Dezeen’s #milanogram2015 highlights: day two


Milan 2015: it's the opening day of Milan's Salone del Mobile and over 1000 images from around the city have been posted to our #milanogram2015 hashtag. Click through to see a selection of the most-shared and most-talked about photographs. (more…)


“Sharing Economy” Could Reach $335 Billion by 2025, But Will It Get a New Name?

Airbnb has jumped at opportunity in Cuba’s tourism industry. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)

Whatever the controversies surrounding services such as Uber and Airbnb — from the contractor vs. employee debate to municipal regulation — the “sharing economy” boom in users and outreach is staggering.

Uber is cashing in on billions of dollars of new investments. Just last week, the ride-service app company expanded into New Delhi to support rickshaws on call.

A Chicago B&B will start booking exclusively through Airbnb this summer (a city first), and the “room-sharing” firm is jumping on tourism industry potential in Cuba.

A new PricewaterhouseCoopers report predicts the so-called “sharing economy” will greatly expand in the next 10 years, prompting other industries to incorporate the trend into business plans.

PwC’s survey found that 44 percent of adults are familiar with “sharing economy” companies and that most of them will use them in the next couple years, stressing the convenience and accessibility of these companies as an important factor. However, the report also raised the concerns those polled had about the services: inconsistent quality or service, and lack of trust between the consumer and provider.

“Trust, convenience and a sense of community are all factors in pushing adoption of the sharing economy forward,” read PwC’s report. “The innovation clock is now set to fast-pace, and will get even faster as consumers become more trusting of relationships tied to social sentiment and communities of users.”

The companies are most popular among young consumers, while providers typically run from mid-20s to mid-40s.

The global revenue from “sharing economy” companies, according to the report, is estimated at $15 billion, and that figure’s projected to increase to approximately $335 billion by 2025 — despite the trust issues.

Though PwC used the “sharing economy” label, the report noted the debate over terminology:

As we spoke with industry specialists, it was clear that no single label can neatly encapsulate this movement. For some, the word “sharing” was a misnomer, a savvy-but-disingenuous spin on an industry they felt was more about monetary opportunism than altruism. Yet in between the haggling over the most-accurate moniker, there was uniform agreement that the so-called sharing economy is getting very big, very fast — and is something that business executives very much need to tune into.


Drivers Sit in Miles-Long Backups as Nairobi Gets Rid of Roundabouts

In Nairobi, Kenya, a move to replace roundabouts with intersections and stoplights last week caused gridlock in some areas. (AP Photo/Sayyid Azim)

“Very very very busy, we’re using very many verys,” said a Nairobi traffic reporter last week as he grasped for superlatives on the radio. While the terrorist attack on a university campus some 200 miles away gripped the nation’s attention, for residents of Kenya’s capital, the week of mourning was also a week of frustration.

Monday, April 6th marked the first day of a new traffic pattern along the main north-south artery serving the central business district, as officials prepare to replace roundabouts with stoplights, a traffic management policy at odds with the thinking of U.S. road engineers.

Uhuru Highway runs 2.5 miles through the heart of Nairobi. Five multi-lane roundabouts, all of which no longer allow right turns as of last week, punctuate the thoroughfare. Kenya drives on the left, meaning that a right turn requires traveling three-quarters of a roundabout — a left turn is the easy one. The roundabouts feature traffic lights already, as well as occasional traffic marshals, but the general approach has been: If you see an opening, go for it, red light be damned.

The hope is that this latest change will speed up the journey for long-distance drivers heading straight without stopping in central Nairobi; the city lacks a ring road, although a bypass is under construction for completion this year. For drivers trying to make that dreaded right turn, they now must go to the end of Uhuru, make a U-turn, and ultimately a left toward their destination. For drivers trying to cross Uhuru, they’re screwed.

“If we had been stuck on the other side of Uhuru, it would take three to four hours,” warned Anthony Mwaura, a veteran taxi driver on a recent stop-and-go journey during Friday rush hour. At its worst, local press reported nine-mile backups that stretched all the way to the international airport on the outskirts of town.

Brutal traffic has long been a regular feature of daily life in Nairobi. In 2011, IBM ranked it one of the worst cities in the world for commuting alongside mega-jam capitals like Mexico City and Beijing. Buses, matatus (shared vans), taxis, trucks, motorcycles and private cars all compete for road space in a city that UN-Habitat, headquartered here, fingered as having an inadequate street grid.

Every month, 30,000 people move to Nairobi; that has swelled the population to nearly 3.5 million, and half live in informal settlements. The city has no comprehensive mass transit option such as subway, light rail or BRT. Buses and matatus serve most of the city, but without dedicated lanes they get caught in the same traffic morass as everyone else. And given the lack of public information on routes, it took an alt weekly to publish a bus and matatu network map.

After a week of vitriol from the general public, the Kenya National Highways Authority (Kenha) is nevertheless staying the course with the plan it announced earlier this year. “The current traffic patterns are merely temporary measures,” Njuguna Gatitu, a Kenha engineer, told the press. “The long-term goal is to install four-way signalized junctions to replace all the roundabouts along Uhuru Highway.”

Mohammed Munyanya, fellow and past chairman of the Architectural Association of Kenya, thinks that the Nairobi City County government got it backwards. “Before you remove a junction, you must facilitate a junction,” he says. “The city must be mobile.”

To his mind, the Southern Bypass should have opened before Kenha began tweaking the roundabouts. Uhuru Highway is a legacy of Nairobi’s history as a rail depot on the line connecting interior Kampala, the capital of Uganda, to coastal Kenyan port Mombasa. The road system duplicates the rail line, sending heavy trucks along the 600-mile-plus journey right through downtown. Long overdue, the Southern Bypass will divert that traffic.

But even then, Munyanya believes, “You need a working public transport system. Nairobi would be a good candidate for BRT as long as it is attractive, reliable, punctual, clean and safe so that people use them by choice.”

The only ongoing investment in Kenya’s transit infrastructure, however, is improvement of the aforementioned rail line, currently underway by a Chinese company. The Chinese have invested heavily in African infrastructure, including a superhighway from Nairobi opened in 2012 of which locals are particularly proud despite its overbearing impact on the streetscape.

Mwaura, the taxi driver, is a fan of the superhighway and wishes the same were contemplated for Uhuru. “The superhighway goes over. They should have done overroads and underroads. Overpasses for pedestrians are better because this isn’t working. It’s tough tough.”

In the mean time, Nairobians are stuck with the roundabout removal scheme, which flies in the face of conventional wisdom in the U.S. The Federal Highway Administration has reams of documents extolling the virtues of roundabouts as a safer alternative to traffic signals. Once seen as a quirky feature of European towns, they have made steady inroads in Wisconsin, Maryland and Kansas, among other states.

Admittedly, U.S. traffic planners aren’t contending with the massive volume on Nairobi’s streets. The crisis is enough to stir optimism born out of exasperation. Joseph Ngigi, also a taxi driver, is one who hasn’t complained. “I’m for the experiment,” he said. “Anything to get Nairobi moving.”


Plugged-In Prefab Collects Weather Data to Conserve Energy

Spanish prefab with pool.

New pine and spruce wood from the Pyrenees (both recyclable and PEFC certified) were selected for the façade of the 1,000-square-foot prefab. Smart blinds cover the windows, rigged to open and close depending on the weather forecast. 

With the help of the prefab experts at NOEM, an outdoorsy Spanish family created a high-tech countryside retreat in Serra d'Espadà. Architect Aitor Iturralde Martín says the design team opted for a clean, contemporary look that would be a departure from the concrete and brick houses that otherwise populate the area. The house is a simple two module configuration that is punctuated by a terrace and bold metal structure that “projects towards the landscape.” The entire structure took only 10 days to assemble.

Insulation made from wood fiber, sheep wool, and recycled cotton is one of the many elements that help make the home sustainable. Other green features include passive-house construction standards and a heat recovery ventilation system to welcome in fresh air.

The sanctuary is also smart in another respect: various intelligent control systems automate its energy-consumption. “We installed sensors and actuators through a home automation switchboard to be able to monitor and analyze all systems in real time and achieve superior levels of energy-efficiency and comfort,” Martín says. “Temperature, humidity, energy consumption, sunlight, and air quality data are analyzed by the switchboard, which according to the settings can activate different systems automatically.” 


5 Steps to a Fun and Practical Kids’ Bedroom (11 photos)

Designing kids’ bedrooms can be fun. For designers it’s typically the room in which we get to turn the decorating volume up and go a little crazy. At home it’s important to keep in mind practical elements, including storage and future use, while also making sure your little one’s personality...


Renewed Tax Credit Nurtures Atlanta’s Growing Video Game Industry

(Photo by Terence S. Jones)

Atlanta’s video game development industry is booming, and lawmakers recently passed a bill to renew tax credits for video game companies there.

According to Marketplace, eight years ago there were only six such companies, but now there are more than 70.

A strong anchor institution plays a role — as does the city’s retention of new graduates. Asante Bradford, who promotes video game development for Georgia, told Marketplace that he believes the rapid growth could be due to the high number of gaming conventions in Atlanta and the talent coming out of Savannah College of Art & Design and Georgia Tech.

“Georgia’s low cost of living has been very effective in recruiting experienced game developers, and then you combine that with really, really strong entry-level talent out of our universities and technical colleges,” Todd Harris, chief operating officer at Hi-Rez Studios, told Marketplace.

According to the City of Atlanta, the metropolitan area is ranked 12th in the nation for tech startups.


ed thompson reveals the unseen through infrared photography

thompson used the last 36 dead-stock rolls of kodak aerochrome film in existence to comprise the series 'the unseen', which explores the literal boundaries of perception.

The post ed thompson reveals the unseen through infrared photography appeared first on designboom | architecture & design magazine.


Streamlined Modern Living in the North Carolina Forest

Durham, North Carolina home with stucco and Hardie board exterior

Raleigh-based In Situ Studio designed "Fred" to nestle up to a wooded site, using Sto Powerwall stucco on the main body, with Hardie Plank siding and MiraTEC trim on the pop-out. Read about another North Carolina home by the architects in the May issue of Dwell.

Image courtesy of Richard Leo Johnson / Atlantic Archives Inc..

Dappled sunlight on a site near Duke Forest in Durham, North Carolina determined the new home's orientation. A couple’s opposite sleep patterns drove its layout. And a long-gone pet cat inspired its name.

The firm that designed it, Raleigh-based In Situ Studio, was just 18 months old when the clients reached out to partners Matthew Griffith and Erin Sterling Lewis in 2012.

Their first order of business was a tour of the site. “It was a 10-acre property with an old roadbed that followed the topography,” says Griffith. “As we moved east along the site, we had a kind of ‘Aha!’ moment.”

A stream wanders through its northern edge, woods alongside it. “We could see into the forest, and where the stream moves off to the east, there’s a clearing where we could see sunlight coming through the trees,” he says.

The architects hadn't yet been hired at that point, but they developed a site plan, with drawings and a model. That helped win the commission for the 2,500-square-foot project. The firm worked with nBaxter Design on the interiors, and L. E. Meyers Builders helped with construction.

They sited it for maximum privacy on the edge of the forest, with living and deck spaces opening up to the trees. “It’s carefully nestled into the woods to capture the views, both near and far, that are important to both the site and the clients,” he says.

They’re a couple who retired to Carolina from the San Francisco Bay area, and they were articulate in communicating their daily routines to the architects. One’s a night owl who sleeps mostly during the day, while the other’s an early riser who likes to wake up to the site's sweeping vistas.

Griffith and Lewis tailored living spaces to the needs of each. “She can walk out of their bedroom to her window seat, her books and her coffee maker, first thing in morning,” he says. “He prefers to stay up late. When he’s awake, he’s involved in graphic design, woodworking, and music, so the space is specific to him – there’s soundproofing and lighting control.”

Fifteen years ago, the couple owned a much-loved cat named Fred. “It was a long journey to design the house, but before they even began, they knew it would be named Fred,” he says. Nine lives or not, his spirit lives on.

Read about another In Situ Studio project in Raleigh in the May issue of Dwell.


“Kink and fetish has much to teach mainstream design culture”

Sam Jacobs opinion column on BDSM, fetish and design

Opinion: the world of kink and fetish is built around ideas of power, control and gender – not that different to our relationships with everyday objects, says Sam Jacob. (more…)


5 Rugged, Modern Homes in the Mountains

modern fire resistant green boulder loewen windows south facade triple planed low-e glass

After a wildfire razed her family's property in Boulder, Colorado, architect Renée del Gaudio chose to use the disaster as an opportunity to build a new home that is as sustainable as it is resilient. “The new house’s facade had to be 100 percent fire-resistant," says del Gaudio, "so I took that cue from mining buildings and chose corrugated metal for the exterior.” 

Photo by David Lauer.

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Architect Mahmood Fallahian

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