Virtual Fixer Uppers: Buy, Renovate & Sell Homes in “House Flipper” Game

[ By WebUrbanist in Gaming & Computing & Technology. ]

For those who enjoy fixing and flipping homes, this video game could be a dream come true, virtually speaking, letting you purchase rundown shacks and turn them into market-ready models.

Players in House Flipper can buy dwellings that look ready for the scrap heap, then “hammer, drill, nail down, screw, and do what needs to be done to mount, fix or clean up stuff,” all without lifting more than a few fingers.

Those interested in working out some frustration will be happy to know that demolishing walls and fixtures is part of the gameplay, too.

It hews close to reality in that the game goal is the same as real life: profit. Instead of a final boss, there is the final sale, though that’s optional for people who want more flexibility and less economics. And, of course, the fun doesn’t stop there: flip one house and you can start on the next.

If this seems like a strange game concept, consider how popular shows like Behind the Design, Flip or Flop, First Time Flippers, Rehab Addict and the like already are — sure, some watch them for tips, but others for entertainment. And if farm simulators can be a hit, why not House Flipper?

At the same time, it’s a bit dystopian, arguably, targeting a younger generation without the same financial resources as the last one to buy (let alone sell) their own homes. For $20 on Steam, it sure is a cheaper hobby either way, and a bit less risky, too.

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Distorted Shapes Made of Tape: Mesmerizing Installations by Darel Carey

[ By SA Rogers in Art & Installation & Sound. ]

Step into one of Darel Carey’s art installations and you’ll quickly lose your sense of the room’s actual dimensions, your confused eyes tripping over illusions of ridges and voids that aren’t really there. Using nothing but roll after roll of black electrical tape, Carey transforms ordinary spaces into disorienting, graphic landscapes that seem to shift as you look at them.

Sure, there are easier ways to achieve similar effects – plastering the walls with printed wallpaper, for example, or projecting the images. But Carey prefers the meditative process of hand-taping his designs, and he says the spaces often take shape of their own accord.

Carey calls his method ‘dimensionalizing,’ and notes that it was originally meant to be highly temporary. He’d step in, work intuitively within the space and record himself creating the installation. The resulting images and time-lapse videos were sometimes the only evidence these alternate reality rooms ever existed, since they’d sometimes be taken down within mere hours. Now, he’s working toward installations that last a little longer, like his room at the Museum of Selfies in Los Angeles.

The time lapse videos are fascinating in their own right as Carey “bends space” simply by changing the direction of the tape as well as altering its width to produce the illusion of topography on smooth, flat surfaces.

The work may look mathematical in nature, but Carey tells New Element Art that his work is “mostly organic and freestyle. And the only mathematics involved is naturally applied.”

“I like it when people say they lose their orientation in the space. Because it lets me know that my dimensional lines are doing their job and giving the mind and eye something to ponder.

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Reframing Modernism: Famously Severe Homes Softened by Lush Landscapes

[ By WebUrbanist in Art & Drawing & Digital. ]

The site and setting of Modernist masterpieces is a key ingredient of their aesthetic, so what, wondered one architect, would happen if these famous buildings were repositioned, set instead in oddly idyllic landscapes ala painter Thomas Kinkade?

Suddenly, the Eames House, Farnsworth House, Eames and Glass Houses are all transformed into surreal standouts against incongruous backdrops of cobblestone walks, colorful gardens and old-fashioned wells. Some, though, like Gehry’s Deconstructivist home (actually located on a residential street in Santa Barbara) look surprisingly cozy in an impossibly idyllic rural setting:

Robyniko explains that it started as a one-off suggestion: “A fellow architect I’m friends with on Twitter asked if anyone did modernist paintings in the style of Thomas Kinkade. It was one of those things you chuckle to yourself thinking about ‘what if’ and then move on with your life.

“But my family was gone for the weekend,” he explains, “so I decided to indulge my curiosity about how these famous modernist homes would fit into Kinkade’s universe.”

The architect started with well-known photographs of these iconic structures, then set to work in Photoshop hacking them into new environments. The result is weirdly jarring in some cases, and oddly satisfying in others.

Overall, the mixed effects show just how much buildings (and our images of them) rely on what surrounds them, for better or worse.

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Concrete Skies: Reclaiming the Urban Wilderness of Disused Underpasses

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

As cities grow and change, complex networks of elevated concrete highways and railways sprout up like vines, twist around each other and radically transform the space beneath them. Formerly vibrant urban districts are shrouded in darkness, and the potential to use that space is often wasted as officials fence it off or incorporate hostile features into the infrastructure to ward off loiterers and people lacking housing. Over time, some of those elevated roads might become obsolete, making the whole area feel like an urban wasteland.

But the need to make use of every available square foot of land is intensifying – and city planners working on the viaducts and overpasses of the future should probably take note of how that land is currently being reclaimed and rehabilitated to enhance its value to surrounding communities.

Underground at Ink Block Park, Boston via Mass DOT
The ice skating trail at Toronto’s Beltway, via Urban Toronto

After the success of the High Line in New York City, an elevated linear park running along a former New York Central Railroad spur, many cities have begun transforming their own underpasses, viaducts, abandoned highway sections and even the tops of tunnels into verdant public spaces.

Atlanta’s BeltLine, Detroit’s Dequindre Cut and Washington D.C.’s planned 11th Street Bridge Park all demonstrate the how valuable the land can be to residents living nearby once it’s reactivated. These underpass parks can be surprisingly vibrant, like the 8-acre Underground at Ink Block park in Boston, Houston’s Sabine Promenade (top) or Toronto’s Bentway, which includes a 720-foot ice skate trail. Skate parks, like Portland’s Burnside ramps, are a natural fit.

Ballroom Luminoso by JB Public Art, via Public Art San Antonio and the Department for Culture and Creative Development
Phoenix Park in Glasgow via Innovation Digital UK
Folly for a Flyover by Assemble Studio

Art installations brighten up cavernous underpass spaces, whether with colorful lights like San Antonio’s temporary Ballroom Luminoso installation by JB Public Art or with oversized sculptural elements like the flowers of Glasgow’s Phoenix Park. Some underpass spaces draw regular crowds as venues for movies or events, like Folly for a Flyover by Assemble in Hackney Wick, England.

Koganecho Center
Koganecho Center

In Yokohama, Japan, a notorious red light district flourished beneath an overpass for decades before authorities wiped out it, turning a bustling (if crime-ridden) area into a ghost town virtually overnight. A recent redevelopment project called the Koganecho Centre tucks a complex of new buildings into this underutilized space to make it functional for residents in a new way, adding an art gallery, a cafe, a meeting space, an artist’s atelier and an open-air piazza to a 328-foot stretch under the concrete arches.

Spittelau Housing Project by Zaha Hadid Architects
Archway Studios by Undercurrent Architects
Koops Mill by Mark Fairhurst Architects

Housing can take shape around and beneath viaducts, too. In 2005, Zaha Hadid completed the Spittelau Viaducts Housing Project as part of a waterside revitalization scheme in Vienna, Austria. A three-part structure of apartments, offices and artist studios winds through, around and beneath a disused railway viaduct, playfully interacting with it while creating a contrast between old and new. Even tiny slivers of land beside viaducts can avoid feeling dwarfed, darkened and constrained by the infrastructure when cleverly designed, like the narrow Archway Studios live-work space by Undercurrent Architects or the Koops Mill mixed-use development occupying a former brownfield (both in London.)

Unfortunately, even when they become magnets for pedestrians, cyclists, families and tourists, these urban revitalization projects aren’t all sunshine and rainbow bike racks. Some of them perpetuate cycles of displacement, pushing low-income and other marginalized populations further away from amenities instead of serving them. Urban infrastructure projects are often built in poorer areas of town in the first place.

Transforming empty space into parks and venues might improve them, but it might attract deeper-pocketed buyers to the area, too. The High Line, for example, is currently struggling to make up for the imbalances it has created in once-affordable areas of Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. Incentivizing affordable housing developments along with all the other elements of an underpass or viaduct makeover could help build equity into these projects from the beginning phases.

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

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Cone Founded: The Abandoned Yuengling Ice Creamery

[ By Steve in Abandoned Places & Architecture. ]

The Yuengling Ice Creamery not only helped the brewery survive Prohibition, it closed over a half-century after the Eighteenth Amendment was repealed.

D. G. Yuengling & Son bears the distinction of being the oldest operating beer brewery in the United States. The firm was established in 1829 by David Gottlieb Jungling, who had emigrated from Stuttgart, in the German state of Baden-Wurttemburg, just one year previously. It wasn’t always the best of times for the Pottsville, PA-based brewery, and the worst of times began just after the stroke of midnight on January 17th, 1920… the beginning of the 14-year-long Prohibition Era.

The family-owned firm was forced to employ a variety of strategies once the nation officially went “dry”. The most obvious move was to brew a range of 0.5% alcohol content “near beers”. The brewery had another trick up their sleeves, however, one which would far outlast both the dealcoholized brews and Prohibition itself.

The Yuenglings owned a small dairy, and, as they say, “from little acorns, mighty oak trees grow”. Yuengling’s Ice Cream Corporation was established, a dedicated creamery was built, and by the end of the Roaring Twenties two more facilities opened in the Pottsville area. One of them is the long-abandoned factory we’re featuring.

As the Great Depression closed in and with no end in sight for Prohibition, Yuengling’s ice cream operation expanded into the production and distribution of milk. This prompted (in 1930) a name change to the Yuengling Dairy Products Corporation.

Unlike so many other businesses, the Yuengling companies were actually thriving thanks to their dairy products (frozen and otherwise), near beers, and even a couple of branded dance halls in Philadelphia and New York City. Leave it to history to throw them another curve: on December 5th of 1933, the Eighteenth Amendment establishing Prohibition was repealed through the passage of the Twenty-first Amendment. That called for a celebratory drink… but what about the ice cream?

The fact is (or was), Yuengling’s ice cream had to be good, sell well, and make a profit – if not, the entire enterprise might have gone kaput. Thus, when the Yuengling brewery re-opened in 1933, the ice creameries didn’t miss a beat for, say, the next half century. And you thought beer and ice cream didn’t go together!

By the early Eighties, the Yuenglings faced a very different type of challenge: the family-owned and run businesses ran into age-related issues. The Yuengling younglings, if we may, weren’t up to maintaining and managing the ice cream operations. In addition, the Pottsville plants were showing their age and expensive upgrades loomed. It was time to fish or cut bait, and in 1985 management chose the latter option.

Well-regarded brands are hard to come by, and such was the case with Yuengling’s Ice Cream. In 2014, David Yuengling – cousin of the brewery’s current owner – revived the brand that now offers ten different flavors of Yuengling’s ice cream made at a new plant in nearby Orwigsburg. The featured Yuengling’s ice creamery, meanwhile, abandoned since 1985 and evocatively photographed by Joel Handwerk of Lithium Photo, is doomed to eventual demolition… and that’s a sher-bet.

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[ By Steve in Abandoned Places & Architecture. ]

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Brazilian Hybrid: Herringbone Home Blends Bamboo & Modern Simplicity

[ By WebUrbanist in Architecture & Houses & Residential. ]

This tropical residence along the coast of Brazil combines traditional and local materials like stone, wood and bamboo to fashion a contemporary-looking abode that fits into both its natural and cultural context.

Designed by Vilela Florez Architects, the various spaces are simple and connected by covered outdoor walkways, paved in stone in line with Portuguese traditions.

Stone walls and a wooden roof shade a shared outdoor area while masonry blocks are arranged to compliment the herringbone pattern of the lashed bamboo stick panels, a design theme carried over indoors, too.

Called Casa Bambu, the place responds to its environment, oriented to capture and redirect incoming winds to provide breezes. Inside, simple color palettes modernize the spaces while leaving an edge of minimalist rustic appeal.

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Ballet Mécanique: House Facade Transforms to Offer Pop-Out Balconies

[ By SA Rogers in Architecture & Houses & Residential. ]

In Zurich, the mechanical facade of an unusual house performs an intricate dance, with petal-like louvers opening and closing as balconies pop out and lock into place. Dubbed ‘Ballet Mécanique,’ the five-unit rental structure designed by Basel-based architect Manuel Herz was commissioned by reclusive textile heiress Katrin Bechtler, who lives on an adjoining property.

The point of a rental property is usually to make extra income, but the facade of Ballet Mécanique alone cost $1 million, so it’s more like an elaborate inhabitable art project built just for fun.

Herz notes that it’s not often a client is willing to approve such a complex design. Normally, if he had something fanciful in mind, client-directed revisions would result in a vast simplification of his original vision. But Bechtler clearly isn’t an ordinary client.

“When I met the owner for the first time, she showed me a sculpture on the side: a table that collapsed when its four legs buckle, and then it can raise itself again,” Herz told Swiss-Architects. “This awkward kinetics was fascinating. This ‘mind in the machine,’ the characteristic that something mechanical can have almost a personality, has influenced me.”

The architect was also influenced by Le Corbusier’s Heidi Weber Museum, which is set just a hundred meters away on the same property. He cites its “pavilion-like lightness,” its bright color palette and the combination of steel construction and concrete as sources of inspiration.

The two-story building, which also has an attic level, a rooftop terrace and a basement for studio space, features five rental apartments with sizes between 2.5 to 4.5 rooms. Steel columns are used along the facade for support, but the core and floors are made of reinforced concrete.

The shutters themselves are made of anodized aluminum with a pearly finish on the outside that gives the building a uniform appearance when they’re all closed. But at the press of a button, the shutters open, their colorful insides contrasting with the greenery in the garden.

“The [folding] elements can be operated from the inside and are controlled by motors hidden in the steel structure. Control via motors guarantees a largely silent and synchronous movement. Each apartment is assigned a movable and walk-in balcony. These movable walk-in balconies are based on the same construction and motor control as the folding elements and are complemented by a railing. After complete extension of the folding elements, the railing can be pushed outwards.”

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The Nature of Cities: Built Environments Win National Geographic Awards

[ By WebUrbanist in Art & Photography & Video. ]

Among the winners and honorable mentions from the 2018 Travel Photographer of the Year Contest are an expected array of wilderness scenes and animal portraits, but also a surprising number of unnatural environments.

Over 12,000 submissions for this year’s competition included mesmerizing images of art installations, aerial views of urban architecture, suspenseful shots of elegant bridges and window-reflected construction scenes.

Even some photographs of purely natural places seem strikingly architectural, like this photo of rocks carefully perched on eroding earthen columns.

Above: People’s Choice, “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time” by Daniel Cheung; Honorable Mention, “Alone in the Crowds” by Gary Cummins; Third Place Winner, “Reflection” by Gaanesh Prasad; Nature:Third Place Winner, “Mars” by Marco Grassi.

Even rather mundane settings can make for wonderful photos. Above and below: People’s Choice, “Traveling to Heaven” by Trikansh Sharma; Cities: First Place Winner, “Another Rainy Day in Nagasaki” by Hiro Kurashina.  (via Colossal).

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A Real Hole in the Wall: World’s Tiniest Office for Brazil’s Agencia Grande

[ By SA Rogers in Art & Installation & Sound. ]

What began as a random hole in a São Paulo wall is now the world’s tiniest office, complete with miniature books, laptops, paperwork and design tools. Emerging creative agency Agencia Grande created the public installation to celebrate its opening while also making a statement about the unnecessarily large proportions of many commercial offices in Brazil, which can have an unintended effect on the neighborhoods where they’re located.

Nosso primeiro endereço.

A post shared by GRANDE (@agenciagrande) on

Dia de visita. — Foto por @adoni.as

A post shared by GRANDE (@agenciagrande) on

“Agencies and production companies often have very big and luxurious offices, and during the years those constructions have changed the city landscape, transforming small neighborhoods into big gentrification areas,” Caio Andrade of Agencia Grande told Designboom. “We wanted to move on the opposite direction – we decided to ‘go small.’”

Set into a colorful wall in the trendy neighborhood of Vila Madalena, the tiny office is a fun way to promote the agency, encourage conversation around the issue of gentrification and encourage passersby to pause and take a closer look at their surroundings, too.

Photography by Dan Magatti

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Retrofitting Ruins: Designer Turns 6 Abandonments into Modern Dwellings

[ By WebUrbanist in Abandoned Places & Architecture. ]

The question of what to do with ruins is as old as architecture, and answers range from demolition to meticulous reconstruction, or: cleverly combining what’s there with something new and functional.

Graphic designer Neomam has taken on a series of uninhabited buildings, playfully updating them while preserving core elements of what was left behind.

Castles on hills, colonial outposts, and farmer cottages are all raw material for these reuses, contrasting with new glass and complemented with rust-colored corten steel.

These kinds of solutions serve a few purposes They can stabilize and help protect existing architecture, but also, by giving it a new function, they add a use that people have a vested interested in preserving.

Doing interventions like these with care, to show the difference between old and new, also helps viewers ‘read’ the difference immediately, distinguishing the additions from the originals in clear and compelling ways.

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