None of Your Beeswax: Urban Anti-Hives Designed for Solitary Bee Species

[ By WebUrbanist in Design & Guerilla Ads & Marketing. ]

Talk of bees usually conjures images of buzzing hives acting in concert, but most species around the world are actually lowners, hence this series of chic abodes for less social bees. Honey bees and bumblebees work together, and get most of the media buzz, while solitary bees work alone — not producing honey or wax, but still playing an important role as pollinators in the global food system.

“When we talk about bees, we usually imagine the European honey bee (Apis mellifera) when in reality, around 90 percent of the bee species are considered solitary,” explains Gabriel Calvillo of MaliArts, who designed these bee condos.

“The fact that solitary bees do not generate any ‘consumable product’ for humans has meant that they are not given much attention, but recent studies point to the fact that they are possibly the most efficient pollinators in nature.”

The ‘Refugio’ series contains three different structures, each designed around the preferences of different solitary bees. They feature pine and teak wood finishes, ceramic roofs and steel legs with integrated feeding and watering systems for maximum comfort.

Perhaps most importantly: nearby literature will explain to passing city dwellers what the structures are about, and the importance of bees to the world as we know it.

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Mirage: Mirrored House Reflects Snow-Covered Landscape in Switzerland

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

Mirrored inside and out, a new installation set in a snowy valley in Switzerland will never look exactly the same twice. Created as part of this year’s alpine arts festival Elevation 1049 by Los Angeles-based artist Doug Aitken, “Mirage Gstaad” almost disappears into the stark landscape when gazing at it from a distance, while inside its prismatic reflective planes produce somewhat of a disorienting effect.

Bent, folded and multiplied, the scenery around the cabin is the star of the show, constantly evolving depending on the time of day, the weather and the quality of the light. On a sunny day, the mirrored ranch-style cabin can be intensely dazzling, and its facades are equally striking at sunrise and sunset. Aitken describes it as “chameleon-like.”

“In the tradition of land-art as a reflection of the dreams and aspirations projected onto the American West, Mirage Gstaad presents a continually changing encounter in which subject and object, inside and outside are in constant flux. With every available surface clad in mirror, it both absorbs and reflects the landscape around in such ways that the exterior will seemingly disappear just as the interior draws the viewer into a never-ending kaleidoscope of light and reflection.”

“As Mirage Gstaad pulls the landscape in and reflects it back out, this classic one-story suburban house becomes a framing device, a perceptual echo-chamber endlessly bouncing between the dream of nature as pure uninhabited state and the pursuit of its conquest. Situated against the backdrop of Videmanette in Gstaad, Mirage Gstaad will bring the idea of the Manifest Destiny and the American West into contact with the European landscape and the tradition of the sublime.”

Mirage Gstaad is on view until January 2021, and is accessed on foot from the Gruben of Shönreid strain stations via hiking trails.

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Fully Cocked: 10 British ‘Cock’ Pubs & Taverns

[ By Steve in Design & Graphics & Branding. ]

Call it a Cock & Bull story but a disproportionate number of British pubs, bars and taverns have ‘cock’ in their name. What’s up with that?

Ye Olde Cock

While we’re on the topic, why don’t these outwardly manly establishments have any femininely-titled counterparts, as in “hen”… what did you think we meant? Anyway, the real reason England boasts so many “cock” pubs has nothing to do with salaciousness, Beavis- er, faithful reader, but for now feel free to feast your eyes upon one of the better known examples: Ye Olde Cock Tavern, on Fleet Street in central London.

It’s uncertain whether the famed 17th-century diarist Samuel Pepys really “drank a cup of Cock ale” at Ye Olde Cock Tavern, though he was known to frequent a number of watering holes in and around Fleet Street. Modern-day publicans should have no hesitation when it comes to getting their Pepys on, however, because what happens at Ye Olde Cock Tavern STAYS at Ye Olde Cock Tavern. Credit photographers quite peculiar, David, and nikoretro for posting the images above at their respective Flickr accounts.

The Famous Cock

Note, if you will, that Pepys wasn’t just enamored of any type of ale. No indeed! The er, barley literate wordsmith expressed a specific hankering for “Cock ale”… not that there’s anything wrong with that. He wasn’t the only Brit-brew-bro to feel that way, either, although with the passage of time the cocks have fled from the beer barrels to the pub signs. Ponder on that if you will, while you ogle Flickr member Ewan Munro‘s shot of The Famous Cock (formerly The Cock, and before that The Old Cock Tavern) near Highbury & Islington station in north London.

Cock O’ The North

So, just what WAS this bewitchingly “cocky” beverage that had the perspicacious Pepys, pen in hand, popping into pub after pub? According to Hannah Woolley, who wrote “The Accomplish’d lady’s delight in preserving, physick, beautifying, and cookery” in 1670, the standard recipe for Cock Ale called for infusing a boiled cock in eight gallons of ale along with raisins, nutmeg, dates, mace, and fortified wine for about a week. And by “cock”, she means “rooster”… that’s almost a relief! Flickr member crabchick brings us this September 2000 image of Cock O’ The North (since renamed the Westbury Park Tavern) from the very cocky city of Bristol.

Cock & Crown

One might say Cock Ale was chicken soup for the drunkard’s soul, and you wouldn’t be far off the mark. Sure, pickling a whole chicken in spiced beer may be weird (not to mention being a gross violation of the German Beer Purity Law of 1516) but the restorative qualities of such con-cock-tions were rather well known by the late 1600s. Flickr member Tim Green snapped the Cock & Crown tavern in Crofton, West Yorkshire, late in 2014.

The Fighting Cocks

Them’s fightin’ words… or fighting cocks, which strikes us as being illegal, unpleasant, and a lyric from ELP’s Karn Evil 9. In any case, a pint of cock ale would really hit the spot iffen you was a’fixin’ to do some fightin’. A case of cock ale, on the other hand, might have you fightin’ to get up off the floor. Seems like a textbook example of the Fight or Flight reflex in action, and the action’s happening at The Fighting Cocks pub in Moseley, Birmingham. Snapped by Flickr member Elliott Brown in December of 2009, this Grade II Listed building dates from the dawn of the 20th century and boasts its own integral cock tower. Make that CLOCK tower, dangnabbit!

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Project Bunker Makes a Tiny Home out of a Diesel Oil Tank

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

People convert all kinds of unlikely objects into homes: sheds, shipping containers, school buses and even decommissioned wartime bunkers. These creative reclaimed homes can range from tiny to surprisingly spacious, but rarely are they quite as micro-sized (and round) as one particular project by Argentinean architect Martín Marro.

“Bunker” began as an exploration of Marro’s memories of his childhood home, which was converted from a 1940 service station. The architect sought to reconstruct not the physical space itself, but rather how he remembers it looking and feeling through the eyes of a child. As part of this venture, Marro found an old diesel tank with which to fulfill an unusual vision.

From outside, the bright yellow tank still looks just as it did when it was in use. But open the door and you’ll find an unexpected sight: an incredibly compact dwelling complete with a lounge chair, bed, television, lighting and storage space. Photographs of his own architectural projects are fixed to the rounded walls.

Mimicking a tank that stood outside his childhood home, the micro house essentially compacts Marro’s memory of the experience into a portable dwelling. “I transformed it into a bunker-cabin for then to seal it and perpetuate it, capturing time, thinking that the space I make present is an archeology of the future,” he says.

The “Bunker” cabin was initially put on display outside Marro’s actual childhood home before traveling to the #mac2018 contemporary art fair in the city of Córdoba-Argentina.

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Stackable School Desks: Multifunctional Designs for Rural Mexican Schools

[ By WebUrbanist in Design & Furniture & Decor. ]

Stacking chairs have long been a space-saving staple of offices, homes and schools, but getting a complex shape like a desk to stack up is a challenge — one these designers decided to take on for a very specific and practical application.

Studio Nos redesigned the traditional children’s school desk to make it affordable, durable, lightweight and able to be put away when not in use. The result of their efforts is a brightly colorful and interconnected chair-and-desk system with a number of nifty features.

The conical chairs stack for storage while a backrest allows students to hang their bags and backpacks. A slot underneath, meanwhile, provides a place to store books and other school supplies.

The top addition can be taken off, too, not just to store but also to make space and change up seating configurations. All in all, the seat-and-top set gets the job done and looks good while doing it, then comes apart as needed.

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Universal Design: Creating Better Buildings & Cities for All

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

Conventional design only welcomes a certain type of person: the one arbitrarily deemed “normal.” It’s easy for designers, or even the casual observer, to define the most typical user of a space as one who requires no modifications in order to access it. But “normal” doesn’t really exist, and you can’t necessarily tell by looking at someone whether they’re having a lot of trouble heaving open a heavy door, struggling to mount stairs, feeling confused by a complex access system or excluded from using it altogether. In that sense, the appearance of being “typical” is useless, just like the space you’ve created is to a large segment of people who might otherwise want or need to participate. That’s where Universal Design comes in.

The Disability Act of 2005 defines Universal Design as “the design and composition of an environment so that it may be accessed, understood and used to the greatest possible extent, in the most independent and natural manner possible, in the widest possible range of situations, without the need for adaptation, modification, assistive devices or specialized solutions, by any persons of any age or size or having any particular physical, sensory, mental health or intellectual ability or disability.” In electronic systems, it also means designing “any electronics-based process of creating products, services or systems so that they may be used by any person.”

In 1997, a group of architects, product engineers, engineers and environmental design researchers developed seven principles of Universal Design to help guide their professions in meeting these goals. To summarize:

  • The design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities.
  • The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities.
  • Use of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the user’s experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level.
  • The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user’s sensory abilities.
  • The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions.
  • The design can be used efficiently and comfortably and with a minimum of fatigue.
  • Appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use regardless of user’s body size, posture, or mobility.

Universal Design doesn’t necessarily set out to create a “one size fits all” solution, but rather to push the boundaries of “mainstream” products, services and environments to include as many people as possible, and provide the ability for customization to minimize the difficulties of particular users. That may sound like a tall order, but the key is that no single designer can ever successfully pull it off alone.

How to Begin Making Spaces More Inclusive

To start, Universal Design means going beyond legal accessibility requirements to serve as many people as possible without segregating those with different needs. Putting it into action might mean altering a building that has stairs at the front entrance and an accessible entrance in the back to offer a single entrance for everyone to use. Most of the time, this can be done without affecting the overall integrity of the design. After all, most able-bodied people don’t mind walking up a ramp instead of using stairs. This approach to design works for “virtually” everyone, but there are also ways to accommodate the people who tend to fall through the cracks implied in this statement.

Whereas Universal Design relates to the final product, “inclusive design” relates to the process of designing, testing and refining it. It asks who can interact with a given environment in its current state, and who is left out – and then involves those people in the process of creating something better. The contributions of the people who need these variations the most are integral to a successful result.

Inclusive design is “a methodology that enables and draws on a full range of human diversity,” says designer Kat Holmes, author of a book on inclusive design called “Mismatch.” Ideally, the two approaches would work together to produce objects, experiences and spaces that are accessible to the greatest possible number of people. (By the way, many disability justice activists prefer use of the word “accessible” to describe the resulting spaces rather than “handicap.”)

Examples of Universal Design

Prodel Residence, France

So what does all this mean in the real world? Often, the changes required to accommodate and include more people are simple. Placing standard electrical receptacles higher on the walls, selecting wider doorways that can fit wheelchairs and people of all sizes, making entrances flat, installing louver door handles and creating storage spaces that are within reach of people of all heights are some examples offered by the Accessible Society. When more than one option is available for a design feature, choose the one that’s the most inclusive – or lead the charge in demanding a new one.

But Universal Design also means adapting both existing architecture and new building projects to recognize the vast array of abilities, limitations and differences that exist within our communities. To really embrace it, designers, architects and planners must challenge their assumptions of what the “normal” usage of a space will be, particularly since so many disabilities can be invisible to the casual observer. Here are some examples of what that can look like.

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Mojow: Modern Flat-Pack Furniture with Inflatable Cushions

[ By SA Rogers in Design & Furniture & Decor. ]

Flat pack furniture makes shipping and moving a lot easier, but it doesn’t leave much room for comfortable cushions. A French furniture brand called Mojow came up with a clever workaround that somehow manages to not look like it belongs in a college dorm or a child’s bedroom: inflatables. The simple, streamlined frames for its chairs and couches pair with the air-filled cushions in a pleasingly modern way.

Available on Archiproducts, Mojow’s offerings include armchairs, sofas, daybeds and indoor benches. Each offers a choice of either an oak or black metal frame and opaque or transparent inflatable cushions in green, black, orange, clear and pink color ways. They’re easy and nearly instant to set up and disassemble with an electric inflater, and Mojow says they’re easy to clean, durable and UV-protected so they won’t degrade in the sunlight like you might expect.

But perhaps the coolest part of this modern blow-up furniture series is the ability to fill one of the models with any solid objects you like (within reason) before inflating the cushions all the way. Rubber ducks? Sports memorabilia? Crystals? Shredded paper? A week’s worth of your own solid waste materials? Go wild with it, a long as the objects can fit through the opening and won’t puncture the plastic.

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Somnambulist Manifestos: 10 Graffitied Old Mattresses

[ By Steve in Art & Street Art & Graffiti. ]

Abandoned mattresses are a graffiti artist’s dream: street-level billboards ideally placed to expose art and opinions to a society sleepwalking thru life.

In De Nihilism

They say nothing really mattress… except Art, and by “they” we mean Flickr members Justin Hall and FunGi_ (Trading). How to reconcile these diametrically opposed viewpoints? Perhaps some sort of fight? One involving, say, pillows?

Nothing Left Toulouse

There’s sleeping rough on the streets, and then there’s catching a little shuteye on Chemin du Sang… the “Street of Blood”. We’re not sure how or why the grotty mattress above was so ominously labeled with what looks like re-purposed police Caution tape but we do know where or when: according to Flickr member Jamiecat*, it was March of 2010 in the southwestern French commune of Vieille-Toulouse.

Sleep Tight

Speaking of sleeping and blood, it would appear someone’s discouraging the re-use of discarded mattresses for some reason. Well, besides the obvious reason which is… it’s a mattress somebody discarded on the street. Creepy-crawly issues aside, the above illustrated item (with “do not remove” tag intact) is the autographed work of street artist Samuel Mark. Cool as we (and Flickr member Philip Bump) thought that might be, we still don’t recommend taking it home and mounting it on the bedroom wall.

Omen, Brother

“De La Vega is an artist who has a shop between 1st/2nd on St Marks and regularly tags objects around the neighborhood,” according to Flickr member Todd Shaffer. While the artist’s philosophical sentiment and clever use of strategic capitalization is to be admired, it seems certain this NYC mattress’s moment – precious or not – will last only until the next street trash pickup.

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Reading the Road: River of 11,000 Glowing Books Flows Down City Street

[ By WebUrbanist in Art & Installation & Sound. ]

Thousands of books spanned from sidewalk to sidewalk in Ann Arbor’s Literature vs Traffic installation, creating a space for quiet reflection on the value of pedestrian-friendly public spaces and the absence of noise pollution. The intersection of Liberty and State, a major juncture in this college town, was closed down for a day and night to allow the work to be deployed and enjoyed.

Volunteers attached small lights to the books, which were gifted back out to the community when the project was wrapped up — visitors were encouraged to take books with them when they left, leaving the streets clean and empty by midnight.

Luzinterruptus is a Spanish design collective that is traveling the world, collecting volumes in each location for these city-specific installations. The proximity to Motor City was particularly apt in this case, too.

“We want literature to take over the streets and to become the conqueror of all public places, offering passersby a traffic-free area that will, for a few hours, surrender to the humble might of the written word,” explain the designers. “Thus, a place in the city usually dedicated to speed, pollution, and noise, shall turn, for one night, into a place of peace, quiet, and coexistence, lighted by the soft dim light issued from the book pages.”

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