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Twitter user, @NBBJDesign
Twitter user, @NBBJDesign

Here's a Design For Skyscrapers That Don't Cast A Shadow

Twitter user, @NBBJDesign
Twitter user, @NBBJDesign

New skyscrapers in the city are all but an inevitability. In crowded areas, the only way to grow is usually up, and new buildings are almost always many stories high. While this creates interesting skylines from a distance, up close and on the ground, these tall buildings plunge pedestrians into nearly-perpetual shade as the long shadows stretch across the sidewalks.

In London, about 250 new skyscrapers are slated to start casting their shadows on the streets below in the near future. To shed some light on the situation, London-based architecture firm NBBJ set out to design a shadow-less building—or, a pair of buildings, as it turned out.

The architects used a software program called Rhinoceros, which allows them to enter different data requirements and see a design for a pair of buildings that would maximize the light reflected onto the ground. After adjusting the input to make sure building was workable in real life, they settled on a hypothetical design that reduced the shadows by 60 percent.

The finished concept—designed for a potential pair of towers in Greenwich, England, right on the Prime Meridian—works by having the northern building act as a giant curved mirror, with a glass exterior that reflects sunlight onto the shadow of the southern building. Throughout the day, the curvature of the building causes the reflected light to move, following the shadow’s path. The reflected light is diffuse, so pedestrians don't need to worry about getting fried by a focused beam like ants under a magnifying glass.

It's not a perfect design—after all, the northern building still casts a shadow—but it's an innovative solution that focuses on how new development effects the lives of people who live in the vicinity, and that is great news.

"It’s definitely high time for this type of design to be baked into the building so it can play well with the environment," Daniel Safarik, a spokesperson at the Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, says. "It should be standard practice."

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Courtesy of Fernando Artigas
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Step Inside This Stunning, Nature-Inspired Art Gallery in Tulum, Mexico
Courtesy of Fernando Artigas
Courtesy of Fernando Artigas

Upon closer inspection, this building in Tulum, Mexico, doesn’t seem like a suitable place to house an art exhibit. Everything that makes it so visually striking—its curved walls, uneven floors, and lack of drab, white backgrounds—also makes it a challenge for curators.

But none of these factors deterred Santiago Rumney Guggenheim—the great-grandson of the late famed art collector and heiress Peggy Guggenheim—from christening the space an art gallery. And thus, IK LAB was born.

“We want to trigger the creative minds of artists to create for a completely different environment,” Rumney Guggenheim, the gallery’s director, tells Artsy. “We are challenging the artists to make work for a space that doesn’t have straight walls or floors—we don’t even have walls really, it’s more like shapes coming out of the floor. And the floor is hardly a floor.”

A view inside IK LAB
Courtesy of Fernando Artigas

A view inside IK LAB
Courtesy of Fernando Artigas

A view inside IK LAB
Courtesy of Fernando Artigas

A view inside IK LAB
Courtesy of Fernando Artigas

IK LAB was brought to life by Rumney Guggenheim and Jorge Eduardo Neira Sterkel, the founder of luxury resort Azulik. The two properties, which have a similar style of architecture, share a site near the Caribbean coast. IK LAB may be unconventional, but it certainly makes a statement. Its ceiling is composed of diagonal slats resembling the veins of a leaf, and a wavy wooden texture breaks up the monotony of concrete floors. Entry to the gallery is gained through a 13-foot-high glass door that’s shaped a little like a hobbit hole.

The gallery was also designed to be eco-conscious. The building is propped up on stilts, which not only lets wildlife pass underneath, but also gives guests a view overlooking the forest canopy. Many of the materials have been sourced from local jungles. Gallery organizers say the building is designed to induce a “meditative state,” and visitors are asked to go barefoot to foster a more sensory experience. (Be careful, though—you wouldn't want to trip on the uneven floor.)

The gallery's first exhibition, "Alignments," features the suspended sculptures of Artur Lescher, the perception-challenging works of Margo Trushina, and the geometrical pendulums of Tatiana Trouvé. One piece by Trouvé features 250 pendulums suspended from the gallery's domed ceiling. If you want to see this exhibit, be sure to get there before it ends in September.

[h/t Dezeen]

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Engineers Have Figured Out How the Leaning Tower of Pisa Withstands Earthquakes
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iStock

Builders had barely finished the second floor of the Tower of Pisa when the structure started to tilt. Despite foundational issues, the project was completed, and eight centuries and at least four major earthquakes later, the precarious landmark remains standing. Now, a team of engineers from the University of Bristol and other institutions claims to have finally solved the mystery behind its endurance.

Pisa is located between the Arno and Serchio rivers, and the city's iconic tower was built on soft ground consisting largely of clay, shells, and fine sand. The unstable foundation meant the tower had been sinking little by little until 2008, when construction workers removed 70 metric tons of soil to stabilize the site. Today it leans at a 4-degree angle—about 13 feet past perfectly vertical.

Now researchers say that the dirt responsible for the tower's lean also played a vital role in its survival. Their study, which will be presented at this year's European Conference on Earthquake Engineering in Greece, shows that the combination of the tall, stiff tower with the soft soil produced an effect known as dynamic soil-structure interaction, or DSSI. During an earthquake, the tower doesn't move and shake with the earth the same way it would with a firmer, more stable foundation. According to the engineers, the Leaning Tower of Pisa is the world's best example of the effects of DSSI.

"Ironically, the very same soil that caused the leaning instability and brought the tower to the verge of collapse can be credited for helping it survive these seismic events," study co-author George Mylonakis said in a statement.

The tower's earthquake-proof foundation was an accident, but engineers are interested in intentionally incorporating the principles of DSSI into their structures—as long as they can keep them upright at the same time.

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