Looping Roller-Coaster Stairway You Can Actually Walk On

[ By Steph in Architecture & Public & Institutional. ]

From afar, it looks like a forgotten relic of a theme park that has since picked up and moved on – but it’s actually a walkable sculpture. ‘Tiger & Turtle – Magic Mountain‘, as it’s named, rises on a dirt hill above the city of Duisburg, Germany, promising a strange adventure to those who approach.

As you come closer, you’ll see that there’s a portion of this looping, curving stairway that seems to go upside-down, just as a real roller coaster would. Unfortunately, that’s part of the ‘magic’.

Architects Heike Mutter and Ulrich Genth explain, “Having a closer look, the public is disappointed in a disarming way. The visitor climbs on foot via differently steep steps the roller-coaster-sculpture. So the sculpture subtly and ironically plays with the dialectic of promise and disappointment, mobility and standstill.”

LED lights were integrated into the handrails so that the sculpture is not only accessible at night, but acts as a landmark, visible for miles. It was built on the site of a toxic zinc-slag pit left over from a local zinc operation that was cleaned up and made fit for public use.


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Celebratory Nanshan Marriage Registration Center Covered in Confetti

[ By Steph in Architecture & Public & Institutional. ]

In the United States, the process of obtaining a marriage license – and even the subsequent wedding, should the bride and groom choose a civil ceremony – isn’t exactly a glamorous affair. But in Shenzen, China, couples have a new option that’s appropriately celebratory. The Nanshan Marriage Registration Center looks like it’s been showered with confetti.

The architecture firm Urbanus wanted to take marriage registration from cold and impersonal registry offices to a place that feels more aligned with the nature of the deed. Now, wedding parties get to arrive and depart via long narrow bridges over a shimmering pool of water that reflects the building, making it look twice as high as it really is from certain angles.

The structure has a gridded aluminum curtain wall that’s set with small square panels that give it a glittery appearance. The interior is mostly white and curved, with the sunlight that streams through the skin making dreamy patterns on the walls and floors.

“A key point of this design is to discover how to organize the personal ceremonial experience,” the architects say. “A continuous spiral shows part of the process in the whole sequence—’arriving, approaching to the wedding hall with the focus of relatives, photographing, waiting, registering, ascending, overlooking, issuing, descending slope, passing the water pool, and reuniting with relatives’.”


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Confetti + Walls + Tape = Sticky Spray-Paint Alternative

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Bank on It: 13 More Sleek & Secure Bank Designs

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Structural Humorist: ‘Coffee With an Architect’ is Hilarious

[ By WebUrbanist in Art & Drawing & Digital. ]

He begins: “I started this site as a way to reach out to people in the community. I thought that a virtual a cup of coffee would be a low pressure way to meet and discuss our shared ideas, passions, and vision for the profession. Then, at some point, I went a different way with it. Enjoy the angst,” proclaims Jody Brown, with a hint of madness and glee. Here we start with what you might call the ‘ten stages of minimalism’ – watch and learn!

Indeed one has to laugh sometimes, or risk crying otherwise, as any struggling architect knows from experience, trying all kinds of combinations simply to get to a simple solution. Coffee with an Architect takes all kinds of approaches, from serious narratives to slapstick postcards and self-deprecating visual definitions … all of this is (arguably) done with the aim of illuminating what should be (but often are not) readily-apparent facts surrounding built-environment professions.

Of Minimalism he has (not) much to say, as you saw – the series of illustrations work far better than words, just like good architectural diagrams. Of Modernism and Postmodernism there is an inevitable head nod to Robert Venturi’s ducks and decorated sheds. Then there are postcards from architects … and later come Valentine’s Day cards, too.

His humanist/humorist approach is, to be bold, what architecture needs – or, more specifically, what many architects need. A rich cup of coffee to wake the sense, spiced with a dollop of deep self-deprecating insight that creates an “ah-hah!” moment too often found only at the end of a grueling ten-week design studio process. Article titles like “Ugly goes all the way to the bone” and “New York I love you but you’re freaking me out” jar us into full attention with the blunt absence of pretense. He also features faux conversations he didn’t have, or no one had, with famous architects, and speculates on the things one should not say to particular past heroes of the field.

“His work focuses on urban infill projects, mixed-use, urban design, and urban renewal. Over the last 18 and half years, he has built on his passion for planning and urban design, and, has worked on enhancing, adding to, re-using, renovating, and sometimes creating from scratch the places where people meet, learn, play, and become inspired. His work is grounded in the belief that Architecture can save cities. When he’s not doing that, he can be found making fun of himself and his profession, and blogging about his ideals at – Coffee with an Architect. Or, you can find him sipping coffee with someone at a cafe near you, blathering on and on about Le Corbusier, while looking aloof and interesting at the same time somewhere over in the corner. In other words, he’s just an Architect, standing in front of an ideology, asking it to love him.” Coffee with an Architect is, in short, well worth a read.


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Spatial Gymnastics: Environments for Tomorrow Exhibition

[ By Steph in Architecture & Cities & Urbanism. ]

What does the future of humanity look like? 28 architects and artists from 14 countries came together to answer that question from both creative and practical standpoints for an exhibition entitled Architectural Environments for Tomorrow – New Spatial Practices in Architecture and Art. Displayed at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo (MOT), the exhibition included works by Toyo Ito and Frank Gehry.


Addressing the ways in which computerization and urbanization have changed our lifestyles and the forms of public space since the beginning of the 21st century, the architects and artists explored new ways to solve environmental and urban problems through experiments in spatial structure.

“Natural disasters, such as the 3.11 earthquake, or political and social unease always exist in some form or another throughout the world,” states MOT. “Against this backdrop, what kind of existence can architecture provide for the people?”

The centerpiece of the exhibition was a room-sized replica of SANAA’s recently completed Rolex Learning Center, an undulating elevated structure of concrete and glass on the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale campus in Lausanne, Switzerland. Other notable installations include a room full of hanging convex lenses by Haruka Kojin, and The Golden Dome by AMID.cero9.


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Blow-Up Buildings: 17 Inflatable Works of Mobile Architecture

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Removing Moss as Art: Reverse Graffiti Goes Subtractive

[ By Steph in Architecture & Design & Graffiti & Drawing & Urban & Street Art. ]

Moss has gained a reputation as one of the best natural art mediums, a living swath of vivid green with an irresistible texture that can be coaxed into various shapes and patterns. While most moss art involves either gluing sheets of preserved moss to a surface or painting on a mixture of live moss that will adhere to the surface and grow, this method – illustrated here by Stefaan de Croock – takes the opposite approach.

Rather than adding something – like spray paint -  to a surface in order to create a design, subtractive graffiti strips something away. That ‘something’ might be dirt on a sidewalk, or soot on a wall. In this case, it’s moss.

Using a pressure washer, de Croock (a.k.a. Strook) carefully removed moss growing on a wall in Leuven, Belgium. As the moss was stripped away, urban scenes full of giant robots were revealed. The mural was created outside the STUK art center, and likely grew back over within a few weeks.


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Living Infrastructure: Grow-it-Yourself Jungle Bridges

[ By Steph in Architecture & Design & Environment & Nature & Travel & Places. ]

In sunny weather, the calm pools of water in Nongriat are the perfect place to bathe or relax, their waters typically shallow enough to stand in. But this peacefulness is rare, and when the rain comes – as it so often does – the locals need bridges that are stronger than steel in order to cross. Their solution? Growing their own. A native species of rubber tree is the ideal medium for living bridges that can withstand rivers that run with deadly force.

(images via: arshiya bose)

This area of Meghalaya, India gets an astonishing 49 feet of rain on average each year. Flash floods come quickly and without warning. So, long before modern engineers began designing the kinds of bridges that could hold up to such conditions, the locals here found a way around the problem.

(image via: rajkumar1220)

For 500 years, they have been manipulating the secondary roots of the ficus elastica, which grow along the length of the trunk. The roots can be bent, twisted and taught to grow in certain arrangements.

(images via: rajkumar1220)

Using hollowed-out betel nut trunks as a lightweight skeleton for the bridge, the villagers encourage the roots to grow from one side of the bank to the other, creating a platform. Because the roots are living, they won’t rot, even in the face of constant moisture.

(image via: rajkumar1220)

(image via: vinayakh)

The bridges can support the weight of up to 50 people at once, and are even built in ‘double-decker’ form. It can take decades for them to stretch across a river or farm, but they continue to grow in strength.


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Fantastic Failures: 10 Wacky Failed Inventions From the Past

[ By Delana in Architecture & Design & Gadgets & Geek Art & History & Factoids. ]

There are some inventions that will forever be remembered fondly even after they are made obsolete by other technology. And then there are the other ones…the failures that never quite took off, or were replaced so rapidly as to have completely disappeared from our collective memory. Whether due to market difficulties, poor engineering or simply terrible timing, these inventions and gadgets are the failures most of us forget to remember.

Flying Tanks

Before military planes were robust enough to carry tanks to their destinations, military bigwigs had a brilliant idea: put wings on the tanks. They could be towed directly to the battle zone and easily flown to exactly the right spot. Although initial tests were successful, the winged tanks never made it into popular use. Better planes were developed first and are still used today to air drop tanks at their destinations.

Portable Record Players

The demise of this strange-looking contraption was a combination of poor timing and a lack of foresight by its makers. Poor timing because it came out in the 1980s just before cassette players and Walkmen would corner the market…lack of foresight because, come on, a record player that you carry around with you? Anyone who has ever used a record player could tell you what a terrible idea that is.

Gas-Shooting Riot Car

In the 1930s, the world wasn’t quite so politically correct as it is today. If a group of people gathered together to protest, for example, the police could mow them down with a humongous fortified vehicle complete with poisonous gas streams. This hulking machine was patented in 1938 but (thank goodness) never built. Perhaps cooler heads prevailed once the powers that be thought long and hard about the implications.

Vacuum Beauty Helmet

Although the woman with the plastic bag over her head looks exceedingly worried, and the other woman looks a bit like a wicked witch, this isn’t actually a picture of a crime taking place. The plastic helmet and the attached hose are allegedly a beauty treatment from 1941 involving a vacuum. How the victim…er, customer…breathes while encased in an air-free plastic hood is anyone’s guess.

Robot Reading Helper

The Robot Readamatic, invented in 1963, was meant to help slow readers improve their pace by revealing one line of text at a time. The arm would move at a pace set by the user to help him or her stay focused on the reading. Oddly, the device looks like it should be the other way around so that the big supporting arm doesn’t get in the way. We have to wonder if that bizarrely obvious design flaw had anything to do with the fact that the Robot Readamatic was never widely adopted.

Flying Saucer Camera

Back in the 1950s, there were so many UFO sightings reported each year that the government finally decided enough was enough. The Air Force introduced the Flying Saucer Camera, a special camera with two lenses designed to identify the source of strange lights. One lens took a normal photo while the other separated light into colors so that the origins of the light would be obvious.

Monowheel Vehicles

Although most of us choose to travel on two or four wheels, some inventors have been pushing for us to adopt a single-wheel vehicle since as far back as 1869 when the first monowheel appeared. Of course, with other forms of transport being safer, quieter, and easier to pilot, it doesn’t appear that the monowheel will be breaking into the mainstream anytime soon.

Twentieth Anniversary Mac

Released in 1197, the Twentieth Anniversary Mac was a sweet looking machine for its time, boasting a very thin (for the time) screen and a detachable trackpad instead of a mouse. No one but the wealthiest hardcore Apple enthusiasts could afford the landmark computer, though – it came out with an initial price point of $7,499. The price later went down to $1,995, below the cost of production, thanks to extremely slow sales.

Phone Answering Robot

Built in 1964, back when we as a society seemed to share a collective fascination with robots that would do our household chores, this phone-answering robot was not nearly as functional as it might look at first. Its abilities were limited to picking up the phone…and putting the phone back down. It couldn’t act as a message recorder or even a message player, but it sure did look cool.

Cigarette Umbrella

Smoking may be passé today, but in 1931 it was just a normal part of life. As such, it was fraught with dangers like cigarettes that got soggy in the rain. A circus clown came up with this crazy/brilliant solution: a tiny umbrella at the end of a cigarette holder that let smokers puff away without fear of the weather.


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Art Imitates Digital Life: Real-World Google Map Pins

[ By Steph in Architecture & Design & Technology & Futurism & Urban & Street Art & Urban Images. ]

When you look up a city on Google Maps, a little red icon shows you exactly where the center of that city is – and it even casts a shadow, making it seem as if it’s a part of the cities itself. Noticing that little detail, artist Aram Bartholl decided to bring these digital elements into the real, three-dimensional world. His ‘Map’ installation series takes 20-foot-tall Google Maps icons into Taipei, Berlin and Szczecin, Poland.


“In the city center series ‘Map’ is set up at the exact spot where Google Maps assumes to be the city center of the city,” says Bartholl. “Transferred to physical space the map marker questions the relation of the digital information space to every day life public city space. The perception of the city is increasingly influenced by geolocation services.”

Bartholl installed the towering sculptures, made of wood and paint, between 2006 and 2010. Some stand in grand public squares, just where you would expect. Others are in more unassuming places – in college campuses, or tucked between decaying overpasses.

The project questions just how much digital life has bled into reality, to the point where the lines can sometimes be blurred. On top of the ‘real world’ is a new layer of virtual reality, and depending on how much time we spend immersing ourselves in the latter, it may already be part of our perception. Driving through a city and glimpsing one of these sculptures, would it take you a moment to realize that these digital markers should not be physically present?


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Top 3 Look-Alikes: Second-Life Avatars vs Real Life Users

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Real Life Sim City: 3D Printers Turn Virtual to Reality

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Tower with a Twist: Very Top-Heavy Vancouver Skyscraper

[ By WebUrbanist in Architecture & Design & Urbanism. ]

This is what creative design is all about: taking a familiar typology and turning (or twisting) it around … not merely to show off something new and unique, but to critically respond and adapt to conditions of site and context.

BIG is a Danish firm with a sizable vision for this new 500-foot structure, in collaboration with local architect James Cheng, which will be the fourth largest skyscraper in Vancouver when completed.

Set atop a mixed-use podium, the main tower portion seems to have a sizable section carved out of it, a physical void placed in visual deference to adjacent thoroughfares, sunlight access and lines of sight, while creating the effect of near structural impossibility from key angles of view.

The plinth portion below carefully considers the needs of pedestrians and feel of the building on the street, while the form and outline of the building above is planned with careful respect for the surrounding skyline.

“The Beach and Howe tower is a contemporary descendant of the Flatiron Building in New York City – reclaiming the lost spaces for living as the tower escapes the noise and traffic at its base,” says Bjarke Ingels, founding partner of BIG. “In the tradition of Flatiron, Beach and Howe’s architecture is not the result of formal excess or architectural idiosyncrasies, but rather a child of its circumstances: the trisected site and the concerns for neighboring buildings and park spaces.”


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IKEA Culture: 20 Fanatical Fan Ads, Art & Design

[ By Steph in Architecture & Design & Furniture & Interiors. ]

The purveyors of cheap-and-cheerful modern Scandinavian home goods have plied us with their glossy catalogs and Swedish meatballs, and we have responded with wide-eyed devotion. We flock to IKEA warehouse stores en-masse. We marvel at products with unpronounceable names. The most obsessed IKEA fans create fan art, write songs, beg to sleep there overnight and even get married at their stores. IKEA’s confusing instructions, unstable assembly jobs and miraculously efficient tiny spaces have inspired tributes both sincere and satirical.

IKEA Stonehenge Infographic

(image via: design boom)

Wondering, like the rest of the world, just how Stonehenge was built? Let IKEA help you out with some instructions that make the whole process no less of a head-scratching mystery than the monument itself. These satirical diagrams by Justin Pollard, Stevyn Colgan and John Lloyd require 10,000 laborers, hundreds of stones and alcoholic beverages (so that you can cope with the frustration.) Additionally, they note “If plagued by demons or suffering from pestilence, seek advice from a druid before attempting assembly.” Said druid will apparently conjure some giants to helpfully slide the monoliths in place. See the full illustrations at Design Boom.

Sci-Fi IKEA Manuals

(image via: design milk)

Want to make your own dinosaur? IKEA’s instructions dictate a material list of test tubes, syringes, special shaving cream cans, $15 million dollars, thousands of cows and a few of those handy (?) Z-shaped Allen keys. This set of sci-fi IKEA manuals will also tell you how to build your own light saber and time-traveling DeLorean.

Un-IKEA: Custom Furniture by Kenyon Yeh

(images via: trendland)

Maybe you should just ignore those instructions and use the components inside that flat-pack box to create your own Franken-IKEA design. That’s what Kenyon Yeh did for this series, putting the wood pieces together any way he felt like it and adding colorful legs. The result looks a bit like a Pixar movie set in IKEA’s warehouse, wherein all of the furniture sprouts legs and comes to life.

Oops. Help! Ads Promoting IKEA’s Assembly Department

(images via: scdesigncreative)

These hilarious images of IKEA assembly gone wrong aren’t satirical critiques of the mega-store. They’re actually real ads from IKEA Germany. The self-aware series has various furniture items spelling out the words ‘Shit’, ‘Oops’ and ‘Help’ in a bid to promote the furniture retailer’s assembly department.

Page 23: The Tragic Real Lives Behind IKEA Perfection

(images via: pagina 23)

Any fan of the movie Fight Club has never looked at IKEA catalogs quite the same way as the rest of the population. With the glossy perfection of each photographed interior comes the insinuation that a home full of these products will bring happiness. A short independent film called Page 23 delves into the murky depths of reality hidden by the bright and cheerful facade. “Advertisements usually display unruffled domestic happiness. But, as we will see in Page 23, this world looks too good to be true. Behind the beaming smile of fashion models loom adultery and the stifling daily routine.”

IKEA in Song by Jonathan Coulton

(images via: you tube)

Songwriter Jonathan Coulton wrote an ode to IKEA, telling a fictional account of the store’s birth that involves the Norse god Thor and a bunch of vikings. “IKEA: Just some oak and some pine and a handful of Norsemen.”

How IKEA Creates New Products: A Chart by Cracked

(images via: cracked)

How does IKEA come up with the ideas for all of those oddly-named household items, anyway? Cracked has the whole process from concept to store shelves, including choosing a sort-of-authentically-Swedish-sounding-name and forcing consumers to go into a dreary underground dungeon to retrieve it.

IKEA Coffins, Children & Cars

(images via: dornob)

What if IKEA sold Volvos? Build-your-own-bomb kits? Instructions for assembling babies? These funny parodies of IKEA instructions imagine all sorts of things that the store could assist us with producing in a nightmarish alternate reality. One cartoon, by Mike Sacks and Julian Sancton, even shows how IKEA could help you orchestrate your own suicide, with the leftover parts from your self-built coffin used to build a shoddy cross for your grave site.

IDEA by Escher

(images via: rock paper cynic)

Comic site Rock, Paper, Cynic combines two creators of impossible constructions in one brilliant illustration. ‘IDEA by Escher’ turns a few of MC Escher’s mathematically-inspired explorations of infinity into IKEA products. ‘Warning: This product may collapse reality as you know it.’

What If You Lived at IKEA? By Christian Gideon

(images via: christian gideon photography)

Photographer Christian Gideon explores the question, ‘What if you lived at IKEA?’ in a spontaneous shoot that turned the store’s pristine whole-room displays into real temporary living spaces, guerrilla-style. Gideon shot his models pretending to shower, sleep, cook and gaze fondly at stock photography families in various IKEA environments.

PI-kea Bot on Futurama

(image via: you tube)

Maybe in the future, IKEA will still be making ‘Affordable Swedish Crap’ like Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth’s SuperCollider. In this episode of Futurama, the ‘Pi-kea robot’ makes a special delivery of some high-tech equipment and the assembly process is exactly what you would expect.

IKEA Facebook Fan Sleepover

(images via: digital buzz blog)

Some people love IKEA so much, they want to stay there overnight. Seriously. IKEA sanctioned a Facebook Fan Sleepover for 100 people at the Essex IKEA store. They even showed a movie and offered massages and manicures. Contest winners who attended the sleepover chose their own bed linens to use for the night. and take home. The event was created after officials at the store stumbled upon a Facebook group called ‘I Wanna Have a Sleepover in IKEA’ on Facebook.

First-Ever Wedding in an IKEA

It’s not art or design, but this is definitely the ultimate expression of IKEA fandom. Two self-professed ‘superfans’ became the first couple to ever get married inside an IKEA store. The Maryland couple went on a date at the College Park store, and exactly two years later, they returned to exchange vows. IKEA allowed them to use the space at no charge. See photos at WTOP.


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