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


[ 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


[ 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


[ By WebUrbanist in Architecture & Offices & Commercial. ]

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


[ By WebUrbanist in Architecture & Cities & Urbanism. ]

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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Urban Jungle Street View: 3D Hack Uses Hidden Depth Data


[ By WebUrbanist in Gaming & Computing & Technology. ]

urban jungle street view

An explicitly illicit use of dimensional data buried in Google Street View, the Urban Jungle project adds eerie layers of post-apocalyptic green overgrowth to major cities around the world.


urban jungle side street

As in Google Maps, a user can simply drag and drop their tiny avatar in a location of their choosing, then explore a plant-infested, tree-filled, vine-covered alternate version of reality. Click here to start exploring.

urban jungle street maps

From its creator: “This experiment using an undocumented part of Street View, the depth data. With that a depth map and a normal map is generated, which can be used in the shaders and to plot geometry and sprites in (almost) the correct position in 3d space.”


street trees vines plants

Despite a glitch here or there, most locations and settings are shockingly convincing, looking like something that was lovingly crafted in incredible detail for a game (or an artist’s rendition of life after the apocalypse).


street view urban jungle

This otherworldly effect could just be the beginning – you too can grab the depth data at GitHub and create your own surreal landscapes or otherwise-hacked environments (samples via GMM, PSFK & PK).

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Deep Roots: Underground Farm in London Air-Raid Tunnels


[ By WebUrbanist in Culture & Cuisine & Global. ]

underground tunnel london gardening

100 feet beneath the surface, below even the level of the London Underground, there is another layer of World War Two shelters where something amazing is coming to life.

underground hyrdoponic garden farm

underground farming campaign idea

Richard Ballard and Steven Dring are behind Growing Underground, experimentally introducing hydroponic systems to 2.5 acres of abandoned subterranean passages right in the UK’s capital city.

growing subterranean tunnel space

growing underground urban context

The closed-loop nature of their approach means that weather and environmental factors (like rodents and runoff) are nothing to worry about. There are other advantages of their situation, too: 70% less water is needed to grow below ground, and their agricultural system is self-recycling, low-maintenance, pesticide-free and carbon-neutral.

underground crowdfunding green produce

Their unique and central location means they can provide ultra-local micro-greens to restaurants, wholesalers and retail vendors right above where they grow, all in a matter of hours.

underground vegetable growing hyrdoponics

growing underground package design

Their planned crops so far range from pea shoots and broccoli to garlic chives and mustard leaf, not to mention edible flowers and miniature vegetables. Mushrooms and tomatoes are also on the horizon.

grown underground farming example

growing underground founder pair

From the company: “Because we have total control over their environment, each tiny leaf tastes as amazing as the last and because they are unaffected by the weather and seasonal changes, we can reduce the need to import crops and drastically reduce the food miles for retailers and consumers.”

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12-County Coalition: Building the Great Green Wall of Africa


[ By WebUrbanist in Global & Travel & Places. ]

green wall trees desert

The clock is ticking for the collaborative creation of a living green wall to span nearly 5,000 miles across the African continent, designed to slow or even stop the relentless spread of desertification. The scope of this unique organic building project is unprecedented, as is its urgency.

green wall project africa

China took over 1,000 years to construct their Great Wall, but scientists believe Africa may only have a few decades before the Sahara Desert engulfs more than two thirds of its arable land. Hence the Great Green Wall of the Sahara, set to stretch from coast to coast, west to east.

green wall planting example

The cooperation of the twelve contiguous African countries involved is as impressive as their challenge is daunting – participating nations include: Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Djibouti.

green wall small large

The idea to create a ‘green front’ to protect Africa is almost half a century old, but the plan began to be taken more seriously starting just over ten years ago. Since being ratified by participating countries, the program has raised billions of dollars in pledges from international organizations.

great green wall tree

From AtlasObscura: “Leaders point out that the Great Green Wall is about more than just protection from windblown sand. The project will bring thousands of jobs to impoverished communities, and has already transformed otherwise unusable land into gardens scattered with tree nurseries. The influx of tourists, scientists, and medical professionals has also brought attention and resources to a neglected region in which aid is scarce and doctors are not readily available to needy populations.”

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Mobile Hotel: Converted Double-Decker Bus B&B Still Drives


[ By WebUrbanist in Boutique & Art Hotels & Global. ]

bus hotel with tractor

Quintessentially British, this boutique suite sleeps six, features a wood-burning stove and much more, but perhaps most amazing of all: the vehicle remains road-worthy, despite its conversion to a sweet retreat.

bus boutique road worthy

The Big Green Bus was originally part of the west midlands metro transit system and purchased by its new owner (and renovator) Adam Collier-Woods for approximately $7,500 at auction on eBay.

bus hotel renovation project

bus hotel working kitchen

The still-working bus, driven back into the countryside by its buyer (and moved around on demand), required more than $15,000 to be turned into a unique three-bedroom accommodation, including a functioning kitchen and bathroom facilities.

bus hotel big green

bus hotel seating sleeping

bus hotel wood stove

Currently set on a “glamping site in the heart of the Sussex countryside,” the bus has its own decking area, a fire pit and all this next to a beautiful pond.” The rural property can accommodate extra campers for parties larger than six who wish to enjoy a stay. In addition to pantry essentials (tea, coffee, milk, herbs and olive oil), logs for the fire pit or stove are available on request.

bus hotel outside view

bus british countryside site

More from its maker and operator about its present location: “A gorgeous 15 minute walk away through country lanes to Chiddingly is the Six Bells pub, a classic traditional country pub, luring all sorts of music, poetry and arts lovers to its various festivals. Brighton is close by too with all its various charms, is 25 minutes drive down the road, or leave your car at Glynde and take the train. Lewes has more trains per hour, Make sure you get to the Lewes Farmers Market on the first Saturday morning of every month.”

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Throw a Bouquet: Guerrilla Seed Bombs & Flower Grenades


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

seed bomb guerrilla gardening

Filling shotgun shells with flower seeds is just the latest (and loudest) in a long line of designs for guerrilla gardeners. If you are looking for a little less bang for your buck than seed-swapped buckshot, you may wan to try a seed ball, bomb or grenade instead, all a bit more stealthy despite their loud-sounding names.

seed bomb flower grenade

One throw-and-grow option for the concrete jungle is this compostable-shelled Flower Grenade packed with ryegrass, buttercups and poppies. This hardy custom-tailored mix is designed to flower in sequence for a multi-week, time-delay effect well beyond the ten seconds or so of their traditional wartime relatives.

seed bomb machine dispenser

Another cleverly-titled approach comes from Greenaid, a group intent on seeding the urban landscape with converted gumball machines rejigged to dispense seed bombs instead of sweets. Put in a quarter and receive a ball made of clay, compost and seeds to help you compact dull gray vacant lots and faded green parking medians.

These Greenaid creations are uniquely tailored to provide local wildflowers native to the areas in which they are deployed – in LA, for instance, they contain White Yarrow, California Poppy, Lupine and Blue Flax.

seed bombs region specific

There are lots of other options, too, from region-oriented seed balls for sale on sites like Etsy to do-it-yourself instructions or kits to help you build your own. When it comes to guerrilla gardening, the real trick is understanding your environment and purpose, then strategically finding a solution for that particular context.

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