Remember that sweet childhood memory of spending summer afternoons in the treehouse playing pretend games with your friends? Something I believe everyone has been a part of is the classroom game where you set up a mini chalkboard and have a little class with your friends but we obviously loved that more than real school because it was in a treehouse! Well, designer Valentino Gareri took those nostalgic childhood moments and turned it into a Tree-House School and while this is obviously an architectural upgrade, the best part is that it is sustainable and modular! It is highly adaptable, reduces the load on urban areas, and features outdoor spaces which we value so much more after quarantine – the Tree-House is a blueprint on how one can use this breathing hub to rebuild communities outside the city.
At the conceptual school design’s core is the bond between children and nature – we are inherently more connected to our surroundings when we are younger, maybe because there was more outside playtime or just plain curiosity about the world and the Tree-House School brings that relationship back to life. The modular educational building also highlights the different details that need to be incorporated in the post-pandemic era where we need more spaces that blend the indoors and outdoors. The design has been created for remote areas which are now becoming popular as people move away from cities. It will include all the phases of education right from kindergarten to secondary schooling. Every phase fits into two massive interconnected rings. The unique shape of the structure also allows for two courtyards and a functional roof for plenty of activities. The classrooms can host up to 25 students at a time and are located in the two rings which keeps them connected to the outdoor landscape.
“The schools of the future will have to be designed under a new point of view: rather than just considering criteria of sustainability, they will have to embrace the ability-to-sustain the new condition where the pandemic put the entire society in. The connection to nature is physically and visually increased thanks to the faceted façade, made by the alternation of solid timber panels and glazing panels. The circular perimeter allows to block the direct sunlight with the opaque panels, and get diffuse light and free view through the transparent ones.” says Gareri. Being modular, it allows for future school extension to incorporate more programs and classrooms. It can also be adapted to serve different purposes like a disaster relief shelter, medical center, or residential units – just like you could turn your treehouse into anything you wanted, a spaceship or a mansion, with your imagination.
News this year has been dominated by COVID-19. The disease that has been creating a rampage across the planet is on its own warpath but one thing that it has done is reduced the focus from the eco-warriors. While the war to save our planet is ongoing, we, in our attempt to keep our family safe, need to balance it by advertising and advocating sustainable designs, and do our part in saving the world from the next climate challenge. One way to do this is by using a green roof. As temperatures continue to rise, green roofs cut the risk of overheating by reducing direct heat penetration into the house, in turn reducing the electricity bills by keeping your homes naturally cooler. Furthermore, green roofs provide habitat for biodiversity, absorb hazardous pollutants, and alleviate potential flood risks as runoff water is absorbed. The architectural designs curated here use this and other techniques aimed at balancing our needs and those of the world around us.
Green roofs have been growing slowly in popularity over the past decade, due to their economic and environmental advantages. They can reduce energy usage by 0.7% by providing natural insulation against heat and maintaining temperatures that are 30-40°F lower than conventional rooftops. The Black Villa also decreases the need for electricity by using skylights and floor-to-ceiling windows.
Shilda winery in Kakheti, Georgia by X-Architecture lets nothing come in the way of you and the rolling hills that host your vineyards. Designed to be one with the field around it, the green patches continue onto the roof of the sloped dining area – the overall feel being of those rooms coming up from the earth.
Washington Park’s Portland Japanese Garden goes green with Japanese architect Kengo Kuma’s expertise. The garden’s design is quoted to be one of the most authentic experiences outside of Japan and the revamp increases the walkable area to accommodate the increased traffic. The space boasts of multiple buildings including the Jordan Schnitzer Japanese Arts Learning Center – a gallery that holds exhibitions around the year. Our attention, however, is grabbed by the living roof that helps absorb rainwater and reduce the run-off during the rainy season.
PARK ROYAL on Pickering Hotel by Woha Architects is an explosion of green from whichever direction you approach it. Each curve of the building features gardens layered with reflecting pools, waterfalls, green walls, and sky gardens that are sure to relax you while helping promote the biodiversity in the city. Challenging the traditional boxy structure of hotels, this design is almost organic using the greenery to balance the electricity requirements of running a huge space like this.
Aston Martin partnered with S3 Architecture to create the Sylvan Rock – an angular home nestled in a lush, 55-acre property that can be accessed through a picturesque 2,000 ft driveway wrapped in trees and rock walls. The home will be built using sustainable building methods, materials, and efficient systems – attending to the planet’s needs is as important as attending to a client. The main residence’s structural shape mimics the geological rock formations found on the property. It is enveloped in blackened cedar and glass which reminds of well-crafted swords in their sheaths. The residence is spread over 5,983 sq ft featuring four bedrooms, four bathrooms, two half baths, a custom wine cellar covered in Aston Martin’s trademark cross-hatched lattice design, a three-car gallery garage, a pool, and an 873 sq ft pool house! Even the pod architecture was designed to be flexible and easily reconfigurable so guests staying for an extended time had facilities like remote office location, business colleague retreat, home school, and a treehouse.
We were all slowly pivoting towards a more flexible lifestyle and then the pandemic sped that up leaving us to adapt to remote working overnight. It went from being a perk at new-age companies to a mandatory practice without a definite end in sight. And while we never imagined this is how the transition would happen, it has opened up all kinds of creative solutions for home offices. Igor Leal’s Sunken Studio is another unique design to add to that list, it was made to keep you away from the everyday disturbances by giving you a sleek subterranean workspace. Also, you can get creative with your ‘roof’ – will you like to have a picnic lunch or play golf? The 500 square foot studio concept was a custom solution requested by a client in Rio De Janeiro who wanted a fully functioning workspace that he could spend long hours in. That is why it features a sitting area, kitchenette, bathroom, and desk area.
The ‘micro-tropicality’ house by RAD+ar uses the green architecture as an answer to the tropical heat the house faces in Indonesia. The pitched roof helps the flow of rainwater from the roof to the ground while the grass absorbs and retains as much water as it can, to be used later to irrigate their space. ‘Living in the tropics is never simply about avoiding the rain and the sun’ RAD+ar shares. ‘The history of tropical architecture can be traced back as early as the beginning of indigenous tropical vernacular society’.
Danish kolonihaver, or “colony gardens” are communal groupings of leisure lots—each complete with a little cabin—that are peppered around the urban and periurban corners of the country. These structures captured by Henry Do show how the colony is not just there to save space or look futuristic, they actually serve a purpose for the citizens of the Dutch capital. They’re similar to allotment gardens, multi-year land rentals in a dedicated area, leased for the express purpose of gardening. When applied for, local residents can rent out the lots if they are looking to grow their own gardens. Due to the way each plot of land is set up, it gives a long vertical area for people to garden, as opposed to regular subdivisions which just provide a very small lengthwise area. Sounds like the perfect summer vacation!
Meet the Dune House by Studio Vural, a seaside holiday dwelling that is carved into sand dunes and operates without relying on public utilities. Using a vast solar field and miniature wind turbines, this house produces more energy than it consumes and nothing beats the oceanic view it boasts of.
In the Bosland forest of Limburg, Belgium, Burol and Schap designed a stilted 10-meter high cycling path, surrounded and weaving through trees and the lush forest. Giving you the feeling of flying, this path goes across the treetops and it would surely make for a great cycling adventure. I wonder if I ride fast enough, would I feel like Harry Potter, skimming the branches of the Forbidden Forest on a balmy summer evening!
For more such exciting and sustainable designs, check out our previous posts of this series!
If we could draw up a pie chart, you’d be able to visualize just how much damage the construction industry causes. To be specific, the building and construction industries are responsible for 39% of the world’s carbon emissions – to put it into perspective, the aviation industry produces only 2.4% of the global carbon emissions. So it is evident exactly where we need to make a change for it to have a large scale impact that can slow down climate change. Industries have to be responsible to reduce emissions and pursue carbon neutrality through investment in renewable energy, energy efficiency or other clean, low-carbon technologies like the architecture firm Rescubika has done with their Mandragore concept. The tower was designed in response to the City of Tomorrow Project which aims to make New York City carbon-neutral by the year 2050.
Mandragore is a sky-high green residential tower envisioned to be constructed on Roosevelt Island, New York City. The project aims to push the existing limits of sustainability practices in construction and imagines the future of urban areas to be a lot cleaner. The renderings of the tower show a dynamic form using parametric design software to create a silhouette of the mandrake plant that also inspired the name of the project – Mandragore. The project also aims to make Mandragore the tallest tower in the world while being carbon negative which means it will use more canon than it actually produces.
The building mimics the natural processes or forms found in nature to be sustainable – this is called biomimicry. Rescubika’s building is a mandrake analogy that represents the shifting identity of the man and the natural world showing a close relationship between ourselves and other living things. Ambitious architectural concepts all aim to make sustainable structures that reduce the overall carbon footprint of the industry – but how will they make these liveable carbon sinks? The Rescubika team suggests it can be achieved by pulling from the best of modern sustainable architecture with advanced passive heating/cooling techniques to condition interior spaces, natural material choices, and lots of plants.
Currently, Mandragore’s plan is to house 1,600 trees with about 300,000 square feet of living plant walls across its 160 levels! The concept also looks at ‘energy sobriety’ which calls for a shift in lifestyle choices that helps the resident reduce individual carbon footprints by reducing the energy they consume. A small detail to help the residents and stay aligned with the building’s mission is to have home offices integrated into the house plan to reduce commute and emissions. While concepts are largely based on future technologies and still have a lot of logistical challenges to solve, structures like Mandragore are important to study to push boundaries and work towards green cities. We have 30 years left to reduce carbon emissions to have a shot at a healthy future, so no design is crazy and everything is on the table!
Wake up, work, sleep, lather, and repeat – for a long time we have continued this cycle in our day-to-day life, rarely stopping to look at the world around us and the impact we make on it until the pandemic brought us to a staggering halt. The lack of outside distractions helped increase the focus on the inside – our home and our lives. This time period was when my love for plants really flourished! Looking for the idyllic ways to make my dream house come true, my research brought me across these truly beautiful architectural designs with indoor gardens. Your space can be big or small, these inspirational designs are sure to be great additions to your Pinterest boards.
A simple home in Shiga gets elevated with an indoor garden, that extends upwards to become a sunlight. Designed by Hearth Architects, the Kyomachi House is located in Koga, Japan. The skylight covers a curved patch in the center of the space and the tall plants provide the residents with privacy from the street and providing natural ventilation. “It plays a role as a sunshade in leafy summer and as letting the sunshine in non-leafy winter,” said the studio. “The clients can enjoy the change of the seasons and time through the symbolic tree. There is a symbolic deciduous tree in the inner garden, which is visible from anywhere inside.”
“If you don’t listen to the world with an open heart and head, if you don’t pay attention to what’s going on around you, what the air smells like, what people say, the world starts dictating its rules, cruel rules,” says Serhii Makhno. Bunker project is a trip to a depth of 15 meters and below. It is an autonomous underground house that has several layers: a living space, a floor with a water treatment system and generator, a layer of electrical equipment, and at the very bottom — a well. With indoor gardens and the sky, this design by Sergey Makhno Architects keeps you safe.
An opening in the roof sheds light on this concrete-lined boutique in São Paulo, which Brazilian studio Vão Arquitetura has designed around a lush indoor garden. The Acolá store, located in the Pinheiros area of the city, is set inside a peculiarly shaped townhouse, which gets narrower towards its rear. Before their renovation, the Vão Arquitetura team described the three-storey space as being damp and dark – with only four windows running along its main facade.
Dandelion Chocolate, a San Francisco based chocolatier has created a cafe and shop in a century-old house in Kyoto, Japan. Kyoto being the heritage capital of Japan, this shop is designed in harmony with the surroundings and comprises of a cacao bar where customers can order pairings of alcohol with chocolate desserts, a shop, and a traditional Japanese courtyard garden. “Considering the parallels between craft chocolate and cedar, both require authentic craftsmanship and carefully selected natural ingredients – so I made the decision to place cedar at the center of materials used for this project,” said Fumihiko Sano, who began his career as a Sukiya-Daiku – a carpenter for traditional teahouses. Sano san opted to use cedarwood and retain a moment of tranquility and calm in the oasis of the touristy space by adding a traditional Japanese courtyard garden to the design.
A “dark green geometric volume” with its punctured roof opening to a green area defines a small design studio, ASWA (Architectural Studio of Work – Aholic), located in Bangkok, Thailand. The studio sits on a small land, around 100 m2 that previously used as parking lots. The design uses corrugated sheets to create this minimal structure in this off-center courtyard that is determined by the required width and height of the surrounding spaces regarding their functions, which include working space for 6-8 staff, a meeting area, a displayed physical models, materials cabinets, and restroom.
It is known that the best way to uplift a drab-looking office space is with plants, but the architecture and urbanism studio jvantspijker & partners have taken the idea one step ahead by redesigning a former steam factory and added in a central meeting room topped with plants! This quirky addition to the office is an attention seeker with a small flight of stairs leading up to the garden that provides a space to relax in. ‘The central design idea behind the transformation of the office was to keep the scale, transparency, and lightness in place and to connect the office to the main atrium of the building‘, explains the design team. ‘Therefore the central element was designed as a hybrid between a room, a wall, and a piece of furniture; it divides, connects, and provides service space.’
This “wholesome” structure is a multi-generational family home in the city of Bien Hoa, Vietnam designed by CTA Creative Architects and the only thing they wanted was the living spaces to feel bright and airy. “According to recently published scientific research, indoor air quality is worse than outdoor air quality. Therefore, most of our discussions with the house owner tended to the idea of a house that is able to ‘breathe’ 24/7 by itself,” said the team. Most of the structure’s exterior is covered in perforated square bricks that allow fresh air and natural light to flood in. It also promotes upcycling in design – all of the bricks were salvaged from the building sites of properties nearby and were then punctuated to make four small holes in each of them. Material reusability is as important as creativity. To further add to the natural breathing feeling, a small “garden” was planted around the periphery of the main room which makes the air quality better and also acts as a much-needed soothing contrast to the brick tones.
Studio CORE architecture set up the headquarters for EBIL, with a goal to create an every-efficient building. The tools used by the architect? A raw concrete facade in contrast with lush greenery inside the office space that creates a relaxing oasis while joining the two buildings.‘we believe that only designing for energy efficiency is not enough,’ explains the CORE team. ‘how does one ensure that the users adapt to the design? here we experimented with the psychology of the users.’ the elevator shaft is taken far from the work areas and the access travels through senior management works spaces — this discourages the users to use the elevator and instead, prefer the tropical hillock connecting all the spaces.
Artificial-intelligence controls Villa Sophia, designed by Coll Coll, which blooms at the top of a hill above Prague, Czech Republic. Described as the “center of the universe,” by its creators, Michaela Pankova and Karel Panek, the architecture of Villa Sophia really does seem to present itself as a sort of nucleus, quietly blending the omnipresence of today’s technology with timeless values of connectedness and sustainability. The minds behind the hideout, the villa’s habitants, aimed to integrate robust AI technology into each nook and cranny of the home while also ensuring that the villa embodied warmth and intimacy for social gatherings or alone time.
The home incorporates impressive artificial intelligence throughout such as musical instruments that play themselves, lights that turn on without switches, along with verbal and haptic sensors that track your footsteps, your hand motions, and spoken word. Oh, and did we mention, this smart-house needs no keys! On the home’s AI technology, one of its creators, Michaela Pankova says, “The house is like a brain,” and the home certainly is smart. Aware of where everyone is inside the house, Villa Sophia’s AI system listens and adapts to the growing needs of the home’s residents so that just by inhabiting the home, everyone can enjoy the benefits that come with technological living. Room temperatures will adjust as soon as someone makes note of the cold. Come sunset, blue lighting dissipates so that the house provides optimal lighting for sleep. Deliveries always make it inside as the smart home can unlock and open doors after assessing who’s knocking. The home has as many technological capabilities as the human has thoughts, in this way, artificial and human intelligence work in tandem.
Considering the home’s catalog of intellectual technology, sustainability and interconnection still breathe inside and outside Villa Sophia. The home is just as eco-friendly as it is tech-savvy, with responsibly sourced wood material and polyurethane floor finishing, the interior design makes the overall home that much more efficient and eco-conscious. From the rich, walnut wood finishes to the living space’s accessible ramp that slithers through a sloped chunk of the staircase, a seamless fusion of distinguished technological innovation with an acute awareness of the human’s urge to control pervade this villa.
Designer: Michaela Pankova and Karel Panek ofColl Coll
This article was sent to us using the ‘Submit A Design’ feature. We encourage designers/students/studios to send in their projects to be featured on Yanko Design!
Repurposing shipping containers to create homes and offices is a sustainable trend that is gaining momentum. Similar to the tiny houses, these structures are compact, modular and can be designed to fit any purpose that you may have for a place -right from a remote campus, ICU pods, office network, or even a small town. The possibilities are endless and CAPSA Containers hosted a competition, ‘Design for Tomorrow’ that is focused on innovative and alternative construction solutions. Construction is responsible for 30% of the greenhouse gas emissions so these designs can help us build more responsibly and sustainably – they are ecological, economic, and meet the societal expectation of doing better with less, reducing environmental footprint, and limiting the consumption of natural resources.
“Bio-based materials, recycled, reused, smart, and sustainable construction will be our tools to meet these challenges. In the diversity of offer that the construction offers today, the marine container is an alternative offering a great number of assets: modularity, mobility, scalability,” says the team at CAPSA.
Designers: Bureau Agreste by Hugues Hernandez, Morgan Baufils, and Ariane Marty. Flowers in the Garden by Eu Jin Lim. Side Up Project by Mengfan Sha, Wang, and Zhang.
The winner is ‘Bureau Agreste’ – a modern shipping container office that provides professionals with a dedicated working space. The contemporary aesthetic masks the fact that it is an eco-friendly space. It has two levels with an open floor plan that makes it feel roomier and encourages productivity. It also features solar panels on the roof along with a rainwater harvesting system which makes it perfect for off-grid locations – this way businesses can save on the high rent they would usually pay in big cities. The container suspension frees up the ground space for organizing recreational outdoor activities (or even parking!) and gives the elevation needed for natural light. The first floor is organized concentrically around the central point of arrival, from the collective space (exchange and debate) to the intimate space (concentration and introspection). “The project aims to a certain resilience and seeks to minimize its ecological impact, by the use of recycling end-of-life containers, rainwater recovery tank, photovoltaic panels, dry toilets, wood stove, ceiling fan or even the use of bio-sourced materials from the local industry,” says the winning design team.
The second place was awarded to ‘Flowers in the Garden’ which was designed to be a hybrid of communal workspace and a garden. The project challenges traditional office settings by integrating the natural environment as a part of the whole workspace. It is an organic but playful structure with soft screens and in-between green-buffering spaces that creates a diverse ecosystem of perforated mass that is always ‘breathing’. This office design lets you stay healthily distanced but not socially separated and provides a refreshing break from staring at your screens.
The third place goes to the ‘Side Up Project’ that creatively transforms shipping containers into a semi-open space. It uses containers like LEGO blocks and combines multiple ‘side-up’ containers to form a flex space that could be used for work, camps, exhibitions, or events. The design turns the closed, small individual containers into a connected entity allowing occupants to move freely through the space while creating pockets that can be used for specific purposes. Not only is it a place for productivity and collaboration, but also a catalyst for future sustainable working communities.
Transformable to infinity, these repurposed shipping containers are the ideal ingredient for the wildest architectural projects while reducing the construction industry’s negative impact on the environment. These sustainable workplaces are definitely one of the coolest office designs we’ve seen!
If you remember the movie Interstellar, you will recall that all the food on their dining table was made from corn – cornbread, corn side dish, whole corn kernels, etc. Why? Because climate change had made the conditions so catastrophic that the planet had only one viable crop left – corn. It also showed the frequent dust storms because the heat had killed the vegetation and now the wind could carry huge swaths of dust everywhere. “It is just a movie” is what we hear when we get a little stressed about climate change, but those scenes in the movie about having just one crop left and insane storms – that is an extremely realistic scenario and we are hurling towards it each time there is a rise of even 1 degree Celcius.
The design has a purpose to educate through interaction but it would be more interesting to see if the Studio set up different Hothouses showing how the temperature increase would impact other regions’ crops in comparison to the UK – the side by side comparison would help people grasp the global scale of disruption because otherwise it just looks like you get to have mangoes in the UK and that doesn’t sound “bad”. Scientists predict that air quality levels could be 5x times worse by 2050 and crop yields can decrease by 30% as temperatures rise towards a 4°C increase globally by the end of the century – to put it into context, the world is currently in a race against time to stop the temperature from increasing beyond 1.5°C because that could have life-threatening effects so 4°C is catastrophic. These changes will have a direct effect on all the crops inside the Hothouse so people can see the real-time evolution and effects of the world.
It is hard for people to grasp how apocalyptic it will be through articles or movies, the easiest way is to show them the transition in real-time. 1 degree may not seem a lot when you go on the beach but a consecutive rise means death for agriculture and the collapse of entire ecosystems. Using experiential design as a medium, Studio Weave collaborated with garden designer Tom Massey to create the Hothouse which is a tiny greenhouse filled with edible tropical plants. The installation was made for the London Design Festival 2020 and is located in the International Quarter of London and provides a controlled habitat to grow specific plants that would not otherwise grow in the UK’s climate. The aim was to show the effects of climate change in a more tangible manner you can experience on an individual personal level.
The design highlights how local food in the UK will change with the rapidly growing temperatures – by 2050 tropical plants might become the norm and that is not an exciting thing. If the UK becomes a tropical zone, can you imagine what happens to actual tropical zones where most of the world’s vegetation and crops thrive? There will be a food shortage, more storms, wildfires, coastal flooding, and more. While it is hard to show that in an installation (most of us already experience it in real life with the recent wildfires and flooding), it lets people see how small temperature changes can change an entire country’s food consumption.
Studio Weave’s tiny tropical greenhouse wants to inspire and educate people about climate change and its choice of location has meaning too – the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park was once dominated by greenhouses that allowed for the production of ornamental plants and flowers, and exotic fruits in the 1930s. The structure is a minimal redesign of the Victorian glasshouse and has a micro-climate that can be regulated to suit the plants inside. Currently, the Hothouse has crops like guava, orange, gourd, chia seed, avocado, pomegranate, quinoa, mango, sweet potato, lemon, sugarcane, chickpea, loquat, and pineapple. Changes in agriculture and food consumption patterns can change the global trade cycles – the Hothouse is a small example of how that could look for the UK.
“Amid the strangeness of the COVID era of the last few months, reduced human activity has produced what feels like a profound shift in the environment, progressing a much-needed dialogue that will hopefully translate into sustained action and change,” says Je Ahn, Studio Weave’s founder. “We hope this little Hothouse acts as a continual reminder of our fragile relationship with nature while allowing us to rediscover the simple and enriching pleasure of looking after beautiful plants.” Design is a powerful tool when it comes to combating climate change – it can help educate people, create products that are better for the environment, and also help us adapt to the changing times. The design community must use their skills and collaborate with interdisciplinary practices for innovative solutions that can help people seamlessly transition to a sustainable lifestyle.
I’ve noticed something rather interesting over the past couple of years. The purpose of a design, any design, is to see itself evolve in a way that benefits users as well as the designer that had the idea in the first place. A well-designed product isn’t something that can exist in isolation with a ribbon pinned to it… yet most award programs do just that. They look at products, identify a few of them which look promising, give them a certificate or trophy, and move on to the next product… and the process repeats itself year after year. Most award programs don’t incubate great ideas into wonderful products… they just identify them and put them on a website for others to see, and that’s something I’ve come to identify with a lot of awards, but not the Lexus Design Award.
Imagine having great designers gather around your idea and nourish it into something truly fruitful. Imagine having all the resources you need to prototype your idea into something that WORKS… not on paper, in reality. Imagine spending 3 months under the wing of industry-leading mentors who help guide you through the design process. The Lexus Design Award isn’t really like other awards… it’s part award, part internship, part incubator, and part institute. When you apply for the Lexus Design Award, you’re enrolling yourself into a 3-month course with internationally-recognized mentors like Joe Doucet (Founder, Joe Doucet x Partners), Mariam Kamara (Principal Architect, Atelier Masomi), Sputniko! (Associate Professor of Design at the Tokyo University of the Arts), and Sabine Marcelis (Founder, Studio Sabine Marcelis. Out of all the award participants, 6 Finalists are chosen to be a part of this mentorship experience. During this time, the mentors work with you ON your project (sort of like the most personalized internship ever), taking your rough concept to fruition, while Lexus incubates the product with as much as 3 million Japanese Yen or $25,000 dedicated to prototyping the projects to a working proof-of-concept.
The Lexus Design Award’s core objective has always been to foster great ideas and great talent. Creating the perfect environment for a design to grow, Lexus helps engineer ideas into real, impactful solutions for a better future. The awards are free for all, focusing on young talent looking to find their footing in the industry, and offering them the ability to take their nascent ideas to new heights, with advice from established professional mentors. At the end of the mentorship phase, a Grand Prix finalist is chosen by the award’s esteemed judging panel comprising of Paola Antonelli (Senior Curator at MoMA), Greg Lynn (Architect and CEO Piaggio Fast Forward), Dong Gong (Founder & Design Principal of Vector Architects), and Simon Humphries (Head of Toyota and Lexus Global Design).
Entries for the 2021 edition of the Lexus Design Award are now open, with the theme echoing Lexus’ brand principle – “Anticipate, Innovate and Captivate for a better tomorrow”. Head to the Discover Lexus website to submit your own designs for a chance to collaborate with world-class mentors and incubate your ideas into reality, or scroll down to check out some of the past winners of the Lexus Design Award as inspiration!
Lexus first launched this annual international award in 2013 to nurture up-and-coming designers and help them realize their vision around the future of design.
Open Source Communities by BellTower (2020 Grand Prix Winner)
A vast number of Kenyans suffer from a combination of problems like water shortage, diseases caused by consumption of unfiltered/unfit water, having to walk miles to get water on a daily basis, or alternatively having to pay high rates for local water distribution. “In Nairobi, high-tech coexists with urban poverty”, say the team at BellTower, who designed the Open Source Communities project which creates a new format of community-building that relies on efficient allocation of resources that help the lower-income communities get access to basic necessities like water. The project creates a centralized water-reservoir – a structure that sits between hundreds of homes, providing water to every single one of them. The structure’s innovative format allows it to harvest and conserve rainwater, while actively filtering it of dirt, microorganisms, and other impurities. During the monsoons, surplus water helps generate money for the communities too, allowing them to get an extra source of income while bridging the vast resource gap. However, the best part about the Open Source Communities is that it exists as a public-utility template. Its open-source nature gives it unlimited flexibility, allowing it to be modified to fit in practically any scenario.
Algorithmic Lace by Lisa Marks (2019 Grand Prix Winner)
Bringing Algorithms and Attire together in a beautifully crafted garment with a noble purpose, Algorithmic Lace uses advanced three-dimensional modeling to handcraft bespoke bras for breast cancer survivors who have undergone mastectomy surgery. Algorithms have a long-standing love-affair with the textile industry, as one of the first machines to use algorithms was the Jacquard Loom back in the 1800s. The loom was controlled by a series of punched cards, which contained information that the loom read. Different cards had different algorithms into it and by switching the cards in the loom, you could tell it to alternate between complex textile weaves like brocade, damask and matelassé. Algorithmic Lace builds on that rich history, by using lines of code to create bras that are custom-built for their wearers. These garments are made specifically to functionally suit women who’ve undergone surgery, and the algorithmic pattern helps create a well-fitted, comfortable brassiere that’s also incredibly aesthetic to look at, empowering the wearer with confidence, along with their new lease of life.
Pixel by Hiroto Yoshizoe (2017 Grand Prix Winner)
There’s sheer magic in how the Pixel can actually take what you see and reduce its resolution to a handful of pixels… creating an illusion of being in a low-res world. At its heart is a uniquely crafted module that takes light as an input, and through repeated internal reflection, turns inputted images into square outputs. Imagine how the mirrors on a periscope work, taking an image from the top and carrying them down to the viewfinder below… this module does something similar, but with a different result. Stack enough of these modules together and you get the Pixel, a dynamic wall that instantly pixelates anything behind it. The Pixel relies on a powerful light source, and in this case, uses a projector. Project an image on it and the modules average out the light entering them, instantly pixelating the image and giving us a new perspective on the way we see light and shadows!
Agar Plasticity by AMAM (2016 Grand Prix Winner)
As its name suggests, the Agar Plasticity project uses Agar, a gelatinous marine algal material, as a replacement for plastics, creating a naturally occurring alternative to one of nature’s largest pollutants. Perfectly encapsulating the Lexus theme of ‘designing for a better tomorrow’, the project envisions a use of Agar as an alternative to the plastics found in packaging. Given that packaging for a product is often discarded immediately after purchase, Agar Plasticity hopes to create a solution that is eco-friendlier. Agar itself is derived from nature, and when treated a certain way, can be molded into containers, trays, and films that can replace single-use plastics. When discarded, the Agar can easily degrade in water or land, turning into nutrition for microorganisms and helping reduce waste. Japan-based design-trio AMAM is currently working to get larger institutions and corporations to look into the use of Agar as a safe plastic-alternative.
Inaho by Hideki Yoshimoto and Yoshinaka Ono (2013 Grand Prix Winner)
Yet another example of how lighting can be more of an experience, Inaho captures the tranquil beauty of watching rice-plants sway in the breeze. Created by Japanese duo Hideki Yoshimoto and Yoshinaka Ono, Inaho captures a strong Japanese cultural element, creating something that’s not just eye-catching but also rooted in history. The lights come mounted on tall, flexible metal rods, which gently lean towards people as they approach it. The interactive element doesn’t just make the Inaho interesting in a tactile sense, it also creates a wonderful series of moving highlights and shadows as the rice-plant-inspired lamps lean in your direction as you approach them, prompting you to move closer. The word Inaho literally translates to ‘a ear of rice’ in Japanese.
Submissions are being accepted until October 11th, 2020.
Back with yet another tiny home I am currently dreaming about – the Natura by The Tiny Housing Co! The tiny house movement promotes living sustainably, you use only what you need in terms of resources and space which doesn’t hinder your quality of life and also allows enough time for nature to complete its replenishing cycle. Natura is a wonderful example of the best to come out of the tiny house movement, it is an environmentally friendly home on wheels! “As negative as pandemic has been throughout the world, a positive thing that’s come from it is people have really come to realize that nature is important to people’s lives,” says Smith-Burchnell, Founder and Director of The Tiny Housing Co.
One of my favorite things about tiny homes is the loft-style beds because they give you a little private cozy corner and that is exactly how the bedroom in Natura is set up. It has a multifunctional king-sized bed with plenty of storage under the frame. The bedroom also has a single large window that makes it more spacious and allows for a lot of natural light to flood your top floor. The space optimization goes beyond the bedroom, there are many built-in spaces for you to put the things you own like under the stairs as well as in the walls! The choice of materials for exterior and interior has been kept in line with the eco-friendly mission – there is wood paneling on the exterior, a thick corkboard layer on the front to add a defining feature that doubles as a breathable, fire-retardant area by the bedroom. The house is well insulated because of the natural materials chosen. Natura also features 1000W pre-installed solar panels as well as an Energy Recovery Ventilator which helps to remove excess humidity, filters the air, and removes stale air while keeping your home warm. Like a modern house, it includes an elegant glass double door which doubles up as a glass wall that keeps the living area well lit and house plant-friendly. To add to the spaciousness, it also includes an outdoor deck – since the house is on wheels you can always change the view!
Natura is ready to move in as soon as you receive it and comes fitted with A++ energy-efficient appliances like a 2-hob induction cooker, fridge freezer, electric oven, extractor fan, under-sink water filter plus a bathroom with a large shower. “Small space, less waste, high-thermal efficient insulation & ERV system and super energy-efficient appliances means you’ll spend a fraction on bills if any. Use of corkboard reduces harmful VOCs, formaldehyde or other chemicals to be required in your home,” elaborates the team. While luxurious tiny homes are nothing new, not many combine luxury with sustainability like Natura.
In the hills of Harriman State Park (New York), plans were made to build a beautiful, contemporary-style hobbit hole known as the Black Villa. The house is stunning inside and out, especially its most eye-catching feature: the luscious grass-covered roof.
Green roofs have been growing slowly in popularity over the past decade, due to their economic and environmental advantages. They can reduce energy usage by 0.7% by providing natural insulation against heat and maintaining temperatures that are 30-40°F lower than conventional rooftops. (The Black Villa also decreases the need for electricity by using skylights and floor-to-ceiling windows.) Green roofs also reduce and slow down stormwater runoff, which helps immensely in areas with poor drainage systems (usually in urban areas).
I appreciated the Black Villa’s environmentally-conscious design, but I wish it had been made for a city, not a national park. To build the house, you would have to disrupt the park’s existing landscape, which seems counter-productive as a sustainability project. Perhaps the Black Villa could generate more interest in green roof architecture in the future, but ultimately I think its energy-efficient features are simply part of the pretty facade.