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Updated: 2016-09-27T18:06:37-04:00


Old timber chapel offers historic bones in the English countryside


If you’ve ever dreamed of setting off into the English countryside to live a simpler life, this may be your chance. An old former chapel is on sale in Pett Bottom, Kent, and though it needs a lot of work, the possibilities are endless. The wood-and-brick structure sits on approximately half an acre in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (an official designation, by the way) among gardens and within views of the Downs (a ridge of chalk hills). As it stands—and, really, it’s basically just a shell at this point—the property includes two bedrooms, a vaulted great room, kitchen and dining room, as well as a garage-cum-workshop space. Meant to be off-grid, the home features electricity and a boiler for hot water, but is heated by a large gas stove. The property also includes a greenhouse. Although the current owners had plans drawn up by London-based firm ZMMA to expand the property, they were never executed—which is to say that the home has loads of potential, if only someone would give it a little TLC. It’s listed by The Modern House for £375,000, or approximately $488,285. Watch: Architecture that comes to life in Game of Thrones [...]

Paris officially bans cars along a bank of the Seine to address pollution concerns


Part of a larger “Paris Breathes” program The Paris mayor’s ambitious (and controversial) plan to make the banks of the Seine more pedestrian-friendly has been approved by the city council, Le Monde reports, and is part of a larger "Paris Breathes" anti-pollution campaign by mayor Anne Hidalgo. A length of 3.3 kilometers (approximately two miles) running along the Right Bank from the Tuileries gardens to the Henri IV tunnel—an area that is part of a UNESCO world heritage site—will be permanently closed off to vehicles and transformed into a promenade for walking and biking. Traffic, noise, and emissions levels will be monitored on other main thoroughfares as well. Though the plan has been met with opposition from the right and motorists, 55 percent of Parisians are in support of it. Pollution in the capital city is among the European Union’s worst and even sometimes competes with levels in Beijing and China. And according to the Independent, medical experts have named air pollution as a contributing factor in 2,500 deaths in the city and 6,600 in the greater metropolitan area each year. Will this measure be enough to make the air safer to breathe? Décision historique au #ConseildeParis : la fin d'une autoroute urbaine à Paris et la reconquête de la Seine. — Anne Hidalgo (@Anne_Hidalgo) September 26, 2016 Other cities are also seeing success with community policing. Homicides dropped in New Haven, Connecticut, after police started walking their beats. The community policing program in Dallas, Texas, has been credited for keeping the peace after five police officers were shot and killed at the end of a previously peaceful protest in July. Similar foot beat initiatives are underway in Milwaukee, Portland, Oregon, and Baltimore. And two years after Ferguson’s civil unrest spurred a global movement, the city is building a new neighborhood policing program built around walking. While applying community policing to a city’s most dangerous neighborhoods can have a positive impact, walking the beat needs to be part of a more comprehensive, reform-minded strategy. Critics say that police departments must first work to hire officers who fit the racial and ethnic backgrounds of the communities they’re patrolling. Reform would also mean an end to incentivized arrest rates and decriminalizing minor drug offenses. At least one aspect of foot beat data is irrefutable. Cops who practice community policing are statistically less likely to draw their guns, something that Tingirides confirmed personally—she had not shot or killed anyone in her 22 years on the force. Especially in neighborhoods still reeling from social unrest, foot beats might even give officers a chance to repair the relationship in one way that only face-to-face, sidewalk encounters could. As she walked her beat, she found herself apologizing, said Tingirides. “Saying I’m sorry, not for what I did, but for what this badge and uniform means for so many people.” Maybe the best way to repair the broken relationships between police and the people they protect is to get out of the car and rebuild that trust, block-by-block, step-by-step. [...]

First look: Inside Zaha Hadid Architects's new culture center in China



The Nanjing International Youth Culture Center is slated to open at the end of the year

Another of the late Zaha Hadid’s designs will soon be completed, this time in Nanjing, China. Slated to open later this year, the Nanjing International Youth Culture Center in the eastern province of Jiangsu consists of two smooth-edged skyscrapers, one 1,030 feet and the other 837 feet connected to a broad, five-story podium set on a 5.2-hectare, or 12.9-acre, plot. Now, thanks to photographer Khoo Guo Jie of Béton Brut studio, we get a sneak peak.

The two towers are mainly clad in glass, but as the eye travels downward to their base, one can see them merging with the concrete, swooping mass below, which features square panels punctuated by a pattern of windows that seems to undulate with the facade’s curves. In effect, the grid of squares, diamonds, and rhomboidal shapes create the sense that the building is a breathing, shape-shifting organism, even as it stands firmly in place, presiding majestically over the city.

Created as a mixed-use building, the impressive structure will house a hotel, a 2,100-seat conference center, 500-seat concert venue, office space, and basement parking. It’s scheme also functions to recall the "verticality" of the business district and the outward-reaching landscape of adjacent river. Take a look below, then head to Designboom for the full story.


The humble hotdog cart goes high design at Guggenheim Bilbao



Hotdog architecture is heating up

The plans for Guggenheim Helsinki might be on ice, but in Bilbao, the design of a Guggenheim-affiliated hot dog cart is hot hot hot. Created with the "digital craftsmanship" of architectural firm Arquimaña, the Salchibotxo, as they’ve named it, remixes the time-worn image of local food vendors with the sleek clean lines of modern design.

The combo of high design and low street food culture is a cheeky mashup for the Guggenheim Bilbao’s new food cart. The mobile structure is made primarily of natural oak strips with white perforated aluminum shutters that fold outwards to make a sun shade. An additional food-prep space also folds down to make a waist-high counter. It’s very cute.


The cart serves artisanal sausages, of course. It’s a seasonal spin-off of the museum’s existing bistro.

The relationship between Guggenheim museums and nearby hot dog carts is a surprisingly rich one. There was a mighty kerfuffle in New York City in 2010 when Guggenheim officials objected to the "visually disruptive" carts of hot dog vendors in front of the iconic Frank Lloyd Wright-designed building. The museum even went so far as to commission the design of a more appropriate food kiosk to replace the offensive carts outside the building. But the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted it down.

At least one Guggenheim museum will now have the hot dog cart it deserves.


Eco-friendly prefab home with green roof built in 6 weeks



Sustainability-minded through and through

From the same firm that delivered Australia’s first "carbon-positive prefab" comes another prefab stunner, located by Avalon Beach in New South Wales. Erected over a period of six weeks by Archiblox, the roughly 1,722-square-foot abode was sustainability-driven throughout, from the initial decision to go prefab (which would leave a minimal impact on the ocean and cliff landscape) to the hardwood cladding milled from sustainable forestry methods.

The interior was done up with low-VOC paints and features custom furnishings like a stunning blue kitchen with high-contrast white counters and orange accents. Sited with an east-west orientation for cross-ventilation, the house also maximizes its light and views with north-facing windows and a wraparound deck. Topping it all off is a green roof that blends into the natural surroundings while minimizing rainwater runoff and solar penetration. For more photos, head to the project site.

(image) Photo by Tom Ross
(image) Photo by Tom Ross
(image) Photo by Tom Ross

Watch: Tips for tiny living

Case study: How to install a green roof on a private home


A New York architect and green roof pro walks through the process of designing and installing a lush living rooftop The site: A more than 900-square-foot expanse atop a historic building in the Prospect Lefferts Gardens neighborhood of Brooklyn. The homeowner recently re-roofed the building, in anticipation of installing a green space, she had the roofer raise the skylights several inches and bring the waterproofing material up the sides of the roof’s walls. The plan: The homeowner envisioned a wide carpet of greenery in addition to a small space for growing some fruits and vegetables, as well as an area to hang out with friends. She hired architect and green roof pro Inger Staggs Yancey of Brooklyn Greenroof to bring her idea to life. According to Yancey, installing a green roof is like putting together a complicated puzzle, and because of this, it's not something you should DIY. During the initial design discussions—for this site, there were a lot—Yancey brings on a structural engineer. "The first thing you want to do is to find out how much weight the roof can support, whether it’s a lot or a little. That will change the kinds of designs you can entertain." The plants: The engineer’s assessment showed that the roof could hold 55 pounds per square foot—enough strength to support a full rooftop farm. "The average green roof needs a minimum of 2.5 to 3 inches of growing media," Yancey explains. "If you’re going to grow vegetables, you need media to be 7 inches deep. But the more media you have, the more it will weigh." For a time, the homeowner entertained the idea of installing a full rooftop farm but eventually decided to return to her initial concept of a low-maintenance green space with a few planters for edibles. The majority of the roof would be covered with a flowering sedum. They chose flowering sedum, a standard green roof plant, as the roof covering. "Sedum is the standard green roof plant," Yancey says. "It’s extremely drought tolerant, low maintenance, and never needs to be reseeded or watered. It’s a plant adapted to growing on mountaintops in low-nutrient soil. Any flowers that fall off decompose and form the fertilizer the plant needs, so it does its own little composting in a way." The layers: Green roofs are made of layers designed to protect the building structure from water while holding and sustaining the plants. The bottom layer is a root barrier, typically made of very thick plastic sheeting that will prevent any strong roots from digging into the building. "Roots are drawn to carbon," explains Yancey. "And some of the more affordable roofing materials are made primarily of carbon. It’s one of those unlucky coincidences. You have to work hard to keep them separate." The roof before its green makeover. All photos courtesy Brooklyn Greenroof. Several inches of edging material—typically stones or gravel—will then be used to form a root-free border separating the growing area from any vertical elements like walls or, in this case, the sides of the skylights. Metal slats placed between the rocks and the growth media help ensure separation while retaining drainage. Next is a moisture-retention layer that looks something like an egg-crate mattress. Enough water to sustain the plants will collect in the divots of the egg crate, while excess water can drain out through holes atop the raised bumps. Left: Installing the root barrier. Right: Installing the egg crate-like moisture-retention layer, which was temporarily weighed down with bricks. "One question I always get from homeowners is ‘What happens to the water when it rains? Where does the water go?’" Yancey says. "The answer is that it goes the same place it would if you didn’t have a green roof. The roof is designed so the water percolates through the green roof and can flow to the gutters and downspouts in the [...]

Midcentury water cistern transformed into gorgeous modern home



A sense of its history has been preserved

The elegance of this Spanish home’s curved glass wall belies the structure’s original use as a stone water cistern. Built up over time atop irregular terrain, the original building—completed in 1955—had an awkward layout but an excellent site. After it was no longer needed to hold well water, the building served for many years as a storage space.

That is, until Madrid-based Valdivieso Arquitectos converted the structure into a glamorous modern home. The architects added an open living space to the top floor of the cistern, which now houses the entrance, kitchen, living room, and dining area.


The arc of the central glass wall follows the curve of the original well, which was left intact in the middle of a small courtyard. White marble was used to face one side of the building, near a fenced light well providing sunlight to the lower floor.

The lower level, fitting inside of the old stone cistern, holds the home’s bedrooms and bathrooms. Because the structure is partially built into a hillside, the lower level has its own private courtyard, shaded by a green metal canopy.


New smart home hub offers solution for beginners



It’s the latest from smart home company Wink

For smart home beginners (and skeptics who feel that the dream of the intelligent dwelling far outpaces the available software and hardware), a common source of anxiety is the lack of a decent hub—a central command station and simple way to get various products communicating with one another.

Of course, big tech companies like Amazon, Apple, and Google have jumped into the fray, hoping to seize the moment and provide hub-esque products like Amazon’s Echo and its "Alexa" voice-operated interface, Apple’s HomeKit app (new to the recently released iOS 10), or Google Home (also voice-activated).

Wink, the New York City-based smart home company founded in 2014, is also doing its part to solve the question of just how to get all these disparate smart home products talking, and today announced an update to its hub offering. The Wink Hub 2 has a sleeker design, with a thinner profile and a body that ditches early-aughts rounded edges for the sharper lines increasingly more tech is embracing these days. "We really wanted to design something that was beautiful enough to put on a bookshelf or beside your TV," Wink founder Nathan Smith recently explained to Curbed. The new hub also features updated hardware, which the company reports improves the device’s security; the new hardware makes use of cryptographic verification, a specific digital signature that makes it harder for unauthorized users to gain remote access to the hub.

The hub works with several communication "protocols" a.k.a. the languages smart home products speak, which helps the less tech-adept amongst us make the best use of our smart bulbs, outlets, and more, helping take some guess work out of "what works with what," says Smith. For now, there are 31 companies whose products work with Wink, according to the Wink blog.

And, in a move the company hopes will help the masses across the U.S. warm to the idea of a smarter home, Wink has partnered with Walmart to retail the new hub for $99. (Walmart stores will also start stocking Wink Hub-compatible products alongside the hub.) You can also snag the hub on the company’s site, on Amazon, and at Home Depot.