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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Sustainable Architecture in the Ancient Worlds

I hold that sustainability is not just about energy efficiency and carbon footprints, but in the realm of architecture it also requires attention to durability. In these times of climate change and extreme weather events, biomorphic buildings will begin to appear more regularly, as will pyramid-shaped structures, the pyramid being the most durable building form.

Here are 5 ancient creations that have stood the test of time:


These rock-cut temples are located in the ancient Wawat (or the legendary Ybsambul) in Nubia, near the borders of Sudan, about 300 kilometers from Aswan. Earlier temples in Nubia had been located within forts, but here the confidence of Ramses II, whose reign may have lasted as many as 67 years, is illustrated; these temples, probably once brightly colored, were cut into the natural rock and lapped by the Nile. After eleven centuries of oblivion, these temples were rediscovered in 1813 when Johann Ludwig Burckhardt saw by accident the upper parts of the colossal figures. In 1817 Giovanni Battista Belzoni found the entrance, partially freed from the sand. In the following years these temples were often partially covered by shifting sands.

Today visitors see the reconstructed temples now relocated on higher ground (60 meters directly above their earlier position) after the heroic international rescue efforts to save these treasures from Lake Nasser.

The facade of the Great Temple of Ramses is about 38 meters long and 31 meters high. The temple is dedicated to the most important gods of the New Kingdom, Ptah (the creator god of Memphis), Amun-Re (the great god of Thebes) and Re-Harakhte (sun god of Heliopolis), as well as to the Pharaoh Ramses II himself. The four colossi, statues of Ramses II (c. 1290-1224 BCE), are more than 20 meters high and about 4 meters from ear to ear.


The Taj Mahal (Hindi: ताज महल, from Persian/Urdu: تاج محل "crown of buildings") is a mausoleum located in Agra, India. It was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal. The Taj Mahal is widely recognized as "the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world's heritage."

Taj Mahal is the finest example of Mughal architecture, a style that combines elements from Persian, Turkish and Indian architectural styles.

In 1983, the Taj Mahal became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. While the white domed marble mausoleum is the most familiar component of the Taj Mahal, it is actually an integrated complex of structures. The construction began around 1632 and was completed around 1653, employing thousands of artisans and craftsmen. The construction of the Taj Mahal was entrusted to a board of architects under imperial supervision, including Abd ul-Karim Ma'mur Khan, Makramat Khan, and Ustad Ahmad Lahauri. Lahauri is generally considered to be the principal designer


Borobudur, or Barabudur, is an 8th-century Mahayana Buddhist monument near Magelang, Central Java, Indonesia. The monument comprises six square platforms topped by three circular platforms, and is decorated with 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues.[1] A main dome, located at the center of the top platform, is surrounded by 72 Buddha statues seated inside perforated stupa.

The monument is both a shrine to the Lord Buddha and a place for Buddhist pilgrimage. The journey for pilgrims begins at the base of the monument and follows a path circumambulating the monument while ascending to the top through the three levels of Buddhist cosmology, namely Kāmadhātu (the world of desire), Rupadhatu (the world of forms) and Arupadhatu (the world of formlessness). During the journey, the monument guides the pilgrims through a system of stairways and corridors with 1,460 narrative relief panels on the walls and the balustrades.

Evidence suggests Borobudur was abandoned following the 14th-century decline of Buddhist and Hindu kingdoms in Java, and the Javanese conversion to Islam. Worldwide knowledge of its existence was sparked in 1814 by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, then the British ruler of Java, who was advised of its location by native Indonesians. Borobudur has since been preserved through several restorations. The largest restoration project was undertaken between 1975 and 1982 by the Indonesian government and UNESCO, following which the monument was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Borobudur is still used for pilgrimage; once a year Buddhists in Indonesia celebrate Vesak at the monument, and Borobudur is Indonesia's single most visited tourist attraction.


Machu Picchu (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈmatʃu ˈpitʃu], Quechua: Machu Pikchu [ˈmɑtʃu ˈpixtʃu], "Old Peak") is a pre-Columbian 15th-century Inca site located 2,430 metres (7,970 ft) above sea level. It is situated on a mountain ridge above the Urubamba Valley in Peru, which is 80 kilometres (50 mi) northwest of Cusco and through which the Urubamba River flows. Most archaeologists believe that Machu Picchu was built as an estate for the Inca emperor Pachacuti (1438–1472). Often referred to as the "Lost City of the Incas", it is perhaps the most familiar icon of the Inca World.

The Incas started building the "estate" around AD 1400, but abandoned it as an official site for the Inca rulers a century later at the time of the Spanish Conquest. Although known locally, it was unknown to the outside world before being brought to international attention in 1911 by the American historian Hiram Bingham. Since then, Machu Picchu has become an important tourist attraction. Most of the outlying buildings have been reconstructed in order to give tourists a better idea of what the structures originally looked like.[3] By 1976, thirty percent of Machu Picchu had been restored. The restoration work continues to this day.

Since the site was never known to the Spanish during their conquest, it is highly significant as a relatively intact cultural site. Machu Picchu was declared a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary in 1981 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. In 2007, Machu Picchu was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in a worldwide Internet poll.

Machu Picchu was built in the classical Inca style, with polished dry-stone walls. Its three primary buildings are the Intihuatana, the Temple of the Sun, and the Room of the Three Windows. These are located in what is known by archaeologists as the Sacred District of Machu Picchu. In September 2007, Peru and Yale University almost reached an agreement regarding the return of artifacts which Yale has held since Hiram Bingham removed them from Machu Picchu in the early 20th century. In November 2010, a Yale University representative agreed to return the artifacts to a Peruvian university.


The Great Wall of China is a series of stone and earthen fortifications in northern China, built originally to protect the northern borders of the Chinese Empire against intrusions by various nomadic groups. Several walls have been built since the 5th century BC that are referred to collectively as the Great Wall, which has been rebuilt and maintained from the 5th century BC through the 16th century. One of the most famous is the wall built between 220–206 BC by the first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang. Little of that wall remains; the majority of the existing wall was built during the Ming Dynasty.

The Great Wall stretches from Shanhaiguan in the east, to Lop Lake in the west, along an arc that roughly delineates the southern edge of Inner Mongolia. The most comprehensive archaeological survey, using advanced technologies, has concluded that the entire Great Wall, with all of its branches, stretches for 8,851.8 km (5,500.3 mi). This is made up of 6,259.6 km (3,889.5 mi) sections of actual wall, 359.7 km (223.5 mi) of trenches and 2,232.5 km (1,387.2 mi) of natural defensive barriers such as hills and rivers

How about we build some iconic, durable buildings for our children and grandchildren?

- proposed Portlands Development finalist, Toronto (Architect: David Butterworth, Design / Visualization: Samuel Zeng)

sources: Wikipedia.org, bluffton.edu, Google image search

Monday, August 29, 2011

Earth's tallest green building: LEED-certified Taipei 101

Taiwan's Taipei 101 skyscraper - the second tallest building in the world - was just awarded LEED Platinum certification, making it the world's tallest green skyscraper! Completed in 2004, Taipei 101 stands 1,667 feet tall above the streets of the Xinyi District in Taipei, Taiwan. A three-year-long green retrofit has successfully enabled the skyscraper to save 10% on electricity and water costs, produce significantly less waste, and use 30% less energy - the building reduced annual utility costs by $700,000 a year.

Read more: Taiwan's Taipei 101 Skyscraper Crowned the World's Tallest LEED Platinum Building! | Inhabitat - Green Design Will Save the World

Taipei 101 (Chinese: 台北101 / 臺北101), formerly known as the Taipei World Financial Center, is a landmark skyscraper located in Xinyi District, Taipei, Taiwan. The building ranked officially as the world's tallest from 2004 until the opening of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai in 2010. In July 2011, the building was awarded LEED Platinum certification, the highest award in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system and became the tallest LEED building in the world.

Taipei 101 was designed by C.Y. Lee & partners and constructed primarily by KTRT Joint Venture. The tower has served as an icon of modern Taiwan ever since its opening, and received the 2004 Emporis Skyscraper Award.[4] Fireworks launched from Taipei 101 feature prominently in international New Year's Eve broadcasts and the structure appears frequently in travel literature and international media.

Taipei 101 comprises 101 floors above ground and 5 floors underground. The building was architecturally created as a symbol of the evolution of technology and Asian tradition (see Symbolism). Its postmodernist approach to style incorporates traditional design elements and gives them modern treatments. The tower is designed to withstand typhoons and earthquakes. A multi-level shopping mall adjoining the tower houses hundreds of fashionable stores, restaurants and clubs.

Taipei 101 is owned by the Taipei Financial Center Corporation (TFCC) and managed by the International division of Urban Retail Properties Corporation based in Chicago. The name originally planned for the building, Taipei World Financial Center, until 2003, was derived from the name of the owner. The original name in Chinese was literally, Taipei International Financial Center (Chinese: 臺北國際金融中心).

The Taipei 101 was the tallest building in the world until the 2,717 foot Burj Khalifa was completed in Dubai last year. It houses 101 floors above ground and 5 below, including a multi-level mall and hundreds of restaurants and clubs.

As if the building didn’t stand out enough, Taipei 101 set out to make a name for itself in a new category. With the help of dream team EcoTech International, Steven Leach Associates, and Siemens’ Building Technologies Division, Taipei 101 began to improve its energy efficiency three years ago. Cooling systems were changed and a scientific system of energy modeling and audits made a huge impact on the building’s green persona.

Though the restoration venture was expensive, the outcome is worth every penny. “We started improving energy efficiency in 2007 and in the three years to 2010, we have already made that money back,” said Cathy Yang, vice president of the tower division of Taipei 101.

It’s incredible to see a seven-year-old skyscraper awarded LEED platinum certification – the highest level of achievement in the LEED system. Buildings large and small around the world are now running out of excuses.

Surces: Inhabitat.com, wikipedia.org

Friday, August 26, 2011

Futuristic Homes - Architecture that pushes boundaries

Dupli Casa, by J Mayer H (info from Archinet.com):

The geometry of the building is based on the footprint of the house that previously was located on the site, originally built in 1984 and with many extensions and modifications since then. The new building echoes the „family archeology" by duplication and rotation. Lifted up, it creates a semi-public space on ground level between two layers of discretion.

Shell House in Japan, by Artechnic Architects (info from TrendR.com)

With the profile of a shell and an aerial view of some ultra-modern space craft, the futuristic Shell House by Japanese architecture firm Artechnic is totally out of this world. Located in the forest of Karuizawa, Japan, this one-of-a-kind design boasts the cross-section of a seashell, with its double-elliptical shapes and curves. Supported by concrete and wood, the home surrounding decks are as artful as this modern house design itself. Floor-to-ceiling windows offer views into the contemporary cave-like interior featuring soft, sandy textures and an organic structure that flows continually from ceiling to wall to floor. Circular skylights throughout this modern home enhance its architectural interest while flooding the dark corners with bright, natural light.

Komb House, by Karim Rashid (info from Gorenje.com)

Karim Rashid, one of the most prolific designers of his generation, having worked in over 35 countries, with over 3,000 designs in production and over 300 awards under his belt has designed the ‘Ideal Home’ named KOMB HOUSE (organized byTarek Nour Communications/AAPIC, Agouza-Giza-Egypt) to be displayed in the new The Designer’s Hall at the “Le Marche”, the leading furniture fair in Egypt. KOMB HOUSE by Karim Rashid is a smart and environmentally sustainable home concept and based on the design versatility. It also features the domino hobs and ovens from the collection Gorenje designed by Karim Rashid.

Bird Island by Graft Lab (info ftrom Inhabitat.com):

Bird Island is a stunning urban renewal project that is currently being developed in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Designed by Graft Lab architects for the YTL Green Home Competition, the project comprises a zero energy home made of sustainably-sourced silicone glass fabric. Its lightness and flexibility will allow it to sway organically with the breeze just like a treetop, and slots in the fabric will give visitors a unique peek into the sky as the wind ebbs and flows.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Singapore' SkyPark a vision of Asia's future

Art and Architecture meld in major Asian tourist attraction

Marina Bay Sands in Singapore features three 55-storey hotel towers which were topped out in July 2009. The three towers are connected by a 1 hectare sky terrace on the roof, named Sands SkyPark.

In front of the three towers include a Theatre Block, a Convention and Exhibition Facilities Block, as well as the Casino Block, which have up to 1000 gaming tables and 1400 slot machines. The ArtScience Museum is constructed next to the three blocks and has the shape of a lotus. Its roof will be retractable, providing a waterfall through the roof of collected rainwater when closed in the day and with laser shows when opened at night. In front of the Event Plaza is the Wonder Full show, a light and water spectacular that is the largest in Southeast Asia.

The SkyPark is home to the world's longest elevated swimming pool,[28][29] with a 146-metre (478 ft) vanishing edge, perched 191 metres above the ground. The pools are made up of 422,000 pounds of stainless steel and can hold 376,500 gallons (1424 cubic metres) of water. The SkyPark also boasts rooftop restaurants such as The Sky on 57 (by Justin Quek), nightclubs such as KU DÉ TA, lush gardens, hundreds of trees and plants, and a public observatory deck on the cantilever with 360-degree views of the Singapore skyline.

There are four movement joints beneath the main pools, designed to help them withstand the natural motion of the towers, and each joint has a unique range of motion. The total range of motion is 500 millimetres (19.68 inches). In addition to wind, the hotel towers are also subject to settlement in the earth over time, so engineers built and installed custom jack legs to allow for future adjustment at more than 500 points beneath the pool system. This jacking system is important primarily to ensure the infinity edge of the pool continues to function properly.

The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands also boasts close to 1,000,000 square feet (93,000 m2) of retail space with over 300 stores and F&B outlets, including numerous luxury duplexes for boutiques such as Ralph Lauren, Chanel, Cartier and Prada. Other luxury stores include Gucci, Hermès, Emporio Armani, Chopard, Burberry, REDValentino, Dior, Dunhill, Vertu, Miu Miu, Yves Saint Laurent, Salvatore Ferragamo, Montblanc, Blancpain, an Hermès Watch Boutique, and Herve Leger.

A canal runs through the length of the Shoppes, in the same style as the Venetian in Las Vegas. Sampan rides on the canal are available for guests and shoppers at the shopping mall, similar to the gondola rides available in the Venetian. Also housed within the Shoppes are the six of the seven Celebrity Chef Restaurants - Cut (by Wolfgang Puck), Waku Ghin (by Tetsuya Wakuda), Pizzeria and Osteria Mozza (by Mario Batali), Guy Savoy (by Guy Savoy), DB Bistro Moderne (by Daniel Boulud), and Santi (by Santi Santamaria).

Two notable attractions of the resort are the two Crystal Pavilions. Despite a brief legal dispute in June 2011, it has been decided that one of the Pavilions will house two internationally-renowned nightclubs - Avalon and Pangaea. In addition, the second Pavilion will house the world's largest Louis Vuitton boutique, in addition to being on a floating island, at 20,000 square feet (1,900 m2), which will be connected to the portion of the boutique in the Shoppes via an underwater tunnel.

The Sands Theatre and Grand Theatre seat over 1900 people and 2200 people respectively, with The Lion King showing at the former, and international acts, such as Cirque Éloize and A. R. Rahman's Jai Ho, located in the latter during their world tours. Set next to the theatres is an ice skating rink measuring 6,500 square feet (600 m2), rivaling that at the Rockefeller Center in New York.

Moshe Safdie designed an Art Path within the resort, incorporating seven installations by five artists including Zheng Chongbin, Antony Gormley, and Sol LeWitt. The pieces are meant to play on environmental influences including light, water and wind, integrating art with architecture.

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