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Love where you live

Updated: 2017-02-20T10:30:01-05:00


Carpenter builds himself a cozy timber home in Quebec



This modern abode is all about windows and wood

In the icy Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada, snowy winters demand that all abodes be cozy and warm. For one local carpenter seeking a first home, that meant building a winter-worthy sanctuary with his own two hands. Clad in raw Hemlock pine, the aptly christened “Wood Duck” is a modern cabin designed to beat the wintry chill.

(image) Jean Christophe Laniel

Three large rectangular windows cover the home’s south-facing wall, catching the sun’s rays while providing a breathtaking view of the river and ski mountain beyond. The home’s double-height living room also accommodates an old wood-burning stove, its metal chimney rising two stories to the roof. The ground floor kitchen has ample counter space, including a large cooking island, and a dining table. Upstairs, the home has two intimate bedrooms, an office nook, and full bath.

(image) Jack Jérome

Montreal-based studio Atelier l’Abri, the architects behind the design, planned the layout so that private spaces face the north, while more “public,” open living spaces face the sunnier south.


Via: Inhabitat, ArchDaily

Dystopian office tech uses sensors to track workers’ every move



Are energy savings worth the constant surveillance?

In the fully developed “smart office,” the boss is always watching. Already, hundreds of companies have embedded sensors in workspaces, lamps, cubicles, and computers to track the activities of workers. One such company, The Boston Consulting Group, is even piloting a program where employees’ badges contain a microphone and location sensor to monitor how office layout impacts communication, according to Bloomberg.

To many, the idea that managers can measure the amount of time you spend at your desk or the minutes in-between conversations with colleagues feels overly invasive. But it’s all entirely legal. “Employers can do any kind of monitoring they want in the workplace that doesn’t involve the bathroom,” said Lewis Maltby, president of the National Workrights Institute, in an interview with Bloomberg. That is, as long as all the data collected is anonymized.

To be sure, the detailed monitoring can do more than track whether a worker is spending too much time talking at the water cooler. Advocates of the technology cite the environmental and energy-efficiency benefits of having rooms that know to dim the lights and turn down the heat when no one’s there.

For example, the New York-based office design firm Gensler has installed some 1,000 dime-size sensors across its office for such uses, which has already led to 25 percent savings in energy costs. The company projects that the cost of installation—about $200,000—can be recouped in five years. Get the full story here.

Via: Bloomberg, MIT Technology Review

Inside a modern refuge in small-town Indiana


A couple opts for simplicity, leaving Chicago to return to family land Every week, our House Calls feature takes you into homes with great style, big personality, and ineffable soul. Today, we visit the Valparaiso, Indiana, home of Guy and Kate Gangi. After purchasing a piece of Kate’s family homestead, the couple hired her cousin, architect Fred Bamesberger (Bamesberger Architecture), to design a home that was the antithesis of how they’d lived before. The day Kate left her hometown of Valparaiso, Indiana, for college, she never dreamed she would return. But after the interior designer, founder of Gangi Design, spent years working in and around Chicago working and raising a family, she and her husband were ready for a big change. They left what they describe as a “high-powered, high-stress” design world (Guy is a retired brand strategist and designer) for the serenity of the property where Kate spent much of her childhood, a tree- and wetland-filled piece of land surrounded by the hills and farmlands of northwest Indiana. The 10-acre parcel they purchased has been in the family for many years. Right after World War II, Kate’s grandfather Charles McGill—an industrialist who designed and manufactured electrical components, fixtures, and bearings—purchased land in Porter County and started to develop and shape it. Eventually, he’d own 250 acres. “We grew up calling it ‘the diggins,’ because Grandpa was always digging there,” Kate says. “There are a lot of natural springs on the properties, so he dug ponds. He also created hills and planted trees. It was quite a production.” Left: Shelves and cabinetry are crafted from birch plywood and hold Kate and Guy Gangi’s collection of serveware. Right: Guy loads logs into storage that’s concealed beneath the seat of a built-in bench. Over time, the land was divided and sold among family members. When Guy and Kate bought their piece of land, they used it as a weekend getaway, but after four years, they decided it should be their permanent address. When they began the process of designing a house, they didn’t have to look far: Bamesberger had already created a handful of homes there for other family members. “Some people hate working for family,” he says. “For me, they’ve been some of my best clients.” The first order of business was to site the house, and that was no easy task. “The spot was so heavily forested, we had to use a machete to go out to the place where the house sits,” says Guy. That was no problem for Bamesberger, who has been roaming the land from childhood, back when Kate was his babysitter, not his client. “Basically, I’d spend the summer outside doing all kinds of boy stuff—building bridges across creeks, hiking in the woods, and making bonfires at night,” he says. “It was like a private park for our family, and I had the kind of freedom to wander that most kids probably don’t have today.” Clockwise from top: The house was designed to appear to hover over the landscape; the living room holds one of the Gangis’ drums (Guy is a musician and hosts drumming circles); a birch wood hook displays feathers and a smudge fan. Besides a deep familiarity with the land, Bamesberger had another design ace up his sleeve: his willingness to tackle “unbuildable” sites. “I’ve become the architect in this part of the state that gets the land that’s impossible to build on,” he says. “Most people around here pick a flat field to build on, but I’ve come to look at land that’s hard to deal with as an opportunity rather than a problem.” In this case, the problem took care of itself. Due to required setbacks from wetlands, there was only one really viable spot for the house. “It was so densely wooded, it was hard to see what Fred was talking about. But we knew that we would overlook wetlands, we knew we wouldn’t be able to see another house, and we knew it would be peaceful,[...]

Incredible green-roofed school blends into the mountain landscape




We’ve seen a fair number of charming green roofs, but few are as committed to the idea as this sprawling new school in Revin, France. Completed by Bordeaux-based firm Duncan Lewis Scape Architecture, the project began with the demolition of the original ‘60s-built and badly-damaged Jean Moulin High School, which had been embedded into the landscape of rolling hills.

The new structure built on the mountain bedrock retains this connection to nature, creating a sequence of expansive vegetated terraces that gradually rise with the site. Classrooms are housed under the green roofs, fronted by entire walls of windows overlooking the valley below. The building’s central agora is well lit and features ramps on both sides leading to classrooms and other facilities. Here’s a peek inside.

(image) Photo by Cyrille Weiner via Inhabitat
(image) Photo by Cyrille Weiner via Inhabitat

Via: Inhabitat

Live the charming California bungalow life for $1.1M


This cutie is located in Albany, a small city in Alameda County For charming bungalow living, look no further than this sweet Mediterranean in Albany, California, a small city in Alameda County. Built in 1937, the 1,466-square-foot home has three bedrooms and two baths arranged over a congenial open floor plan accommodating a spacious living room with sloping ceiling, a fireplace, and picture window; a sun-filled dining room; and an adorable kitchen that feels both retro and contemporary. Here, the custom spalted maple cabinetry is trimmed in a lively green paint, which is complemented by the darker forest-green tiles of the backsplash. This, in turn, is accented by a ribbon of black and white squares. The countertops are Vetrazzo (also green), with a separate cutting-board surface opposite the Viking stove. There’s even an adjoining breakfast room—currently being used as a small office—overlooking an organic garden that includes apple, lemon, fig, and Japanese maple trees. The bedrooms also feature sloping ceilings, and the master sports built-in shelving. A small stone patio provides outdoor respite next to a rustic wood-and-glass-framed greenhouse—which would also make an awesome playhouse for kids. Located at 504 San Carlos Avenue, it’s yours for $1,100,000—which feels hefty for such a little, albeit lovely, thing. But hey, it’s Northern California. Have a look. Via: Sotheby’s International Realty [...]

French tiny house comfortably fits family of three



Featuring a private bedroom for the child

There are many ways to design a tiny house fit for two, but when you add a third person—and a child at that—things sure get interesting. In this new Calypso tiny house, French builder Baluchon shows how to comfortably accommodate a family of three in a tiny home through clever design.

Clad in red cedar with a bit of Shou Sugi Ban charred wood for decoration, the house offers a main living space with a dining table wide enough to seat three, along with a small kitchenette. On the other end, there’s a loft bed commonly seen in tiny homes, which sits above a separate bedroom (with its own door and small desk!) for the child, plus a small bathroom with a composting toilet.

Plenty of storage space is hidden throughout the home. The sofa, which doubles as a guest bed (four people may be pushing space limits though), integrates storage underneath. And in the kid’s bedroom, the raised bed has two wardrobes underneath. Here’s a closer look.


Via: New Atlas

How Kansas City is turning Main Street into a model for digital downtowns


A new sensor network and public dashboard hint at the potential of smart city technology. The next stage of smart city technology may start with finding a parking space. Last Tuesday, Kansas City, Missouri, unveiled the latest update to its nascent Smart City Initiative, a new public data portal that lets anybody view traffic data and find open parking spots along the city’s downtown streetcar line. The simplistic graphics and capabilities of this new public dashboard certainly haven’t been lifted from some fantastical, Jetson’s-esque future. But this new open data platform signifies a step forward for municipal data collection, and blocky display aside, may offer a road map for cities looking to reap the rewards of data-informed decision-making. “This is the first of its kind system in the country, perhaps the world,” says Bob Bennett, Kansas City’s Chief Innovation Officer, who had been a leader in the city’s effort to create a smart corridor downtown. “It’s a platform that’s now open to the public, as well as citizen entrepreneurs.” A 2.2-mile smart district that runs along the city’s streetcar line, this digitally enabled downtown neighborhood offers a sneak peek at how administrators across the country may begin to conceive of and construct next-generation infrastructure. Along with 25 digital kiosks that offer public web access, curated local content, and a public Wi-Fi network, a set of LED streetlights and sensors monitor human and vehicular traffic as well as demographic data, providing information Bennett and his colleagues are beginning to incorporate into city operations. Finding a parking spot is nice, but not life-changing. But with the tech backbone KC has installed downtown, a whole host of more efficient, cost-savings services are possible. “I can look at the city much more holistically now,” says Bennett. “We’re getting closer to seeing the entire data set of the city, not just what people submit. It’s been a game changer.” XAQT The Smart City Open Access dashboards lets residents see traffic patterns along the city’s streetcar line. Digging into the data KC’s smart district began to take shape in 2013, when the city started formulating plans to install a $100 million streetcar line. Cisco, the IT and networking giant, approached the city in 2014 to see if they could team up and include smart city technology in whatever renovations and redevelopments accompany the new downtown transit system. KC agreed, and over the next few years, a $15.7 million system of sensors and information kiosks, funded by a public-private partnership between Cisco, Sprint, and the city, was designed and deployed on Main Street along the streetcar line. Kansas City had entered the Department of Transportation’s Smart Cities challenge with hopes to create a larger smart city network, and while it lost out to Columbus, Ohio, many of the ideas from the competition have lived on in this new effort. The network collects data from video cameras mounted within smart streetlights, which tally car and pedestrian traffic, as well as the information kiosk and Wi-Fi access points, which compile web search data and population flow (all video data is processed and overwritten to avoid fears of surveillance, and web activity is anonymized, to protect privacy). Right now, data collection and analysis mainly focuses on traffic patterns. Users can check in and see which spots along the streetcar line are open, see intersections with heavy traffic or gridlock, and even lock back over a 24-hour period to view the peaks and valleys of traffic throughout the corridor. With an accompanying app, driver can pull out their phone, plan ahead and find a spot without spending extra time circling downtown. XAQT The dashboard allows users to scout out open parking spots downtown in real[...]

Ikea and Space10 are making urban gardening easier



They teamed on these spherical "Growrooms," which you can build yourself

Ikea’s innovation and design lab Space10 in Copenhagen is a hub for new ideas for sustainable “future living” in an urban environment. It is also an exhibition space, showcasing products that tackle challenges facing people across the globe.

One of the designs to come out of the space, which opened in November, is the Growroom, a freestanding spherical garden that hopes to empower people to grow their food locally and bring nature back into cities.

Designed as a collaboration with architects Sine Lindholm and Mads-Ulrik Husum, the Growroom, which is also a walk-in pavilion offering respite, proved to be so popular that Space10 decided to release the complete instructions for download. This open-source dissemination is more sustainable, too.

All you need to construct your very own urban garden is 17 sheets of plywood, a rubber hammer, and access to a space with a CNC milling machine or laser cutter. The sphere measures approximately 9.2 by 8.2 feet and features five tiers on which to place planters filled with all kinds of plants, herbs, and small vegetables. Find all the details right over here.


Via: Fast Co. Design

Dark timber house offers refuge for homeowner with sleep disorder



The home is designed to be a hushed environment

Sleep can be difficult to come by—and the increasing number of apps, trackers, and gadgets meant to help catch some zzzs offers a clue to the breadth (and potential profitability) of the problem. Could the way our homes are designed be a key to better shut-eye?

This compact, blackened-timber house, the Garden Pavilion, makes a case for residential architecture as a sleep aid, if not a cure for a chronic lack of rest.

Commissioned by a couple in Melbourne, Australia—one of whom suffers from a serious sleep condition—the home is the work of local firm Black Line One X Architecture Studio (also known as BLOXAS).

The design team created a private, swaddling modern home that offers a refuge from the sound—and, when needed, light—in the clients’ residential neighborhood.

Acoustic ceiling panels, for example, help prevent sound waves from bouncing around excessively inside the home, their perforations offering some graphic visual interest overhead. Walls in the house are also “heavily insulated,” writes Dezeen, and double doors throughout the house come equipped with noise-dampening seals.

The house’s curved form defers to a compact garden (hence the home’s name) and a small stand of citrus and olive trees. It’s an idyllic, Zen view, and one that, in concert with the strategic design moves deployed inside, surely has the homeowners counting more sheep than they otherwise would.


Via: Dezeen

Frank Gehry is teaching an online architecture class



Ever wish you could design like Frank?

The starchitect’s starchitect Frank Gehry is still a busy man at 87 years young. When he’s not debuting major cultural institutions or winning a Presidential Medal of Freedom, the L.A.-based Pritzker winner is tapping into what’s hip and now, e.g. virtual education. That’s right: Frank Gehry is teaching an online architecture class.

Offered through the digital education platform MasterClass—which also has a singing class with Christina Aguilera, a tennis class with Serena Williams, to name a few—Gehry’s course will, per a press release, “share his unconventional philosophy on design and architecture.” Indeed. Besides hearing about the thought process that led to icons like the Walt Disney Concert Hall in L.A. and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, students will also get to check out the architect’s “never-before-seen” model archive.


“I have tried to give the students insight into my process – how and why I did things. I hope this gives them the wings to explore and the courage to create their own language,” Gehry said in a statement.

Here’s a video trailer for the class (because this is 2017):

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Intrigued? Pre-enrollment for the spring class starts today. The cost is $90 for over 15 video lessons. Looking for a design education without the fees? Harvard has you covered with its upcoming free online course, “The Architecture of Imagination.”