September 25, 2012

Innovative Designs for Tiny Spaces

Guest Post by Heather Green

Necessity is the mother of invention. Some of the most innovative home designs have arisen out of the need to conserve space. Urban apartment dwellers, chic stylists looking to refurbish industrial spaces, and eco-conscious world citizens looking to reduce their carbon footprint or to live more sustainably have all created beautiful homes out of spaces no bigger than a wood shed.

Here are some of our picks for the best designs for tiny spaces:

Studio Apartment, East Village, NYC 

Geometric design and hidden storage make the most efficient use of space in this notoriously cramped city. Vertical space helps create more storage and to make more room for sleeping and living spaces. Even the stairs serve double duty as drawers!

Small Space Vacation Rooms 

These tiny 10x10x10 rooms for rent are portable and offer everything you and three of your closest friends would need as a home away from home. There is sleeping space for four, a shower, toilet, sink and kitchen utilities. There is even a flat-screen TV, phone and Internet connection. As with most design for tiny spaces, these modules make the best use of vertical space and interconnected pieces that serve double duty.

California Shipping Container Home 

This California woman decided to find a way to cut her costs so she could stay home with her daughter. The solution? A home upfitted from an old shipping container. She has created a beautiful living space that incorporates natural light and resources to live sustainably while also meeting all her needs.

Turns out, she’s not the only one who thought this was a good idea. Check out these other homes made of repurposed shipping containers.

90-Square-Foot Apartment, Manhattan

Felice Cohen lives in a 12x7 foot studio on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, which she has made over to accommodate a kitchen, small bathroom, loft bedroom, and even an office space. Hidden compartments and vertical space are key to including everything that she needs – even for entertaining! – without making the space look too cluttered or cramped.

“Lego-Style" Apartment 

Christian Schallert lives in a 258 square feet apartment in Barcelona that he has completely renovated to include hidden spaces that reveal a full-service kitchen, bed, bathroom, and other storage spaces. Every inch of this tiny apartment serves double duty, leaving him the space to do whatever he might need to in his apartment, including stretching out or entertaining friends.

With a little ingenuity, even the tiniest spaces can become beautiful, fully functional homes. These designs show how creative use of space can transform the potential for the smallest homes.


Heather Green is a mom, freelance writer, pet lover and the resident blogger for, a free informational website offering tips and advice about online nursing resources and online lpn degree.

September 18, 2012

Contemporary Architecture Built within Historic Contexts

The situation of a building in a particular location can add more to its architectural design than the brick and mortar that keep it standing. So is the case for contemporary buildings that are designed and situated to complement historical landmarks. In the spirit of conservation architects design wonders around the integrity of pre-existing structures, and the end result is juxtaposition of age and stature - the new and bold standing with the vintage and adored.

Buildings evolve and so do the needs of the populace living in the communities the historical buildings grace. It is unrealistic to think that every building will remain standing just because it is aesthetically pleasing. Community needs come first, and while in some cases the historical or cultural value overpower any desire to revamp the existing building, in other situations it is possible to compromise by adding a contemporary structure to a historical edifice.

Renovation and Preservation Unite
While preservationists might still claim that adding contemporary structures is altering the integrity of a historical building, others find that by adding a contemporary structure alongside a historical site without compromising the historical significance you might in fact be preserving the building further—as future generations are then less likely to address the matter themselves.

There are plenty of examples world wide of contemporary structures being added to historical sites. Here are just a few examples of this phenomenon:

The Morgan Museum and Library in New York City 
This museum has long been part of New York City and is adored as a favorite spot by architecture and book lovers alike. However, in the 1990s the library was evidently overflowing, and the only way to continue the library’s development of collections was to expand, but in a city like New York and with a historical building that is difficult to do. The renovated library is a sight to see, with a massive contemporary structure standing in front of the historical library. To view the Morgan Museum and Library and witness its renovation, visit their website here:

The Greek Museum at the Acropolis
This is one of the most famed contemporary renovations, as it sits at the foot of the Acropolis, a historical site that was treated with absolute integrity during the entire renovation process. Designed by the architect Bernard Tschumi, this museum is equipped with contemporary luxuries to accommodate for classes, lectures and tours that the Acropolis would not otherwise be able to offer.
MAXXI - National Museum of 21st Century Arts in Rome, Italy
Another example of this trend, the museum of art is as contemporary a building you will ever see yet it is nestled within one of the most persevered cities on Earth. There are no pillars on this building as so many other Roman structures feature, but instead the National Museum of 21st Century Arts features glass, molded concrete and swift curves. You can view this stunning contemporary architecture by visiting this website:

Author Bio: Heather Smith is passionate about thought leadership, writing and is an ex-nanny. Heather regularly contributes to various career, social media, public relations, branding, and parenting blogs/websites. She also provides value to become a nanny by giving advice on site design as well as the features and functionality to provide more and more value to nannies and families across the U.S. and Canada. She can be available at H.smith7295 [at]

Bjarke Ingels Profiled in The New Yorker

A Bold Danish Architect Charms His Way to the Top
Photograph by Joachim Ladefoged/VII
In “High Rise” (p. 77), Ian Parker profiles the architect Bjarke Ingels, who, at thirty-seven, is the owner of the Bjarke Ingels Group and the leader of “more than a hundred employees, working on everything from skyscrapers to salad servers.” Ingels, Parker writes, “is in the first rank of international architects, or nearly so,” and he cites Ingels’s body of admired work in Denmark and his upcoming projects abroad, including an extensive apartment complex on the West Side Highway in New York City, for the Durst Organization. Ingels is known for his imaginative yet pragmatic designs and his awareness of the social atmosphere created by his buildings, and he “has ambitions to set precedents.” Kent Martinussen, the director of the Danish Architecture Center, tells Parker that, for Ingels, “the details are not that important. What’s much more important is: what kind of social impact does it have? Are people playing—having a laugh, rather than being self-contained, serious, aesthetic people? So it is more childish in that respect, but in a good way.” However, Parker writes, “some critics acknowledge the wry intelligence with which Ingels presents his designs but wonder if the work sometimes lacks nuance, or polish, or is too pliant to the needs of powerful clients.” Douglas Durst, the chairman of the Durst Organization, tells Parker and Ingels in conversation, “Bjarke designs buildings for each site. You might be able to guess a building was designed by him, but I don’t think you’d say you have a style.” But “no architect is better than Ingels at … concise, relaxed storytelling,” Parker writes. “I must say, I think I’m a true extrovert,” Ingels tells Parker. “I speak, therefore I think. If you’re a sculptor, you can work with a hammer and chisel on a block of marble until it looks like the woman you’re trying to portray. If you’re an architect, you can’t do anything with your own hands. You need a whole team, you need to involve clients and politicians and city officials. Your capacity to communicate ideas is your hammer and chisel.” Please see this link for the New Yorker website:

September 15, 2012

The Petal Velomobile - designed by Eric Birkhauser

The Petal Velomobile is the beginning of the new iconic brand of affordable, ultra-lightweight and aerodynamic vehicles developed around a diverse amount of user preferences and personality types, to usher in a new era of human powered mobility. We have focused on solving our problems with the same toolset for far too long, while electric cars may solve our issues associated with energetic consumption and pollution; human powered electric hybrid vehicles provide a solution with a miniscule carbon footprint and unrivalled transit potential that can dramatically reduce healthcare costs associated with a sedentary lifestyle.

As any vehicle serves as a vessel for your personality and self expression, the Petal Velomobile is infinitely customizable to suit your mood and personality. The gore-tex and spandex blend membrane easily pops on and off the frame. Because the fairing elements are nonexclusive and variable in vapour resistance, the enclosure can be modified to provide comfort for almost any weather condition. Similar to an iphone case or pair of shoes, the inter-changeability of this fairing allows it to truly become a fashion accessory. Extremely personalize-able, from baby carriers and storage compartments to custom skins and carbon fiber upgrades, the product extends its reach to a diverse clientele.

Critical to safety, led headlamps combined with oled light panels maintain a strong visible presence night and day. The oled light panels function as directional indicators and customizable kinetic light effects. These highly visible elements highlight the creased knee and shoulder lines of the vehicle; expressive of the rider inside. With a leaning suspension, slippery aerodynamic form, and electric acceleration and hill assist package, the Petal Velomobile extends the possibilities of human powered transit.

The Petal Velomobile is flexible to a varied amount of users, engaging both urban mobility and performance as critical design parameters. Because the most deluxe model is a fraction of the cost of an automobile, this form of mobility becomes accessible to a completely new demographic. Ultimately the goal of this design is to liberate people beyond the current modes of transit, while maintaining the ownership values of car culture, while emulating the efficiency of mass transit.

As an unlicensed transit architect, every day bicycle and rowing commuter, and regenerative design advocate, my goal with this project is to utilize existing technology to push the boundaries of our sustainable transit potential. With the constraints of population growth and scarcity of energy resources, we must ultimately elevate the performance of human powered transit to the point where it out competes other modes of transit. In my forthcoming book this vehicle is one element in a new infrastructure typology that utilizes existing right-of-way's to expand our transportation potential as a society.

For more information on Erik Birkhauser's designs check out his website:

September 14, 2012

Video: Daeyang Gallery and House: A Conversation with Steven Holl

I love hearing Mr. Holl discuss his architecture. His attention to detail, light, poetry, choreography, all in unison is inspiring - something that more architects should be weaving throughout their buildings. He is thoughtful on how each design moves affects our senses, from the warmth of a wood door handle to the reverberating echo of a room.


Steven Holl Architects in collaboration with Spirit of Space has created two short films on the Daeyang Gallery and House, completed in June in Seoul, South Korea.

Filmed during the project's opening celebration, "A Conversation with Steven Holl" presents Steven Holl on site as he explains the design inspiration. The second of the two films, entitled "Daeyang Gallery and House," explores the project through its use of light, material and detail.

Inspired by a 1967 sketch for a music score by composer Istvan Anhalt called “Symphony of Modules,” the gallery and house is a composition in sequential movement. Three pavilions - one for entry, one residence, and one event space - appear to push upward from a continuous gallery level below. A reflecting pool, which simultaneously separates and connects the pavilions, establishes the plane of reference from above and below.

The red and charcoal stained wood interiors of the pavilions are activated by skylight strips of clear glass that are cut into the roof. Sunlight turns and bends around the inner spaces, animating them with the changing light of each season and throughout the day. Like a cesura in music, strips of glass lenses in the base of the pool break through the surface, bringing dappled light to the white plaster walls and white granite floor of the gallery below.

Exteriors are a rain screen of custom patinated copper, which ages naturally within the landscape. The Daeyang Gallery and House is heated and cooled with geothermal wells.

This video is a poetic journey through the building:

September 5, 2012

3 Building Projects that Address the Living Building Challenge

guest post by Amanda Watson

Even though talk about sustainability and environmentally sound building practices have been circulating in the media for some time, not much focus has actually been given to the organizations that are taking some of the first steps to bring these conversations into reality. The Living Building Challenge is a tool for building certification that embodies a philosophy of sustainability and stringent guidelines that buildings can use to become completely sustainable. It is currently thought of as the most advanced and stringent measurement of sustainability in construction today. All elements of design are taken into consideration, and buildings must find ways to create their own energy sources and harvest their own water, among many other requirements. There have been more than a hundred projects to pursue the challenge, and the successes have broadened ideas about the possibilities to actually attain sustainable buildings. To learn more about the project, visit the Living Building website. Here are a few examples of projects that have passed the certification and still function under complete sustainability today:

1. Omega Center for Sustainable Living | Rhinebeck, NY
Designed by BNIM Architects
The Omega Center for Sustainable Living, based out of New York City, is an education center focusing on environmental concerns and a natural water reclamation facility. It met the requirements to become certified as book LEED Platinum and Living Building Challenge certified and is now operating under the highest environmental standards in sustainable architecture. The center provides education on environmental and sustainability issues for students, teachers, activists, contractors, architects, and government officials. The center hosts the Eco Machine, one of the top systems for non-chemically treating wastewater and regularly provides tours for anyone interested to view the machine and the other solar and geothermal systems that make the building run.

2. Tyson Living Learning Center | Eureka, Missouri
Designed by Hellmuth + Bicknese Architects
A part of Washington University, the Tyson Living Learning Center was completed in 2009 as a research and teaching space for the learning center. During its creation, the building was designed to meet the standards of the Living Building Challenge specifically. The Tyson Living Learning Center now functions under complete sustainability by creating its own electricity and sourcing its own water. The center offers regular tours so interested parties can learn more about how sustainable buildings are made and see a direct example in person. Virtual tours are also offered through the center’s website.

3. Painters Hall Community Center | Salem, Oregon
Designed by Opsis Architecture
The first project to achieve Net-Zero Energy Building Certification and Petal Recognition by the Living Building Challenge, Pringle Creek’s LEED Platinum Painters Hall Community Center has become the heart and hub of this truly innovative community. Designed by Opsis Architecture, it offers office and conference spaces for Pringle Creek Staff, but also the facilities for hosting events and classes. Providing a forum for sustainability education is a primary function of the Community Center and to create a building that could embody these principles of sustainability, the project team employed a high efficiency, yet simple systems. Painters Hall is frequently used a living laboratory and classroom for students from the University of Oregon and Portland State University. The photograph above was taken during a creek restoration project undertaken by local middle school students. For all of the activities and classes that take place at Pringle Creek, the Community Center acts as the home base and gathering space.

And one project still on the boards:
4. Oregon Sustainability Center | Portland, OR
Designed by SERA Architects
The seeds for the Oregon Sustainability Center began in 2007, when a group of sustainable nonprofits came together to plan a sustainable office space in Portland. They decided to build the center to reach the goals laid out by the Living Building Challenge. In 2008, the Oregon University System decided to partner with the group to create a space that could be used for research on sustainability. Upon learning that the city of Portland, itself, was also in talks about creating a sustainable structure in the city, the municipal, academic and nonprofit organizations came together to plan and construct the final Oregon Sustainability Center, which eventually became the first high-rise, net-zero energy, water, and carbon emissions building in the world.

Amanda Watson is well versed business blogger with a keen interest in how people earn their mba online. She believes that web entrepreneurship, architecture and design is critical to success in business. She can be reached at

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