Monday, November 26, 2012

Solar powered floating schools

A non-profit organisation callled shidhulai swanirvar sangstha, has a goal to provide year-round education to Bangladeshi elementary students living in the areas prone to flooding due to monsoons. During rains,hundreds of schools get shut down to their detriment. Due to the torrential downpours,some parts are flooded for 3-4 months in a year, becoming an obstacle for people to continue their education.

Shidulai swanivar sangstha developed solar- powered floating schools to be used during those periods,which travel right up to the mainland to pick-up students. Around 30 students can be accomodated in each boat-cum-classroom and is equipped with an internet-linked laptop, electronic resources, library, providing basic education up to the grade IV level.
With the help of solar energy via panels installed on their rooftops,the computers and overall electricity of the vessels are powered. The use of this sustainable source offers flexible school schedules. After the day is over, students can take home a recharged-low-cost solar lantern, offering them a light source which would help them to continue their studies, while women on the other hand, may continue to stitch quilts after dusk to generate more income for their family.The solar powered lamps are given to families for free providing their children to go to school regularly, and better off households pay only a small monthly fee to receive one of the devices.
Not only for students,but outside elementary school lessons, the boats also act as venues for conducting training sessions for children's parents on such subjects as agriculture, finance, health, hygiene and nutrition.
70,000 children have benefited from this project which was first started in 2002, and is a 2012 WISE (world innovation summit for education) awards winner. It is funded through various resources which includes crops, fisheries as well as conversion of kerosene lanterns into solar ones.Other than education, the venture has also been advantageous in developing solar water farming to safeguard food supplies,improving the nutritional and health status of children,ensuring a year round income for families in flood prone areas.

(Image source:

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The library design moving away from tradition

It is a well known fact that library designs are becoming more and more popular in the interior design sector of the world. Many designers are taking strides to revolutionize the modern design of these builidings as libraries are community spaces which serve both education and communication.

Instead of simply rehashing the stark, institutional library motif, the 21st century library places focus on collaborative learning, features abundant natural light, inverts institutional design and is founded on a strong basis of environmental responsiblity.

Located at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, which was recently officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II, moves completely away from the traditionalist buildings of the past, demonstrating an incredibly modern aesthetic and ideology. Designed by architectural firm Schimdt Lassen, the 15,500 square metre library will replace the previous library which was earlier built in 1965.

"The building is a bold and affirmative statement from the University," said University of Aberdeen librarian and director of special collections and museums Chris Banks. "Its says 'We mean business' and it also says 'You are welcome here.'"
The building's facade consists of a mass of insulated high-performance panels while the interiors are a testament to topology, fluidity and light.
From the central atrium, aptly dubbed the 'dynamic vortex', visitors - of which there have been more than 700,000 over the last 12 months - can see through thte centre of the entire building, giving a sense of extreme space without being overwhelming to the point where patrons feel disconnected. 
"I'm also delighted that the building has attracted so many more students to use the library and the way in which it provides for both social and formal meeting spaces," Banks said. "It has, for the first time, allowed us to truly showcase our very significant special collections."
The designers set out to achieve BREEAM certification for the building, a goal they achieved through the implementation of several key sustainable features.
According to architect Morten Schmidt, the building stands as a modern icon for the university and area, offering all the positive elements that are now commonplace with modern library design.
"The University of Aberdeen New Library functions as a meeting places and a cultural centre for the students of the University as well as the Aberdeen community." he said. "The facade of the building shimmers during the day and glows softly at night, creating a luminous landmark - a beacon - for the city of Aberdeen."
Importance of library design being lost on architects? Surely not, with the buildings now becoming more than ever aesthetically pleasing modern community icons.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Designing the world's greatest stadium

With an intention of fulfilling Japan's 2020 Olympic game ambitions, the Japaneses sports council held an international design competition open for architects from across the globe to redesign the new National Stadium located in Tokyo.The new 80,000-seat stadium will replace the existing Kasumigaoka National Stadium in Tokyo and could become the host for 2020 Olympic Games if Japan is successful in its bid to host the event.

The arena is also earmarked to host the 2019 Rugby World Cup and will be offered to FIFA as a possible venue for future World Cup football matches.

Zaha Hadid Designs won by their modern interpretation of the sporting arena. According to the lead competition Tadao Ando, the modern aesthetic and cultural significance of the UK firm's designs earned Zaha Hadid the win. A foreign designer to Japan, her win is more impressive as the site is of big significance to Japanese history. Runners-up included Australian architectural firm Cox Architecture and Japan's Kazuyo Sejima of SANAA and Nikken sekkei.

"I have worked in Japan for 30 years. Our three decades of research into Japanese architecture and urbanism is evident in our winning design and we greatly look forward to building the new National Stadium, "says Hadid. "The design is both light and cohesive, seamlessly connecting the stadium's different elements to create a silhouette that intergrates with the city."

The new building will also feature a retractable roof and is scheduled for completion in 2018.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Concrete that heals itself!

Now here’s an invention that could revolutionise construction technology as we know it and set your home repair requirements back by years! Doesn't that sound like good news all round?

Scientists in the Netherlands claim to have created a bio-concrete blend that allows concrete to …yes! Heal itself! Anybody who’s in the construction industry or has ever tried to repair cracked concrete knows what a nightmare it can be. Dry and cracked concrete can begin to disintegrate and be messy and nearly impossible to repair. Which, of course, is why this new technology is so exciting! reports that the Dutch scientists have created a bio-concrete blend with built-in bacteria that patch up on small holes and cracks in concrete. The bacteria basically feeds on the food provided in the concrete when activated by water to combine calcium with carbon dioxide and oxygen. What would be the result is essentially limestone.

In order to find bacteria that could survive in the high-pH environment of the concrete mix as well as lie dormant for years, the scientists looked especially in the soda lakes of Russia and Egypt. Fortunately, the bacteria they found were the perfect match.

Meanwhile, researchers at the University of Newcastle in UK have actually created a new type of bacteria that release glue that can mend concrete! There is, however, no news yet on when these bacteria will be ready for commercialization but the hope is it will be sometime soon.

Mo' mo' store!

This is definitely one way to advertise. Let your store speak for itself. And the MOMO Shop, a pop-up store in the atrium of a busy shopping mall in Hong Kong definitely seems to be making use of that.

Designed by Andy Tong, the glass-encased store is made entirely of recycled materials, with its glass exterior seeming to be a coming together of multiple windows. The result, however, is ingeniously eye-catching. Resembling a misshapen childhood fort, the independent store stands out from all the regular box stores and boutiques surrounding it. Put together with MDF board, wood and bubble wrap, the tent-like slanting exterior of the  structure is made of dozens of variously sized disused windows, while t-shirts doubling up as funky lamps hang inside. The store has also been designed to be easily disassembled and pop up at its new location!

The shop has no sign announcing its name but we're sure its eye-catching enough to not need one, while its many entrances make visitors feel like they just happened to discover the store. We're sure it would be hard to walk out of there without buying anything!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Cars of transparency - 007 style!

There's something definitely 007-ish about this technology. Perhaps, because it's so reminiscent of the invisible car chase scene on a frozen lake in Iceland from the Die Another Day franchise. While this technology being designed in Tokyo doesn't quite allow you to  shoot down your arch enemies with sophisticated weapons. However, if you have trouble parallel parking, this might be exactly what you've been looking for.

The idea behind the technology as we understand it is to make the driver feel his car is transparent from the back by providing him a panoramic view and allowing him to see the lay of the land, literally, right behind his car. It could include children in the way or a boulder or anything else that might hamper the movement of the car.

How it works is, apparently, two camera fitted to the back of the car capture a full view of the scene behind it and combining it, reflect it on to the back seat of the car, making the driver feel as though the car's transparent from the back. The technology has reportedly already been tried in a Toyota Prius. If the technology works as well in real time, it could prevent thousands of accidental deaths that take place around the world.

007 ice chase scene

Here's hoping for the best and a little more Bond-ishness. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Inspired design!

This place of worship is inspired and inspiring in more ways than one! In an attempt to bring all 27 Latin American Virgins together under one roof, the Fernando Romero EnterprisE (FREE) has proposed a spectacular design for a chapel in Miami, USA. It's unsurprising that they won the competition. Designed to resemble the folds of the robe of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a Roman Catholic image of the Virgin Mary, the soaring structure of the chapel is awe-inspiring. 

With the 27 Virgins accommodated in the niches of the billowing concrete structure and forming a ring of sanctuary around the congregational space with one central figure in the presbytery, the idea, says FREE was to invite all the Latin American cultures to be part of the creation. A twisted tower will provide a spire over the chapel’s altar and will feature a stained-glass skylight decorated with an image of the Lady of Guadalupe which will be projected around the chapel according to the directions of the sun. The soaring form will also act as an acoustic filter. The structure is rotated towards one corner and designed to flood the interiors with natural light.
Additional rooms will be located beneath the seating areas which will feature the offices, library, sacristy, changing rooms etc.