Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Surf & Turf: Wave-Shaped Home Lofted in FEMA Flood Zone

    Florida beaches can be beautiful … but floods are far from fun (and all too frequent). This house,
    however, seems to welcome (or challenge) oncoming waves with a huge sweeping arc of its own.

    This impressive mid-sized vacation-and-guest residence is situated on a thin barrier island, straddling a forested strip of Casey Key turf sandwiched in surf on both sides.

    Designed by Totems Inc to mimic canoe and ship hulls, glue-laminated pine beams bring wooden warmth to the inside (and reference surrounding oaks) while allowing curves that would be impossible with traditional lumber.

    Sometimes the best home property insurance for a flood lies in the architecture rather than a contract. Lofting the main living quarters a story above the ground provides built-in management, as damage is much harder to clean up in occupied interior zones (and mold is a serious issue).

    The simple main-floor plan consists of a single bedroom, bathroom, living area and kitchenette – a cozy bedroom is lofted above. Below, steel pilings sunk directly into the ground prevent root-system damage and provide support if the lower level is flooded.

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Surf & Turf: Wave-Shaped Home Lofted in FEMA Flood Zone

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Monday, June 27, 2011

A Room for London: Cloud-Shaped Temporary Rooftop Hotel

    By Steph in Architecture & Design, Furniture & Interiors, Travel & Places, Urban Images

    Imagine enjoying your own little private enclave with a vast outdoor space and virtually unlimited
    view – right in the middle of London, perched atop the Queen Elizabeth Hall, no less. A competition organized by Living Architecture and Artangel called ‘A Room for London‘ sought submissions for a temporary one-bedroom ‘hotel’ that will be available to two guests per night for all of 2012, and this entry – by Design Initiatives – is almost cloud-like, floating in the space between the ground and the sky.

    Design Initiatives puts forth this proposal as a zen, contemplative place of withdrawal and retreat even in the midst of 2012 London, where the Olympic Games will certainly incite more activity, noise and rowdiness than ever. The abstracted curvilinear shape makes the temporary living space a sculptural object, acting as both a focal point for the city below and an overlook for the lucky guests who get to sleep within its walls.

    The soft, organic, biomorphic shape of the hotel is a jarring yet welcome contrast to the harsh brutalist architecture of the building upon which it will rest. Pre-fabricated in two separate pieces for ease of transport and made from lightweight fiber-reinforced polymer, the structure is fittingly ephemeral.

    The living space is enclosed with one all-glass wall, giving occupants protection from the London climate but maintaining a view of the city at all times. Inside, the small room is made functional through multi-purpose furniture; Design Initiatives imagines an all-in-one hybrid piece that combines the bed, sofa, desk, coffee table, bedside table and a shelf. Attached to this compact and cozy space is a covered terrace that provides a transition between the room itself and the open air of the rooftop.

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A Room for London: Cloud-Shaped Temporary Rooftop Hotel

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Inspiring Spires: A Celebration Of The Kuwait Towers

    By Steve in Architecture & Design, History & Factoids, Travel & Places

    Kuwait officially achieved independence 50 years ago today, so please join us in celebrating the
    country’s most famous architectural monuments, the Kuwait Towers. Designed by Swedish architects and built by a Yugoslav construction firm in the 1970s, this trio of soaring spires spearheads the tiny, wealthy Persian Gulf nation’s march into a second half-century of oil-based prosperity.

    Liquid Gold

    (image via: Fasi_Cooldude)
    The Kuwait Towers (Burjan al-Kuwait) are located in downtown Kuwait City, just off the seaward side of Arabian Gulf Street. They occupy a promontory shaped like the curled haft of a traditional dagger that juts into Kuwait Bay.
    (images via: Icukuwait, Arabic Pictures and Hussain Shah)
    There are no other highrise buildings in the general area of the Kuwait Towers, which contributes to their easy visibility and popularity with photographers. Since the Kuwait Towers officially opened in March of 1979, they have come to symbolize the wealth and prosperity that has boosted this formerly sleepy backwater into the world’s eleventh richest country per capita.
    (images via: Graham Neff Photos, Kuwait Towers and Abhisculpture)
    The reference to “liquid gold”? It obviously refers to Kuwait’s immense oil wealth: although it ranks just 157th by size, the country boasts the world’s fifth largest oil reserves. It can also refer to water, a precious commodity in this hot, dry, desert country. Though they may not look like water towers, storing water is actually the primary function of the Kuwait Towers: two large spherical tanks on the towers hold a combined 4,500 cubic meters (158,915 cu ft) of water.

    Tanks a Lot

    (image via: Spirit Whisper)
    The idea of building the Kuwait Towers dates back to 1962, less than a year after Kuwait achieved its independence from Great Britain. The design by Swedish architects Sune Lindström and Malene Björn of Vatten-Byggnadsbyzan (VBB) received official approval in 1971 and when it finally came time to put shovels to earth (or sand, in this case), Belgrade-based contractor Union-Inzenjering was called in with most of the structural work performed in 1975 and 1976.
    (images via: Psycho Milt, Indica-In-Q8 and Spirit Whisper)
    The Kuwait Towers pleasingly express a combination of modern architectural themes and traditional Islamic design, with comparisons being made to slender minarets and the blue-tiled mosques of Bukhara and Samarkand.
    (image via: Gary Brown)
    In the case of the Kuwait Towers, however, instead of ceramic tiles the spherical exteriors of the water tanks are covered by 55,000 circular plates of Chinese steel tinted in eight different colors. The concrete portions of the towers are painted white and are tipped with aluminum for protection from lightning. In 1980, the Kuwait Towers were awarded the coveted Aga Khan prize for Islamic architecture.
    (images via: DiaTribe and Kuwait Government Online)
    All three towers are mainly made of reinforced concrete but that’s where a little individuality sets in. Let’s crunch some numbers: the main tower is the tallest of the trio, standing 187 meters (613.5 ft) in height. A large water tank is built into the main tower’s lower portion and just above it, at the 82 meter (269 ft) mark, you’ll find the Ofok Restaurant and two other eateries.

    (images via: Kuwait Diary and Kuwait Government Online)
    Higher up on the main tower at the 123 meter (403.55 ft) level, a second, smaller “Viewing Sphere” rotates once every half hour giving visitors on the observation deck a magnificent 360 degree view of Kuwait City and its environs including the nearby AquaPark.
    (images via: Travel-Images, JourneyMart, Teach Anywhere) and CreativeSam)
    The 145.8 meter (478.35 ft) high second tower serves purely as a water tower with a capacity of one million gallons. The third, or “small” tower, standing 113 meters (370.75 ft) high, contains electrical equipment and a bank of lights that illuminate the other two towers at night.

    Saddam It So Much!

    (image via: Jun See)
    The First Gulf War began on August 2nd, 1990, when Saddam Hussein of Iraq invaded Kuwait on the pretext of seizing back his country’s “lost 19th province.” It wasn’t until mid-January of 1991 that American-led coalition forces began air bombardments against the Iraqi Army and following a 100-hour ground campaign that began on February 25th, Kuwait regained its sovereignty. Seven months of Iraqi occupation, however, had left an ugly mark on Kuwait.
    (images via: ImageState and Heritage Images)
    The sabotaging of hundreds of Kuwaiti oil wells as part of a “scorched earth” policy is well documented, but Saddam’s troops were also responsible for other actions intended to erase all reminders of an independent Kuwait. One of these actions concerned the Kuwait Towers. Besides causing damage to the towers’ exteriors with gunfire and shrapnel, Iraqi soldiers intentionally destroyed the towers’ electrical utilities and vandalized interior facilities. One supposes it could have been worse.
    (images via: CIMorelli)
    Lest we be accused of overly demonizing the Iraqi’s, let the record show that Coalition forces made their own mark, as it were, on the Kuwait Towers.

    (images via: Darcos and HD TravelPictures)
    Throughout the balance of 1991 and well into 1992, damage sustained to the Kuwait Towers (estimated to be 70 percent) was repaired and essential technical and comfort facilities were restored to their original condition. Repairing the damage cost an estimated KD 2 million. It was an inspirational occasion for proud Kuwaiti citizens when, on December 26th of 1992, the Kuwait Towers were officially re-opened to the public by Finance Minister and Planning Minister Nasser Al-Roudhan.

    Towers Of Power

    (images via: Salah El-Deen Times and Kuwaits Blog)
    Although the 50th anniversary of Kuwait’s independence occurs on June 19th, 2011, the country has denoted February 25th as Kuwait’s National Day and February 26th as Liberation Day. Can we expect the sky above Kuwait City’s waterfront to be lit up with fireworks once again on June 19th? If so, you can also count on the Kuwait Towers taking center stage in the celebrations, as over the past 30-odd years they’ve emerged as the most famous visual symbol of the nation.
    Here’s a spectacular video of some of the fantastic fireworks displays and light shows taken on February 25thh, with the Kuwait Towers stealing the limelight:
    National Day of Kuwait 2011 (Al-Nasheed Al-Watani), via BuzaidGT

    (images via: David Henderson, Pamatid Sandness and Lonely Planet)
    2011 was an extra special year for Kuwait as it was deemed “50-20-5”: the 50th year of Independence, the 20th year since Liberation after the Gulf War, and the 5th year of Ascension of the current Emir Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah.

    (images via: Cajie)
    Thanks to Cajie (Cajetan Barretto) for both capturing the strikingly sublime beauty of this year’s celebrations and posting them online for all of us to enjoy and appreciate!
    (image via: Coloribus)
    Though a host of new and soon-to-open skyscrapers will eclipse the Kuwait Towers in height, the waterfront trio won’t give up their symbolic resonance as easily. When in 50 years celebrations begin in honor of Kuwait’s centennial, it’s certain that the iconic Kuwait Towers will not only still be standing, but will stand tallest in the hearts and minds of Kuwait’s people.

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Inspiring Spires: A Celebration Of The Kuwait Towers

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Brew with a View: 13 of the World’s Coolest Rooftop Bars

    By Steph in Architecture & Design, Furniture & Interiors, Travel & Places

    Top-shelf cocktails, fine cuisine and unparalleled views of some of the most exciting cities in
    the world – what can beat that? These 13 sky bars represent the coolest, most chic rooftop recreation spots in Bangkok, London, Mexico City, Melbourne and of course, New York. Fire pits, live music, movies and stargazing only serve to sweeten the experience.

    Sky Bar at Sirocco, Bangkok, Thailand

    (images via: femtalks)
    Ascend to the heights of one of Bangkok’s top luxury hotels – the second-tallest building in the city – and gaze over the glass walls of the rooftop deck at the sprawling metropolis below. Not only does The Dome State Tower boast the visually thrilling Sky Bar, but the adjoining restaurant, Sirocco, is said to serve food that’s even more impressive than the view.

    Rooftop Cinema, Melbourne, Australia

    (images via: world architecture news)
    This might just be the coolest movie theater in Australia. Oh, yeah, and they serve alcoholic drinks, too – what more can you ask for? Owned and operated by a team of artists, the Rooftop Cinema plays classic, current and art-house films in the open air on the top of a six-story building. Sit back and relax in a colorful striped deck chair and just try not to be distracted by the bustle of the city around you.

    The Penthouse, Madrid, Spain

    (images via: memadrid.com)
    Take in the heart of Madrid from The Penthouse, a skybar owned by entrepreneur Rande Gerber and frequented by stars of both the celebrity and celestial variety. The bar’s open until 3AM but you’d better arrive early, because the view here is so sought-after, there’s always a long line to get in. Find it at the top of Hotel ME Madrid Reina Victoria in Plaza Santa Ana.

    The Strand Hotel, New York, New York

    (images via: thestrandnyc.com)
    Chosen by New York Magazine as Manhattan’s coolest rooftop bar, The Top of the Strand offers a jaw-dropping view of the Empire State Building four blocks away. With visuals dreamed up by Sex and the City set designer Lydia Marks, The Strand skybar dazzles, keeping patrons warm on chilly nights with an unusual retractable glass roof.

    Moon, Las Vegas, Nevada

    (images via: palms.com)
    A wild smashup of the Playboy Club and the Palms, Moon is one of Las Vegas’ hottest tickets.  Located on the 53rd floor of the hotel’s ‘Fantasy Tower’, the space age-themed Moon features a large central dance floor with color-changing tiles surrounded by VIP booths, all offering unparalleled views of The Strip.

    Vertigo & Moon Bar, Banyon Tree Bangkok, Thailand

    (images via: banyantree.com)
    One of the highest al fresco bars in the Asia Pacific, the Moon Bar seems to hover like a spaceship over the chaotic streets of Bangkok. Sip cocktails and partake in canapes, or stroll over to The Vertigo restaurant adjacent to the bar and enjoy premium western cuisine like seafood and steaks. Both the Moon Bar and Vertigo are located on the 61st floor of the Banyan Tree Bangkok Hotel.

    Gravity, Dublin, Ireland

    (images via: bjaglin, savagesteve)
    If you’re visiting Dublin, you’ve got to go to the Guinness Storehouse, where Guinness beer is fermented – and naturally, once you’re done taking a tour and working up an appetite for dark yeasty beverages, you’ll want to sit down and enjoy a proper pint. There’s no better place than Gravity, the seventh floor bar with a 360-degree view of the city of Dublin. The glass panels of the walls are printed with James Joyce quotes that relate to landmarks in the distance.

    KU DÉ TA at Sands Skypark, Singapore

    (images via: marinabaysands.com, senatus)
    Ever since they pulled off an impressive feat of architecture by topping three 55-story towers with a ‘sky deck’, Marina Bay Sands has become one of Singapore’s ultimate destinations. Just wandering around the SkyPark could keep you busy all day, and when you’re ready to relax, you can take a seat at KU DÉ TA, a rooftop oasis with the SkyPark’s signature views and one of the world’s most stunning infinity pools.

    Rooftop Bar, Standard Hotel, Los Angeles

    (images via: bestclubsin.com)
    Not only can you catch a stunning view of downtown Los Angeles from atop the Standard Hotel, you can catch a flick projected onto a neighboring skyscraper. The Standard features a dance floor, a pool with curving white lounge chairs and a patio with red waterbed ‘pods’ where you can relax and gaze out at the city.

    Luna Bar, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

    (images via: ariaski, shayan)
    If you want to take in Malaysia’s capital city of Kuala Lumpur – with a drink in hand – look no further than the Luna Bar. On the 34th floor of the Pacific Regency Hotel, beside the KL Tower, the Luna Bar has both upper and lower deck seating areas offering a 360-degree view as well as a tempting swimming pool.

    Top of the Gherkin, London, England

    (images via: searcys.co.uk)
    It may be small but the top floor bar at London’s 30 St. Mary Axe, affectionately known as The Gherkin, is an unforgettable experience. Gaze out the geometric windows at the highest bar in London and get a panoramic view of the city, from a vantage point nearly 600 feet above the ground. Not just anyone can waltz in and have a drink here, however; it’s a very exclusive private lounge and dining club.

    Aer at the Four Seasons, Mumbai, India

    (images via: fourseasons.com)
    Mumbai’s highest rooftop bar is perched atop the chic Four Seasons Hotel, covering the entire roof of the 34th floor. Aer features modern white furniture and a glass balcony wall that might just give you a little bit of vertigo if you approach it too quickly.

    Condesa DF Rooftop Bar, Mexico City, Mexico

    (images via: mr and mrs smith)
    The serenity of this rooftop bar, surrounded by lots of greenery, will almost make you forget you’re in one of the busiest cities in the world. The rooftop spa bar at the Condesa DF, a small boutique hotel in Mexico City, features a triangular space of dark wooden decking where sushi is served. Expect lots of charm and character: the wedge-shaped building itself is an architectural landmark from 1928 and it’s located in a very boho-chic neighborhood.

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Brew with a View: 13 of the World’s Coolest Rooftop Bars

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Monster Mash: 8 Giant, Earth-Shaking, Prehistoric Beasts

    By Marc in Environment & Nature, History & Factoids, Travel & Places

    Some of the coolest extinct animals are now the most mundane. A giant rodent the size of a small
    car is much more exciting than the one scurrying on the subway track. Prehistoric animals almost always seem to be larger than life, and a wonder to behold.

    Gigantic Ground Sloth

    (Images via mengualphelps, wikipedia, mentalfloss, wikipedia)
    Megatherium are related to modern ground sloths, with one major difference: they were the size of elephants. These beasts would use their huge size to deter predators and get at low branches in trees. One of the largest land mammals of all time, Megatherium could weigh up to 8 tons.


    (Images via bygonebeasts, intelligenttravelitsnature)
    Indricotherium was the largest land mammal to roam the earth. 18 feet tall, 30 feet long, and weighing up to 20 tons, this animal was mind-bogglingly huge. While its gigantic girth would make it quite intimidating, this gentle giant was an herbivore, and would use its size to reach leaves and deter predators.

    Giant Wombat

    (Images via vivekgaurblog, 50birdsaustralianmuseumpbase)
    Diprotodon was a terrifying, gigantic… wombat. These creatures are most closely related to the modern wombat and koala, but with a staggering size difference. Diprotodon could grow to weigh over 6,000 pounds.

    Devil Toad

    (Images via dinosaurs.about, nationalgeographic)
    The Devil Frog was a beastly ancestor to the modern amphibian. They were 16 inches long and would weigh around 10 pounds.

    Giant Rat

    (Images via radatilly, projects.ajc, discovermagazine, cryptomundo)
    The Capybara is the largest rodent in the world, but its size pales in comparison to the prehistoric giant rat, which could grow to be the size of a small car. Subsisting entirely on fruits and vegetables, it wasn’t quite as scary as the name “giant prehistoric rodent” suggests.

    Short-faced Bear

    (Images via edulifedeskslivescienceweb.mebear)
    The short-faced bear (Arctodus Simus) would put the modern bear to shame. With a standing height of 13 feet and a whopping weight of up to 1,800 pounds, this beast was especially prolific in what is now California.

    Demon Duck of Doom

    (images via teara, tanystropheus)
    The prehistoric Bullockornis, otherwise known as the Demon Duck of Doom (no joke!), stood over 8 feet tall and weighed over 550 pounds. To make this bird even scarier, paleontologists speculate that it was partly carnivorous.

    Amphicoelias Fragillimus

    (Images via prehistoricanimal, pravekysvet, svpowrealmagick)
    Up to 200 feet long and weighing up to 135 tons, Amphicoelias Fragillimus was a giant among giants. This giant herbivore was arguably the largest creature to ever roam land.

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Monster Mash: 8 Giant, Earth-Shaking, Prehistoric Beasts

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