The Reason You See the Same Leaves Atop So Many Columns

Mr.TinDC, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0
Mr.TinDC, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

If an architect wants to design a building with a timeless, distinguished look, they will often channel the ancient Greeks and Romans. That's why so many famous structures—like the Capitol building in Washington D.C.—feature imposing white columns. But look closer and you'll find another detail many of them share: sculpted leaves curling at the top of the pillars. According to a new video from Vox, these leaves are all modeled after the same plant, acanthus, and their origins can be traced back to the same ancient myth.

Columns featuring acanthus leaves are known as Corinthian columns, and they first appeared around 550 BCE. A Roman writer named Vitruvius explained the ornamentation by creating a legend about a young woman who passed away. After her death, her nurse gathered her possessions into a basket and sealed it with a tile, and as time passed an acanthus plant crept up the sides of the container and covered it completely. The legend goes that the overgrown basket was spotted by a sculptor who was inspired to make Corinthian columns.

There's another symbolic reason acanthus leaves appear in classical architecture: The plant can grow from root cuttings. The leaves represent strength and durability, make them a natural fit for the top of a column. The design is striking enough to persist all these centuries later.

You can check out the full story below.

[h/t Vox]

Trulia Now Makes Browsing Neighborhoods as Easy as Browsing Homes

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iStock

An online real estate listing can tell you the number of bedrooms, the square footage, and the price of a property, but until you arrive in person, it's hard to know if the location will be a good fit for you. Trulia is looking to tackle that problem with a new Neighborhoods feature, as Fast Company reports, letting you virtually explore your potential home's surroundings before you show up for the tour.

Trulia, a listings site owned by Zillow, already offers all the standard information you would get from any other real estate service. Now, the new Trulia Neighborhoods feature also makes it possible to research various neighborhoods within the app the same way you would research individual houses and apartments.

The Neighborhoods feature includes a slideshow of annotated images of each neighborhood captured by Trulia's team of photographers and videographers. It also has some objective data about the area, like maps of local businesses, as well as first-hand reports from residents. In the "What the Locals Say" section, for instance, you might find that 90 percent of people reported that a neighborhood is quiet, while just 50 percent said it's easy to find parking there. This part also includes personal testimonies from individual users that you can browse by topic, such as "community" or "dog owners." Neighborhoods also allows you to easily access data on schools, safety, and commute times.

Trulia Neighborhoods isn't available for every market yet. For now, you can only take advantage of it if you're house-hunting in one of 300 neighborhoods across five U.S. cities—San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, Austin, and Chicago. Trulia plans to expand the feature to more than 1100 neighborhoods by the end of 2018.

[h/t Fast Company]

Hong Kong's Peculiar Architecture Can Be Explained by Feng Shui

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iStock

Most people are familiar with feng shui—the ancient Chinese art of arranging one's environment to maximize good energy—as it applies to interior design. But you don't need to walk into a building to see feng shui at work in Hong Kong: It's baked into the skyline.

This video from Vox examines how feng shui has shaped the design of Hong Kong's skyscrapers. Some of the most extreme examples are dragon gates: large holes cut out of the center of buildings. The idea is that dragons, which are said to live in the mountains behind the city, will be able to fly through the openings and into the water. If their passage is blocked, bad luck will befall any buildings in their way.

Some superstitious design features are a little more subtle. In the lobby of the HSBC building, the escalators are positioned at a strange angle to fend off the bad energy flowing into the space. When Hong Kong Disneyland hired a feng shui consultant (a real and lucrative job), they were told to shift the entrance 12 degrees to keep chi from flowing out.

But not every architect in Hong Kong takes feng shui into account. The Bank of China Tower is infamous for its sharp angles, which feng shui experts claim damages the positive energy around it. Anything bad that happens to the surrounding businesses is immediately blamed on the tower, and the neighboring HSBC building even installed cranes that are meant to combat any bad luck it radiates.

You can watch the full story below.

[h/t Vox]

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