Hidden Depths: 20 Tentacles of Lurking Sea Creature Sprout from Warehouse

[ By WebUrbanist in Art & Installation & Sound. ]

Any horror fan knows hinting at a larger evil with teaser visuals is a classic trick, like letting viewers imagine, for instance, what kind of hideous invader might be putting feelers out the window of this old warehouse in Philadelphia’s Navy Yard.

Titled simply Sea Monsters HERE, the inflatable installation was created by artists Filthy Luker and Pedro Estrellas in partnership with Group X, an anonymous collective of local artists and curators.

The arching purple limbs span up to 40 feet and feature blue surfaces with green suckers on the bottom to add some additional nightmare fuel. Readers (or watchers) of Stephen King’s The Mist may find the foggy images particularly compelling.

This is not the team’s first giant inflatable either: they have also made huge floating octopus sculptures and other creatures, though this one seems particularly well-suited to the Halloween season (via Colossal).

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Unseen Movements: Multi-Shot Photography Captures the Complex Trails of Birds

[ By SA Rogers in Art & Photography & Video. ]

For all the effort we humans put into light art, birds have us beat – we just don’t realize it most of the time, because their work is invisible to us. Spanish photographer Xavi Bou reveals the hidden works of art produced as birds fly through the sky using a multi-shot technique that captures both the trails they create and the movement of their wings. The results look sort of like fluttery eels, or black ribbons strewn around by the wind.

Bou’s ‘Ornitographies’ series arises from his interest in “questioning the limits of human perception,” combining simple observation of bird behavior from the ground with photography to see what our eyes can’t show us. He takes inspiration from chronophotography, a Victorian technique capturing movement in a series of frames for the purpose of scientific study. Bou’s focus on the birds is less about science and more about the grace of their movements and their unintentional creativity.

“The approach used by Xavi Sou to portray the scene is not invasive; moreover, it rejects the distant study, resulting in organic form images that stimulate the imagination,” reads his description of the project. “Technology, science and creativity combine to create evocative images which show the sensuality and beauty of the birds’ movements and which re, at the same time, clues for those wishing to identify or recognize them.”

The photographer takes thousands of shots and layers them together to produce the final effect. Depending on the species, the exposure and the contrast, you might be able to make out distinct wing feathers in the patterns. A recent trip to Iceland produced some particularly stunning results, and it’s fascinating to imagine which birds produce the more orderly lines versus the chaotic ones.

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MiGs & Match: Abandoned Albanian Airbase Exposed

[ By Steve in Abandoned Places & Architecture & Technology & Vintage & Retro. ]

Tirana soars wrecks, anyone? The Kucove Air Base in south-central Albania houses dozens of historic Soviet aircraft dating back to the time of the Korean War.

Kucove Air Base, built in the Cold War years of the early 1950s, was quite advanced for its time. A trio of underground hangars carved out beneath nearby mountains and linked to the main runways by dedicated taxiways offered unprecedented security from potential NATO air raids. It’s no wonder dozens of Soviet- and Chinese-built jet fighters were based at Kucove… it’s definitely a wonder that in October of 2018, no less than 88 obsolete MiG fighter jets could still be found at the once state-of-the-art Albanian aerodrome!

Surely You Jets

In 1997 the base was captured by rebels during the Albanian Crisis (a civil war prompted by the collapse of nation-wide, government-sponsored Ponzi schemes). Both the aircraft and base’s infrastructure incurred damage and vandalism; as many as seven MiG jets were destroyed and their parts sold on the black market. Damage to the base was not completely repaired until the 2002-2004 renovation to NATO standards. The country officially joined NATO on April 1st of 2009… no foolin’.

Props For Good Defense

In 2005 the Albanian Air Force retired all 224 of its various MiG jets, including Shenyang J-5 and J-6 fighters (MiG-17 and MiG-19 jets built under license in China) and even a few propeller-powered trainers purchased in the late 1950s. The planes were mothballed but not immediately replaced, as Albania’s NATO neighbors Greece and Italy began monitoring the country’s airspace.

Capital Flight

From the time Albania retired its MiGs and MiG-variants, efforts have been made to auction the decommissioned airplanes, either individually or in batches. These images snapped by Flickr member Rob Schleiffert in April of 2007 show Kucove Air Base and its rolling (but not flying) stock in various states of completion.

Train in Vain

Many of the jets, including rare trainer versions, are in excellent condition considering their advanced age and the increasing difficulty of sourcing replacement parts. This may be a function of the corrosion-resistant aluminum alloys used in their construction combined with minimal actual hours in service – Albania withdrew from the Warsaw Pact in 1968 and as such, did not participate in the East Bloc’s frequent exercises.

Guerrillas in the MiGs

By 2007, Kucove Air Base was looking a tad rough around the edges as funding from Albania’s impoverished government was severely rationed. Retirement of the country’s air force (and the withering of support services) had a correspondingly deleterious effect on the region’s economy as well. Authorities began to explore a range of solutions that went beyond the sales of obsolete aircraft.

Scrapping Scrappy Fighters

Finally, in August of 2018, a deal was struck with NATO allowing the organization to modernize Kucove Air Base and subsequently use the base for training, support, logistics, drills, and supply storage. NATO’s footing the bill as well – someone tell President Trump – and the agreement will see an initial investment of 50 million Euros. “The base is the first footprint of NATO in the Western Balkans,” stated Albanian Defense Minister Olta Xhacka to Reuters, “as it will transform Kucova into the first NATO air base for the region.”

Go Red Wings!

“A NATO base there will boost the country’s defense capacities, and foreign investors will have more confidence in Albania,” according to Klement Alikaj, a 68-year-old retired Albanian Air Force commander. “It will also be good for employment in the area.” All well and good but the future doesn’t look quite as rosy for the base’s 88 remaining MiG, Shenyang, Yakovlev and Nanchang aircraft, however. Expect NATO planners to expedite the auctioning-off and scrapping of the old war-horses – there’s truly never been a better time to acquire a vintage Cold War jet fighter!

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Dystopia Now: Office-Oriented “Blinkers” Serve as Horse Blinders for Humans

[ By WebUrbanist in Gadgets & Geekery & Technology. ]

As workers become increasingly packed in modern, open-plan offices and coworking spaces, designers keep working on high-tech solutions to allow employees to focus, often with the unintended effect of highlighting office layout shortcomings.

The latest of these gadget-based solutions is a set of “blinkers” from Panasonic’s “Future Life Factory,” designed to block out sights and sounds from the wearer’s sides so they can hone in on what’s in front of them.

These Wear Space units, they believe, will help keep work environments distraction-free. They were created in collaboration with Japanese fashion designer Kunihiko Morinaga. Somehow, though, the photographs just reinforce a sense of dread, with humans arrayed in front of small screens like captured cattle. But who knows: maybe they will prove useful barring other spatial redesigns.

“As open offices and digital nomads are on the rise, workers are finding it ever more important to have personal space where they can focus,” said the company. “Wear Space instantly creates this kind of personal space – it’s as simple as putting on an article of clothing.” The user can then adjust their field of view and reduce peripheral vision to desired levels. This is coupled with noise-cancelling technology for audio isolation. Of course, no such potentially dystopian, present-day design would be complete without a crowdfunding campaign, currently scheduled for late 2018.

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Cloud-like Circular Staircase Stands at the Center of This Chinese Villa

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

Floating staircases always make a big impact, but rarely do they actually look like they’re just wisps of clouds spiraling through a living space. Prior to renovation, the three floors of this home weren’t connected by a single staircase, leading the basement walkout level to feel distanced from the first and second floors. KOS Architects and Atelier Zerebecky wanted to give the villa a sense of liberating weightlessness, a space that feels fresh and light amid the noisy clamor of urban China.

The staircase itself is strikingly sculptural within a central vaulted space, with all of the home’s main rooms connected to it: the living room, entertaining spaces, kitchen, gym, theater and bedrooms. A gradient of opaque white on the glass railings gives it its signature atmospheric look. The balustrade hides the structural steel so the stairs can appear to float on air.

The client wanted something grand and ostentatious without being gaudy, the architects explain.

“Our first gesture was to create a unified space as the backbone of the home – a large double-height vaulted ceiling creates a sense of grandeur without resorting to the extravagance of Loius XIV décor and gold leaf ornament, something so prevalent in the high end residential market of suburban China. Our doubly curved vault maximizes the ceiling height beneath a suburban pitched roof architecture while creating a smooth venetian plastered volume that exhibits the play of natural light. This space houses the ceremonial entrance, the formal living area, fireplace and a new glass staircase.”

The rest of the home feels equally light and airy, including a pink child’s bedroom with its own slide. More photos are available at the Atelier Zerebecky website.

Photos by Highlite Images Taipei

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Chinese City to Replace Street Lights with Orbiting Artificial Moon by 2020

[ By WebUrbanist in Conceptual & Futuristic & Technology. ]

Within two years, the city of Chengdu aims to swap out its ground-based street lighting with the soft glow of an artificial moon, casting light across 50 square miles of the urban landscape.

Wu Chunfeng, chairman of Chengdu Aerospace Science and Technology Microelectronics System Research Institute, announced the news at a national mass innovation and entrepreneurship event earlier this month.

Reflective panels on board the machine will pick up and redirect the sun’s rays. The satellite will actually glow multiple times brighter than the moon itself, creating a dusk-like atmosphere on demand. The precise illumination can be varied in different sections of the city as well.

The project may sound like a moonshot but it’s not without precedent: Soviets tested similar light-reflecting satellites decades ago, aimed to illuminate darker northern regions, and on the ground: cities in valleys have also been known to use giant reflectors perched on adjacent mountainsides.

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Glass Houses: The Lure of Transparent Materials in an Era of Waning Privacy

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

We seem to have reached a new era of human civilization in which people marvel over the lack of privacy to be found in a completely transparent glass house while also revealing every last intimate detail of our lives to strangers over the internet. We tend to think of loss of privacy in terms of invasion, but just as often we’re inviting the eyes of strangers in. How are our ideas of privacy evolving, and what does it mean for the housing of the future? Will we live in increasingly closed-off quarters while even more of our details are exposed, or will we embrace a new kind of ‘radical transparency?’

Traditionally, glass houses have been a luxury. Structural glazing isn’t cheap, and if the housing isn’t designed with passive heating and cooling in mind, a whole lot of climate control can be required. The first people known to use glass for windows were wealthy Romans around the first century A.D. (and everyone else still just used oiled cloth or parchment.) In a recent New Yorker humor essay, writer Sarah Hutto plays on the old “people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” adage with statements like “those in glass houses shouldn’t have kids. Those in glass houses probably have some kind of special insurance. Those in glass houses – we get it. You’re rich.”

Farnsworth House by Mies Van Der Roe via Victor Grigas/Wikimedia Commons
Farnsworth House by Mies Van Der Roe via Victor Grigas/Wikimedia Commons
Philip Johnson Glass House via Carol M. Highsmight/Wikimedia Commons

Prior to the mid-20th century, structures made mostly of glass were almost certainly used as greenhouses, orangeries or conservatories, whether freestanding or tacked on to a more conventional building. The Farnsworth House designed and built by Mies van der Rose between 1945 and 1951 was meant for use as a holiday getaway for Edith Farnsworth, M.D., a place where she could play the violin and take in the nature of the setting.

Architect Philip Johnson famously built himself the Glass House, now a historic house museum in New Canaan, Connecticut, for his own use. Since then, glass housing has ranged from luxury homes that are opaque to the street and open to a view to examples that are more sculptural in nature, and not so much for full-time residency, like the Glass Cube House by Carlo Santambrogio.

Glass Cube House by Carlo Santambrogio
Long Island House by Kanner Architects
The Ring House by TNA Architects

It’s not like wealthy people aren’t concerned about their privacy. The ability to indulge in a glass house typically has more to do with the luxury of a remote location, where passersby are practically nonexistent (though you don’t often see poorer rural people living in houses made almost entirely of windows.) These houses seem to be built in the hope that their surrounding environments will stay the same, forever – or perhaps the knowledge that if other houses pop up around them, they’ll be able to change the design or raze it and start over.

S House by Yuusuke Karasawa

Intriguingly, glass houses in urban areas are becoming more common, too, perhaps pointing to the genesis of a larger trend. Sou Fujimoto’s House NA may look like some kind of experiment, but it was designed for a young couple in Tokyo as a dramatic contrast to the concrete block homes that surround it, with interior platforms arranged like the branches of a tree. Passersby are an inevitability here. At the snakelike S House by Yuusuke Karasawa, privacy can only be found in upper layers, underground areas and behind limited walls.

House NA by Sou Fujimoto Architects
House NA by Sou Fujimoto Architects

But let’s be honest with ourselves: whether we live in one of these places or in a house with no windows at all, does it matter? The arrival of smart devices and the Internet of Things lets hackers peer into our homes with absurd ease. Cameras are everywhere. Facial recognition technology grows increasingly terrifying. Data breaches constantly expose our data. The Cambridge Analytica leak revealed that secretive organizations hold profiles with 5,000 data points on 220 million Americans. What do they know about you?

Perhaps the lesson in all of this is just that we all need to draw a whole lot of curtains, literally and metaphorically. In past decades, George Orwell’s seminal novel 1984 helped cultivate a healthy distrust of surveillance, but the gradual erosion of our privacy in recent years has led more and more people to shrug and go about business as usual. Exactly how all of this will affect the way we live in the near future remains to be seen, but it looks like we’ll find out soon enough.

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Architect Ordered to Demolish New Award-Winning Apartment Building in London

[ By WebUrbanist in Architecture & Cities & Urbanism. ]

Normally, a new structure is safe from the wrecking ball so long as it is structurally sound, but not so with 15 Clerkenwell Close, a housing block that is at issue for reasons of appearance rather than engineering (and despite recently winning an RIBA award). Designed by architect Amin Taha, the six-story facade features raw quarried limestone stone (with exposed fossils) that the Islington Council argues was not adequately represented in planning documents, and therefore never properly approved. Taha also lives in the threatened building.

But there may be more to the story: Taha believes the decision to demolish was led by the planning committee chair not for failure to disclose but rather a personal dislike for the building’s unusual visual expression. He says it is “entirely on the initial opinion of the councillor and a handful of neighbours” and that it “has now escalated from an error in not uploading the stone approval – so that it was evident for anyone who cared to look – to the mistaken first demolition notice, to the now face-saving second notice entirely driven by someone’s opinion that it’s ugly.”

“After an investigation, the council has come to the view that the building at 15 Clerkenwell Close does not reflect the building that was granted planning permission and conservation area consent in 2013,” an Islington Council spokesperson said. “In the council’s view, the existing building does not benefit from planning permission, and the council issued an enforcement notice” earlier this year.

The building has drawn both praise and criticism, having been nominated for the Carbuncle Cup (a “worst building” award in the UK) while also being nominated for other more positive awards. But there’s a deeper question at work here: how much say should communities have in the appearance of new structures around them? Aesthetic-based choices made by citizens can result in truly powerful architecture never seeing the light of day, or in this case: being threatened with destruction despite being perfectly functional. In the end, too, if the building facade is deemed by the council to be too offensive to stand, why not simply demand that it be reworked into some kind of compromise? (images by Timothy Soar)

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Architect Ordered to Demolish New Award-Winning Apartment Building in London

[ By WebUrbanist in Architecture & Cities & Urbanism. ]

Normally, a new structure is safe from the wrecking ball so long as it is structurally sound, but not so with 15 Clerkenwell Close, a housing block that is at issue for reasons of appearance rather than engineering (and despite recently winning an RIBA award). Designed by architect Amin Taha, the six-story facade features raw quarried limestone stone (with exposed fossils) that the Islington Council argues was not adequately represented in planning documents, and therefore never properly approved. Taha also lives in the threatened building.

But there may be more to the story: Taha believes the decision to demolish was led by the planning committee chair not for failure to disclose but rather a personal dislike for the building’s unusual visual expression. He says it is “entirely on the initial opinion of the councillor and a handful of neighbours” and that it “has now escalated from an error in not uploading the stone approval – so that it was evident for anyone who cared to look – to the mistaken first demolition notice, to the now face-saving second notice entirely driven by someone’s opinion that it’s ugly.”

“After an investigation, the council has come to the view that the building at 15 Clerkenwell Close does not reflect the building that was granted planning permission and conservation area consent in 2013,” an Islington Council spokesperson said. “In the council’s view, the existing building does not benefit from planning permission, and the council issued an enforcement notice” earlier this year.

The building has drawn both praise and criticism, having been nominated for the Carbuncle Cup (a “worst building” award in the UK) while also being nominated for other more positive awards. But there’s a deeper question at work here: how much say should communities have in the appearance of new structures around them? Aesthetic-based choices made by citizens can result in truly powerful architecture never seeing the light of day, or in this case: being threatened with destruction despite being perfectly functional. In the end, too, if the building facade is deemed by the council to be too offensive to stand, why not simply demand that it be reworked into some kind of compromise? (images by Timothy Soar)

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World’s Tallest Residential Building Planned for New York’s ‘Billionaire’s Row’

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

A new skyscraper looms over Central Park in Manhattan, towering above all the others, though at its current height of 1,100 feet, it’s not even finished. Not only is ‘Central Park Tower’ by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture an unmissable landmark for New York City, it’ll officially nab the title of world’s tallest residential building once it reaches its full 1,550 feet (472 meters.) Located on West 57th Street, also known as ‘Billionaire’s Row,’ it’s basically an unapologetic bonanza of luxury amenities for uber-wealthy occupants.

The tower has been under construction for five years, but few details have been provided about exactly what it would offer. Now that its 179 units are officially up for sale – including condominiums that are expected to go for upwards of $60 million each, as well as a $95 million unit on the 53rd floor – new information and renderings have been released.

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Central Park Monks

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"Emerging" •••••••••••••••••••• New drawing of the midtown skyline between 53rd and 59th street. How many current and new buildings do you recognize so far? 20 hours in so far. •••••••••••••••••••• @53w53 @ateliersjeannouvel @rva_ny @shoparchitects @douglaselliman @extellmarketinggroup @ramsarchitects @ryanserhant @fosterandpartners @officialnormanfoster @skidmoreowingsmerrill @mercedeshouseny •••••••••••••••••••• #drawing #slyline #midtown #manhattan #blackandwhite #rendering #freehand #nyc #newyork #hyperrealism #newyorkcity #centralparksouth #billionairesrow #centralparktower #220centralparksouth #one57 #111w57 #432parkavenue #viñoly #ateliersjeannouvel #momatower #53w53 #jeannouvel #douglaselliman #ryanserhant #extell #ramsa #robertamstern #skyscraper #supertall

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The first seven floors of the Central Park Tower will host a massive flagship Nordstrom’s. Three hundred feet above street level, the tower cantilevers slightly to the east to give its residents better views of the park. The building’s 179 residences range from two to eight bedrooms, measuring between 1,435 and 17,500 square feet. Each one enjoys a wide open floor plan with interiors designed by Rottet Studio; the tower’s structural elements are concealed in between the units.

And then there are all the luxuries you’d expect from such an expensive tower. Residents will enjoy over 50,000 square feet of communal spaces spread out across three floors, starting with the lounge and an outdoor terrace featuring a 60-foot swimming pool, bar, screening wall, children’s playground, cabanas and more on the 14th floor. There’s also a health and wellness center incorporating an indoor swimming pool, sauna, basketball court, steam rooms, treatment rooms, a squash court and a fitness center.

“One of the greatest responsibilities of architecture is to continue to elevate experiences yet create structures that are elegant and respectful,” says architect Gordon Gill of Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture. “’Central Park Tower’ was designed to take advantage of the spirit of the great city of New York and create an address worthy of its location on Billionaire’s Row and Central Park.”

The same firm is responsible for Saudi Arabia’s ‘Jeddah Tower,’ currently under construction, which will be the world’s second tallest building once complete.

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