Architects are usually very creative people, so it’s not normally surprising when you encounter a structure or a project that is fairly peculiar. However sometimes, even architects outdo themselves and come up with ideas that are so baffling, that they end up on lists like this one.
There’s a significant trend towards making everything sustainable and environmentally-friendly, so “earthships” like the ones created by architect Mike Reynolds are the next logical step.
These weird homes are built using old tires filled with dirt and aluminum cans for structure, and are oriented towards the Sun in such a way as to be as efficient as possible (the temperature inside is about 21 degrees Celsius or 70 degrees Fahrenheit all year round!).
Power comes from solar panels, while rainwater is collected to be used for washing and drinking. Finally, residents can grow their own food in the form of fruit, vegetables, and fish.
Reynolds claims the utility costs for his earthship is about $100 per year, which goes into the propane stove people can use – so it’s no wonder these kinds of houses are becoming increasingly popular in the US, as well as Europe and around the world.
8. Living among the sand dunes
Forget about the Great Wall: the Green Wall of the Sahara is an international project which aims to line the southern edge of the Sahara desert with greenery, in an attempt to not only stop desertification, but also provide living spaces and resources to the people living in the area.
Swedish architect Magnus Larsson intends to take this project even further: using a type of bacteria which can solidify sand, Larsson wants to actually create sturdy, habitable spaces underneath the dunes! This would not only support the trees forming the Green Wall, but also offer people a place to live as part of this already ambitious project.
7. Indoor ski parks
Skiing is an activity which requires a special set of conditions to be done properly, conditions you only find in some places throughout the world. We’re usually talking about mountains and places relatively far up north. Even so, skiing is usually practiced during the winter.
This means that skiing in places like the desert, for example should be utterly impossible. However the sheikhs of Dubai have demonstrated that if you throw enough money at a problem, nothing is unachievable.
The Emirati metropolis is home to a massive $400 million indoor ski park, which is 25 stories high and features five slopes kept at an optimal temperature and covered in artificial snow. And there are even bigger facilities of this kind in Germany or the Netherlands, all of them hugely successful.
“Arcology” is a portmanteau of the words “architecture” and “ecology,” a term invented by Italian architect Paolo Soleri to describe a structure with almost no negative impact on the environment.
More than just single homes, these structures are veritable cities, fully serviced by high-speed public means of transportation (no private cars are allowed!) and powered entirely by solar panels. Soleri himself started an arcology called ‘Arcosanti’ in Arizona, but due to lack of funding the project never really took off. The idea seems sound though, so investors based in Abu Dhabi and Russia are already considering their own versions.
5. Nature-inspired buildings with efficient lighting schemes and that actually build themselves
We stay in the realm of sustainable architecture (which seems to be the most prominent trend in this area), as we take a closer look at the works of Michael Pawlyn. This British architect is determined to learn everything he can from the natural world and create some really impressive structures with this knowledge.
The spookfish, for instance (a marine animal that uses a mirror to divert light onto its eyes, helping it see at great depths), inspired Pawlyn to create a home with fewer windows but the same level of lighting. But the most interesting project of all is one inspired by an microorganism which uses carbon from its surroundings to create a protective shell around it – Pawlyn intends to use this idea to create buildings which actually build themselves!
4. 3D printed skyscrapers
It’s becoming increasingly clear that 3D printing will be one of the most transformative technologies of the 21st century. We all know the great things you can do with it at small scales, but what some are attempting at larger scales is simply breathtaking.
Unsurprisingly, it’s the Chinese who are trying to use 3D printing to fabricate parts used to build a skyscraper, which would likely allow them to break their already ridiculous records when it comes to raising such structures.
Though at the moment this is still in the early phases of development, expect the time it takes to complete a skyscraper in China to drop even more in the near future!
3. Smart thermal bimetals
If energy efficiency is the name of the game, there’s nothing better than using virtually no energy at all. Los Angeles-based architect Doris Kim Sung, a former biology student, was inspired by the way the human skin “breathes” in order to regulate our temperature and decided to try to mimic this process using state-of-the-art smart materials called thermal bimetals.
These are basically sheets of metal with special properties which allow them to change shape depending on their temperature. What this means is that these materials can be used to automatically create shaded areas or openings through which air could flow, thus controlling the temperature within the spaces which make use of them.
The best thing about the technology is that it doesn’t use up any energy (so your bill will be zero), and it also looks really cool, too (no pun intended)!
2. Underground parks
Parks are those green oases people take refuge in to get away from the artificial, sometimes claustrophobic atmosphere of the modern city – which makes the whole concept of an underground park sort of weird.
Still, because cities are running out of room above ground to set up park areas, people have decided to look for space wherever they can, and in some the only way to go is down!
There are plans to use an abandoned trolley terminal in the Lower East Side, New York, as just such a space. Not only will there be trees and other plants, but the whole area will be illuminated (at least during the day) by actual sunlight which is supposed to pass through a glass shield and then reflected throughout by mirrors and domes.
1. Space elevators
One of the biggest problems with space travel is that it’s really expensive to send stuff out there. And that’s because the only way we know how to do that is by blasting it up into space on board a rocket.
One solution to this, which might sound crazy at first, but could end up revolutionizing the aerospace industry, is to simply build a space elevator!
This will basically be a cable made from such hi-tech materials as carbon nanotubes, anywhere from 30,000 to 90,000 miles high, anchored to the ground (or to the surface of the ocean), and with a space station at the upper end.
This might sound like science fiction (like many great ideas, that’s how it all started!), but serious companies and organizations are already considering it. And whoever manages to build one first will definitely have a huge advantage in the 21st century space race.