See-Through Solar: Crystal Clear Panels Are 100% Transparent

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[ By WebUrbanist in Drawing & Digital. ]

clear transparent solar energy

Applied to anything from the surface of your smartphone to the the sides of a skyscraper, the possible applications of this innovation are beyond amazing.

clear solar material scientists

Developed by a team of chemical engineers and material scientists from the University of Michigan’s School of Engineering, this solar concentrator leaves a clear surface while collecting energy.

clear solar power panel

Unlike similar previous attempts, this project avoids coloration and distortion entirely behind: “The solar harvesting system uses small organic molecules developed by Lunt and his team to absorb specific nonvisible wavelengths of sunlight.” The goal now is to iterate on the design, continuing to improve its efficiency, scale and cost-effectiveness toward eventual mass-production on surfaces both small and large.

solar energy see through

Operating out of the normally-visible spectrum, they look effectively transparent to a human viewer. The captured power is redirected to and collected at the edges of the panel, out of sight and out of mind, leaving in the center a transparent surface that could cover (or even replace) windows on a building or the surfaces of smartphones. The goal is for energy generation to disappear entirely – in the near future, you might never know that homes and phones are creating, collecting and deploying clean power passively all around you.


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Endless City: Skyscraper Wraps Upward with Walkable Ramps

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[ By WebUrbanist in Architecture & Cities & Urbanism. ]

endless city vertical view

An urban pedestrian paradise, this conceptual design proposes to turn cities skyward with a system of flexible open spaces that gradually rise as floor plates curve up around its core.

endless city interior atrium

This winning  entry to the SkyScrapers & SuperSkyscraper Competition by SURE Architecture, dubbed Endless City, is more than just visually compelling – it also creates an argument about urban pathways and civic connectivity.

endless city floor plates

endless city top level

Its design boasts a series of sustainable strategies deployed throughout the structure, including passive energy, heating, cooling and lighting systems as well as advanced waste and water management.

skycraper - diagramme- structure OK

The structure is framed around a series of vertical steel-tress columns that in turn support a pair of ramps connected periodically by bridges.

endless city ramped section

The program features a mix of commercial, residential and institutional functions, with larger community areas mixed periodically throughout.

SERVERwork 22013-033 Skycraper-London CompetitionCADLondon

endless city top down

The core concept, though, is to commingle these programmatic elements with circulation, allowing visitors and occupants to mix on its various levels and traverse the structure vertically – skyways taken to a new extreme. Its modular construction also theoretically enables further additions, allowing it to grow upward with time.


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Floating on Dry Land: 17 Derelict Houseboats Find New Home

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ceuvel project lifting place

Located in the north of Amsterdam, the recently-opened De Ceuval (conceptualized by Space&Matter) is a radical redevelopment project featuring homes, offices, restaurants and gardens, all accessed via elevated winding platforms that connect renovated houseboats.

houseboat space matter diagram

houseboats on dry land

A former shipping wharf, this brownfield site is being transformed from a polluted wasteland into a temporary ten-year creative haven, all designed to revitalize and rehabilitate the land it occupies and leave it cleaner at the end of its lease.

houseboat winding wood pathways

houseboat brick wall exterior

The complex is made up of an array of formerly-floating homes that are no longer seaworthy but can still be fixed up and find a second life on land. As PopUpCity reports, “The imaginatively retro-fitted houseboats that make up the creative quarter are all placed around a winding bamboo walkway and the surrounding landscape consists of plants that clean the soil.”

houseboat brownfield site renovation

houseboat axon diagram

An incredible array of sustainable strategies are being employed in the development, both for the benefit of the site and to educate the public,  showing off “new technologies that can transform how we produce and consume resources and public services in cities. Throughout the site, solar technologies will convert energy from the sun into heat and electricity. Green roofs and water collection systems are designed to collect, purify, and store rainwater for when it’s needed. Sanitation systems will extract energy, nutrients, and water from the waste produced for on-site food production. A network of sensors provide information on performance and user behavior.”

houseboat renovated interior design

houseboat gathering people party

One of the central features of the program is the Ceuvel Café, designed as a gathering and eating space for tenants and visitors alike, featuring “lectures, workshops and tastings. In the future, it will also be possible to buy locally produced vegetables [and attend] guided tours and events. Ceuvel Café will also act as a stage for artists, musicians, theat[rical performers] and filmmakers.”

houseboat finished pedestrian diagram

aerial view micro town

The entire complex is meant to serve not only the designer and architects who occupy it, but the environment around it, using green tactics of all kinds including  “high-tech systems like sensors, monitoring devices, solar panels, and high-efficiency electric boilers. Low-tech systems also play an important role, including biological waste processing, water filtration, smart insulation methods, vegetation, and solar tubes that provide more natural light to indoor spaces.”


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Photocatalytic Concrete: Air-Cleaning Building Absorbs Smog

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smog canopy forest inspired

Featuring 100,000 square feet of smog-filtering surface area, this structural facade will break down harmful oxides in sunlight to improve air quality all around it.

smog absorbing building design

The building, designed by Italian firm Nemesi & Partners, is being created for an exposition in Milan themed around planet-friendly sustainable designs.

smog sucking facade exterior

The amorphous and organic form is both a reference to trees and other types of air-purifying plants but also a way to provide a maximum amount of exposed surface.

smog building interior shadows

Like a forest, this facade will cast complex shadows and provide shade in and around the building. Its form references both nature and man-made land art.

smog converting architectural facade

Rooftop solar panels tucked out of view will add a further but less-visible green dimension, generating electricity for the building below.


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Smart Bricks: Life-Size LEGO-Style Blocks for Human Habitats

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kite bricks building blocks

Aiming to revolutionize the most basic material units of construction, these building blocks snap together like LEGO bricks while leaving space for insulation and infrastructure inside and between them.

kite building block prototype

kite wall construction detail

Designed by Kite Bricks, a startup company with lofty aspirations, these Smart Bricks offer “high thermal control, full passage of pipes, wires, cables and the like, finishes for both indoors and outdoors, extraordinary tensile strength, ease of construction, safety of materials, and total application throughout a structure—floors, ceilings, and walls.”

Among other ecological and cost advantages, a core idea is to reduce the difficulty of construction and the equipment and debris associated with the building process. The bricks can be stacked by hand and are self-supporting from the start – no scaffolding needed.

kite brick window wall

kite lego like building block

As for applications: “The brick is amenable for building houses, buildings, bridges and more.. The block is constructed of high-strength concrete with unique properties that allow for … large savings in electricity expenses associated with seasonal heating and cooling. The block allows for faster, cheaper, more precise, and stronger building than is available through traditional building methods.”

kite life size lego

robotic construction blocks

Whether this approach will replace bricks as we know them remains to be seen, but the next step will certainly involve full-scale prototypes, albeit hopefully ones more creative and attractive than the rough-and-ready examples shown in the video above.


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Vertical Forests: 2 Lush Urban Towers Support 16,000 Plants

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[ By WebUrbanist in Architecture & Houses & Residential. ]

green tower real life

Skeptics of improbably green skyscraper concepts might want to take a moment of silence to appreciate the successful construction of these two beautiful buildings now nearly completion.

green tower lush views

Designed by Stefano Boeri in Milan, Italy, the twin towers of the Bosco Verticale play host to nearly 1,000 trees, 5,000 shrubs and over 10,000 additional small plants.

green skyscraper tower design

The building was fully designed with its greenery in mind, including accommodations for irrigation, root systems, plant weights and wind loads within the city. This rich miniature ecosystem of plant life in turn helps filter the surrounding air, dampen urban noise and provide shade for residents. For its local environment, the building increases biodiversity and provides habitats for regional birds and insects.

green tower balcony trees

From the designers: The creation of a number of vertical forests in the city will be able to create a network of environmental corridors which will give life to the main parks in the city, bringing the green space of avenues and gardens and connecting various spaces of spontaneous vegetation growth. [This project] helps to build a micro-climate and to filter dust particles which are present in the urban environment. The diversity of the plants helps to create humidity, and absorb CO2 and dust, produces oxygen, protects people and houses from the suns rays and from acoustic pollution.”


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10 in 1 Day: Chinese Homes 3D-Printed from Scraps Materials

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[ By WebUrbanist in Architecture & Houses & Residential. ]

3d printed almost finished

Using recycled construction waste and rapid prototyping processes, a Chinese company is showing off how 3D printing technologies can be applied to building at astonishing new speeds and scales. More specifically: Winsun New Materials used a series large 3D printers to frame up 10 houses in 24 hours with a skeleton crew of builders.

These scaled-up printers mimic the additive approach their smaller plastic-extruding cousins, but deploy a mixture of glass fiber and scrap concrete instead.

3d printed extrusion printer

3d printed house china

The function-first walls of these homes are designed to provide shelter via robust solid surfaces and structural support, all while minimizing materials. Built-in truss shapes (with spaces in between) are made to leave calculated gaps for the later insertion of plumbing, electrical, passive and active heading and cooling systems.

3d printed building construction

3d printed wall sections

In this initial run, the resulting prefab frameworks for ten residential structures were assembled in less than 24 hours and for just a few thousand dollars a piece. Securely enclosed by a small crew of builders, the weather-proof shells are then ready to be finished by other teams.

3d printing on site

3d printing in china

Given the pace of urbanization and construction within the country, it seems apt that innovators from China would be pushing limits like these, hopefully with more (and similarly eco-friendly) innovations yet to come.


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Rad Rides: Nuclear Power Plant Turned into Amusement Park

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nuclear plant central swing

The iconic central cooling tower has been turned into a swing ride and climbing wall, but the re-purposed complex as a whole features over a dozen attractions including rides, restaurants, bars and hotels.

nuclear plant spinning carousel

nuclear plant rollercoaster ride

Wunderland Kalkar is set near Düsseldorf, Germany, the site of a nuclear power plant that never went live due to local protests and construction problems. The recognizably menacing centerpiece of its industrial landscape is no less noticeable for having been painted with a mountain-and-sky mural.

nuclear plant aerial view

Now that Germany is officially phasing out its use of nuclear energy, this solution (drawing in over a half-million annual visitors) may inspire other projects along similar lines.

nuclear plant park conversion

nuclear plant play space

In this case, billions in funding were ultimately scrapped and a developer was able to pick up the pieces for mere millions before turning a hefty profit through an unlikely conversion.

nuclear plant swing ride

Since the location’s transformation in 1995, visitors from around the country and the world have come to ride its wonderful merry-go-rounds and carousels. Some are drawn by its overt offerings, but many also feel the pull of experiencing a unique look into an what remains of an amazing abandoned nuclear compound.


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Mountain-Shaped Residences with Walkable Green Rooftops

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green space residential complex

Beyond any inherent beauty or formal references to surrounding mountains, there is a more profound proposition in this series of structures about the way we walk into, through and above spaces.

green space ridge tops

green space aerial view

green space flowering plants

green space outdoor paths

Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) was commissioned by a Taipei developer to create a mixed-use complex of housing, restaurants, cafes and more, all woven together with pedestrian walkways, jogging paths, gardens and plazas.

green residential complex diagram

green space sloped sides

Their solution introduces a degree of vertical accessibility we are not used to seeing beyond the first few floors of a building, tying together indoor and outdoor circulation, connecting public and commercial spaces beyond ordinary horizontal surfaces.

green space lobby area

green space entry seating

green space interior home

The Haulien Residences are intended to be a resort destination and their shape was inspired in part by mountains and the ocean, but many of its signature green ribbons are sloped to accommodate paths and stairs.

green complex elevation image

green hill structures

In turn, the green roofs provided by this approach offer shelter and shade in a tropical region for the dwellings themselves while preserving views and providing gardens, decks and porches at various heights throughout.


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