Thursday, 30 June 2011

Micro-Home Concept Turns Electric Cars into Spare Spaces

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Micro-Home Concept Turns Electric Cars into Spare Spaces: [ Filed under Portable & in the Architecture category ]


This car runs on ‘empty’ in more ways than one. It charges up on solar and wind energy when docked at home while also doubling as an extra room, creating rather than displacing space as a typical vehicle would do sitting idle inside a garage.



Conceived by Jon Salerno, it tackles questions from urban density to daily commutes, converting a few dozen square feet inside an electric vehicle into a mobile extension to a small home



Above, bare minimum necessities are mostly addressed through a little lofted bedroom and main kitchen space (though a bathroom is curiously absent). Below, the chairs of the car portion turn to face inward, making for a cozy little dining or living room zone.



To be fair, the idea is still as crude as oil fresh from the Earth, but it has potential and is certainly a creative and counter-intuitive way of thinking about the intersection of transportation and habitation.



In theory, this goes far beyond an all-in-one transit-plus-housing design – like the fast-growing city bike movements around the United States, this plug-and-play, dock-style approach could be applied in all kinds of communal ways. In practice, though, this hybrid has a long way to drive before hitting home in real life.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Truckin’ Revisited: Introducing The Ecco Camper Concept RV

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Truckin’ Revisited: Introducing The Ecco Camper Concept RV: [ By Steve in Energy & Fuel & Geography & Travel & Technology & Gadgets. ]



If the term “RV” brings to mind hulking, gas-guzzling, fake wood paneled, tornado-attracting 4-wheeled rolling trailers, then it’s time to fast-forward your thinking. The Ecco camper concept RV by design firm NAU is a streamlined, zero-local-emission RV that’s more winning than any old (or new) Winnebago.



Back to the Egg


(image via: AutoMotto)


The Ecco camper concept by design firm NAU boldly takes the RV where it’s never gone before: scenic highways and byways favored by those who love the “get away from it all” RV lifestyle, but who worry about being stranded in the back of beyond miles from the nearest electrical charging station.


(images via: Motorhomes Insight, Vintage VW Cars and PixarCars.tv)


The Ecco concept may look radical but its designers at NAU readily acknowledge its illustrious predecessors the Airstream trailer and the VW Microbus camper van. However, the classic Airstream trailer of the 1930s may have pioneered RV streamlining but it had no motive force of its own. As for the Volkswagen Type 2 Transporter, as its officially known, it may have been the choice ride of counterculture deadheads but its flat-four engine ran on gasoline, reds, vitamin C and cocaine… OK, just gasoline.


(image via: The Price of Silver)


Take the compact, freedom-loving vibe of the Microbus and meld it with the shiny, space-age exterior of the Airstream and you’ve got the basic visual esthetic of the Ecco camper… or the bizarre bastard lovechild above – must’ve been some bad acid goin’ round. Where were we? Ahh yes, while most concepts push the envelope to “anything goes” and sometimes beyond, the creative folks at NAU have applied solid, practical engineering into the Ecco so that it CAN go pretty much anywhere, even if fuel (in the form of electricity) isn’t close at hand. Let’s take a closer look.


Follow the Sun


(images via: The Haggin Museum, Book Cover Judge, Bloggery Gone Awry and KillerKen)


In most real-world driving situations, the Ecco camper will go most anywhere a traditional RV can go. Consider that both begin their journeys fully-fueled: the RV with its gas tanks topped up, the Ecco having had its batteries fully charged overnight through a standard 240v electrical outlet. Most RV drivers tend to stop for the night at dedicated trailer parking facilities which offer water and electric power connections – if you’re driving an Ecco, you can follow the same itinerary.


(images via: Raindrops On Roses and NAU)


The 4-seat, three-wheeled, teardrop-shaped Ecco camper pulls ahead of traditional RVs when it comes to generating its own power and it’s roughly the size of a VW camper van. See that long, wide, black roof? It’s not there just for show, it’ll help Ecco drivers when it’s time to go! Built-in photovoltaic panels soak up sunlight and trickle the juice into the onboard batteries. Suddenly, stopping for a picnic lunch in sun-baked Monument Valley is just that: a short stop before hitting the highway once more.


Truckin’ 21st Century Style


(image via: Broadsheet)


Since the Ecco is an RV at heart, some mechanism had to be devised that would alternate the vehicle’s configuration from a wind-cheating (and power-saving) aerodynamic road warrior to an un-cramped camper that, as Nau states, can “provide a level of space and comfort that its forbears could only dream of.”



Nau seems to have done exactly that, devising a bellows-style membrane roof that opens clamshell-style, more than doubles the Ecco’s interior space, and exposes an even greater expanse of solar cells to the sky.


(images via: The Gentleman Camper and Zillamag)


Once flipped to camper mode, the Ecco offers users a living area with variable seating, bathroom pod with toilet and shower, kitchen with cooktop & sink, and a sleeping loft with a fold-down extra bed. Add your own portable electronic entertainment devices and it’s a home away from home!


(images via: Gas 2.0 and Gizmag)


Will we ever see the Ecco concept camper at stores or dealers, and if so, will it be sold at an affordable price? Traditional RVs aren’t cheap by any means, considering their multifunctional nature and often substantial size. As time goes by and more and more Baby Boomers decide to hit the road, they just might find the Ecco camper suits their needs the way their psychedelically painted Microbus used to… powered in a way their tie-dyed counterculture pals would likely approve.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Spin Space: 360-Degree Room with Zero-Gravity Furniture

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Spin Space: 360-Degree Room with Zero-Gravity Furniture: [ Filed under More & in the Installation Art category ]


Gravity is a possible, but not necessary, starting point for the design of every structure and object we occupy or use. What if we stripped away this assumption and began shaping space that can work from any perspective and at any angle?



Bureau Spectacular created this incredible installation that turns what we know about up and down sideways, spinning it around at increments to create a fully circular experience of space.



It completes a full rotation once per hour, forcing occupants to keep up or get out. Floors have to work as walls, ceilings as floors, and any built-ins serve some potential purpose with each incremental turn.



While not the same as a true experience of outer space, it starts to suggest ways that designers could work with otherworldly problems … and perhaps add new dimensions to terrestrial design projects, too.




“BUREAU SPECTACULAR imagines other worlds and engages the design of architecture through telling stories. Beautiful stories about character development, relationships, curiosities and attitudes; absurd stories about fake realities that invite enticing possibilities.





“The stories conflate design, representation, theory, criticism, history and taste into cartoon pages. These cartoon narratives swerve into the physical world through architectural installations, models and small buildings."

Art That Speaks Volumes: 12 More Book Artists

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Art That Speaks Volumes: 12 More Book Artists: [ By Steph in Architecture & Design. ]


Why should out-of-date, unwanted books molder away in the dark corners of libraries, or – far worse – in a landfill? Artists working with books, whether they make it their sole chosen medium or just experiment once in a while, rescue these bound volumes of art and information and fold, cut, carve, glue, assemble or otherwise transform them into amazing sculptures and installations that honor or often transcend the meaning held within the pages.


Jill Sylvia




(images via: jillysylvia.com)

Jill Sylvia meticulously removes the blank entry blocks in ledger books and balance sheets, leaving behind nothing but delicate paper mesh. These geometric skeletons are then used to build amazing replicas of famous buildings like the U.S. Capitol and the White House.


Julia Feld



(images via: holystokes)

Favoring anatomy books, wildlife guides and instruction manuals, artist Julia Feld selectively removes parts of pages to leave behind layered collages, often left within the hardcover to resemble shadow boxes. She sells these intricate works at her Etsy shop, Holy Stokes.


Noriko Ambe



(images via: norikoambe.com)

Multidimensional and lush, the cut-outs by Noriko Ambe almost seem to have occurred simultaneously as part of some strange natural process. Says Ambe, “Time is essential to my work. Because over time I add more and more paper to a sculpture, the work itself ends up embodying the time taken to create it. The process is as important as the finished product and the simple act of making art every day is important to my practice. Buddhism, although it’s not my intention to show this.”


Bronia Sawyer



(images via: broniart)

Birds, flowers, the waves of the ocean – all of these things and more are evoked simply by curling, folding and coloring the pages of books. Bronia Sawyer creates little paper worlds in which these animals seem to frolic and thrive. “A book is a magical thing, to look at a page of text at a glance gives no clue about its content, but to read the words brings a story to life, it opens your imagination’s floodgates and creates an invisible world in your mind which only you can see.”


Meg Hitchcock



(images via: meghitchcock.com)

Cutting words out of religious texts including the Bible, Koran and Torah, Brooklyn-based artist Meg Hitchcock creates these incredible collages “deconstructing the word of God.” Says Hitchcock, “I select passages from holy books and cut the letters from one passage to form the text of another. For example, I may cut up a passage from the Old Testament of the Bible and reassemble it as a passage from the Bhagavad Gita, or I may use type from the Torah to recreate an ancient Tantric text. A continuous line of text forms the words and sentences in a run-on manner, without spaces or punctuation, creating a visual mantra of devotion.”


Ariana Boussard-Reifel



(images via: arianaboussardreifel.com)

In her series ‘Between the Lines’, artist Ariana Boussard-Reifel has cut each and every word out of the pages of books, leaving behind only the white space, creating patterns that render the books meaningless – or do they?


Maria Fischer



(images via: maria-fischer.com)

Traumgedanken (Thoughts on Dreams) is a 76-page collection of literary, philosophical, psychological and scientific texts which provide insight into dream theories. Amazingly, German artist Maria Fischer has hand-sewn the pages with threads that tie images to certain keywords as sort of physical hyperlinks, which, Fischer says, visualize the confusion and fragility of dreams.


The artist explains, “In addition there are five pages where a significant excerpt from a text of the opposite page is stitched into the paper. It is not legible because the type’s actual surface is inside the folded page. This expresses the mysteriousness of dreams and the aspect of dream interpretation.”


Michael Bom



(images via: bomdesign.nl)

Designer Michael Bom turns books of all sorts into stunningly artistic lamps that retain the character of the book’s content. Some are simply opened, with the pages carefully spaced apart, to act as wall lamps; others are carefully cut and crafted to provide a variety of shapes. Between the pages a viewer can just barely glimpse images and text, which create interesting patterns of dark and light on the lantern surface.


Ann Hamilton



(images via: this is colossal)

Multimedia artist Ann Hamilton has occasionally worked with books throughout her 20-year career including projects in which she connected slices of books at the spine to form shapes as well as large-scale installations of stacked books. The installations form dense towers that, by virtue of the varying thicknesses of the books, take on a painterly quality when viewed from afar.


Alex Queral



(images via: projectsgallery.com)

Alex Queral carves faces into books of faceless names, producing three-dimensional portraits that reach deep within discarded phone books. Most are famous faces like PeeWee Herman and Bob Dylan; some are realistic, while others are crafted in an abstracted style. Queral uses an X-ACTO knife and a pot of acrylic medium to carve and set the books, and then applies a black wash to bring out the features.


Cara Barer



(images via: carabarer.com)

Sculptor Cara Barer bends, folds and curls the pages of unwanted books, sometimes coloring their edges, molding them into forms that suggest organic life like birds, insects and even the undersides of mushrooms. Says Barer, “With the discarded books that I have acquired, I am attempting to blur the line between objects, sculpture, and photography. This project has become a journey that continues to evolve.”


Yvette Hawkins



(images via: bookliciousblog)

From small folded paper pieces to installations of thousands of books that fill entire rooms, the art of Yvette Hawkins is inspired by forms in architecture, grids, maps and molecules as well as the geometric forms found in nature.


“The thing I love about paper is the idea that something so fragile and one dimensional can become structured and sturdy just by folding it. I actually started folding books because I wanted to manipulate the way printed words can be seen, so although i have always loved to work with paper, it was mark making and print that drew me to books."

Shower with Fishies: Built-In Tropical Bathroom Aquarium

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Shower with Fishies: Built-In Tropical Bathroom Aquarium: [ Filed under Fixtures & in the Baths & Showers category ]


If you wish you could wake up every morning to a nice swim with tropical fish in the front yard, well, you have to own an oceanfront home to make that dream a reality … this built-in enclosure aquarium might be a close enough second for more ordinary houses.



Translucent glass gives you a window into a miniature underwater world to accompany your showering experience, letting in light and allowing views from inside while protecting privacy on the outside.



Embedded directly in the shower stall walls, it could be used for little land animals or other environments, landscapes or objects of design, but somehow fish do seem the most fitting. Design by Cesana

UNESCO To Add 10 New Natural World Heritage Properties

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UNESCO To Add 10 New Natural World Heritage Properties: [ By Steve in Geography & Travel & Nature & Ecosystems & News & Politics. ]



The 35th session of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee will meet in Paris from June 19 through June 29 of 2011. Under consideration for inclusion on the UN agency’s World Heritage List are 10 new natural sites. A look at each of these 10 wonders of nature illustrates why they deserve inclusion, appreciation and protection.



Ningaloo Coast, Australia


(images via: Will Go To, Australia.com and Absolutely Australia)


Eastern Australia has the Great Barrier Reef but on Oz’s opposite shore, the remote Ningaloo Coast gives the country’s most famous ecological showpiece a real run for its money. Hugging Western Australia’s shore for 260 km (160 miles), the Ningaloo Coast is one of the world’s largest fringing reefs and much of it is surprisingly accessible, lying as close as 100 meters (330 ft) to land.


(image via: ECObytes)


Hundreds of other species of tropical fish patrol the reef along with whale sharks, humpback whales and rare sea turtle species. Snorkelers and glass-bottom boaters can take in one of the sea’s great spectacles in March and April as billions of coral organisms come together (as it were) in a mass spawning.


Pendjari National Park, Benin


(images via: Yukiba, AnyNation.com and Viamigo)


Pendjari National Park boasts an astonishing diversity of wildlife from elephants and lions to monkeys and hippos, but the area is best known for its abundance of rare and beautiful birds. Located in Benin’s rugged and isolated northwest, Pendjari National Park is one of Africa’s most scenic destinations combining cliffs, jungles, rivers and grasslands.


(images via: Simba Safari Camps, Travel iHub and TravelPod)


Pendjari National Park covers an area of 2,755 square kilometers (1,064 sq miles) and its isolation has so far kept it relatively unaffected by human intrusion. The government of Benin has worked with authorities in neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger to create the WAP (W-Arli-Pendjari) park complex. By working together and downplaying rigid national boundaries, the three governments have allowed the region’s native creatures to thrive.


Wudalianchi National Park, China


(images via: CNTV, National Park of China, ShowChina and Cultural China)


Wudalianchi National Park, located in China’s northeastern province of Heilongjiang, is an otherworldly landscape formed by China’s youngest volcanoes. Wudalianchi, which translates to “Five Interconnected Lakes,” was formed approximately 60,000 years ago when a group of erupting volcanoes transformed the region’s landscape and water drainage patterns.


(image via: Radio86)


Wudalianchi National Park includes a number of large caves and oddly shaped lakes whose waters are tinted a variety of exotic hues. The park also features China’s largest cold mineral water recuperating center but environmentalists worry that increased tourism may harm the area’s fragile ecosystem.


Ancient Beech Forests of Germany


(images via: Mueritz-Nationalpark, TradeBit and SuperStock)


The name Buchenwald carries ominous baggage dating back to the darkest days of World War II but its literal translation – Beech Forest – merely describes some of Germany’s most breathtakingly beautiful scenery. The remaining ancient Red Beech forests have managed to preserve a little primeval ecology within shouting distance of the country’s urban and suburban centers. As a destination for those desiring some peace and quiet within comfortable walking distance, these stately, silent forests are unmatched.


(image via: Letters Home)


In Roman times, vast forests of Red Beech trees covered much of “Germania” but over the centuries most of the forests have been cleared for farming and for their wood resources. Only a few stands of Red Beech over 200 years old exist in Germany today.


Western Ghats, India


(images via: Art.Co.UK, MapsOf.net and Frans Lanting Stock)


The Western Ghats are a chain of steep, eroded cliffs and mountains that line much of India’s southwestern coast. It is thought that the cliffs mark the point where, tens of millions of years ago, India and the island of Madagascar split from one another. At that time the cliffs towered over 300 meters (1,000 ft) tall but since that time they have been weathered by wind & water and transformed by repeated episodes of volcanism.


(image via: How Volcanoes Work)


The Western Ghats are an ecological hotspot that boasts up to 140 endemic species of amphibians alone. Human pressure on the forests is unrelenting, however – in Sri Lanka, it’s estimated that only 1.5 percent of the Western Ghats’ original forest cover remains.


Hara Protected Area, Iran


(images via: Gardesh yaran and Abad)


If you thought Iran was a nation of deserts and sand, then you haven’t heard of the Hara Protected Area. Found along the country’s southern coast bordering the Arabian Sea, the region features some of the world’s remaining mangrove forests and an astonishing number of bird species for whom the region is a vital stop on long migration routes.


(image via: Gardesh Yaran)


The specific type of mangrove commonly found in the Hara Protected Area is Avicennia Marina, a tree that is uniquely adapted to growing in salt water and which can grow up to 8 meters (over 26 ft) tall. The government of Iran already restricts the types of commercial activity allowed in the Hara Protected Area but bestowing the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site on this essential ecosystem will certainly help preserve it.


Ogasawara Islands, Japan


(images via: Eric Cheng, Wikipedia and Japan Hotspot)


Formerly known as the Bonin Islands, Japan’s Ogasawara Islands can be reached only via a 25-hour boat trip – a fact that has undoubtedly helped preserve their near-pristine ecological status. This far-flung archipelago of over 30 subtropical and tropical islands combines rare and in some cases unique land flora and fauna with some of the world’s most diverse ocean reef communities.


(image via: Ippei + Janine)


The Ogasawara Islands weren’t always as isolated as they are today. In World War II some of the islands were bloody battlegrounds, especially Chichi Jima, the latter being where former U.S. president George H. W. Bush bailed out of his damaged airplane and was rescued by an American submarine.


Kenya Lake System in the Great Rift Valley, Kenya


(images via: The World Race, Stern, TripAdvisor and Haven Nature Camp)


The Kenya Lake System includes three separate “soda” lakes that are connected via sub-surface seepage. Like many of the Great Rift Valley Lakes, these lakes are mainly alkaline and infused with algae.


(image via: Arsa54)


Though Lake Natron in Tanzania (above) is perhaps the most famous of the Great Rift Valley lakes thanks to its often lurid pink coloration, the lakes of the Kenya Lake System (Lake Elementaita, Lake Nakuru, and Lake Bogoria) have earned special attention from the UNESCO committee due to the fact that their waters and the shrimp & algae living in them sustain as much as 75 percent of the world’s Lesser Flamingos.


Trinational Sangha: Congo, Cameroon, CAR


(images via: Congo Apes, Doli Lodge and Middle Africa)


The Dzanga-Sangha Complex of Protected Areas consists of a huge 4,589 sq km (1,772 sq mi) block of dense rainforest located in the triangular southwestern tip of the Central African Republic. Along with adjoining parks and protected areas in neighboring Cameroon and the Republic of Congo, the Trinational Sangha is home to significant populations of African Forest Elephants, Gorillas and Chimpanzees.


(image via: Middle Africa)


Though commercial logging took place within the area in the 1970s and 1980s, a concerted international effort has succeeded in closing the area to all human activity with the exception of subsistence hunting, tourism and scientific research.


Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park, Viet Nam


(images via: Visa for Vietnam, SinhCafe, Vietnam Tours and Vietnam Travel)


Among the 10 natural properties under consideration for World Heritage Site status at the 35th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee is Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park in Vietnam. The park is the only site to be nominated under new criteria, though the park was previously granted World Heritage Site status by virtue of its geological values and not its copious wildlife.


(image via: Bayou Renaissance Man)


Located in Quang Binh Province, north-central Vietnam, Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park is situated in one of the world’s two largest karst regions. The park includes over 70 km (43.5 miles) of interconnected caves and grottos of which less than 1/3 have been explored. The world’s largest cave, Son Doong Cave, was discovered in April 2009 by British cave explorers of the British Caving Association. As exploration of the cave system continues, it’s probable that even more notable discoveries will be announced.




(image via: Vrindavan Today)


At press time, 911 properties of “outstanding universal value” in 151 different nations have been listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites, and 180 of these are natural properties. Though limited in their ability to oversee these sites and enforce their “hands off” status, UNESCO at least does the world a service by bringing these natural wonders to our notice. Joni Mitchell once sang, “you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone,” but maybe by knowing what we’ve got today, we can help ensure they won’t be gone tomorrow.