Ladybugs, Awe & Design Inspiration


After ladybugs fly, they tuck their wings into a sliver of space between their abdomen and the colorful outer wings for which they are best known. Credit Jean-Michel Labat/Science Source

Even without words this item from the Science section would tell a full story just with the gif below, which captures what any of us might remember being awed by as a kid. Thanks to Joanna Klein for this:

Ladybugs Pack Wings and Engineering Secrets in Tidy Origami Packages

The ladybug is a tiny insect with hind wings four times its size. Like an origami master, it folds them up into a neat package, tucking them away within a slender sliver of space between its abdomen and the usually polka-dotted, harder wings that protect it. Continue reading

Design Worth Reading About



Sometimes it makes more sense to look at a design rather than read about it. This story is in itself interesting (thanks to Wired) and that is because of the combination of the history of Piaggio and the character at the center of the design story:

IN THE SUMMER months of 2015, Jeffrey Schnapp and a few of his colleagues started collecting rideables. The hoverboard craze was in full swing, and OneWheels and Boosteds were showing up on roads and sidewalks. Schnapp and his co-founders rode, drove, and crashed everything they could find. For Schnapp, a Harvard professor and longtime technologist with a shaved head, pointy goatee, and a distinct Ben Kingsley vibe, this was market research. Continue reading

Mobitecture, The Wonders Of Mobile Architecture


The Starlight Room – Raniero Campigotto

Thanks to Phaidon for its always-interesting new books for coffee table-pondering:


Adaptable, intelligently put together, responsive to local conditions and able and willing to travel almost anywhere with ease – but enough about you, we’re here to tell you about mobitecture. What’s mobitecture we hear you ask? Well it’s mobile architecture and Mobitecture is the name we’ve smartly bestowed on it in our latest book.

Mobitecture looks at 250 examples of mobile architecture from around the world that enable the almost universal dream of upping sticks, moving somewhere and changing the way your world looks. The structures in it  roll, inflate, unfold, flat-pack or pop-up, slide on sleds and float across water in a book that brings together a spectacular collection of structures in which to revel, live, work, pause – or just simply escape.  Continue reading

Living Walls

As Kochi is awash with participating artists putting finishing touches on their Kochi-Muziris Biennale works, it’s exciting to see art flourishing in other cities on a regular basis.

Atlanta’s Living Walls seeks to promote, educate and change perspectives about public space in local communities via street art.  Dozens of international artists participate in an annual conference on street art and urbanism that began in August 2010 in the city of Atlanta. Continue reading

Remote Living, Well Done

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Edinburgh of the Seven Seas, Tristan da Cunha, South Atlantic Ocean michael clarke stuff / Wikipedia

Thanks to EcoWatch for keeping us posted on the greenish news from the bottom edge of the planet:

World’s Most Remote Village Is About to Become Self-Sufficient World’s Most Remote Village Is About to Become Self-Sufficient 

The most remote village on Earth, located on Tristan da Cunha in the South Atlantic Ocean, is about to get a 21st century upgrade thanks to an international design competition aimed at creating a more sustainable future for the farming and fishing community. Continue reading

Library Reading Room, Luxury, Legacy


The Rose Reading Room is luxurious in the way that only certain shared spaces can be. Its grandeur attracts its visitors, and is in turn amplified by their presence: the true urban symbiosis. PHOTOGRAPH BY DREW ANGERER / GETTY

It was the room in the photo above where I sat, in the early 1990s, collecting some data for a research project that would eventually become my doctoral dissertation. I had been in that room once or twice in my youth, but as an adult on a specific mission (little did I know the data collected that day would help me develop ideas that we now call entrepreneurial conservation within La Paz Group) the room barely registered in my notice. Except as a very practical place to read some historical documents.

So I am delighted to see that room again after a long time. It looked great to me the last time I saw it. Now I can say wow for different reasons. The legacy of the room is protected, and perhaps renewed for another hundred years. If you click the image and go to a larger viewing with greater detail, you will understand why the word luxury fits in the title of this post on the New Yorker website.

It is not our practice to use the word luxury because it is so laden with old and often inappropriate (considering the ecological condition of the planet, considering advances in socio-economic development, and considering other modern sensibilities) meanings. So we appreciate when others take care in how they use it:



To say that the ceiling of the Rose Main Reading Room, at the New York Public Library’s main building, on Fifth Avenue—the biggest room in the biggest public-library branch in the country’s biggest city—is an ornate piece of work is putting it mildly. Continue reading

Hotel As Showroom

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A prototype for a room in the hotel chain that the furniture retailer West Elm plans to launch in Charlotte, North Carolina, and other cities. PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY WEST ELM

This article goes on to make a very specific point about the experience of this company, in the state where it is based, which is not so much what caught my attention (more on which below):

Jim Brett, the president of West Elm, the furniture chain that sells what you might call mainstream modern furniture, was looking for the brand’s next act. He didn’t think he’d find it at the mall; West Elm already has more than a hundred stores. Children’s furniture might have been a logical next step, but it is burdened by complex safety regulations. Where else do lots of people sleep and sit? Brett, a frequent traveller, had spent countless nights in sterile, unwelcoming rooms. Hotels seemed like a good opportunity.

Last year, West Elm opened a commercial division for office furniture, and the company is now making furniture for Marriott’s SpringHill Suites hotels. More significantly, West Elm also signed a deal with a partner to open its own branded hotels. Brett and other executives discussed design ideas and scouted locations in mid-tier U.S. cities whose hotel markets seemed underdeveloped. Charlotte, North Carolina, was especially promising. Continue reading

The Land Art Generator Initiative

The Clear Orb is a proposed glass desalination dome 40 meters in diameter, lined with solar cells to generate power to pump seawater. Inside the orb, the sun’s heat would distill the saltwater through evaporation and condensation. The project could generate 3,820 megawatt hours of electricity and 2.2m liters of fresh water a year. The underbelly of the orb is covered in fins that can turn wave action into electricity. Artists: Jaesik Lim, Ahyoung Lee, Jaeyeol Kim, Taegu Lim from Seoul, South Korea. Photograph: Land Art Generator Initiative

The Clear Orb is a proposed glass desalination dome 40 meters in diameter, lined with solar cells to generate power to pump seawater. Inside the orb, the sun’s heat would distill the saltwater through evaporation and condensation. The project could generate 3,820 megawatt hours of electricity and 2.2m liters of fresh water a year. The underbelly of the orb is covered in fins that can turn wave action into electricity. Artists: Jaesik Lim, Ahyoung Lee, Jaeyeol Kim, Taegu Lim from Seoul, South Korea.
Photograph: Land Art Generator Initiative

In recent months we’ve seen some interesting competitions blending technology with art and aiming to improve the world in some way, like lionfish hunting, wildlife crime controlling, and milk tea brewing. But a biennial public art contest organized by the Land Art Generator Initiative, featured last week in The Guardian, might be the most impactful in terms of scale and long-term inspiration – although the anti-poaching stuff is pretty good too. Alison Moodie writes (and make sure to follow her first link!):

These ideas illustrate the possibility of marrying aesthetics with renewable energy and water technology and educate the public about the challenges of addressing climate change and feeding a growing population.

Continue reading

Hydroponics at Home


A vertical hydroponic system that also serves a artistic window decor by Michael Doherty.
Source: Washington Post

Hydroponics is far from a new subject on our blog (read on Milo’s experimentation with hydroponics), and while the sustainable benefits of this gardening method have been shared before, there is still one aspect we haven’t covered: appearance.

Just to cover the basics once again, hydroponics is a system of growing plants without soil and using mineral nutrient solutions in water. It’s water efficient and can be done easily in tight quarters, which means anyone can create a hydroponic system – in theory.

“If you understand the fundamentals, what the plants need, and you have some practical use of tools, it can be just a kiddie pool filled with water and a floating piece of Styrofoam board with holes cut in it,” believes Gene Giacomelli, a professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering at the University of Arizona and director of the Controlled Environment Agriculture Center.

Continue reading

Guilty As Charged


The Austrian performance artists Sonja Stummerer and Martin Hablesreiter, a.k.a. Honey and Bunny, want to make us reëxamine the culinary mores that we take for granted. PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY SONJA STUMMERER AND MARTIN HABLESREITER

I have been on the road for most of the last six weeks and have been consumer of the posts on this site, rather than contributor, for the entire stretch since we got distracted by a hurricane. That’s okay. Other contributors have carried the ball forward well, and before I forget I want to share one recent item I read elsewhere that seems a fitting counterpoint to Jocelyn’s most recent post.

That topic has a kind of ick factor I cannot articulate while at the same time is clearly a topic we are going to need to deal with more and more. I am certainly guilty of avoiding the topic, and must overcome the ick thing. Clearly linked to the lab/food topic is the issue of food waste, which we address on a regular basis here.

We need more diversity in our approach to these tough topics to avoid the feeling of being overwhelmed; antidotes to the ick/tough factor to make the topic more palatable, so to speak. We are so serious in our earnestness that we no doubt add to the weight of the topic, and I speak guilty as charged on that too. It may be that “playful” is an appropriate alternate approach from time to time, as this item suggests:


Many of us reflect, at least occasionally, on how our gastronomic habits affect the health of the planet. We regret that our takeout dinners come in a Styrofoam container inside a paper bag inside a plastic bag, with white plastic utensils in their very own plastic sheaths. We feel guilty when we order too much food at a restaurant and resign half an entrée to be scraped into the trash. But the pull of convention is most often stronger than these feelings. We eat in the manner we’ve grown accustomed to eating.

The sly and playful Austrian performance artists Sonja Stummerer and Martin Hablesreiter want to make us reëxamine the culinary mores that we take for granted. Continue reading

Architectural Challenge


Harvard Graduate School of Design PhD student, Lauren Friedrich’s thesis researched how architecture can facilitate physical well being and what that means for workplace design. Here she is seen in Gund Hall with her model of proposed Gund Hall renovations. Harvard University. Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer

Because design is frequently part of the assignments we take responsibility for, we monitor our reading lists for interesting stories about architecture, about interior spaces, about how these impact our experiences; and here is a worthy pick. It reminds us of the creative crew we had with us in India a few years back:

Design for movement

Graduate thesis explores changing relationship between architecture and healthy living

By Christina Pazzanese, Harvard Staff Writer

At a basic level, architecture is like a shoe: a useful tool designed to protect the human body from harm caused by the natural elements.

Yet over time, we can become over-reliant on its comfort, losing our dexterity and our ability to withstand even the slightest discomforts. So what is meant to help us may, in fact, hinder us by making things too easy, removing all physical challenges and other stressors that are essential for optimal health.

It doesn’t have to be that way, says Lauren Friedrich, a 2016 graduate of Harvard’s Graduate School of Design (GSD). What if instead of disconnecting the human body from the man-made landscape, architectural design used creativity and reorientation to create spaces that challenged our physical skills and encouraged, rather than minimized, a range of movements that supported better health?

That’s the question Friedrich set out to explore in her master’s thesis, a project that takes a multidisciplinary approach incorporating insights from experts across Harvard in neuroscience, biomechanics, physical therapy, choreography, and ergonomics, and ideas from people who patronize public spaces. Her thesis also cleverly reimagines GSD’s Gund Hall as a flexible fun house full of passageways that encourage circulation and “resting nets.” The Gazette spoke with Friedrich about her novel research. Continue reading

The Shed, New York City


When we first learned about the High Line it was at a moment in time when we were designing a hotel in a historic section of a south Indian harbor town, with pedestrian zones intersecting with vibrant merchant and other urban realities; the High Line served as an inspirational benchmark for thinking about public spaces creatively.

Just now, for a new project, a colleague referred us to the Rockwell Group’s hospitality practice to see an example of another relevant benchmark, and while exploring their website we came across the project they are engaging in with the designers of the High Line, giving us a new objective for the next visit to New York City:

Currently under construction on the far west side of Manhattan where the High Line meets Hudson Yards, The Shed will be housed in a 200,000-square-foot, six-level structure designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with Rockwell Group. The radically flexible design of the performative structure can physically and operationally accommodate the broadest range of performance, visual art, music, and multi-disciplinary work. Continue reading

Plus-Energy Homes



Roxbury E+ Townhouses. All photos:

We love finding new and innovative solutions to live more sustainably. In this case, imagine living in a home that not only produces enough energy (from renewable sources of course) to sustain its own energy consumption but also produces surplus energy.  These are known as plus-energy homes and they are not only energy efficient, but also eye appealing and becoming more affordable. Here is a list of eight homes that pioneer in sustainability (the three I have listed are my top favorites):

1. ZEB pilot House by Snøhetta in Norway

Dramatically tilted toward the southeast, Snøhetta’s ZEB Pilot House is a plus-energy family house that produces enough surplus energy to power an electric car year-round. Located in Larvik, Norway, the 200-square-meter home serves as a demonstration project to facilitate learning and is powered by rooftop solar energy and geothermal energy.

Continue reading

And In Other Office Space News


After this post reflecting on one big architectural adventure, somehow not too surprising that another related news story pops up almost immediately. Is it an arms race or an incredible burst of creativity that will have a positive impact beyond the companies involved?

Google may get its futuristic new campus after all

After a property swap with LinkedIn

By Nick Statt

Google’s grand plans for a futuristic new campus in the North Bayshore district of Mountain View, CA may finally become a reality thanks to a new real estate deal struck with LinkedIn. According to the Silicon Valley Business Journal, the two tech companies came to an agreement on a property swap that puts to rest a longstanding feud over lucrative current and unused square footage in Silicon Valley. Google paid $215 million for the swap, while LinkedIn paid $331 million, the report states. Continue reading

Amazon’s Architectural Adventure


Renderings of the spheres at Amazon that show what the interiors are expected to look like. When they open in early 2018, the spheres will be packed with a plant collection worthy of top-notch conservatories. CreditNBBJ

An article in the New York Times helps to illuminate the logic of a company with billions of dollars to spend on its office infrastructure, a company that occupies”creative” space in the global economy, when they design the HQ of the future:

…“The whole idea was to get people to think more creatively, maybe come up with a new idea they wouldn’t have if they were just in their office,” said Dale Alberda, the lead architect on the project at NBBJ, a firm that has also worked on building projects for Samsung, Google and the Chinese internet company Tencent.

Tech companies have been eager to test ways to make workplaces more conducive to creativity. Some turn their offices into grown-up playgrounds, with beanbag chairs, ball pits and Ping-Pong tables…


In New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood, the tech-centric creative company Barbarian Group created a fluid Superdesk to gather their employees at one endless table. Photo from The Creative Workplace

This comes not long after Apple’s own utopian creativity nest, among others in the cash-aplenty sector. A few months ago a book titled The Creative Workplace came to our attention.

We were already primed to think about office space again when we saw the book. A portion of our team was going to be transferring over to the client side at Xandari, starting July. This would give us some space to be creative with. And so we have done. Already we have welcomed the Rainforest “client-side” team into our office.  SCreative2hared office space, akin to what we saw in one of the WeWork spaces in San Francisco recently, suits our office space well.

So the images from this book have been perfectly timed to stimulate our thinking. In our first round of office creativity thinking in 2011 we had a shell that dictated constraints. One of those was economic, aka rational business logic. We needed a certain “feel” to reflect our aesthetic, and to accommodate our workflow, but did not want to go over the top because that is not how we do things.

But we like pretty shiny things as much as the next person, so Continue reading



Welcome! Walk barefoot in the sand…you know you want to!

Stroll through the meandering pathways and wander past curated views of trees rustling in the wind.

Fundamentally, Xandari Pearl is an invitation to relax and rest, pearl-like, in the arms of curved walls, to the lullaby of the sea.

Come see for yourself…


When Collaboration Is Everything, It Can Be Awesome


“Sandcastle No. 3,” drawn on a single grain of sand, part of a Vik Muniz series from 2013.CreditVik Muniz, via Sikkema, Jenkins & Co.

We like it, for what should be obvious reasons:

At M.I.T., Science Embraces a New Chaos Theory: Art

Continue reading

If You Happen To Be In London

Serpentine pavilion ‘unzipped’: first look at Bjarke Ingels’ design

The Danish architect offers a sculptural space ‘like a mountain of ice cubes’ stretching across the London gallery’s lawn, to be complemented by four radical summer houses


‘Cartoonish gyrations’ … Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) architectural impressions of the 2016 Serpentine pavilion.

The humble brick wall, that most London of architectural elements, is the inspiration for this year’s Serpentine Gallery pavilion, according to designs unveiled today. But in the hands of the Danish architectural conjuror Bjarke Ingels and his firm BIG, it won’t be any old brick wall. It’s a wall that will be stretched open and hollowed out, its oversized fibreglass bricks stacked up to form a paraboloid enclosure that will taper high above the park, transforming from a bulging cave to a slender screen as it undulates across the lawn.

Continue reading