Daily Dose: Grand Palace at Bangkok

Add to TwitterThe Grand Palace at Bangkok, built in the late 1700s, is the largest tourist attraction in the historic section of Bangkok. Its 100+ buildings cover 234 acres, and all are extravagantly decorated. Brilliant colors, carved and painted murals, and pillars inlaid with mosaic can be found throughout the grounds. The main building, Wat Phra Kaew, houses the famed statue of the Emerald Buddha. Though more recent rulers have declined to live in the palace, it is still used for royal rituals and state banquets. Its true appeal is in its visual splendor; and so without further ado, I present the main event.

Grand Palace at Bangkok; Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Phra Mondop, library in the Wat Phra Kaew; Image ©Paul Brockmeyer

Wat Phra Kaew; Image ©Trey Ratcliff

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Daily Dose: Mushroom House

Add to TwitterTerry Brown’s Mushroom House in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Cincinnati, Ohio is a much-celebrated triumph of found object sculpture and organic architecture. Also known as the “Tree House,” this unique structure is created from a variety of materials including wood, colored glass, tiles and shells. The final product looks as though it could blend right in to a wooded area or a fantastical landscape.

Mushroom House by Terry Brown; Image courtesy of agilitynut.com

Brown received his B.Arch from Iowa State University in 1977, his M.Arch from Washington University, St. Louis in 1979 and did a design internship with Aldo Rossi at Peter Eisenman‘s Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies in Manhattan. It wasn’t until his Fulbright Fellowship with Otto Graf at the Vienna Academy of Fine Art, however, that he settled into his individualized style.

Mushroom House; Image courtesy of agilitynut.com

This style is perhaps best seen in his Mushroom House, a building he lived and worked out of while teaching at the University of Cincinnati. Construction on the Mushroom House began in 1992 and was continued for the next 14-15 years with help from Brown’s students at the University. In recent years, Brown taught Baylor University in Waco, Texas.

Mushroom House; Image courtesy of agilitynut.com

Suddenly and tragically, Brown died in a car accident in 2008 at the age of 53 – but his legacy lives on through his many pupils. Architect Leslie Clark, who studied with and later worked for Brown, said,

“Terry believed it was an architect’s responsibility to invent solutions for clients that they didn’t know were possible, to transform their ideas of what a house could be. Somehow, he made it seem simple to embody the movement of music and nature within a built environment.”




If you liked this post, you may also enjoy MTI’s Daily Dose about Eliphante, another found-object home.

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Daily Dose: ICON Solar House

Add to TwitterStudents of the Institute of Technology, the College of Design and the College of Continuing Education at the University of Minnesota collaborated to design and build the ICON Solar House, a highly energy-efficient, aesthetically-pleasing home. In October of 2009, it took fifth place at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon and is now on sale by the University of Minnesota.

ICON Solar House; Image ©University of Minnesota

The 550 square foot house was designed to have a greater surface area on the southern side of the roof and is angled to capture the most light in the winter. Designs were made according to seasonal data in Minnesota, so if you’re interested in the house, moving it to Florida wouldn’t really be doing it justice! (And the winters here aren’t all the bad… really!) Passive solar heating is maximized with the use of triple glazed windows. These special features have three layers of glass and are coated with film (“electrochromic window tinting”) to prevent heat loss. The film is activated with a simple flick of a switch that sends an electric current through the panes. Strategically placed throughout the house, the windows also allow for the maximum amount of natural light during the day.

ICON Solar House’s walls are also innovative. Instead of regular siding, the home sports a rainscreen wall which helps increase air movement behind the cladding and make for a healthier building and interior.

Interested in buying? The minimum bid is $200,000 – retail value is $550,000. Visit their website to get more details!

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Daily Dose: Waterlogged Sustainability

First off, Happy Earth Day! Let us know how you’re celebrating!

Add to TwitterInterest in designing homes that are able to float on water has increased over the past few years in response to people’s living environments and – more recently – the desire to protect those environments. Mary Mattingly, a photographer and sculptor, is the designer of the Waterpod™ which is “a floating sculptural living structure designed as a new habitat for the global warming epoch.” Read on to learn more about the Waterpod™ and what it’s providing for land-based communities as well.

Waterpod™; Image ©Michael Nagle for the New York Times

Mattingly started out making wearable homes for people who wanted a mobile lifestyle. It was during an exhibition of this work that she was prompted to look forward and think bigger. Mattingly says, “I became increasingly worried that government and corporate agencies were largely ignoring problems caused by pollution and climate change. I wanted to respond to the growing instability of cultures and the political unrest arising from inattention to these issues.” Waterpod™ is one answer to these problems. It was initially designed as a personal space, but it quickly evolved into a community event; the input and efforts of multiple people make the project more feasible as a sustainable unit. The ability to change and adapt is central to Mattingly’s concept of the Waterpod™. She “wanted it to be mutable in design, concept, integration, and autonomy,” so that it would have a greater chance of success than previous utopian systems.

Waterpod™ Team; Image ©Leyla T. Rosario of The Bronx is Building

Art of Mara Haseltine, one of many exhibitors at the Waterpod™; Image courtesy of thewaterpod.org

Waterpod™ is constructed from recycled or reused materials and runs on its own power sources. These include a wind turbine, solar PV panels, bicycle power and a picohydro system. It also has a space for agriculture and greywater recycling, along with a kitchen, showering facilities and four bedrooms. But Waterpod™ is more than just a living unit that floats around, albeit sustainably, without a care for us landlubbers. The main space is designated for community and artistic activities which include exhibits, lectures and performances. During docking days, the Waterpod™ is open for public tours.

A section from the “Structure” page of Waterpod™’s website sums up its purpose: “Through its dilatory, watery peregrinations, Waterpod™ intends to prepare, inform, inspire, provoke, and fortify humanity for tomorrow’s exterior explorations.” Watery world, here we come!

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Daily Dose: The Wooden Skyscraper

Add to TwitterWhat you’re about to see is not, perhaps, what most people desire as a personal residence. But for Nikolai Sutyagin, “gangster” and builder extraordinaire, the Wooden Skyscraper is what he’s calling home.

Wooden Skyscraper; Image courtesy of telegraph.co.uk

Sutyagin was born in Arkhangelsk, Russia and worked construction in his teenage years to support his mother and sister. Eventually, he had enough money to buy a lumber yard and start his own contracting company. With his new status came the need to “flaunt it.” The Wooden Skyscraper started as a simple two-storey home (the city limits wooden buildings to two storeys because of fire hazards) but over a period of 15 years grew to 13 storeys and 144 feet tall. During this process, Sutyagin was jailed (reasons and charges vary with the source) and his home and possessions were looted by his employees. He now lives in the skyscraper in poverty with his wife and daughter, unable to finish construction. Government officials and neighbors want it taken down, but Sutyagin argues that the upper storeys are merely decorative so the building is technically within city limits.

What do you think – should Sutyagin be forced to take the building down, or at least scale it back? Or could the home be completed and perhaps act as an attraction for the struggling town? What do you think? Leave us a comment here!

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Daily Dose: Impressive Architecture

Add to TwitterToday’s Daily Dose is something a little new. The following images are results from a search with the key terms “impressive architecture.” Some I recognize, some are unfamiliar. All, in my opinion, are worthy of the category.

Left: Wat Chalang temple in Phuket; Image ©Alexander Sewe │ Right: Cloud Gate sculpture in Chicago; Image courtesy of Ashish Ratna

Ciudad de Artes y Ciencias; Image ©Damian Corrigan for About.com

Left: Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi; Image ©Jhani │ Right: Museo Nacional de Antropología; Image courtesy of Anna on the Macha Mexico Blog

Are you impressed? Let us know here.

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Daily Dose: Paris, Las Vegas

Add to TwitterLas Vegas – where to begin? The endless clubs, casinos, resorts and neon lights along the Vegas Strip represent (to me) so much of what we as a culture should be striving to curtail: over-use, over-consumption and environmental abuse. It all comes to a head in the architectural replicas of famed world monuments like the Eiffel Tower (Paris), the Pyramids (Giza), the Statue of Liberty (New York) and the Piazza San Marco (Venice).

Las Vegas Strip; Image courtesy of thetravelpeach.com

I realize that not everyone can afford to travel across the country or overseas to see these popular world attractions (myself included), and there is tremendous value in making that experience as accessible as possible. However, going to an imitation resort such as Paris, Las Vegas does not provide the consumer with a “next-best-thing” encounter. The scaled-down Eiffel Tower and cliché “boulangeries” and “patisseries” are hardly similar to actually walking the streets of Paris, taking in the local cultures. Rather, these efforts to make everything accessible to everyone devalue authenticity and endorse a culture of cheap imitation. In a cruel sort of irony, this intellectually and creatively cheap mimicry is incredibly costly for the environment and for societal evolution.

Piazza San Marco, Las Vegas; Image courtesy of the Venice Daily Photo Blog

I’m not asserting that one’s experience of Paris has to be the “real thing” or nothing at all, just that time, money and resources could be put to more constructive use. Instead of recreating places that already exist, why don’t we focus on designing new works that push the boundaries of architecture in exciting ways? Sustainability can be a part of that, too. Coming up with ways to ensure that our buildings impact the environment in a positive way and last for hundreds of years is truly worthy of our efforts. It’s something to be passionate about, an excitement to instill in this generation for the benefit of the entire planet and our collective futures. What could be more essential than that?

Let me know what you think – are these “imitation” destination resorts contributing something important to our society? Or should we be more focused on pushing forward, breaking new ground? How does sustainability come into play, in your opinion? Leave a comment!

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*If you liked this post, you might also be interested in Dynamic Exteriors