Iceberg Homes: London Boroughs Curb Luxury ‘Super-Basements’

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[ By WebUrbanist in Architecture & Houses & Residential. ]

underground estate luxury home

It is increasingly common to find London properties that have more subterranean interior space than above-ground square footage, a byproduct of the wealthy desiring to build additions without tripping over surface-oriented building codes. New legislation in some boroughs of the city aims to cut down on permits issue to such underground expansions.

mega basement

'Iceberg house' illustration

Anecdotes around these mega-basements abound, including stories of the compromising neighboring houses by undermining their structural integrity. As Curbed reports: “In a famous case from 2012, excavation work under the mansion of a Goldmann Sachs director resulted in his neighbor getting trapped inside her home, unable to open her front door since it had shifted so much.”

mega basement design

Indeed, the billionaires building these projects do a lot of strange things to maintain their bottom line while maximizing their additions, including leaving diggers worth thousands of dollars each (millions in aggregate) buried in unmarked and self-dug graves simply because the cost of excavating exceeds that of retrieving them. Like other facets of this phenomena, the lack of visibility relating to such practices has helped keep them hidden from public scrutiny.

london basement expansion diagram

Over the last decade, the demand for permits to extend below ground has skyrocketed, increasing by over tenfold. In response to the growing concern over these practices, Chelsea and other boroughs are considering measures including: restricting below-ground extensions to a single story, reducing the distance they can expand beyond the building footprint and capping the total subterranean square footage by project (diagrams via TheDailyMail and TheGuardian).

mole man underground house

Finally, any discussion of tunnels and London would be remiss not to mention the famous case of the Mole Man, which helped bring many of these other oddities to light. Without permits or permission of any time, this now-infamous Hackney resident began to burrow beneath his house. William Lyttle ultimately tunneled outward in various directions and well beyond his own property line and underneath adjacent streets and homes. For the safety of all involved, the building has been condemned though there are potential plans in place to turn it into artist housing.


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Ruins of Crumbling Church Salvaged with Geometric Addition

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[ By Steph in Architecture & Public & Institutional. ]

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A faceted glass structure clings to the ruins of a stone church in Santpedor, Spain, filling in a gaping hole that was created with the demolition of an adjacent convent. Built modestly by priests between 1721 and 1729, the hermitage of Sant Francesc started to crumble long ago, and by 2000 the roof had sunk and the vaults of the nave and chapels had partially collapsed, leaving it looking as if it the rest of it would come down at any time.

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But anyone brave enough to step through the doors would have found an interior that was still stunning in its cavernous arched spaciousness, daylight streaming in through massive holes in the ceiling. That hint of promise, along with its historical value, is what led to the intervention by architect David Closes (photographs by Jordi Surroca.)

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Closes transformed the church with a stunning modern addition and interior renovation that integrates the character of the ruins into the new elements, creating contrast and preserving a perspective of the church’s past. Sant Francesc is now home to a multi-functional cultural center and auditorium.

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Smooth concrete and timber enhance the aged qualities of the stone in the new interiors, with partially-collapsed areas and holes simply filled in with windows to show off rather than correct the damage that was done to the structure over the centuries.


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Chinese Homeowner’s Illegal Skyway Bridges 2 Highrise Condos

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[ By WebUrbanist in Architecture & Houses & Residential. ]

china condo bridge connector

Sky bridges are a common sight in many cities, but are generally used to create a semi-public pathway from one building to the next, not to illicitly join two private highrise units in midair.

china illicit private sky bridge

In Nanning, China, one resident apparently purchased two apartment units situated nearly across from (and facing) one another with a novel plan in mind: connect them via a slightly-sloped extension to expand his interior space. As a local paper reports, the raised structure is raising concerns for pedestrians passing below.

skyway illegal bridge china

The makeshift metal-roofed-and-clad addition is supported by a system of somewhat rickety-looking steel trusses forming a spaceframe below – given their elevation (and lack of planning permission), it is unclear whether these will survive natural disasters like serious storms or earthquakes.

penthouse top

It also remains uncertain how this development got so far in the first place, but given other precedents in the region (like the illegal ooftop penthouse mountain shown above) this kind of rogue building project is not entirely shocking.


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Chinese Homeowner’s Illegal Skyway Bridges 2 Highrise Condos

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[ By WebUrbanist in Architecture & Houses & Residential. ]

china condo bridge connector

Sky bridges are a common sight in many cities, but are generally used to create a semi-public pathway from one building to the next, not to illicitly join two private highrise units in midair.

china illicit private sky bridge

In Nanning, China, one resident apparently purchased two apartment units situated nearly across from (and facing) one another with a novel plan in mind: connect them via a slightly-sloped extension to expand his interior space. As a local paper reports, the raised structure is raising concerns for pedestrians passing below.

skyway illegal bridge china

The makeshift metal-roofed-and-clad addition is supported by a system of somewhat rickety-looking steel trusses forming a spaceframe below – given their elevation (and lack of planning permission), it is unclear whether these will survive natural disasters like serious storms or earthquakes.

penthouse top

It also remains uncertain how this development got so far in the first place, but given other precedents in the region (like the illegal ooftop penthouse mountain shown above) this kind of rogue building project is not entirely shocking.


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Hand-Grown Murals: Watch as Plant Paintings Take Over Walls

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

weed painting interior

Some say art is as much about process as product – these time-lapse animations show just how true that can be, illustrating the evolution of green-themed graffiti as it creeps, crawls and overtakes the walls on which it is painted.

weed progress animation

weed growth painting

Weeds is a series of projects by artist Mona Caron (via Colossal), captured on film, that is as much about slow and usually-unseen urban processes as it is about artwork in public spaces.

weed corner illustration painting

weed wall art space

Of her work and plants themselves, she writes: “they may be tiny but they break through concrete. They are everywhere and yet unseen. And the more they get stepped on, the stronger they grow back. This is a series of paintings of weeds, some of them on-site animations, created as a tribute to the resilience of all those beings who no one made room for, were not part of the plan, and yet keep coming back, pushing through and rising up.”

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weed building side growth

weed roof mural art

Mona paints native wild plants and invasive species alike, bringing to light processes that are typically hidden both due to their slow progression and their ubiquitous nature – over time, we stop noticing what is happening “at the margin of things” if we are not paying attention. So far, she has painted plants in Switzerland, India, Greece, and the United States but she is looking for more places to travel and paint as well.


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Residential Rollercoaster: Buyers Ride Through House for Sale

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

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Perhaps ‘roller coaster ride’ isn’t the most desirable term that a seller would want potential buyers using to describe the property they’re showing, but in this case, it might not be such a bad thing. Dutch brokerage firm Verder Met Wonen literally takes prospective residents on a ride through the home on a specially-installed roller coaster in single-rider wooden cars.

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house rollercoaster 1

The ride starts in the driveway, descending into the basement and then hoisting viewers up the stairs to see the first level.  It then rises to the second floor, winds through the bedrooms and plummets out an upper window into the backyard.

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A 90-second promotional clip gives us a glimpse at the journey, even if we can’t take it ourselves. No word on whether the stunt has helped the home’s chances of selling, and it’s certainly not giving prospective buyers a lot of time to mull over each space, but it’s certainly getting the firm some attention.


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Deceptively Reflective: 12 Mirrored Buildings Trick the Eye

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[ By Steph in Architecture & Houses & Residential. ]

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Intentionally fooling the eye to either completely disorient you or focus your vision on a certain part of a scene, these mirrored buildings reflect their surroundings, often seeming to disappear entirely when viewed from certain angles. Hopefully, all of these deceptive reflective surfaces aren’t killing too many birds.

Reflective Roadside Cafe
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The branches of an adjacent row of cherry trees are multiplied many times over in the polished mirrored surfaces of this roadside cafe by japanese firm Bandesign. The trees are a tourist draw during bloom season, so putting the focus on them helps draw in business for the cafe owners.

Chateau de Rentilly: Mirror-Clad French Country House
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Mirrored panels completely transform a 1960s country house, Le Château de Rentilly, in the French countryside. Architecture studio Bona-LeMercier worked with artist Xavier Veilhan and set designer Alexis Bertrand to enhance the structure itself and also put the focus on the picturesque hillside setting. The former home is now a permanent gallery for Frac Île-de-France, the region’s contemporary art fund.

Invisible Barn

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A combination of see-through portals and mirrored surfaces make this structure seem like a mirage as you approach the little park in which it stands. Designed for the 2014 Folly Competition, the mirrored barn isn’t actually a three-dimensional structure but rather a house-shaped wall.

Optical Illusion Street Facade Art

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Ordinary passersby suddenly become talented acrobats when they interact with ‘Bâtiment,’ an installation by Leandro Erlich on display at Le 14 in paris as part of the In_Perceptions exhibition. The project added a massive mirror to the vertical facade of a real building, reflecting a fake facade that was applied to the sidewalk in front of it. The result is a fun optical illusion that made participants appear to defy gravity.

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Radiocative Chernobyl: New Aerial Drone Footage of ‘The Zone’

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[ By WebUrbanist in Abandoned Places & Architecture. ]

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Satellite images and pictures from the ground tell a limited story of one of the world’s most dangerous abandoned places – this flyover footage fills in the gaps, covering the 20-mile nuclear wasteland with uncannily captivating footage.

Postcards from Pripyat was filmed by Danny Cooke on a trip to Ukraine as part of a 60 Minutes story aired on CBS about the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear incident and ongoing efforts to cap the remains of the reactor. Of his adventure, he recounts: “During my stay, I met so many amazing people, one of whom was my guide Yevgen, also known as a ‘Stalker’. We spent the week together exploring Chernobyl and the nearby abandoned city of Pripyat. There was something serene, yet highly disturbing about this place. Time has stood still and there are memories of past happenings floating around us.”

chernobyl from above

abandoned waterfront

abandoned ferris wheel

The incident turned Pripyat from a city of 50,000 into a ghost town overnight, and that was just the beginning – fallout spread to neighboring countries and continues to leak out locally. Residents were told to evacuate but that they could return within a few days – a promise that could not be kept. Mice in the area have been recorded as having 10,000 times more radioactivity than normal rodents.

abandoned interior

abandoned pripyat

swimming-pool-fixed

Today, the focus is on containing the problem. “With funds from over 40 different countries, 1,400 workers are building a giant arch to cover the damaged reactor. It will be taller than the Statue of Liberty and wider than Yankee Stadium — the largest movable structure on Earth. Until the arch finally seals up that stricken reactor, and no one knows when that might be, something like that could happen again. Unlike other historic relics, Chernobyl does not belong to the past; its power will never die. Chernobyl is forever.”


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Photoluminescent Furniture: Filled Wooden Voids Glow in Dark

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[ By WebUrbanist in Art & Sculpture & Craft. ]

glow dark wood table

A pair of crafty carpenters have separately arrived at the same conclusion: glow-in-the-dark resin is a really neat way to fill cracks, gaps, splits and other natural or accidental voids frequently found in wood shelves and surfaces.

glow in the dark shelf

Whether you have a small piece that needs infill or mending or a larger project in the works, one of these approaches may well be ideal for your own do-it-yourself project – some details are provided below but full instructions on each strategy can be found via links included as well.

glow shelf final product

glow knot seen from below

In the first instance, Mat Brown decided to try something other than the standard invisible-style repair to solve the problem of empty space around knots and front-facing unevenness in boards to be used as shelving.

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glow dark wood process

He provides further details on the process over at his blog, but in a nutshell: he used robust tape below and on the sides then heated up the resin, mixed in the powder and poured in the results. After a second similar round he cut, sanded and finished the pieces.

glowing infill table design

glowing cyprus power resin

Mat Brown has subsequently brought a similar idea to the table, creating a tutorial for filling in the naturally separation gaps found in a certain species of cyprus, livening up the surface with bright resin.

glow dark table detail

The full illustrated list of 25 steps for this latter version can be seen on Instructables, but in this case a similar process was used, just heavier-duty tools employed (like a drum sander) to keep the workload down. Hat tip to Chris of Colossal for finding both of these projects as well.


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Brilliant Brick Creations: 13 Amazing LEGO Gadgets & Art

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[ By Steph in Gadgets & Geekery & Technology. ]

superawesomemicroproject-designboom00

LEGOs can form the basis of all sorts of amazing things, but would you ever have imagined they could create working prosthetics, mechanical looms, drivable hot-rods and even full-sized houses? These 13 incredible creations test the limits of the little plastic bricks, proving that there’s no reason to put them aside as ‘toys’ when we reach adulthood.

Wheelchair for a Disabled Tortoise
strange LEGO tortoise wheelchair

Poor little ‘Blade’ wasn’t managing to get around very well on his own, so his human companion brought him in to local veterinarian Carsten Plischke. Realizing the turtle had a disability that made it hard for him to carry his own weight, Plischke fashioned an adorable little wheelchair out of parts from his son’s Lego collection.

LEGO x IKEA: Furniture Animals
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Here’s the LEGO and Ikea mashup you never knew you needed: building block animals interwoven with inexpensive Swedish furniture. ‘Venereal Architecture’ by Claire Healy and Sean Cordeiro includes a lion, deer, stingray, snake, tortoise, octopus and other creatures built around various Ikea items. “As humans we are ever adapting and manipulating our environment to cope with the elements and creatures that share our spaces. We build structures that enclose and protect us from nature. Air conditioning controls the temperature and we domesticate animals so they can live with us.”

“Our control over nature (or lack there of) is central to this body of work. Lego and Ikea furniture are very similar in a sense: they are both objects of aspiration that require assembly… both products represent destruction and re-construction, which are concerns we revisit continually within our practice.”

Working LEGO Gadgets
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Officially released by LEGO themselves after a collaboration with a company that specializes in children’s tech products, this fun range of gadgets includes working electronic items like walkie talkies, boom boxes, alarm clocks, cameras and even an MP3 player.

Digitally Synced LEGO Calendar
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This wall-mounted calendar made entirely of LEGO bricks by UK design studio Vitamins lynches with Google Calendar or iCal to synchronize schedules when users take a picture of the calendar with a smart phone. Software scans the image, notes the location of the various colored squares, and interprets the information.

LEGO Prosthetic Arm
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This fully-functional prosthetic limb by student Max Shepherd is made entirely from LEGO and can replicate a full range of human movements including an extending elbow, flexing movements in the wrist, rotation of the thumb and opening and closing of the fingers. The prosthetic is mounted to a ‘skeletal’ base containing all of the wires needed to power it, so we don’t get to actually see it in action on a real live person, but it’s a pretty interesting concept.

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