Sheet Happened: Page Turns On Abandoned Paper Mill

[ By Steve in Abandoned Places & Architecture. ]

A proud chapter in the story of American industry came to a close when an abandoned paper mill in Richmond, VA was re-purposed into loft-style apartments.

Richmond, a city of approximately a quarter-million, is the state capitol of Virginia and the former capitol of the Confederate States of America. Founded in 1737, Richmond has long been a center of economic activity though some of its more traditional industrial pursuits – railroads and tobacco processing, for example – have largely given way to post-industrial profit hubs in the legal, financial and governmental sectors.

Pulp Friction

In 1880, the world’s first cigarette-rolling machine was invented roughly 200 miles west, in Roanoke. One might surmise that this abandoned paper mill, photographed by Joel Handwerk of Lithium Photo, produced rolling paper for the local tobacco firms. Smoke ’em if you got ’em!

That’s just an educated guess, mind you. As the photographer paid a visit to the site long after the mill’s machinery had been removed, actual day-to-day functions at the factory are no longer obvious.

Hard Cover Story

Still, it’s hard to disguise a paper mill. “The overall structures have a layout that is consistent with the manufacturing purpose,” confirms Handwerk, who fortuitously chose to carry out his mission of urbex photo-documentation on a bright, sunny day.

“The upper floors are wide open and feature yellow safety pillars and painted-over window panes,” the photographer adds. Enough natural light does manage to get through, however, while the blacked-out windows provide contrasting shadows and dark backgrounds. Handwerk’s images explode off the monitor screen in a dramatically detailed succession of interior scenic vistas.

The Paper Choice

“The basement level provides access to an area that feels somewhat like catacombs,” mused Handwerk, who presumably escaped the aged structure well before twilight fell  and the graveyard shift punched in. A wise move, to be sure – abandoned buildings hide a host of dangers at any hour of the day or night, and it’s not as if anyone’s overseeing what you step onto, into, or off of.

Other hazards urbex hobbyists need to be cognizant of include slick oily floors, rotted wood staircases, loose or missing railings, exposed nails, toxic black mold, unremediated asbestos, and corrosive spilled and/or leaking chemicals just to name a few. Some of those hazards were less obtrusive when Handwerk conducted his photo shoot as the former factory had already been extensively gutted.

Bound and Determined

Kudos to Handwerk for not revealing the building’s name and exact location in Richmond. Sure, graffiti has its place as both an art form and as a valid means of cultural expression but time and time again, graffiti is accompanied by pointless vandalism and destructive metal salvaging. The damage can’t always be attributed to the graffiti artists directly but all too often it occurs in conjunction with their activities.

“This structure is currently being renovated into apartments,” according to Handwerk, quoted from the time he took and posted these images. Residential loft-style apartments now occupy the renovated remains of this former paper mill.

Book Marked

One clue to the former mill’s identity can be found at the Facebook account of The Paper Company Apartments, located on Hull St in Richmond’s Old Town Manchester district. Check out the brickwork in Handwerk’s photo above, and the wall depicted on the front page of Property Results LLC‘s website for The Paper Company Apartments below.

Note the presence of occasional pale blue and orange-tinted bricks common to both images. Coincidence? Perhaps – or perhaps not. In any case, it’s good to see this rough old relic of industrial Richmond make a successful leap from economic engine to residential retreat, hopefully inspiring further efforts at industrial rehabilitation. And that’s a wrap. (all images © 2017 Joel Handwerk)

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Street Films: 7 Top Urban Transit Design Videos from Amsterdam to Zurich

[ By WebUrbanist in Drawing & Digital. ]

Amsterdam, Zurich, Tokyo, Buenos Aires, Vancouver, Oslo and more are all great cities of the world which are succeeding in making the lives better for their residents via innovative transportation policies. Over the years, Streetfilms producers have “visited many places we thought were doing best practices.” This group of videos they created along the way highlights amazing urban environments around the world.

“Founded in 2006, Streetfilms has become the go-to organization for educational films about sustainable transportation, and inspires action and behavioral change worldwide. Individuals, public agencies, non-profit organizations, schools, and transportation advocacy groups use Streetfilms to educate decision makers and make change for livable streets in their communities.” View more here.

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What Can You Find in This 24.9-Billion-Pixel Panoramic Photo of Shanghai?

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

Commissioned by the Shanghai government, this 24.9-billion-pixel panoramic photograph captures an incredible amount of detail, and it’s easy to lose hours zooming in on every individual scene. Taken from the top of a skyscraper, the photo aims to “show China’s economic take off to the world,” both in terms of what can be spotted in the image and the technical prowess required to produce it.

You can peer in windows, enter private courtyards, examine the contents of ships or the garments hanging to dry on balconies and glimpse furniture in penthouse apartments. Zoom in far enough and you can actually discern individual items sold by street vendors, license plate numbers and the logo on a woman’s handbag.

Naturally, everyone’s looking for people engaged in some kind of illicit or embarrassing activity with surprisingly limited success – just a finger up a nose here and there, as well as some glitches.

“At the initial stage of creation, the Big Pixel Team decided to accept new challenges of taking photos with hundreds of billions of pixels by breaking the past limit of tens of billions of pixels. However, it’s extremely difficult. The previous splicing technology was no longer applicable. More images, bigger data treatment and network deployment and loading were new challenges.”

“Regardless of such challenges, we were still full of fighting spirit and successfully overcame such difficulties one by one. After taking photos in the Oriental Pearl Tower which is 230 m high and after data treatment for two months, we successfully created this picture, the world’s third largest picture and Asia’s first largest picture, marking that our team became a top creative image production team of the world.”

Check it out for yourself at Big Pixel.

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Flying Nest: Minimalist Nomadic Container Hotel Travels the World in Style

[ By SA Rogers in Boutique & Art Hotels & Travel. ]

Currently perched atop the Avoriaz Mountain in France so guests can flip from their beds straight onto the ski slopes, this traveling minimalist hotel made of shipping containers signals a new nomadic future for comfortable accommodations. Instead of housing attendees in tents, events in far-flung locales can now offer all the comfort of an urban hotel – including private bathrooms.

The Flying Nest by French designer Ora-ïto made its debut on the consumer market this winter at the Avoriaz Ski Resort after nearly two years of road testing. In March 2017, a prototype was placed just steps away from the fields where France’s national football team trains, and then it travelled to the 24 Hours of Le Mans sports car race, the Rencontres d’Arles photography festival and the Agora biennial art festival in Bordeaux.

Each of the shipping containers is lined with warm wood inside and out, all sourced from certified forests, for a clean, neutral and natural appearance. Measuring 130 square feet, the units offer a living area, bathroom and a white linen bed tucked beside a picture window for views of the location du jour as well as air conditioning and wi-fi. The containers stack on top of each other into “islands” of six, connected by terraces to encourage intermingling of guests.

The project aims to offer “unique hospitality experiences during outstanding events and to meet accommodation needs where hotel capacity is at its saturation point.” Since the hotel is totally self-contained, providing its own utilities, it can be placed virtually anywhere that can be accessed by trucks, cranes or helicopters, from deserts and beaches to mountaintops, without making a significant impact on the site.

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[ By SA Rogers in Boutique & Art Hotels & Travel. ]

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Cool Vernacular: How Regional Ceiling Heights Shape Room Temperatures

[ By WebUrbanist in Architecture & Houses & Residential. ]

Modernism sought to bring a healthy uniformity to architectural design, in part through with clean lines and material minimalism. New technologies like air conditioning also allowed for an unprecedented level of global standardization in terms of temperature-controlled spaces. Of course, this often meant disregarding local traditions that had been successful for centuries (or longer). Among the regional strategies that got lost along the way was a seemingly small but critical factor: the variable heights of rooms humans build and occupy.

As a vernacular design critic who goes by Wrath of Gnon explains, “Before the International Style (modernism) in architecture, our ancestors knew how to adapt the room heights according to the climate, achieving maximum effect (comfort) for the least effort (energy). Today we trust in the grid and so build 8-9 ft rooms from Bermuda to Reykjavik.”

Ideally, the, in warm climates you want higher ceilings because “as hot air rises the difference in temperature at floor level and ceiling level in a tall room can be as much as 4 degrees [celcius] all other things being equal. Here, a comfortable looking gentleman in an 1817 room in Rome,” height around 15 feet. In Brazil, 15-foot homes were typical historically.

Conversely, in colder climates, lower ceilings meant higher temperatures. “Here are log houses from Russia and Sweden. The efficiently constructed fireplace created an interior draught that sucked fresh air in and expelled smoke, dust. Fans or mechanical ventilation not needed.”

In Japan, “with hot summers and relatively cold winters, a different technique was called for. Wooden houses allowed for perfect fine tunings of openings depending on exact climate and orientation. This traditional room built to maximize airflow, livable in summers without AC.”

In short: choosing the right materials, heights and orientations for a climate makes a big difference. “By building with nature and climate instead or regardless of it, by adapting our waking hours to the rhythm of the sun we can achieve remarkable levels of comfort—even superior—compared to what we have today in our modern homes built to international, industrial standards.”

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Gingerbread City: Hyper-Detailed Edible Replica of New York Built to Scale

[ By SA Rogers in Art & Sculpture & Craft. ]

It’s not unusual for architecture enthusiasts to drool over elaborate scale models, but edible materials definitely add an extra dimension to our hunger for accurate miniature details. More than 200 pounds of gingerbread, 60 pounds of royal icing and 10 pounds of gum paste and pastillage went into the making of this holiday masterpiece completed by “gingerbread architect” (it’s a thing) Beatriz Muller for Williams Sonoma.

Currently on display in the window of the Columbus Circle location in New York City, the model recreates some of the Big Apple’s most iconic buildings and scenes, all measured and built to scale, including One World Trade Center, the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, the Woolworth Building and the Statue of Liberty with the Time Warner Center as the centerpiece. “Gingerbread City” stands more than six feet tall and weighs 300 pounds.

Look closely and you’ll spot some authentic details like a gingerbread subway, taxi cabs, tiny people, store windows painted with icing, construction zones, street signs and trash bags along with trees made of rosemary and dill. Muller notes that many complex gingerbread structures are technically edible, but made with altered doughs that are high on strength and durability while tasting like sawdust. That makes it possible to use carpenter’s tools and sanders for easy construction. Hers, in contrast, actually taste good, and the only tools she uses are a small x-acto knife and ruler.

“I make traditional soft gingerbread cookies and not construction gingerbread. Cookies are baked at a lower temperature so they are a little bit crisper but still soft. The secret to building such big and tall buildings with soft gingerbread cookies lies in erecting the right internal  edible structure that will support the soft cookies. I do this by baking gingerbread posts and beams as well as making pastillage beams to support weight bearing walls.”

“The hardest part of building the gingerbread city was designing the buildings as accurately as possible using Google earth as my guide. I was able to find some information on the web regarding the buildings’ general measurements like height and width, but not much else. I used these measurements as my guide to scale down the buildings and a keen eye on the tablet screen to figure out the rest.”

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Tinsel Towns: 10 International HOLLYWOOD Sign Homages

[ By Steve in Culture & History & Travel. ]

The iconic ‘HOLLYWOOD’ sign has loomed over La La Land for almost a century, inspiring overseas wannabes to “sign” up with homegrown copies.

Hurray for HOLLYWOOD signs – may they be fruitful and multiply! And multiply they have, though the “original” itself is a shortened version of a “HOLLYWOODLAND” sign erected in 1923 to advertise an under-construction housing development. As time passed and the sign became symbolic of Tinseltown, municipalities far and wide were moved to stick their own monikers on the nearest available mountainside. The “RASNOV” sign above, situated a little too conspicuously in front of a 13th-century fortress in Transylvania, salutes the rugged region’s recent prominence as a major motion picture filming location.

The above images of the RASNOV sign date from between 2008 and 2010, and were photographed by Flickr members Bogdan Morar, Horia Varlan, and Inmobiliaria Lares, respectively.

BRASOV-wood?

Not to be outdone by its upstart next-door neighbor, the much larger town of Brasov erected its own white-block-letter sign celebrating, er, the rugged region’s recent prominence as a major motion picture filming location.

To Brasovians’ credit, their sign doesn’t intrude upon the scenic view of any medieval castles so it’s got that going for it, which is nice. Flickr members Chris Booth (monkeypuzzle) and ccarlstead snapped the snazzy ‘sylvanian sign while visiting Romania a decade ago.

Moratilla of La Mancha

Less than 100 people live in the quaint Castilian village of Moratilla de los Meleros, according to the most recent census taken back in 2004. Size doesn’t matter when it comes to having a “HOLLYWOOD” sign, however.

Captured in 2008 by Flickr member sécolectivoforzoso, the town also boasts streets dubbed “Hollywood Blvd”, “Sunset Blvd” and “Melrose Ave.” All par for the course since Hollywood and Moratilla became Sister Cities in 2008, prompting the latter to play its part by getting the letters out.

Perth Of A Nation

Is a mountain backdrop really necessary for a HOLLYWOOD-style sign? Maybe not – we see you nodding, city of Perth – but it sure doesn’t hurt. The photo above, taken by Flickr member Michael_Spencer in August of 2006, seems to link the sign with a Red Bull air race held over the foreshore of the Western Australian town.

“It’s only a temporary structure,” noted Flickr member David Fisher (Pgd) in November of 2007 but much like the large, block-lettered “3D TORONTO” sign, Perth’s self-titled homage to all things Hollywood may have grown too popular to remove.

Modest Model

Everything may be big in Texas but here in the model village of Bekonscot, things are smaller than life – and that’s by design. Bekonscot was conceived and constructed by Roland Callingham of Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, UK in the pre-war era and Callingham, who passed away in 1961, is buried there. That’s his memorial stone above, overlooked by the model village’s miniature HOLLYWOOD-esque sign, as captured by Flickr member Matt Brown in July of 2018.

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The Great Wave: Iconic Hokusai Work Splashes Across Moscow Apartments

[ By SA Rogers in Art & Street Art & Graffiti. ]

In Moscow, the iconic “Great Wave off Kanagawa” woodblock print by Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai has reached greater heights than ever before as it breaks across the facades of six apartment towers. The print stretches from one building to the next as it crests and falls, taking up a total of 645,834 square feet.

These towers join three additional buildings to form Etalon City, a new mixed-use complex in the lush residential South Butovo area of southwest Moscow. The other, more irregularly shaped structures feature graphic abstracted silhouettes of Chicago, New York, Barcelona and Monaco, while the six “Great Wave” towers are located along the highway for maximum visibility.

Oversized murals can go a long way toward brightening up an otherwise unremarkable or even drab urban area, especially at this scale. How different would our cities look and feel if more architects and developers made bolder use of color and adornment? Vivid and cheerful architecture is definitely memorable, like these 11 unusually bright towns and neighborhoods around the world.

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[ By SA Rogers in Art & Street Art & Graffiti. ]

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Best of the Year: 10 Projects Honored at World Architecture Festival 2018

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

When you’re judging thousands of architectural projects from all around the world, even the process of narrowing down the shortlist to 535 has got to be hard. This year, the World Architectural Festival (WAF) had its biggest year yet with submissions from 81 countries, and in November, the shortlisted teams presented their designs to a jury of more than 100 international judges in Amsterdam. More than 35 winners took home prizes in categories like Small Project of the Year, Use of Color Prize, Use of Certified Timber Prize and Leisure-Led Development. Here are 10 standouts from those winners, including the World Building of the Year – see the rest at the WAF website.

World Building of the Year 2018, supported by GROHE: WOHA Architects – Kampung Admiralty, Singapore, Singapore

WOHA landed the top prize with Kampung Admiralty, a cascading complex of greenery bringing public facilities and services together in Singapore. Designed to maximize land use and meet the needs of the island nation’s aging population, the project layers a community plaza, medical center, community park and other healthcare, social and commercial functions along with apartments for seniors. Its lush, elevated green village enhances the quality of life of its residents and enables plenty of cross ventilation and daylight, all on a tight plot of less than a hectare (about 2.5 acres) with a hight limit of 45 meters (147 feet.)

Glass Future Prize, supported by Guardian Glass, WINNER: Studio Gang, Tour Montparnasse / Paris, France

Winner of the Glass Future Prize, Studio Gang’s vision for Tour Montparnasse Tower aims to redesign the French capital’s infamously “ugly” building to transform it into a new 21st century landmark. Not only are the twisting facets of the skyscraper visually dynamic, lending it a shimmering effect, they help shade the interiors and make the structure more resistant to wind. The transparent base of the tower helps blur the boundaries between indoors and outdoors, and it’s full of cascading gardens, open-air markets, shops and spaces for large events.

Landscape of the Year WINNER 2018: Batlle i Roig Arquitectura – Pedestrian Path along the Gypsum Mines, Barcelona, Spain

A dynamic new path cuts through the hillside in Barcelona, leading from a lookout point that gazes out at the city of Igualada to an old complex of gypsum mines below. Designed by Battlle i Roig Arquitectura, the Lookout Path is part of the larger scheme of the Igualada Green Ring, which aims to create a green belt for pedestrians and bicycles around Barcalona’s perimeter. The zig-zagging track includes luminescent concrete paving for a blue-green glow after dark.

Culture – Completed Buildings Winner: Conrad Gargett – The Piano Mill, Stanthorpe, Australia

Australian practice Conrad Gargett won the Culture category with The Piano Mill, a new structure in Queensland that addresses the intersection of architecture’s role in the environment of cultural buildings. “This authentically Australian project celebrates the culture of early colonial settlement in our country, demonstrates an entwined collaboration of art, music and architecture, as well as pioneering music composition,” says architect Bruce Wolf, Conrad Gargett’s Company Chair. The building functions as an art installation, an oversized musical instrument and a “performance machine,” containing sixteen pianos tuned radar blades and sonic periscopes set on elevated balconies around a three-story void.

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Pinecone Treehouse: Naturally Shaped Wonder in the California Redwoods

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

An enormous glittering inhabitable pine cone dangling from the majestic redwoods in Alameda, California could be transplanted to your very own backyard. Built by Dustin Fieder of O2 Treehouse, this highly unusual structure is equal parts sculptural wonder and enchanting getaway with its faceted glass exterior taking inspiration directly from its environment. The Pinecone Treehouse spent much of the last year available as an AirBnb rental, and now it’s up for sale.

Reachable by a ladder that stretches down to the ground, the Pinecone Treehouse features a spacious bed chamber inside and comes complete with a handcrafted indoor/outdoor bathroom connected to the treehouse by a wooden catwalk. Feider’s previous experience building geodesic treehouses clearly came in handy for this project, which takes a similar approach with a few tweaks to produce a classic pine cone shape.

In fact, the Pinecone Treehouse is just the latest of some 40-odd treehouses produced by Feider’s company. O2 Treehouse is known for its dazzling handcrafted structures, including a platform high up in the crowns of the trees in Geyserville, California and a geodesic structure set closer to the ground, built for Robby Krieger, guitarist for The Doors.

Fieder says he started O2 Treehouse “with the intention to inspire people to reconsider how we can more harmlessly co-exist with nature.”

“The Pinecone Treehouse is a space created to tap into your higher self, a space to rediscover your inner calm,” reads the AirBnb listing for the structure. “Cradled by those living giants the California Redwoods, one is invited to live in the vision of their dreams to quiet the mind until they can hear their inner truths, to reestablish a connection with nature and self.”

If you’re interested in making the Pinecone your own, rumor has it that the structure starts at $150,000 plus transport and installation fees that will vary depending on where you live. You can request more info at the O2 Treehouse website.

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