Amazing Paper Sculptures/Structures


Whether you’re into architecture or not, I’m sure you can appreciate the astounding beauty and sculptural properties exhibited by some of these works by Richard Sweeney from the UK. It’s really amazing how he caresses the simplest of materials – mostly 220gsm cartridge paper – to take on form and substance that look much more complex and seems to me ripe with possible applications in architecture. In his own words –

This demonstration of art through engineered structure is truly inspiring, and is a major influence on the way I go about producing my work- to create objects that are simple to construct yet complex in appearance, and are efficient in the way they are produced, both in terms of construction time and material use. The greatest example of this principle- achieving the most from the least- are structures in nature. As in the greatest architecture, natural forms show patterns of repetition, whereby the very most is made out of the least material and energy possible, to create forms that appear amazingly complex, yet are based on very basic units and patterns of growth- these are objects that have beauty on all levels, from the way they are constructed, to the appearance of the final form.

Be inspired by his Flickr set and his personal site.

Architecture against Threats

The Berlin Wall was a potent symbol crystallizing the divided world of “us” versus “them”. It is stark, monumental, and it gives “protection” to the people from the foes on the other side of the wall (whether you’re the West or the Soviets). The wall came down in 1989, and some predicted a world with less boundaries.

That was not quite the case, and the 911 incident would forever entrench this. Instead of fearing the opposite world power, the fear has shifted to agents of asymmetrical warfare – terrorists. And in place to replace the Berlin Wall are many more little Berlin Walls – various architecture against the newer forms of perceived threats. And, instead of being pure functional and direct in its form and purpose, these new securities are dressed up in disguises.


The Freedom Tower (above) may attempt to symbolize the American resilience after the 911, but the insecurity (or to some, being prepared) is betrayed by the 20-story windowless, fortified concrete base. Innocently decorated with prismatic glass panels, it masks paranoia as design/architecture. After hundreds of years, we’ve still not moved much beyond moats and castle walls it seems. While bollards, planters and various other implementation are still used – often these security features are masked as public benches, sculptures and the like.


Seems like the owners of the Caltrans District 7 building cares a lot about its occupants – littering the plaza with sculptures and benches – but their real purpose is to deter any large vehicles that may be carrying explosives into the building. Apart from terrorists, building and urban space planners are also increasingly targeting other “threats” like skateboarders and the homeless.

It’s a pity that while we connect and link more on the Internet, the physical space seems to revert to the “protect-my-turf” mentality. While we build walls – numerous visible and invisible ones – against others to keep “them” out, from their perspective we’re simply locking ourselves in.

[read more: NYTimes “Design Strikes a Defensive Posture“, Excellent blog on Architectures of Control]

FLIP – the flipping ship


FLIP (or, Floating Instrument Platform) is an amazing ship – technically it isn’t a ship, but more like a buoy since it doesn’t have its own propulsion and has to be towed around – but I bet you though no other sea vessels in the world can do what it can – intentionally “capsizing” so that it can turn 90 degrees, and turn from “ship-mode” to a “platform mode” by flooding its tail:

During the flip, everyone stands on the outside decks. As FLIP flips, these decks slowly become bulkheads. (This is the name sailors use for walls.) The crew step onto decks that were, only moments before, bulkheads. Inside, decks have become bulkheads; bulkheads have become decks or overheads (ceilings).
Some of FLIP’s furnishings are built so they can rotate to a new position as FLIP flips. Other equipment must be unbolted and moved. Some things, like tables in the galley (kitchen) and sinks in the washroom, are built twice so one is always in the correct position.

The reason for the flip is the stability required to perform the scientific experiments that this vessel was designed for – measuring effects on the environment caused by long range sound propagation, research in geophysics, meteorology, physical oceanography, non-acoustic anti-submarine warfare, and in laser propagation experiments – having this design would enable FLIP to be towed to the desired location for the research while still having superior stability (which affects the precision and accuracy of readings) over conventional ships.

The video of the transformation:

I wonder how it turns back to the ship mode though – does it have to expel water from its ballast against the deep sea’s water pressure? Would that be too much? Then again, virtually all submarines do that with no problem…perhaps I’ve just answered my own question.

And their homepage: FLIP

Architecture against Death




Externally the architecture may look like Gaudi rose from the dead and had a cup too much, or perhaps the architect is just woefully child-like. But these lofts, “Reversible Destiny – Mitaka” has just the opposite aim. Constructed in 2005 with the aim to delay the degradation of elderly’s sense, it invigorates and excites their senses not only by the vivid colors and complexly-juxtaposed geometries, but also by purposely having a difficult house to live in.

For instance, inside, each apartment features a dining room with a grainy and bumpy floor, a sunken kitchen and a study with a concave floor. Electric switches are located in unexpected places on the walls so you have to feel around for the right one. A glass door to the veranda is so small you have to bend to crawl out. You constantly lose balance and gather yourself up, grab onto a column and occasionally trip and fall.

According to the people behind this, Shusaku Arakawa, a Japanese artist based in New York, and his creative partner, poet Madeline Gins:

Set up to put fruitfully into question all that goes on within them, they steer residents to examine minutely the actions they take and to reconsider and, as it were, recalibrate their equanimity and self-possession, causing them to doubt themselves long enough to find a way to reinvent themselves. These tactically posed architectural volumes put human organisms on the track of why they are as they are. To be sure, every loft comes with a set of directions for use.

Like a crazy children’s playground, this house is definitely one for you not to relax in. And that is precisely the point. Many of you may know some elderly relatives who’d slowly become dull and senile simply by being bored and sit their lives away. I’m not quite sure how much of this architecture is bull, or whether it be truly be effective, but judging by their sale of $750,000 a piece and people actually snapping it up, it does seem like a good venture!

More pictures of this project, and other similarly radical proposals for hotels here.

Tree-like Buildings


Stumbled upon this on the cool hunter:

Bad city planners can breathe a little easier now that clever designers have come up with a temporary building that will do the job of trees. Trees keep the air clean, provide shade and act as meeting and gathering points in open spaces. These ingenious contraptions apparently do the same. Made of steel, thermo textile and solar panels, the interesting-looking rotundas even create all the energy they need to light themselves. So, next time you forget to include trees in your plans, stick some of these in their place while the trees grow.

Unable to find more explanation on what it exactly is, or how it works, I’d resort to judging the book by its cover. On first impression, the aesthetic of this structure really doesn’t fit into its usage theme. Fresh air is it you want? Try looking for it under those giant cylinders that look like they may lift-off and roast you – or like a bundle of aerosol cans strapped together.

In terms of its “tree-like” feature – two of them can probably be achieved by almost any architecture feature that doesn’t bill itself as such (provide shade and act as meeting point). Keeping the air clean – well, having such a giant structure for that just doesn’t ring it for me.

Humanistic Power Line Pylons


Choi + Shine Architects has a very interesting project called Land of Giants:


Making only minor alterations to well established steel-framed tower design, we have created a series of towers that are powerful, solemn and variable. These iconic pylon-figures will become monuments in the landscape. Seeing the pylon-figures will become an unforgettable experience, elevating the towers to something more than merely a functional design of necessity.


The human forms adapt to the terrain where these are erected, mimicking the figure’s (imaginary) interaction with the landscape, whether it’s climbing a mountain or crossing a valley, using small design changes to convey the differences in posture and mood:

Very interesting! It’d probably brighten anybody’s imagination (or thoroughly haunt him)…especially if it’s produced in enough variations – imagine a long drive  through a  countryside where the electrical lines become an animated xkcd comic. (Am I thinking too much?)