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Architects for Animals: 13 Designer Cat Houses Auctioned for Feline Charity

23 November, 2017 - 20:00
[ By WebUrbanist in Design & Furniture & Decor. ]

Giant balls of twine, complex tunnel systems and integrated scratching posts are some of the features on offer in this series of deluxe architect-designed cat houses created by Los Angeles architects for a charitable auction.

Architects for Animals, a local charity, uses the Giving Shelter fundraiser to collect donations and support services for help feral, stray and abandoned cats in a city with an estimated 3,000,000 such animals.

This is the tenth annual such competition, and each year draws in some of the world’s largest and most famous local and global architects and firms, including Perkins + Will, HOK, HKS, D3 and more.

Some of the dwellings are experiential, featuring shiny toys, ramps, tubes, beds and slots fit for feline friends, while others explore architectural trends, like living moss walls and flat-pack and modular design strategies.

Previous years of the program have featured Brutalist, Modern, Postmodern, Deconstructivist (and more difficult to classify) habitats crafted with metal, concrete, wood and other architectural materials.

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[ By WebUrbanist in Design & Furniture & Decor. ]

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Fancy a Pint? London’s Pubs & Landmarks Preserved as Tiny Cut-Out Drawings

23 November, 2017 - 04:00
[ By SA Rogers in Art & Drawing & Digital. ]

Cities can change so rapidly, leaving behind barely-recognizable versions of the streets we once knew and loved, adapting and transforming along with the rest of the world. It may be a fact of life, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to preserve what we can of the history that’s meaningful to us – even if that just means paying tribute to it with art. Australian-born, London-based illustrator Max Tiles does just that with tiny illustrated cut-outs, which he often photographs against the real-life buildings they represent.

Tilse’s most recent series captures some of London’s most charming pubs, like The Bricklayers Arms in Fitzrovia, which he describes as “a quaint piece of Georgian architecture… the Bricklayers Arms has been a running pub since 1789.” Other pubs seen here include the Coach & Horses at 5 Bruton Street in Mayfair, The Blackfriar, The Crown in Seven Dials, Covent Garden and The Dove on Broadway Market in Hackney.


Tiles also draws miniatures of other major London landmarks, from Big Ben to the Tower Bridge. While backpacking across Europe, Tilse kept a ‘diary’ of sketches of the scenes he liked most, turning them into 5×5-inch postcards.

The Shard, Southwark London. Looking across the Thames from the Millennium Bridge. Towards Borough markets and eventually Tower Bridge in the distance. There was an eerie lack of traffic, walking through Southwark today. But despite the chaos and horror of last night, people were out and about enjoying their overcast afternoon. Enjoying what this spectacular city has to offer! . I also drew the Globe Theatre and a few other great little spots which I shall post soon. Go London! . . . #maxwellillustration #illustration #promarker #pensketch #micron #penfreaks #sketchbook #usk #urbansketch #urbansketchers #sketchwalker #archisketcher #artatte #archisketcher #architecture #architecturesketch #arch_cad #arch_grap #londonlife #london #theshard #southwark #timeoutlondon #thisislondon #thames #boroughmarket #ilovelondon

A post shared by Maxwell Tilse (@maxwellillustration) on Jun 4, 2017 at 10:41am PDT

Rooftops over Wardour Street, Soho. Featuring the ever watchful BT Tower. It was hard to get the tower and roofes in focus but you can make it out in the distance. . . . Interesting facts about the BT Tower. This iconic London landmark was first built in 1564 out of wood and thatch up until the 1960s, when it was rebuilt with glass and marbles. The roof reached 580ft in height, but much like an iceberg, the majority of the structure is underground, descending deep into the earths vast molten centre. . . . . #maxwellillustration #illustration #promarker #micron #pendrawing #pensketch #draweveryday #archisketcher #architecture #architecturesketch #urbanksketchers #usk #urbansketching #sketchbook #sketchwalker #artatte #londonlife #londonliving #london #Soho #timeoutlondon #bttower #londonhistory #themoreyouknow #thisislondon

A post shared by Maxwell Tilse (@maxwellillustration) on May 23, 2017 at 10:40am PDT

It certainly is a golden Friday afternoon in London. . Here's my drawing of 99 Charing Cross Road on the east end of Old Compton Street, Soho. The neo-Baroque style building, with its unusual green glazed brick and yellow sandstone, was built in 1907. Old Compton Street on the other hand has been around since the 1680s. Holding a fascinating history of disease, debauchery and wonder. Walking through Soho is an absolute charm. . . . #maxwellillustration #illustration#promarker #artatte #archisketcher #architecture #architecturesketch #arch_arts #arch_grap #arch_cad #arch_sketch #sketchwalker #sketchbook #usk #urbansketch #urbansketchers #travelsketcher #travel #wanderlust #London #londonlife #londonliving #Soho #oldcomptonstreet #timeoutlondon #thisislondon #westend #discoverlondon

A post shared by Maxwell Tilse (@maxwellillustration) on Mar 24, 2017 at 9:33am PDT

You can see more of his work at his website, and purchase prints at his Etsy shop.

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[ By SA Rogers in Art & Drawing & Digital. ]

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Plush or Polished: How Does Wood Flooring Measure Up Against Carpetting?

22 November, 2017 - 20:35

Carpet has been the traditional choice of flooring in the western world for over a hundred years now. Wooden flooring has always been there though, usually underneath the carpet. More and more people are moving back towards having wooden flooring as their flooring of choice. In what ways does wood flooring beat carpet and what benefits can you gain from making the change?


Wooden flooring gives your house a sense of style and elegance that carpet doesn’t. The wood flooring in Toronto seems to be thriving currently and this is mainly due to the increased desire to make a return to having a home that looks elegant. If you feel like your carpeted floor gives off a drab feeling that you can’t ignore then switching to wooden flooring is definitely the move you should make.

Easier to Clean

Wooden flooring is infinitely easier to clean than carpeted floor. Not only are spills easier to clean up due to there being no fibres to soak them up like there are on carpets but wooden floor doesn’t stain as easily either. The ease with which wooden flooring cleans also extends to vacuum cleaners. Crumbs, dirt and dust all drop deep into the fibres of a carpet, even the ones with short fibres, which can make it hard for vacuum cleaners to get in there properly. Switching to wooden floors will make your life a lot easier, especially if you have young children around.


Carpets tend to trap a lot of dust and bacteria in their fibres. This can often set off allergies in people. It isn’t just allergies that are affected by the dust and bacteria though. Asthma can be managed far more easily when dust is kept to a minimum in the house. Dust doesn’t settle and stick on wooden flooring, so if you suffer from allergies switching to wooden flooring is the way forward. It will make your allergy flare ups far less likely and will make it far easier to control your asthma. Not only that but you don’t have to worry about warning visitors that the dust in your carpet might set off their allergies.


When a carpet is stained it is very difficult to get it out. It soaks into the fibres and once it is there, it’s not coming out without a heavy duty cleaner that might damage the carpet. If the stain is too bad then you will have to replace the whole carpet. This is the polar opposite to wooden flooring which resists stains. What if you do manage to stain your wooden flooring though? The great thing about wooden flooring is that if you stain it you don’t have to replace the whole floor like you would with carpet, you can just get the finish renewed. It’s a cheap and easy alternative that makes wooden flooring far more durable and long lasting than carpet it.

If you want flooring that will be both cost effective and long lasting then wooden flooring is the choice you should be making. It won’t let you down, no matter what the situation.

Convenient Interior Design Tips For A More Comfortable Home

22 November, 2017 - 20:14

There is absolutely no doubt that you’ll want to make your home as comfortable as possible. Not only should your home be comfortable and relaxing for you and your family, but it should also be also comfortable for your guests.

Your home’s interior design scheme can make a world of difference. If your home is too dark, there is a good chance that it is going to be uncomfortable and bleak for everyone. The good news is that you can make a few minor tweaks to rectify this problem in a hurry. Below, you will discover interior design tips that can help make your home far more relaxing and comfortable.

Switch To Carpeting

You should understand that most guests will remove their shoes before entering your home. They’ll do so to keep your home clean and free of dirt. Unfortunately, a hardwood floor may be cold on your guests’ feet. With that being said, you should switch to a warmer and more comfortable flooring option. Carpet is definitely a good choice. Carpeting feels great on the feet. Plus, it is warmer. In fact, you could sprawl out on a carpeted floor and feel great all the while.

Plenty Of Lighting


As mentioned above, a dark room will be an uninviting room. With that being said, you need to brighten up your room as quickly as possible. More light will help to make your home far more inviting and much more comfortable. Be sure to open up the curtains to let natural light flow into your home. You can also add artificial lighting as needed. Lighting will make a world of difference in terms of making your home feel more comfortable.

The Linen

There is absolutely no doubt that your bedroom will be the most important room in the home. You must make sure that you’re able to get a sufficient amount of sleep each night. This is why you should invest in the right color linen. There are numerous types of mattresses, but not all of them are equal. Take your time and put together a bedroom design scheme that is comfortable and relaxing. Do this and you’ll sleep better at night!

Adding Warm Colors

There is no doubt that your home’s color scheme can make a big difference. If you use cold and dark colors, there is a good chance that your home is going to feel bleak and depressing. On the flipside, bright and warm colors can help make the home more comfortable. You should be a little cautious of using too many bold colors though. You do not want the guest to feel overwhelmed when they enter your home. Nevertheless, warm colors are best for making your home feel comfortable and inviting.

Avoid Clutter

Adding art to your walls and placing décor items on your shelves is wise. However, it is absolutely pertinent to avoid overdoing it. Too many accessories can actually backfire and cause your home to feel cluttered. Be very selective when adding home décor items to your home. Do not overdo it. Use these items in moderation for the biggest impact.

3D Print the World: 12 Ways This Technology Will Soon Flourish in Cities

22 November, 2017 - 20:00
[ By SA Rogers in Architecture & Cities & Urbanism. ]

Ready or not, the 3D-printed future is coming, and the first examples are already arriving in cities around the world in the form of office buildings, small houses, public furniture, public art and self-driving buses. Restaurants that squirt your meals into intricate shapes through a 3D printer will likely proliferate, and before long, this tech revolution is expected to take over all sorts of urban construction processes, like building roads and bridges. 3D printing requires far less labor than other building processes, of course, something that makes a lot of people nervous about the future of jobs. But it’s also cheaper, more sustainable, and results in far more complex, ornamental structures.

Public Furniture: 3D-Printed Benches Made of Trash Bags

‘Print Your City!’ is a new initiative by Rotterdam-based research and design studio ‘The New Raw’ transforming plastic waste into urban furniture with 3D printing. The ‘XXX Bench’ is a double-sided rocking chair seating two to four people who have to use equilibrium to balance the seat. Each one weights about 110 pounds, is made from recycled plastic pellets from municipal plastic waste or flakes from ground recycled products, and is 100% recyclable itself.

Public Art: Giant Sculptural Sundials

3D printing will likely invade urban environments in the form of large-scale public art before we see a whole lot of architecture and infrastructure. This giant sundial taking the form of a flowering fan is one example. Made by design group ‘prescription’ in conjunction with Arup, the geometry of the structure is optimized using specific solar data from any world location to give it a unique form wherever it’s constructed. It’s 3D printed from strong, flexible plastic, and the design is 100% scalable.

Office Buildings: ‘Office of the Future’ in Dubai

Dubai’s ‘Office of the Future’ is the world’s first 3D-printed office building, created layer-by-layer using a special cement mixture in just 17 days at a cost of just $140,000. Only one employee was needed to monitor the printer at any given time, while seven other employees installed the building components onsite along with electricians and specialists. The 3D printer used for the project is pretty remarkable itself, measuring 20 feet high, 120 feet long and 40 feet wide.

Restaurants: ‘Food Ink’ 3D-Printed Meals

While the building itself is not 3D printed, the food inside ‘Food Ink’ is. This pop-up restaurant uses 3D printers to create dishes like pizza, hummus, chocolate mousse and other foods that can be made with printed pastes to create culinary sculptures.The project is “putting to work most innovative technologies, like 3D-printing and augmented reality, in order to elaborate the most exquisite interactive edible experience.” How long will it be before this is a common practice in many restaurants?

Transportation: Autonomous 3D-Printed Bus

This boxy, strange looking bus by Local Motors debuted in Washington D.C. in 2016, giving autonomous rides at the company’s introductory event. The driverless, 3D-printed ‘Olli’ has 12 seats and is powered by IBM Watson’s Internet of Things for Automotive technology, a car-focused cognitive learning platform. “Olli offers a smart, safe and sustainable transportation solution that is long overdue,” says Local Motors. “Olli with Watson acts as our entry into the world of self-driving vehicles, something we’ve been quietly working on with our co-creative community for the past year. We are now ready to accelerate the adoption of this technology and apply it to nearly every vehicle in our current portfolio and those in the very near future.”

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Darkroom Magic: How a Master Surrealist Shapes Scenes from Real Photos

21 November, 2017 - 20:00
[ By WebUrbanist in Art & Photography & Video. ]

His photographic manipulations are uncanny, creating bizarre effects and optical illusions, all while remaining highly realistic and (perhaps most impressively) quite true to the original real-life source material.

By working from actual photographs, Erik Johansson manages to capture but subvert everyday built environments. Take Under the Corner, for instance, a photo montage he worked on for months.”I shot all the buildings in Prague,” he explains, and “combined the photos using Photoshop. No CGI or illustrated elements.”

He also spent a long time with one of his latest works, Self Supporting, which he says was an “idea I’ve been carrying with me for a long time. I find the structural properties of an arch interesting, where each part is supporting the other. If you remove one it will all collapse but as long as the structure is untouched it will remain strong.”

The landscape for Self Supporting was shot in Bohemian Switzerland in the Czech Republic and the houses were photographed in Prague and Stockholm. One of the constituent structures is shown above. “The sketches start very simple but over time become more detailed.” He sometimes uses SketchUp to model his ideas, but says they also get reshaped by the source material he photographs.

Full Moon Service is about as surreal as the come, but there is a surprising amount of reality baked in per the behind-the-scenes video above. “I brought out 7 rice lamps, 7 light bulbs, an electric generator, a car and two models out in a field” in Sweden, recalls Johansson. It still required some magic, though. “The main part that has been retouched in this photo is to replace the rice ball with a moon texture, the light and the mood was very close to what you see in the photo.”

More from the artist’s website: “Erik Johansson (born 1985) is a photographer and image creator from Sweden based in Prague, Czech Republic. His work can be described as surreal scenes created by combining different photographs. Erik works on both personal and commissioned projects with clients all around the world. In contrast to traditional photography he doesn’t capture moments, he captures ideas with the help of his camera and imagination. The goal is to make it look as realistic as possible even if the scene itself contains impossible elements. In the end it all comes down to problem solving, finding a way to capture the impossible.”

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Secret Spaces: 12 Architectural Easter Eggs Hidden Under Our Noses

20 November, 2017 - 20:01
[ By SA Rogers in Travel & Urban Exploration. ]

By now, most of us are aware of the abandoned, once-forgotten subway stations and other underground wonders hidden beneath the streets of cities around the world. There are even entire cities beneath cities, like Seattle’s Underground. But what about the more obscure secret spaces right under our noses, that we may pass every day as we go along our routines, never knowing of their existence? You could be walking over a reproduction of the Holy Land, a beautiful Art Deco time capsule, a secret canal or a (literally) underground drag racing strip without having a single clue.

Secret Entrance to the White House

(images via Elliot Carter, Atlas Obscura)

Residents of Washington. D.C. probably walk or drive past this unremarkable alleyway all the time, never paying particular attention to the vehicles that go in or come out. But it’s actually a secret back door to the White House created in the 1940s, and the only reason we know that is through archival newspaper reports from the time, when it was just a matter of relatively yawn-worthy public interest. Perhaps the Secret Service would rather we didn’t know about it, especially since they have installed a bulletproof kiosk into the wall at the entrance for their own staff. The secret route winds around the block, into an IRS building and ultimately empties into a subterranean granite vault built during World War II. No doubt, it’s just one of several such routes, and though it’s low-key public information, you probably don’t want to march right up to the H Street entrance unless you’re looking to get some special Secret Service attention.

Lower-Lower Wacker Drive Under Chicago

(images via: Chicago Reader, digiwonk)

Some people call it the Bat Cave. Others, the Magic Road. You need a special pass card to gain entrance at either end, which makes it feel exclusive to those who zip through its cramped quarters full of concrete pillars. Lower Wacker Drive, which first opened in 1926, is unknown to many Chicagoans, while those who’ve been aware of it for decades roll their eyes at every person who thinks they ‘discovered’ the ‘secret’ passage designed for service vehicles and convention buses. Many skyscrapers along the route open directly to Lower Wacker Drive at basement level for deliveries and garbage trucks. But many a proudly in-the-know Chicago resident may still be unaware that there’s actually a Lower Lower Wacker Drive, built in 1975 for parking and storage. Most people only find out about it when their vehicle is towed to a notoriously hard to access impound lot located on this level. Others who live in the skyscrapers nearby may just wonder if they’re losing their minds when they hear the echoes of the illegal drag racing that goes on along this subterranean route every weekend.

Chattanooga’s Secret Underground City

(images via: picnooga)

There’s a whole other Chattanooga under the current Chattanooga, and nobody knows why. When you descend into the basement levels of many old businesses built in the 19th century, you’ll find windows and doors that lead nowhere, evidence of a lower level that disappeared underground when the city built up its roads between 1875 and 1905. Some people think they did this to avoid flooding from the Tennessee River, while others believe they may have thought it would help stop the spread of infectious diseases like cholera that ravaged residents at the time. It’s hard to really get a sense of the size and scale of this forgotten layer, because it’s almost entirely located on private property. Documentation of construction at the time is almost non-existent, so there’s no digging through archives to solve the mystery. Historians don’t even know where the city got the soil to fill it all in. Naturally, the owners of some of these structures have turned them into tourist attractions with various kinds of tours, and legends of ghosts have proliferated.

A Hidden Stream Beneath Indianapolis

When it’s mentioned in the novel Underground Airlines by Ben Winters, the subterranean river called Pogue’s Run under Indianapolis seems fictional like everything else in the story, which imagines a reality in which slavery in America was never officially abolished. But it’s actually real, running under the city for two and a half miles, a popular destination for urban explorers, who often traverse it by bike. It’s dark and dank, infested with terrifyingly robust rats and gigantic insects. It was directed under the city back when urban streams were essentially open sewers, and mostly hidden under structures like an old parking lot that was removed in the ‘90s, revealing a stretch of it to the public. It lies beneath the only stretch of the city that isn’t perfectly gridded and symmetrical, its own proportions screwing up the plan, and ends where the canal converges with the White River.

Catacombs of Washington

(images via: Mr.TinDC, Lawrence OP, David, Flickr CC)

Of all the many secrets that can be found beneath street level in our nation’s capital, this complex of dim passages might be one of the strangest and most unexpected. Guests who want to explore it enter through a dramatic ‘secret’ gated entrance located near the pulpit of a Franciscan monastery. What they’ll find inside is an almost Disney-like recreation of ‘The Holy Land,’ full of fake graves and reproduction grottoes cast from aggregate cement. The Catacombs of D.C. were created by the monks for North Americans who can’t afford to take a trip overseas. For all the fakery, there’s one grave that’s actually real, containing the skeleton of a seven- or eight-year-old child believed to be a martyr from the second century.

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Health Careless: 12 Decrepit Abandoned Nursing Homes

19 November, 2017 - 20:00
[ By Steve in Abandoned Places & Architecture. ]

These abandoned nursing homes illustrate the contrast between the rising need for senior care facilities and the costs of keeping older nursing homes open.

The Horner Memorial Nurses’ Home sits cheek-by-jowl to the similarly abandoned Brownsville General Hospital in tiny Brownsville, PA, located 40 miles south of Pittsburgh. The Nurses’ Home opened in 1928 and housed – you guessed it – nurses who worked in the hospital next door.

Brownsville’s population declined from over 8,000 in 1940 to just over 2,000 in 2016 as a consequence of steel industry restructuring. The hospital closed in 1965 but the Nurses’ Home lived on after morphing into the Golden Age Nursing Home. This second incarnation lasted until 1985 when both buildings were completely abandoned; any remaining residents were relocated to the nearest regional facility. Flickr member Forsaken Fotos snapped the images above and more in June of 2014. To view a wealth of interior photos and learn additional info about these facilities, please visit the Architectural Afterlife website.

European Elegance

We’re not sure when the above abandoned nursing home closed but it must have been relatively recently judging from its well-preserved state… well, peeling paint aside. The photographer (Flickr member Gentleman of Decay) uploaded the images above in March of 2017 but neglected to state the facility’s name and location – just as well, since there’s nothing like a swarm of squatters, vandals and druggies to trash a building that’s given up the ghost with the greatest of dignity.

Scot Free

Templedean Hall in Haddington, East Lothian, Scotland, was built in 1911 and initially served as a Children’s Home. One wonders if any of those children returned to the Templedean Hall Nursing Home as senior citizens before the facility closed in 2003. It’s the circle of life.

Designated a Category B Listed Building in 1977, the facility was visited by Flickr member Stuart Cale (kyz) in May of 2009. Cale uploaded 17 photos (16 of which show the interior) that illustrate just how “preserved” the facility is.

Rising From The Ashes

Not all abandoned nursing homes are doomed to deterioration and eventual demolition. Take the Hot Lake Sanitorium near La Grande, Oregon. Originally built in 1864 as the Hot Lake Hotel, the facility was a popular vacation destination in the early years of the twentieth century. A devastating fire in 1934 put an end to all that, not to mention much of the hotel.

Subsequently, the repaired facility took on new life as a retirement home, an asylum, and a nurse’s training school during the Second World War. The building was closed and abandoned in 1991 but lately, thanks to the thermal springs in the area, a revival is underway with current owners planning to reopen the site as a hotel, art gallery and restaurant. A tip of the hat to Flickr member Roadsidepictures for the above photos and images.

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Creative Ideas to Brighten up Your Office Space

14 November, 2017 - 21:59

When we think about brightening up an office space, we tend to think about lighting and splashes of colour. Fair enough. However, as many people find, growing space issues and clutter can turn any place into a stressful mess and become a drab interior. Have you ever noticed how bright your office looks just by clearing surfaces? Whether you work from home or in a corporate environment, there are creative and workable solutions that you can integrate into an office setting.

Colourful Canvas Art


Ok, yes, we are talking about the “splashes of colour” part. Purchasing a canvas print IS a great way to brighten up a drab office instantly. In fact, why stop at one? You could switch a print to a different one every couple of months or sooner. Who says that you have to look at the same picture time after time? Go further! With services that can take your pictures to a new level, you can have custom, lightweight artwork that can work well on your walls. These can be pictures that motivate you to work harder, such as pictures of your children, or a beautiful shot of a desired travel destination. Have a new goal? Switch up your wall art.

NASA Green

Most of us have heard about the NASA study on how certain plants can clean and filter our air. While not an exhaustive list, look at the Flamingo Lily (indoor and partial sunlight), the Peace Lily (grows best in the shade), the Money Plant (indoor and outdoor plant), the Snake Plant (indoor and outdoor) and the Spider Plant (indoor and outdoor). For those who enjoy this greenery, ensure you give the plant the appropriate light.

Office Fit Out

This process encompasses planning and executing the actual move to incorporating overall office solutions via planning, designing, building and other facilitators to achieve a fully integrated custom office space. This is typically done when an office locates to a new space. There is a floor budget level and can go higher according to needs, wants and monetary constraints.

Typically, office fit out quotes are provided in terms of per square foot and office personnel. Details can include raising the floor to run wiring to install custom lighting throughout the office. The roof may be altered, if feasible, to allow more natural light. Some offices may have installed moveable partitions to divide one large meeting room into more and smaller rooms. The design will be well thought out to meet current and future needs.

Clutter and More Clutter

Clutter can get to even the most unaware individual after time, especially when finding things becomes a major cuss-filled event. A lot of disorder arises from work-in-progress files and materials laying around. However, rest assured there are multiple custom-made storage solutions for the home or regular office. These can be filing cabinets made of different depths and lengths for your needs. The best part is that this furniture can be on wheels (do get the wheels!). The cabinet can be close by when needed and then stored out of your way after.

If you require binders and books to be on hand, there is such a thing as a revolving three-tiered bookshelf for a desk or counter-top. Again, this can be a custom-made item that can be made taller to be floor-length. This is a great space saver and is suitable for storing various other items.

Interchangeable Modules Work Wonders

If you work from home or are in an unaccommodating office space as far as plug-ins are concerned, consider investing in a dock square(s) with interchangeable modules. You purchase a modular bar and then buy individual interfacing components to fit into the bar. These parts can be singular-function or have a couple of functions per module. The dock square is plugged into a wall socket and can then rest on any surface or attach to a wall. For example, you could have a couple of LAN lines in one module next to ethernet switches or a multi-HDD socket and a module with a special plug-in socket.

Also, there are modules available that can interface with devices that originate outside of the UK. This would be a workable solution for those who do business internationally. This allows the location of office equipment in areas that make more sense for function and visual appeal. It would also allow for more practical lighting where needed and interfacing requirements.

It’s On Like Donkey Kong at Berlin’s Mount Mitte Urban Climbing Park

14 November, 2017 - 04:00
[ By SA Rogers in Drawing & Digital. ]

In the words of venerable modern philosopher Ice Cube, ‘it’s on like Donkey Kong’ – literally – at Berlin’s Mount Center climbing park, which features elevated platforms that look an awful lot like those seen in the classic video game. Located in Mitte, the city’s hip central borough, the park offers a massive parkour course that takes visitors higher and higher up into the sky, amidst suspended vehicles and other recycled objects.

The park opened back in 2010, and features six different courses of varying levels of difficulty that may also remind some people of the courses on the reality television competition American Ninja Warrior. If you’re not exactly a parkour master, you can take a short training class before they use throw you out onto this open-air system of ropes, barrels, tires, platforms and bridges.

At 50 feet high, its pinnacle also gives you pretty great views of a lovely green area of Berlin:

h/t Inhabitat; photos via and

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Storage Worse: 10 Abandoned Self-Storage Facilities

12 November, 2017 - 20:00
[ By Steve in Abandoned Places & Architecture. ]

Abandoned self-storage locker units (and those who bid for them) have spawned a popular TV series but what happens when entire facilities go belly-up?

This nameless former self-storage facility located just off the Great Northern Road in Derby, a mid-sized city in the English East Midlands, has certainly seen better days. Then again, the same can be said for the squatters and junkies – often one and the same – who hang out there nowadays (and nowanights).

According to mykez of DerelictPlaces, the building enjoyed previous incarnations as a bus depot, the Client Logic call center, and an ad-hoc indoor BMX park (successively, not all at once) before making a doomed last stand as a self-storage business.

There Are Four Doors!

Can four measly storage units generate enough cash flow to cover the building owner’s expenses? Not that there’s a lot of overhead involved in running a self-storage facility, which is why its a popular choice for warehouse-style operations that find themselves without a main tenant. This cozy “sedan” (four doors… get it?) of a self-storage facility sits on the edge of a rather scary incline in rural Georgia, as snapped by Flickr member Fred Watkins (kg4vln) in July of 2017.

High Vaultage

A vertical self-storage facility, in my Manhattan? It’s more likely than you think… it’s the Day & Meyer Murray & Young Corp.‘s fireproof warehouse located at 1166 2nd Ave. at 61st St. on the Lower East Side. Constructed in 1927, the nearly windowless building was designed to house rented steel “Portovaults” that are moved from one place to another by truck and rest on racks once they arrive at the warehouse. Pretty sure the Ark of the Covenant is in there somewhere (though it really belongs in a museum).

Slippery Slope

Flickr member doug turetsky snapped this sunny scene in Brooklyn’s fragrant Gowanus district in April of 2014. So, is this an abandoned self-storage facility or a former spycam store? We’re guessing the former… the sign for Slope Self Storage is mounted BEHIND the chain link fence rather than in front of it.

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Urban Miniatures: Graffiti-Tagged Architectural Model Features Gritty Detail

11 November, 2017 - 20:00
[ By WebUrbanist in Art & Sculpture & Craft. ]

In a world of pristine and perfect model architecture, this replica of a locksmith in Taiwan boasts dirt, grime, graffiti and rickety structural details.

Crafted by Joshua Smith (images by Ben Neal), this 1:18 scale micro-structure lights up at night and takes on a particularly compelling realism in the relative dark.

Ballpoint pen plastic is worked in to flickering lighting fixtures while tagged walls and a rusty motorbike give it a sense of character and scale.

Smith’s newest miniature will be on display from November 10, 2017, at the Arcade Art Gallery in Taiwan as part of the group exhibition When the Sun Goes Down.

Based in South Australia, Smith previously worked for sixteen years as a stencil artist, and has now shifted his focus to model-making, with an emphasis on urban realism. Be sure to check out more of his work here as well.

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Religious Conversion: Modern Office Inserted Into a Historic Belgium Chapel

10 November, 2017 - 20:00
[ By SA Rogers in Architecture & Offices & Commercial. ]

A cubic white volume juts out of the exterior wall of a historic church in Belgium, looking a bit like it a dramatic incident of some sort landed it there. But the parasitic appearance of this outer volume belies a larger transformation inside the aging building, in which a series of private offices occupy the space without damaging the original structure. Belgian architecture firm Klaarchitectuur calls this project ‘The Waterdog,’ creating the offices for their own use.

Rectilinear white volumes are stacked atop one another like massive cake boxes, closing off several different individual offices while preserving interaction with the building at large. The clean, glossy surfaces of the additions contrast sharply with the crumbling plaster and brick; the architects wanted to leave the materiality of the church intact.

The architects restored the church’s roof – carefully, in line with the building’s status as a listed historic structure – and subdivided the space with temporary additions that could be removed eventually, if desired. Because of the way the white volumes are stacked, there are even rooftop terraces overlooking the open space. That white cube peeking out of the side of the church is the only sign from outside that anything has changed within.

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Not Just Science Fiction: Incredible Futuristic Tianjin Binhai Library by MVRDV

9 November, 2017 - 04:00
[ By SA Rogers in Architecture & Public & Institutional. ]

Looking like something out of a Kubrick film, the new Tianjin Binhai Library by MVRDV and local firm TUPDI features cascading floor-to-ceiling bookshelves that double as benches centered around a luminous sphere. From outside, the library has the appearance of a mysterious eye, with the layered interior elements acting as louvres for the facade. Gaze up at the walls from ground level and it seems like the books just keep going and going, all the way to the ceiling. The library contains an incredible 1.2 million books.

Designed and built in just three years, the Tianjin Binhai Library is located in the cultural center of Binhai district in the coastal city of Tianjin, outside of Beijing, China. It’s part of a complex of cultural buildings by prominent international architects, which are all connected by a glass canopy. The building has already become known locally as ‘The Eye.’

“The Tianjin Binhai Library interior is almost cave-like, a continuous bookshelf. Not being able to touch the building’s volume we ‘rolled’ the ball shaped auditorium demanded by the brief into the building and the building simply made space for it, as a ‘hug’ between media and knowledge” says Winy Maas, co-founder of MVRDV. “We opened the building by creating a beautiful public space inside; a new urban living room is its centre. The bookshelves are great spaces to sit and at the same time allow for access to the upper floors. The angles and curves are meant to stimulate different uses of the space, such as reading, walking, meeting and discussing. Together they form the ‘eye’ of the building: to see and be seen.”

Along the edges of the interior, beyond those undulating walls, various educational facilities can be found on five levels. A subterranean service space holds even more books as well as a large archive. Books for children and the elderly are located at the lowest levels, and while it may look like the bookshelves grow less and less accessible as they reach the ceiling, it’s an illusion: the books on the higher levels are actually painted onto the surface of the wall.

You might be wondering how in the world they’re going to keep this bright white space clean. The answer, apparently, is ropes and movable scaffolding. Sounds like a fun job.

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Repurposed Pub: Scrappy Upcycled Micro-Brewery in Japan’s ‘Zero Waste’ Town

7 November, 2017 - 20:00
[ By WebUrbanist in Architecture & Offices & Commercial. ]

A new pub and brewery building has been constructed from recycled materials in Kamikatsu, a Japanese town famous for its advanced recycling program that sorts waste in 34 categories for optimal reuse.

Designed by Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP, the structure embodies the waste-reducing principles of the community, which manages to remarkable 80% recycling rate.

Prominently, one facade is constructed from windows taken from abandoned houses and doubled up to trap air and improve insulation. This community-facing elevation brings in light but also acts as an icon of sustainability for the town but also a beacon to outsiders highlighting the area’s eco-friendly endeavors.

Their pub (a word derived from ‘public house’) aims to be open and inviting, a place where people can share a drink in large shared spaces.

Patrons sit on upcycled and converted furniture from various sources, walk on surfaces tiled with old factory flooring in spaces wall-papered with old news, all enclosed by facades wrapped in recycled cedar boards.

The business also sells groceries and other household supplies, acting as a commercial hub for the town in various secondary ways.

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6 Surprising Ways To Make Your Home More Comfortable

6 November, 2017 - 22:44

Your home should be your sanctuary away from the outside world. It should be the place where you can kick back, relax, and release your inhibitions. If your home isn’t providing the comfort you need, then you’ll have to make some changes. Here are a few small things you can do to increase the coziness level of your abode.

Regulate Your Home’s Humidity Levels

Most people don’t even consider the humidity level in their home. However, humidity plays a large role in how comfortable you feel. Optimally, humidity levels should be between 40 and 60 percent. Any higher, and your home will feel overheated. Being below that range makes it seem too cold.

One way to regulate your home’s humidity level is to have a whole-home dehumidifier installed. You can also add in ventilation in moist rooms like bathrooms or kitchens.

Pick New Colors

While neutral colors are the trend right now, they aren’t exactly friendly tones. These plain whites and beiges often leave something to be desired. If you’d like your home to have a more personalized feel, try painting your walls a slightly darker color, such as brown or gray. These tones can add a bit of drama without being too over-the-top. For even more vibrancy, use some metallic accents.

Add Some House Plants

Image via Flickr by F.D. Richards

Not only do plants add a pleasant touch to any room, but they also help to purify the air by converting carbon dioxide into oxygen. They’ll add some necessary green and give you a sense of accomplishment when you keep them alive. Just their presence works wonders for soothing stress and helping relieve your anxiety.

Display Photos and Artwork

If you really want a house to feel like a home, make sure to put up photos of your family and friends on the walls. Remembering the good times you’ve had in the past is sure to put you at ease and lighten your mood. Artwork is also a good tool, as you can hang a number of colorful and pleasing pictures as accent pieces.

Put a Rug on the Floor

Image via Flickr by

Plain carpet can get boring after a while. If you have hardwood floors, they can be both literally and figuratively cold. One way to spice up the environment and reduce chill on your feet is to throw down a few accent rugs. This will instantly brighten things up.

Update Your Lighting

Lighting plays a large role in the mood and atmosphere of a room. If your home is outfitted with fixtures from the 70s that still use fluorescent bulbs, it’s time to make a change. New fixtures, such as recessed lighting, are making a comeback and offer a beautiful glow without being too overpowering. Another option is to simply use string lights, as these give off a comfortable shimmer that will that will create a tranquil oasis.

By making a few of these changes, you’ll start feeling more at home in your house in no time. In fact, you might make your rooms so cozy that you never want to leave.

No Respite: 10 More Houses Built Out Of Spite

5 November, 2017 - 20:00
[ By Steve in Architecture & Houses & Residential. ]

Despite the old maxim that living well is the best revenge, these homeowners have chosen to creatively spite busybody neighbors and inflexible authorities.

Zipporah Lisle-Mainwaring can afford to live life lushly in the posh London neighborhood of Kensington while spending the off-season in Switzerland, yet the now 67-year-old property developer has spent the past five years constantly quarreling with her neighbors and the local council. The trouble began in 2012 when Lisle-Mainwaring bought a charming white stucco townhouse and applied for a permit to construct an “iceberg basement” beneath the edifice… permission was denied.

Subsequent basement planning applications were refused as well, so in March of 2015 Lisle-Mainwaring spited both the haughty council and her snooty (snotty?) neighbors by painting the facade of her townhouse in garish red and white stripes… with the last stripe left unfinished just to add visual insult to injury. Flickr member Francesco Camardo‘s nighttime photos above highlight both the paint job (which took just over five hours to semi-complete) and the stuccoed wall’s rich texture.

Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on one’s POV, a court order handed down in January of 2016 declared the striped house “had an adverse effect of the amenity of the area” and ordered Lisle-Mainwaring (above) to return it to its original state within 28 days. Instead, the peeved homeowner has chosen to level the existing structure and erect a four-story-plus-basement home on the lot, ensuring many months of noise, dust, traffic and inconvenience for her neighbors. Now that’s Maximum Spiting for ya!

Gaylordsville “Wedding Cake” House

Some say there are no gossips like New England gossips and when giving condescending townsfolk the literal finger won’t shut ’em up, building an architectural up-yours is the next logical step. Speaking of steps, the step-pyramid-like Wedding Cake House in Gaylordsville, Connecticut really takes the, er, cake when it comes to spitefulness.

Back in the early 1960’s, the state Child Welfare Department removed an infant girl from the custody of homeowner Jan Pol’s foster daughter. Rumor had it the baby was fathered by Pol; something he furiously denied. In protest, Pol built the faded pink structure yet never lived in it a single day up until his passing in 1979. Flickr members Walking Philly and Beyond and snapped the spiteful structure in 2012.

Plum Island Pink House

Going through a bitter divorce? Best to dissect the separation agreement with a fine-toothed comb and a magnifying glass lest ye end up like a certain bamboozled wife back in the Roaring Twenties. In a nutshell, it seems the husband was required to build his soon-to-be-ex-wife an exact replica of the pretty pink home in downtown Newburyport that they once shared.

Fine and dandy, but she should have checked the fine print: the agreement didn’t state where the replica house had to be built. Once she’d signed on the dotted line, the spiteful ex-hubby constructed the duplicate home way out in the middle of a salt marsh on deserted, wind-swept Plum Island.

It’s not known if the chagrined ex-wife actually lived in the Pink House – without any connection to utilities it would have been difficult to say the least. People did live there later on, however. One family owned the house from 1960 through 2012, eventually selling the house to the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge who are determined to demolish the lead-painted, asbestos-insulated and radon-infested house. Kudos to Flickr members Ron Grant (old 41), Jacob Taylor, and Bud (Bud in Wells, Maine) whose images above capture the Pink House’s essential beauty, sadness and yes – spitefulness.

Lubbock Purple Rental House

Don’t mess with Texas… or Texans, for that matter, even if the folks doin’ the messin’ be Texan too. You might get something like the so-called Lubbock Purple Rental House. This otherwise unremarkable single-family residence drew the ire of city authorities attempting to enforce an ordinance that allows no more than two unrelated people to live in a single-family residence. In 2001, homeowner Bill Davis and the several college students living at the house decided to protest the city’s “harassment” by painting the house purple with black and yellow polka dots. That’ll show ’em!

When a new group of students began renting space at Davis’ house in 2003, the city tried to enforce the ordinance again and Davis responded as before, though this time he eschewed the polka dots and instead painted the lawn and bushes. Kinky! The city was not amused. “We had these ordinances before he bought the house,” explained City Councilman Gary Boren, “but he (Davis) likes to be a sissy and paint his house… and say he’s making a statement. It’s a sissy way to deal with something.” Or, some might say, a spiteful way.

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Russia to Activists: Stop Repainting Soviet Monuments into American Icons

4 November, 2017 - 19:00
[ By WebUrbanist in Art & Street Art & Graffiti. ]

The Russian embassy has taken a hard line in Bulgaria where Soviet monuments have been spray-painted to become iconic American fictional characters from Superman and the Joker to Santa Claus and Ronald McDonald.

According to the Moscow Times, Russia has continued to demand that measures be stepped up to clean and protect the statues. They also want Bulgarian authorities to identify and punish the criminals and do more to prevent future attacks.

The monument at the center of the controversy was sprayed with red paint around the anniversary of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, but some artists have had other ideas over the years as well.

Previously, this same monument in Sofia was painted bright pink to recall the Prague Spring — it later got covered in Ukrainian colors to show solidarity. They have been covered with masks as well.

Of course, this is all a bit excessive in context — these are memorials to a defunct regime and situated in a foreign country over which Russia has no control. One solution would be to simply remove them from public view, as has happened in other countries over the years, but, in the end, it’s up to Bulgaria, not Russia.

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Tech Typography: An Entire Alphabet of Electronics Shaped Like Letters

2 November, 2017 - 03:00
[ By SA Rogers in Design & Graphics & Branding. ]

Can you think of an iconic electronic object for every letter of the alphabet? A for Apple, B for Bose, C for Canon, D for Dell and so on, all the way to Z? Graphic designer Vinicius Araujo found the most obvious (and satisfying) answer for all 26 letters and crafted them into renderings of appropriately shaped electronics. The series, which he calls ‘36days Electronics,’ is based on the Helvetica typeface.

For Apple, there’s a classic Macintosh computer with a floppy disk drive; Bose looks like a speaker; Epson is a printer; Motorola is the most ancient of cell phones; Sony’s a Walkman.

Functionality isn’t the point here – a computer monitor shaped like a D obviously isn’t going to do you much good. But it’s a fun visual exercise that will likely spur some nostalgia for the technology days of yore – or perhaps gratitude that our gadgets have evolved.


See more photos at Vinicius Araujo’s Behance portfolio.

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Disfiguring a PoMo Icon

1 November, 2017 - 21:00
On Monday Snøhetta released renderings of their proposed renovation of 550 Madison Avenue, better known as the AT&T Building, designed by Philip Johnson and John Burgee and completed in 1984. The main rendering reveals that a section of the pink-granite base facing Madison would be removed in favor of a wavy glass wall exposing the innards of the lower floors, including diagonal steel bracing located just behind the facade.

[Rendering: DBOX, courtesy of Snøhetta]

The main argument for what is effectively a disfigurement of a Postmodern icon is, in the words of Snøhetta, that "the recognizable top of the tower will remain a fixture of the New York City skyline." Even though the oft-called Chippendale top of the AT&T Building is its most recognizable feature, it is not a separate entity from the base. Base and top are two parts of a total composition, one that emphasized weight and aperture at a time when glass and skin were the norm.

To reacquaint myself with Johnson's building, which I walk by a fair deal but don't actively engage with very much, during my lunch hour today I walked around the building, snapping these photos with my phone. Rounding the corner at 55th Street and Madison Avenue, I was surprised to see a sidewalk shed wrapping the base. Did work on the Snøhetta plan start already?

Perusing the NYC BIS (Building Information System) for 550 Madison Avenue, I could see a bunch of permits pulled for interior work (sprinklers, non-bearing partitions, etc.) as well as one for Local Law 11 facade repairs, but I didn't see anything for work to be done on the base. The early-August permit for Local Law 11, which is required every five years to ensure pedestrian safety, is most likely the culprit, especially since the sidewalk shed permit was pulled one week later. Setting aside the sidewalk shed, it's worth comparing the base of the building today with it as originally built. Here is a photo by Mary Ann Sullivan that shows the arcade that faced Madison Avenue and wrapped around the building to the POPS (privately owned public space) and annex on the west side of the tower.

The change from arcade to enclosure happened when AT&T sold the building to Sony, who hired Charles Gwathmey's firm "to transform the structure into the world headquarters of its music entertainment division and motion picture group." The changes, completed in 1993, included "enclosing the soaring, 60-foot-high arcades flanking the north and south sides of the original building with aluminum-framed bay windows [to] recast the previously open spaces as two entertainment retail stores." Here is a model of Johnson's scheme from around 1979 showing the arcade wrapping around 55th Street toward the open POPS on the west side of the tower.

Instead of arcades, there are now narrow walkways with banners signaling the POPS:

And instead of open, the POPS is capped by glass walls at the ends:

How did this happen? Per Jerold Kayden at APOPS, "[In 1992] Sony proposed to eliminate 10,560 square feet of arcade ... and to replace it with 6,050 square feet of indoor retail space, much of it along the Madison Avenue frontage. ... [Sony also offered to] enlarge its covered pedestrian space, located at the rear of the building and connecting East 55th and 56th Streets ... and to render it climate controlled. ... Sony also proposed to ... replace the AT&T Infoquest Center with its own exhibit center, called SonyWonder Technology Lab, in the annex."

In other words, Sony moved around some of its legally required public space and conditioned some of it to gain city approval, which they obviously got. But Sony sold the building in 2013 and therefore removed its Wonder lab, so the once-crowded POPS is now a pretty abysmal space, even during a weekday lunch hour:

All of this backstory is to bring a couple things to the fore:
  1. Charles Gwathmey was the first architect to disfigure the AT&T Building, doing it when the building was not even ten years old.
  2. The character of the building that Snøhetta is responding to in its attempt to "transform the base into an inviting street front" is more Gwathmey's doing than it is Johnson's original.
With these points, the strongest position a preservationist could take would entail opening up the arcades and POPS to Johnson's original. The Snøhetta plan actually goes part of the way there: "550 Madison’s proposed public space will be converted to an outdoor garden, providing a verdant landscape with water features and trees as a respite from the dense urban fabric of Manhattan."

Ultimately, the biggest argument used by people opposing Snøhetta's renovation plan is that base and top are wed together (the above photo tries to show that) and that the wavy glass skin would obliterate that relationship. But since the building is not a NYC landmark, the changes by Snøhetta for Olayan and Chelsfield are not subject to public review. Nevertheless, one preservationist "has submitted a formal request for evaluation to the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission for both the building’s exterior and interior lobby" (Gwathmey did not touch the latter). Furthermore, there are a petition and protest (Friday, November 3 at 1pm) aimed at derailing Snøhetta's plans. Too bad opposition to Sony's plan, if any, didn't achieve the same back in 1993.