Radically Surreal: A Strange World of Mind-Bending Illusions

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[ By Steph in Drawing & Digital. ]

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Reality is malleable and nothing is quite as it seems in the surreal world of photographer Erik Johansson, who takes hundreds of photos of a single subject, merges them together and digitally manipulates them to produce optical illusions and the strangest of scenes. Often, these subjects are creating the illusions themselves, changing their environment in unexpected ways.

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A single woman spreads a snowy landscape by way of a giant white quilt, while a man climbs a ladder to erect pleasantly sunny surroundings like wallpaper to replace his dreary reality. Roads cut with giant scissors curl like fabric. Houses and streets are seen from multiple perspectives at once, M.C. Escher-style.

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The Swedish-born, self-taught photographer starts with a sketch and begins the planning process, which can take months or even years for each shoot. “This is the most important step as it defines the look and feel of the photo, it’s my raw material,” says Johansson. “This step also includes problem solving, how to make the reflections, materials etc. realistic.”

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Curious about the whole process? Johansson offers a layer-by-layer breakdown of his image “Let’s Leave” in the video above. Check out some of the artist’s earlier work, too.


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10K Timelapse: 80-Megapixel Camera Captures Urban Rio in Motion

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[ By WebUrbanist in Art & Photography & Video. ]

time lapse favela project

No monitor in the world can fully do justice to the amazing level of detail in this sequence, but be sure to go full screen when watching in this video, regardless, to get a taste of the possibilities. Aside from other urban subjects, the selection of a favela for one of these shots gave the photographer an opportunity to show off how a place so rich in variegated colors and textures could be displayed at various scales.

favela

Each 80-megapixel image (frames at 10328×7760 pixels) was shot by John Capra to illustrate the capabilities of the PhaseOne IQ180 camera. These series were shot while on an assignment in Brazil to do a series of 4K and 8K timelapses, but blow even those out of the water. In the video, Capra keeps zooming in to highlight just how much one can capture and see.

screenshot at fifty percent

“I wanted to show a couple things with this demo video,” says Capra.“First, the extreme resolution of this camera (and medium format in general). Second, the amazing amount of flexibility this resolution allows for in post production. You can literally get about 8-10 solid 1920×1080 shots out of a single shot. You can also get about 5-6 solid 4K shots out of a single shot.”

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screenshot at 100 percent

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“Each shot was very minimally processed and included curves, input sharpening, saturation adjustments. The h264 compression really kills alot of the fine detail. No noise reduction was done on any of the shots. I tried to keep the shots as close to raw as possible so you may see some dust spots, noise, and manual exposure changes I made while shooting. For a final video edit these adjustments would be smoothed out and fixed. Normally I run shots where I manually change exposure during the shot through LRTimelapse, but unfortunately the program can’t seem to handle such huge raw files. I also had to loop some shots in order to have enough runtime to do some zooms, so you may see a jump in the footage here and there.”


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Glacier City: Icelandic Ice Cap Carved Out for Year-Round Use

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[ By WebUrbanist in Destinations & Sights & Travel. ]

ice cave blue chapel

Burrowing hundreds of feet into the second-largest glacier in Europe, the world’s largest system of ice tunnels and spaces (including a chapel and cafe and exhibit spaces) are being excavated to connect visitors with a massive natural blue-ice cavern buried deep beneath the surface of Iceland. This incredible complex is set to open within the next few months – just in time for a summer vacation.

ice cave project

ice cave interior tunnels

Set inside Lanjoekull (Long Glacier), the Ice Cave rests on hundreds of feet of ice and is set nearly 5,000 feet above sea level – naturally, its location within a glacier means it can be accessed year-round. Combined with its record-breaking size, these factors make it unique among global ice architecture projects.

ice cave lighting design

ice cave underground light

Lights have been embedded using ice and snow in the passageways to create stunning illumination effects as one passes into the glacier. Visitors will be driven up the entrance via a special 8-wheel-drive, 40-passenger vehicle with 360-degree views and accompanied by guides who will then bring them inside these amazing tunnels carved from ice. One has to wonder: why stop at tours and visits? One could conceivably create an entire city below the surface, or at least a remote outpost for winter sports, using these same techniques.

ice cave entry carving

ice cave walls passageways

ice cave infrastructure

More on the history of the project from its makers: “In 2010, one of Iceland’s leading consulting engineering firms had an idea, that resonated with a some of Iceland’s most experienced adventure tour operators. They had a bold and daring vision, to take people not just around and onto, but also inside the heart of the remote and extraordinary glacier ice cap.”

ice architecture project

ice cave greenland military

Geoff Manaugh of BldgBlog highlights a similar historical endeavor called Camp Century (aka Project Iceworm) in which the US military burrowed beneath the ice in Greenland (video above): “Camp Century was a sprawling complex of prefabricated architectural units and steel arches installed within the ice cap, and, astonishingly, it was powered by a portable nuclear reactor.”


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Glacier City: Icelandic Ice Cap Carved Out for Year-Round Use

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[ By WebUrbanist in Destinations & Sights & Travel. ]

ice cave blue chapel

Burrowing hundreds of feet into the second-largest glacier in Europe, the world’s largest system of ice tunnels and spaces (including a chapel and cafe and exhibit spaces) are being excavated to connect visitors with a massive natural blue-ice cavern buried deep beneath the surface of Iceland. This incredible complex is set to open within the next few months – just in time for a summer vacation.

ice cave project

ice cave interior tunnels

Set inside Lanjoekull (Long Glacier), the Ice Cave rests on hundreds of feet of ice and is set nearly 5,000 feet above sea level – naturally, its location within a glacier means it can be accessed year-round. Combined with its record-breaking size, these factors make it unique among global ice architecture projects.

ice cave lighting design

ice cave underground light

Lights have been embedded using ice and snow in the passageways to create stunning illumination effects as one passes into the glacier. Visitors will be driven up the entrance via a special 8-wheel-drive, 40-passenger vehicle with 360-degree views and accompanied by guides who will then bring them inside these amazing tunnels carved from ice. One has to wonder: why stop at tours and visits? One could conceivably create an entire city below the surface, or at least a remote outpost for winter sports, using these same techniques.

ice cave entry carving

ice cave walls passageways

ice cave infrastructure

More on the history of the project from its makers: “In 2010, one of Iceland’s leading consulting engineering firms had an idea, that resonated with a some of Iceland’s most experienced adventure tour operators. They had a bold and daring vision, to take people not just around and onto, but also inside the heart of the remote and extraordinary glacier ice cap.”

ice architecture project

ice cave greenland military

Geoff Manaugh of BldgBlog highlights a similar historical endeavor called Camp Century (aka Project Iceworm) in which the US military burrowed beneath the ice in Greenland (video above): “Camp Century was a sprawling complex of prefabricated architectural units and steel arches installed within the ice cap, and, astonishingly, it was powered by a portable nuclear reactor.”


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Secret Lives of Superheroes: Realistically Posed Action Figures

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[ By Steph in Art & Photography & Video. ]

secret lives of superheroes 1

The secret lives of superheroes are far more mundane than you might imagine, with the Black Widow helping the Hulk trim his armpit hair, Spiderman scrubbing Captain America’s shield, Thor taking selfies and Wolverine getting fresh with the ladies. Indonesian photographer Edy Hardjo uses high-quality action figures and minimal Photoshop to create funny lifelike scenes of characters from the worlds of DC Comics, Marvel and beyond.

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Intrigued by how closely some of the figures resemble the actors that play the characters on film, Hardjo began to wonder whether he could use them to tell some new stories of his own.

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The figures are posed in comedic little scenes that play on each character’s personality.

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Hardjo relies mostly on the lifelike qualities of the figures themselves, but also uses Photoshop just enough to digitally remove stands and obvious joints.

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Behind-the-scene photos showing how each scene is posed can be seen on the artist’s Facebook page.


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The High Life: 12 Incredible Residential Tree House Designs

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[ By Steph in Architecture & Houses & Residential. ]

residential treehouses

We’ve seen tree houses that function as oversized sculptures, play structures for kids, sky-high tea houses and elevated retreats for work or meditation, but how many tree house designs actually fulfill dreams of living in the forest canopy full-time? These 12 residential tree houses range from traditional huts built over a hundred feet above the forest floor to a stunning ultramodern cylindrical glass house that envelops an entire tree.

Amazing Cylindrical Glass Treehouse

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This ultramodern, all-glass cylindrical house isn’t just in the trees, it contains one. ‘Tree in the House’ by Masov Aibek is a four-story residence in the woods of Almaty City, Kazakhstan with a spiraling staircase leading to each completely transparent level. A few plasterboard walls provide privacy for the bathroom and sleeping areas. The house will be available for rent, and though it may seem like it’s only suitable for exhibitionists, its location deep in the forest makes privacy less of a concern.

Traditional Residential Treehouses of Asia

traditional treehouse

korowai treehouse

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Papua New Guinea’s Korowai Tribe is just one example of people who have traditionally built their homes in the canopies of trees, some as high as 115 feet off the ground. The houses are typically built in a single sturdy Banyan tree, with poles added for extra support. Each house accommodates as many as a dozen people. Elevated houses can also be found in flood-prone areas of India, Cambodia and other Asian nations.

Finca Bellavista Treehouse Community, Costa Rica

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A couple went to Costa Rica in search of a small plot of land and ended up saving 600 acres of rainforest from the chopping block. Uncertain at first what to do with all that acreage, they began to envision a network of tree houses that soon became ‘Finca Bellavista,’ a sustainable treehouse community with individual residences connected by zippiness and suspension bridges. The self-sustaining complex includes a dining hall, open-air lounge, campfire, bath house and ‘wedding garden.’

4Treehouse by Lukas Kos

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Looking a bit like a Japanese lantern when it’s illuminated at night, the 4Treehouse by Toronto designer Lukasz Kos is a modern take on the classic wooden tree house with a facade of slats that provide shade and privacy. A semi-detached staircase on casters provides a stable, steady entrance to the home no matter how much the structure itself may be rocking in the wind.

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(Not) for Sale: Get Paid $5K to Haul Away ‘Skyway to Nowhere’

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[ By WebUrbanist in Abandoned Places & Architecture. ]

skyway as lake superior retreat

280,000 pounds of glass, steel and concrete spanning over 80 feet, this remarkable structure was built to span city streets and sidewalks in Minneapolis but has storied history that goes well beyond its original usage. Today, this historic wonder can be yours for a remarkable sum of negative $5,000 - indeed, its owners will pay you to take it away (and hopefully put it to good use).

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buy a skyway

An incredibly robust work of engineering, the structure originally connected two downtown buildings in Minnesota’s biggest city, but when one of the pair it bridged was demolished it became a kind of “skyway to nowhere” that was more liability than asset. Ideas to turn it into a bridge or use it again as a skyway in another location all failed to materialize, but many others have been dreamed up since – a mobile nightclub, kiosk for Nicollet Mall and so forth.

skyway on nicolet mall

skyway interior cabin design

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skyway as walkway

It was subsequently listed for sale and bought for $1 by the University of Minnesota, which then sold it at blind auction by CityDeskStudio for $5,000. Plans to turn it into a modern cabin overlooking Lake Superior have since fallen through, hence its being once again up for grabs. CDS originally relisted the bridge in the early 2000s for close to $100,000 – the price was dropped repeatedly before the company decided to not only give away the behemoth but to pay for its relocation.


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CastAR: See, Work, Play & Learn via Augmented Reality Glasses

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[ By WebUrbanist in Gaming & Computing & Technology. ]

virtual augmented reality headset

In this new video, Technical Illusions, the company behind CastAR, a hybrid augmented and virtual reality headset, shows off a series of amazing everyday applications of their technology, dissolving the distinction between real and digital spaces.

A year after raising $1,000,000 on Kickstarter, this technology combines but also goes beyond the AR of Google Glass and VR of Oculus Rift: “You and your friends can share this Mixed Reality experience that blends a virtual world into the real world. Move around naturally through this blended environment as you work or play together.”

ar headset gaming design

In founding Technical Illusions and pushing out a viable product in just over a year, Jeri Ellsworth and Rick Johnson (formerly of Valve) have focused on getting something that works out the door and in the hands of users and developers as quickly as possible – in a world of possibilities, concepts and prototypes, their emphasis is refreshingly pragmatic.

ar desktop gaming

The CastAR system consists of a headset with a built-in projector, camera and works in conjunction with retroflective surfaces embedded with infrared LED lights. “The projectors cast a three-dimensional image onto the surface, while the camera uses the LEDs to track your head movement … you can use this unique projected augmented reality technology to do things like view building projects in 3D, play interactive video games and create three-dimensional presentations.”


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Road A-Peel: Upside-Down Car Clings to Curling Street

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[ By Steph in Art & Installation & Sound. ]

hanging car 6

An upside-down, cherry-red car clings improbably to a slice of a concrete parking lot as it curls up over itself in this gravity-defying installation by British artist Alex Chinneck. Hanging in mid-air with no visible supports, ‘Pick yourself up and pull yourself together’ is a collaboration with Vauxhall Motors located just outside London’s Southbank Centre.

hanging car 1

About 50 feet of the parking lot surface appears to have been peeled right up, with the vehicle hanging from its uppermost curve within sight of one of the city’s most iconic landmarks, the London Eye. Hidden sections of steel designed by structural engineers hold the car in place.

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hanging car 3

“I see sculpture as the physical reinterpretation of the material world around us and so by introducing fictional narratives into familiar scenarios, I try to make everyday situations as extraordinary as they can be,” says Chinneck. “I choose to do this through illusions because I think there is something both optimistic and captivating about defying the realms of possibility.”

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“With an effortlessly curling road I hoped to transcend the material nature of tarmac and stone, giving these typically inflexible materials an apparent fluidity. Vauxhall Motors allowed me a great amount of creative freedom and this collaboration offered my studio an exciting platform to explore new areas of engineering and fabrication.”

Top image by Richard Simms


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Rooftop Recreation: 12 Vertigo-Inducing Sky-High Hangouts

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[ By Steph in Destinations & Sights & Travel. ]

sky high tennis

Test your tolerance for stomach-churning heights by dangling over the edge of the western hemisphere’s tallest freestanding tower, zip lining high above the Las Vegas strip, swimming up to the invisible edge of a skyscraper rooftop swimming pool or taking a tour of Stockholm from atop its architecture.

Dubai Rooftop Tennis Court

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burj dubai tennis

There’s definitely something nerve-wracking about watching a pair of tennis players back up almost all the way to the edge of this sky-high helipad tennis court in Dubai – it’s far too easy to imagine them just sailing right over the safety net. The world’s highest tennis court was a temporary installation atop the Burj al Arab luxury hotel, built in the lead-up to the Dubai Duty Free Men’s Open in 2005. Andre Agassi and Roger Federer were invited to play a game for fun before the real competition began, over 1,000 feet above the ground.

Edgewalk at the CN Tower

rooftop cn tower

edgewalk

Feeling especially adventurous? See just how much height you can handle at Toronto’s CN Tower, the tallest freestanding structure in the Western Hemisphere, where the ‘EdgeWalk’ attraction allows you to dangle over the edge of a five-foot ledge that circles around the tower’s roof. Attached to a metal frame with harnesses, thrill-seekers lean out from a five-foot-wide ledge to gaze at the ground 1,168 feet below.

Rooftop Racetrack at Former Fiat Factory, Italy

Event participants - Action

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rooftop racetrack 1

Built on the roof of a Fiat factory that opened in Turin, Italy in 1923, this race track formerly functioned as a place to take freshly-assembled cars on a test run. After it closed in 1982, architect Renzo Piano helped transform it into a public space complete with a shopping center, theater, hotel and art gallery as well as a helipad and glassed-in spherical rooftop meeting room. Unfortunately, aside from being featured in a few films, it’s no longer in active use as a race track.

Boating and Golfing at Selfridges’ Pleasure Garden, London
rooftops  selfridges

rooftop selfridges

You can relax in a traditional English garden, play some mini-golf or even row around in a boat on the rooftop of the Selfridge’s department store in London. In 2012, the space opened for the first time since its bombing in World War II, prior to which it was a ‘pleasure garden‘ popular for strolling after shopping. The historic rooftop recreation area now holds special events like the ‘Truvia Voyage of Discovery’ art installation, in which shoppers floated on the surface of a fluorescent green rooftop lake.

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