park in La Pineda, Spain has a stunning new shade structure that mimics the way real nearby pine trees sway in the wind off the sea. Made from salt-resistant fiberglass, the structure was even built at an angle so that it leans the same way that surrounding trees have bent in the direction of the prevailing wind.

William McDonough’s Tower of Tomorrow

(images via: fortune magazine)

“Imagine a building that makes oxygen, distills water, produces energy, changes with the seasons―and is beautiful. In effect, that building is like a tree, standing in a city that is like a forest.” That is how famed sustainable architect William McDonough describes his ‘Tower of Tomorrow’, a building of the future that takes its inspiration from trees. The self-contained tower has a curved shape that reduces the amount of materials required for construction and increases structural stability. It features a green roof, a series of three-story atrium gardens, water recycling systems and the ability to create its own power with solar energy.

Spiraling Skyscrapers Inspired by Mangrove Trees

(images via: inhabitat)

Can you imagine this spiraling, super-futuristic tower rising among the skyscrapers of New York? The Mangal City concept by design team Chimera is modeled after the complex ecosystem created by the mangrove tree. “The mangrove plant and its collective the mangal, provide examples of social associative principles as well as structural capacities and hybrid responses to environmental and contextual conditions,” say the designers.

Durian Fruit-Like Skin for the Esplanade Theater

(images via: wenzday01, yimhafiz)

It resembles an enormous metallic durian fruit, but the Esplanade Theater’s spiky exterior is not just made for protection or menacing looks. The scales actually make up an elaborate louvered shading system that adjusts throughout the day to let in natural light but protect the interior from overheating.

Two-Mile High Tower Works Like a Tree

(images via:

It may not look much like a tree, but the Ultima Tower by architect Eugene Tsui takes cues from trees and other natural systems to be as energy-efficient and sustainable as possible. The design, which resembles a termite’s nest and is surrounded on all sides by a lake, is envisioned as its own little living and breathing ecosystem, and incorporates technology that draws water from the ‘roots’ to the pinnacle in the same manner as a tree.

Qatar Cactus Office Building

(images via: inhabitat)

Entirely fitting for the hot desert climate of Qatar, the new office for the Minister of Municipal Affairs & Agriculture resembles a giant cactus sprouting from the sand. But the inspiration goes far beyond mere looks. Design team Aesthetics Architects has covered the building in sun shades that can open to let in air and light and close to keep out the heat, mimicking the natural water-retaining biological system of cacti.

Snow Foolin’: Completely Insane Pics of Japanese Snowfall

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Snow Foolin’: Completely Insane Pics of Japanese Snowfall: [ By Delana in Geography & Travel, Nature & Ecosystems, News & Politics. ]

The winter of 2010-2011 brought an epic, historic amount of snow to the East coast of the United States. Many residents of the affected areas have never seen so much snow at one time, and many cities were completely unprepared to deal with the aftermath – despite having plenty of advance notice – as evidenced by the above image of New York City. But as bad as the East coasters have it, this snow is nothing compared to the mountains of powder Japan is buried beneath.

These unaltered photographs give an idea of the type of major snow accumulation in Honshu, Japan each winter. The pictures show the main road through the Japanese Alps which is closed all winter long due to the massive amounts of snow covering it.

Every spring the road is uncovered by snowplows which are tasked with the incredible job of clearing an average of 56 feet of snow.

(all images via: Gizmodo)

The huge piles of snow would be daunting even to the most experienced cold climate dweller. Luckily for New York and the rest of the East coast, the snow here hasn’t quite accumulated to the height of a five-story building just yet. But if it does, maybe Japan can give us some pointers on dealing with the snowmageddon.

Natural Glow: Australia’s Amazing Bioluminescent Lake

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Natural Glow: Australia’s Amazing Bioluminescent Lake: [ By Delana in Animals & Habitats, History & Trivia, Nature & Ecosystems. ]

In the Australian summer of 2008/2009, a hauntingly beautiful phenomenon illuminated the Gippsland Lakes and created scenes that those present will never forget. An unusually high concentration of Noctiluca scintillans, a bioluminescent microorganism, turned the water a bright, glowing, ethereal blue. Photographer Phil Hart was there to document the amazing display.

Noctiluca scintillans – also known as “sea sparkle,” “sea fire,” “sea ghost” and any number of other delightfully romantic-sounding names – are a species of dinoflagellate that feed on algae, plankton and bacteria. In December 2008, a high concentration of blue-green algae called Synechococcus prompted a higher-than-usual population of N. scintillans in the Gippsland Lakes.

When Phil Hart embarked on his annual trek to the lakes, he and his companions discovered a blue luminescence in the water unlike anything any of them had ever seen before. N. scintillans uses its bioluminescence as a defense mechanism, lighting up when it senses a predator coming near. The ghostly glow attracts even larger predators to eat the first predator, keeping the N. scintillans safe to glow another day.

Hart and his friends used this defense mechanism to create some truly incredible photographs. Using a long exposure on his camera, Hart had his friends splash in the water to light up and spread the bioluminescent organisms around. In other photos, Hart used a fast lens and threw sand and pebbles into the water to activate the glow.

(all images via: Phil Hart)

The Melbourne-based photographer marvels at how fortunate he was to see this phenomenon. Not only is it a rare sight at this particular location; it is highly unusual to see this concentration of bioluminescent organisms anywhere in the world. The magical event was truly a breathtaking displays of nature’s unexpected beauty.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Suspended Staircases: 18 Hanging Stair & Tread Sets

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Suspended Staircases: 18 Hanging Stair & Tread Sets: [ By Steph in Architecture & Design, Furniture & Interiors. ]

Cantilevered from the wall, made from heavy steel, concrete or glass, these stair treads seem unfettered by the laws of physics, hovering in the air. All manner of engineering tricks were used to make these 18 modern staircases into works of art that we just can’t stop staring at.

Hefty Concrete Hanging Stairs

(image via: contemporist)

How do you make concrete stairs look lighter than air? These stairs at the ‘Querosene House’ by architecture firm grupoSP seem to defy gravity, hovering with no visible support.

Cold-Rolled Steel in Manhattan by RAAD

(image via: stairporn)

Floating from one floor to another, these black cold-rolled steel stairs resemble one solid piece of metal, folded like an accordion. Designed by RAAD for a home in Manhattan, the stairs have several waterjet-cut steel stringers concealed within the thickness of the metal.

Floating Steel Tread Stairs, Seattle

(image via: contemporist)

Cantilevered out from the wall, these minimalist steel stairs are right at home in a thoroughly modern West Seattle residence full of steel beams and exposed concrete.

Folded Steel Origami Stairs, London

(image via: dezeen)

Folded like origami, this stainless steel staircase by architects Bell Phillips are a striking centerpiece for an all-white hallway in a London home. Six millimeters thick, the stairs look like they’re floating but are actually supported by a glass balustrade.

Suspended Stairs at the Godzilla House, South Korea

(image via:

South Korea’s ‘Godzilla House’ is quite an interesting piece of architecture as a whole, but the curved shape and chameleon-like metal facade are just the beginning. One particularly striking element included by Chae Pereira architects is a wooden staircase with white vertical supports that almost look like rope from a distance.

Ribbon Illusion Stairs by HSH Architects

(image via: illusion360)

If you have to stare at your staircase from the living room every day, why not make it a work of art? This beautiful ribbon staircase by HSH Architects puts ordinary stairs to shame, distributing weight down to the floor through hidden brackets mounted into the wall.

Bright and Modern in Italy

(images via: plastolux)

In the midst of an airy, mostly-white midcentury modern home is this seemingly floating staircase, supported on the external side by a sheet of red-tinted acrylic. The stairs are lit from beneath and the transparent wall reflects the room around it, giving the whole staircase a slightly psychedelic feel.

Semi-Circular Plastic Stairs for Kids

(image via: momoy)

This whole incredibly creative space is definitely worth a look – it’s fascinating, fun and futuristic – but for the purposes of this article, let’s talk about these awesome stairs. Each curving step descends from the wall on either side, forming a totally unexpected way to access a play area on the next floor.

Barely-There Stairs Above a Reflecting Pool

(image via: dezeen)

The way that these stairs play with light and reflection in the space around them is almost more important than the stairs themselves – design-wise, at least. Positioned above a reflecting pool, the cantilevered stairs provide a bit of shady respite on the way to a sunny terrace.

Incredible Bird’s Nest Suspended Staircase

(image via: archdaily)

These stairs definitely aren’t trying to hide – they’re the most interesting element in the room. Reminiscent of a bird cage, the chaotic criss-crossing metal bars are balanced by the serene white of the walls and cabinets.

Triangular Treads at the Shallard House in New Zealand

(image via: archdaily)

Triangular stair treads were a fitting choice for a very angular modern home in New Zealand, designed by architects Lat Forty Five. Each individual step is bolted onto the block wall to give the illusion of flotation.

Spiraling Stairs Supported by a White Wall

(image via: bookshelfporn)

The owners of this home took full advantage of the ultra-high ceiling in the space to create a little library, connecting the second floor to the first with a partially spiraling staircase that is supported by a wedge of a wall, providing a private nook for reading behind it.

Hanging Black-and-White at BUMPS, Beijing

(image via: plataformaarquitectura)

These highly unusual blocky black-and-white stairs are a visual echo of the BUMPS building’s exterior, which consists of black and white rectangles seemingly stacked Jenga-style. Each step is connected to the next leaving negative space as they descend, resulting in interesting optical effects when viewed from the lower floor.

Cantilevered Concrete by Eugeone Pons

(images via: plastolux)

Concrete once again seems to flout the laws of physics in this unnamed building, photographed by Eugeni Pons.

Modern Floating Stairs in Austria

(image via: architonic)

Two separate steps of ribbon stairs, hovering above the ground, form a breathtakingly artistic staircase at Büro.Loft in Austria.

Minimalist Black Stairs by Ecole

(image via: plastolux)

Like an Escher drawing sprung into three dimensions, this floating staircase by Ecole is made all the more dramatic with the use of bold black against a white wall.

Near-Invisible White Staircase in Tokyo

(image via: what we do is secret)

Achieving the opposite effect from the previous example, this staircase in Tokyo is as unobtrusive as possible, practically disappearing into the wall.

Curving Bamboo Staircase by Eedesign

(images via: eedesign)

Viewed straight-on or from the side, this staircase by Eedesign doesn’t look too unusual. But from certain angles, the novelty of the design becomes apparent. Beneath standard-shaped stair treads is a curving support system that resembles a spine, giving the staircase a highly sculptural quality.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Lego Artist Nathan Sawaya: Beauty Brick By Brick

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Lego Artist Nathan Sawaya: Beauty Brick By Brick: [ By Marc in Gadgets & Geek Art, Guerilla Action & Art. ]

Nathan Sawaya is an internationally known ex-lawyer professional Lego artist’s whose work has been featured throughout the world. Nathan Sawaya is perfectly willing to fulfill any commission you can think up of, and if custom ideas are slow, he has plenty of his own ideas to flesh out.

(Images via fivetakeaways, brickartist, techland, readymade)

Nathan Sawaya has made several portraits of himself (including a full-sized sculpture), and has even gotten a tattoo of the famous Lego indentations on his thumb; a fitting tribute to something that fueled his childhood imagination, and kept him employed as an adult.

(Images via brickartist, buildinglegospics, overachieversclothing)

Much of Nathan Sawaya’s work involves inner selves tearing holes in something confining. These seem to symbolize an inner self being revealed, but regardless of the metaphor, the skill of these constructions is readily, and stunningly, apparent.

(Images via howstuffworks, fuckyeahlegos, visualize, 2dayblog)

Nathan Sawaya’s enthusiasm for his childhood pursuit of Lego extends to his love of the Star Wars universe as well. From a mini Death Star to Han Solo frozen in carbonite, Nathan has explored many aspects of the films, including parts that aren’t necessarily true to the source material (like the Statue of Liberty with lightsaber).

(Images via newlaunches, gearfuse, ekuaking, echostains)

Nathan Sawaya loves challenging himself with visions of the human form. The childhood spirit of some of his pieces works exceptionally well with the inherent fun atmosphere of Lego.

(Images via geeksugar, brickartist, latimesblogs, flickriver)

Lego sculptures seem like a natural avenue for Lego art, but portraits are another of Nathan Sawaya’s secret weapons. Placing pieces in just the right order, he’s able to create realistic and artful portraits of anyone with incredible detail.

(Images via haha, highsnobiety, technabob, newlaunches)

Nathan Sawaya clearly likes to represent the less happy aspects of humanity as well as the wonder-filled childhood aspect. Many of Nathan’s pieces are falling apart, or in clear pain, creating an interesting dichotomy between the Lego material and the eerie sculptures themselves.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Bottle Caps: 31 Reasons To Create Gorgeous Recycled Crafts

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Bottle Caps: 31 Reasons To Create Gorgeous Recycled Crafts: [ By Marc in Furniture & Interiors, Guerilla Action & Art. ]

Bottle caps typically only come to mind when one is cracking open a beer, or drinking a classic bottled soda. With little changes to the actual function of caps (minus the ability to twist off in some cases), the bottle cap is a holdover from earlier times and seems immune to change. As a raw material for crafting, bottle caps are given a new life as part of gorgeous and surprisingly functional works of art.

(Images via nowthatsnifty, ofmiceandramen, technabob, octavarius, technabob, odditycentral)

Drinking goes along well with video game playing, so it makes sense that some geeks would put their piles of bottle caps to good use! Some classic pixelated characters are simple to replicate, while other subjects are much more complex. Regardless of the difficulty, the end product will pull the heartstrings of any true dork.

(Images via artcar, nowthatsnifty, artcar, twoeyeworkshop)

It’s not uncommon to slap corny stickers all over one’s car, but some drivers like to give their vehicle a more unique look. Enter the bottle cap vehicles; a collection of cars that are covered in intricate bottle cap patterns and designs that are quite visually appealing.

(Images via apartmenttherapy, mollybright, inhabitat, pik-a-boo, bakati, bakati)

Bottle caps are not the first material one probably thinks of when contemplating a detailed portrait. Some artists relish using unique recycled materials, and prove to be up to the challenge of creating realistic portraits out of a difficult raw material.

(Images via wearableartblog, greatgreengoods, historia-antiques, redbarncreations, greatgreengoods)

Bottle caps are a surprisingly handy tool for decorating household furniture. If one really wants to impress friends, why not create a bottle cap dress like the one shown above? There’s no doubt it would be uncomfortable, but it would also be the talk of the town.

(Images via cultmodern, tamcao)

The incredible detail attained by some bottle cap artists is unbelievable. Portraits come to life as realistic depictions despite the mundane materials used to craft them.

(Images via bakati, johntunger, bakati, johntunger, johntunger)

Lazy days on the beach inevitably end with piles of beer bottle caps and it’s nice to see some beach bums turning them into something that’s not only decorative, but environmentally friendly to boot. Artists such as John T Unger give bottle caps new life in these festive marine-themed creations.

(Images via hungryholler, inventorspot, kempa, recyclednight, craftzine)

The next time one is looking for an interesting and fun craft project, or even something more ambitious, look no further than the counter after a big party. Bottle caps might be easy to overlook, but that just makes the challenge of creating stunning bottle cap artwork that much more enjoyable.