By balancing stones, artist finds peace

All photos courtesy of Michael Grab/Gravity Glue


Canadian-born photographer and performance artist Michael Grab began exploring the ancient discipline of rock balancing in the summer of 2008 while hiking around Boulder Creek in Boulder, Colorado. It has since become a daily meditative practice for him, and it’s not uncommon for him to draw small crowds of spectators as he creates these meticulous, ephemeral installations.


“I am constantly in awe at the stillness, let alone possibility, of such precarious formations, amidst sometimes very turbulent conditions,” Grab explains on his website, Gravity Glue. “For me, this reflects our own potential to maintain a still-point amidst the variety of challenges we each face throughout our lives.”


So how does he do it? Many of his seemingly gravity-defying sculptures look so out of this world that you might think adhesives, wires or other external supports were used, but Grab says that the only thing that holds these objects in equilibrium is gravity.


Watch the video below for a brief demonstration of Grab’s balancing skills in action:



The technique behind balancing rocks is a fairly simple concept. Like the legs of a tripod, rock balancers rely on the support of naturally corresponding contact points — such as the natural grooves or indentations — to serve as supportive “legs” for their stacked sculptures. Even large, unwieldy rocks can be balanced in precarious positions as long as there are at least three solid contact points to prop them up.


Grab’s best advice for beginner stone balancers is to “get to know” the rocks before attempting to stack them: “Some rock characters will coordinate better with others, vice versa, back, forth, right, left, up, or down. The trick I’ve found is to play and experiment.”


Continue below for more examples of Grab’s work from the past couple years, and be sure to follow the Gravity Glue Facebook page for more updates!
















Via: mnn


Topiary Cat is planted in gorgeous scenes across the English countryside

Tolly the Topiary Cat has given Facebook a botanical infusion — and taken social media by storm, garnering millions of views! Instead of fur, the Russian Blue cat dons a coat of greenery and plants himself in serene landscapes and gardens across the English countryside. The series of photo illustrations is the brainchild of artist Richard Saunders, who honors his late beloved pet with the beautiful digitally-altered topiary scenes.




Set in some of the quaintest gardens in the English countryside, the sleeping Tolly is transformed into a furry topiary, a recognizable element in British gardening which often features leafy bushes trimmed into animals and geometric shapes. Using photos of Tolly taken during his long life, Saunders playfully creates fantastical gardens, enhancing the already gorgeous historic scenes of British country mansions and cottages with the adorable Topiary Cat.


Via: inhabitots

Stunning Moon Dragon is a fairy-tale like tiny house that goes off-grid

Living large in a tiny home is more than just possible—it can be beautiful too. Tiny house builder Abel Zimmerman Zyl of Zyl Vardos designed and built Moon Dragon, a gorgeous house on wheels that looks like it was plucked from Middle-Earth. The tiny timber home boasts charming curves and arches, a surprisingly roomy interior, and even comes with off-grid capabilities.




As expected of Zyl Vardos, Moon Dragon was created with fantastic craftsmanship and design. The home measures 13.1 feet in height, 9 feet in length, and 24 feet in width, and can be pulled with a one-ton pickup truck. Onduvilla shingles partially clad the exterior for a beautifully textured appearance. Much of the home was built by hand and is one of Zyl Vardos’ most complex builds to date.




The tiny home is entered via hand-built Dutch-style doors that open up into a wood-lined interior that looks surprisingly spacious thanks to its tall arched ceiling built from cedar tongue and groove. The 216-square-foot main floor features a small wood-burning stove, mahogany ply cabinetry and walls, and a cork floor. The kitchen boasts a five-burner Range cooker with two ovens, as well as an energy-efficient fridge and washing machine, along with plenty of storage. Behind the kitchen is the bathroom that houses a shower, sink, and composting toilet. The 117-square-foot loft bedroom—big enough for a queen-sized bed—is reached via storage-integrated stairs.


Via: inhabitat



Converted shipping containers combine to form angular Flying Box house

Architect Josué Gillet used shipping containers to construct this prefabricated house in France, which features an asymmetric facade and a rooftop terrace.





The Flying Box house was devised by Gillet’s studio 2A Design for a small plot in the French village of Orgères, near Rennes.


Both its design and construction method were a response to the confines of the compact, sloping site and the clients’ limited budget.





To reduce the overall cost and the required building period, the house utilises a system developed by local company B3 Ecodesign, which converts shipping containers into modular homes at its Rennes factory.


The company adapts the containers by adding insulation, wiring and other necessary services, before transporting them to the site.





The dimensions of the containers conveniently matched the size of the plot for Flying Box house, and the prefabricated construction process meant the building could be produced and assembled in just three months.




Three layers of containers are stacked to create a structure that is defined by angular sections removed from the top and bottom floors.


Via: dezeen

State of the art power plant in Düsseldorf doubles as an observation tower

This state-of-the-art power plant in Düsseldorf, designed by architecture firm kadawittfeldarchitektur, supplies the city with clean energy. It also doubles as an observation tower, offering visitors unparalleled views of the area. Modular and cloaked in steel frames, the Lausward Power Plant acts as a tourist attraction with a lift taking visitors to its highest point called “City Window”.





The structure is not a simple power plant, but a landmark that dominates the southwestern boundary of the city. Thanks to its modular construction, the power plant can adjust to various functions. Its largest frame element envelops the existing smokestack-the highest point of the building complex.


Via: inhabitat

Factoría Cultural Matadero Madrid is a creative incubator in a disused Madrid warehouse

Venice Architecture Biennale 2016: Madrid firm Office for Strategic Spaces has used low-budget materials to transform an old industrial building in the Spanish capital into a multi-level workspace for creative startup businesses.




Completed in 2014, the Factoría Cultural is an incubator for creative industries housed in a hall within the Matadero Madrid contemporary arts centre.


It is one of 55 projects featured in the Golden Lion-winning Spanish Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, which aims to highlight the new “radical” approach that has emerged in Spain in the wake of the 2008 financial crash.





The building is part of a former slaughterhouse and market complex from the early 20th century, but has been used as a cultural venue since 2005.


Madrid-based Office for Strategic Spaces, which is led by architect Angel Borrego Cubero, was tasked with transforming the empty industrial space into an environment suited to modern working practices.






The site is owned by Madrid City Council, so any changes to the original architecture must be capable of being reversed.


Because of this, the architects used basic materials to create structures that are sustainable, affordable and reversible, meaning they can be easily dismantled with no waste when no longer needed.





Recognising that it was impossible to fit the required 120 desks into the available floor area, the team proposed a series of three interventions aimed at providing more space and facilitating its flexible use.






“We were able to build three small volumes, or architectural objects, that changed and modified the quality of the available space, naturally producing the diverse working areas we thought necessary,” explained the team.


“These three distinct volumes near the entrance help organise the programme, folding and compressing the circulations around it, making them as exact and compact as possible.”




The additions include a raised platform that contains further workspace beneath the room’s high ceiling. A bridge connects this area with a mezzanine flanking the wall by the entrance.




A freestanding podium towards the opposite end of the room incorporates large steps that can be used for seating during presentations. In total, an additional 85 square metres of workspace was created.





The structures are built from cheap pine lumber in standard sizes, to which lightweight polycarbonate sheets are fixed to create walls that were assembled in just one day.


The use of basic construction materials enabled the project to be completed at a cost of just €51,000 (£40,000) in total, or €105 (£82) per square metre.





“The scarcity of means allowed us to research one spatial intuition: creative work, and workers, thrive in environments that seem not completely designed, not completely finished, spaces that seem to be caught in the middle of a process, surprised by a change in conditions,” the architects suggested.




Offcuts from the manufacture of the staircases are used to create light fixtures fixed around the tops of the existing columns, and sound insulation is provided by simple vertical panels suspended from the ceiling.






This unfinished aesthetic was one of the key themes explored by the Spanish pavilion at the Venice Biennale, which was awarded the Golden Lion for best pavilion during a ceremony on the event’s opening day.


Other projects featured in the pavilion range from a converted palace to an adaptable apartment.


Via: dezeen

Off Grid and Open Source Straw Bale Village Designed for Sustainability

One Community Global is developing plans for a sustainable community based on straw-bale construction and describes the Straw Bale Village as:


The Straw Bale Village consists of fifty-six 250-300 square foot (23-28 sq meters) studio-style rooms, each with an attached bathroom. They are arranged in groups of 4 that can easily be connected and or converted to create multi-room units. This village model also includes 9 common areas: a small common kitchen, computer room, laundry room, children’s art and playroom, game room, meditation room, reading room, greenhouse, and central social area with a gas fire pit that can be covered to provide a stage. The circular design of this pod is heating, cooling, and resource efficient with plans for the center of the torus including fruit trees, recreation space, and water collecting and storage via the decorative waterways. The circular design helps with temperature control in the center of the torus as well as keeping animals away from the orchard. Once the earthbag village (Pod 1) is complete, this village model will serve primarily as resident housing with a few units available as demonstration rental units.


Some of the key features and intentions for Pod Two’s design include:


  • 56 living units
  • 9 common areas
  • Straw bale construction
  • Built-in food production
  • Artistic and beautiful to live in
  • Recycling of computer room and kitchen heat
  • Completely ecologically friendly and sustainable
  • Complete village projected to cost less than $800,000
  • Will demonstrate a model that can be expanded modularly by others
  • Communal use kitchen, computer room, and lounge designs and layout
  • Central gas fireplace with stadium seating can be covered and used as a stage
  • Goal for 100% water to be supplied by surrounding water catchment from all structures






But they aren’t just about drawing pretty pictures and dumping them online, the goal is to actually build parts of this village to show that the designs work:


The straw bale housing teacher/demonstration community, village, and city model is purposed for open source project-launch blueprinting and building modularly expandable sustainable housing. Using the double torus design we will build the first few units to completion to show what is possible on the small scale, and then add onto those units to demonstrate how this style of communal housing could be expanded as a community or village need for housing expands, adding additional units as necessary while simultaneously improving energy efficiency and creating a growing space protected by new units. The double torus design also allows for easy modification of the internal structure at a later time to connect or separate rooms based on community resident/family needs. The straw bale village model will become an option for ownership and long-term residence for the Pioneers that have been with the project from day 1. When complete, Pod 2 will be the largest straw bale construction in the world (2x the size of the current largest building) utilizing approximately 20,000 straw bales for the build.





One Community Global also describes the modular nature of the building style:


The double torus design with bathrooms in the center also allows for a diversity of 1-4 bedroom units with the initial plans showing one and two-bedroom units with the added design flexibility to modify this for our specific Pioneer Team and One Community needs at the time of construction. Some characteristics of the building method for Pod 2 that we expect to demonstrate a standard of unparalleled innovation and effectiveness that we can share as part of our open source model of global contribution include:


  • Hurricane resistant
    ● Earth-quake resistant
    ● Quality of indoor climate
    ● Massive rainwater-harvesting system
    ● Life-cycle cost respective to footprint
    ● Resource efficiency of building materials
    ● Ratio of interior space to cooling ground surface
    ● Level of sound-insulation in multi-apartment buildings
    ● Ratio of building envelope to floor unit and interior space
    ● Maintenance cost per floor unit, interior space and person
    ● Investment per floor unit and interior space (m² and m³) for houses of the same quality
    ● The level of architectural innovation (there are a few ring-buildings, but none which are arched)
    ● Diverse records in the area of load-bearing straw bale constructions (there are very few LBS buildings)










Via: Off Grid World

Constructed Wetlands

World’s rapid transition to urbanization increased the volume of waste water discharged to a level that exceeded capabilities of a natural system to process the pollution. Lack of sewage collection and waste water treatment is a serious health and environmental hazard. Huge volume of untreated wastewater is dumped directly into our water resources, threatening human health, ecosystems, biodiversity, food security and the sustainability of our water resources. Wastewater treatment is more than a local problem, it is a global challenge. Affordable and effective domestic wastewater treatment is a critical issue in public health and disease prevention around the world particularly so in developing countries which often lack the financial and technical resources necessary for proper treatment facilities.


The approach of centralized, water-based sewer systems was applied to attain considerable public health improvement in urban areas of industrialized countries. However, the cost of such a sewer-based system is enormous and is unaffordable to many of the developing countries. Centralized systems require conventional (intensive) treatment systems, which are technologically complex and financially expensive; so many communities of the developing countries cannot afford the construction and operation of conventional treatment systems. For these communities, alternative natural treatment systems, which are simple in the construction and operation, yet inexpensive and environmentally friendly, seem to be appropriate. Thus, constructed wetlands are especially well suited for wastewater treatment in dispersed settlements.


Constructed wetlands are generally built on uplands and outside floodplains or floodways in order to avoid damage to natural wetlands and other aquatic resources. Wetlands are frequently constructed by excavating, backfilling, grading, diking and installing water control structures to establish desired hydraulic flow patterns. Each CW consists of pre-treatment step (septic tank or sedimentation basin) followed by one or more interconnected beds. A waterproof liner is used on the sides and bottom of the cell to prevent leaks and assure adequate water for the wetland plants. Majority of CW are planted with common reed (Phragmites australis), besides this Carex gracilis, Typha latifolia, Schoenoplectus lacustris, Juncus effusus, Juncus inflexus, Iris pseudacorus and other wetland plants are also in use depending on local climate characteristics and aesthetic demands of the site. Roots and stems of the plants form a dense mat. Here chemical, biological, and physical processes occur to treat the wastewater.



A constructed wetland (CW) is an ecological solution for the treatment of waste waters. Operation of CWs is based on the imitation of nature’s self-cleaning capacity. The water is treated to the required standards through physical and chemical processes by microorganisms and wetland plants. Numerous scientific research show that CW enable efficient wastewater treatment in terms of removal of suspended solids, organic matter, nutrients, fecal and other bacteria, heavy metals and even persistent organic pollutants.


CW can be used for treatment of different types of wastewater: municipal and industrial wastewater, pre-treated wastewater, polluted drinking water, landfill leachate, storm water, agricultural runoff etc.


Wastewater reuse is an accepted practice in Europe and the Mediterranean region. Drivers for treated waste water reuse are the increasing demand for water, water stress and adaptation to water scarcity and climate change, groundwater, environmental protection and restoration. Majority of countries consider that treated wastewater is suitable for agricultural purposes and to enhance the environment. Precondition for waste water reuse is establishment of regulations, criteria and standards, and monitoring, addressing safety requirements (safe use of treated water and safe food production).




CW as effective technology solution facilitates waste water reuse and cycling. It is important to take into the account type of water reuse already in the process of designing CW. Discharge from CW can be stored in aquifer or in different types of natural retention bodies where even some additional treatment can be provided. Because CWs are cost-benefit and cost-effective solution and can enable tertiary degree of treatment, reuse of treated waste water is a smart eco-solution.


The applications of treated waste water reuse include: irrigation water (agriculture, landscape, sport and recreation), water for manufacturing and construction industry (cooling and process water), dual water supply systems for urban non-potable use (toilet flushing and garden use), firefighting, street washing, dust suppression and snowmaking, water for restoration and recreation of existing or creating new aquatic ecosystems, recreational water bodies, aquifer recharge and fish ponds.


Via: limnos

Seven Remarkable Cave Dwellings




Forget setting up four walls and a roof; these homes use the stony walls of natural and human-made caves to shelter their inhabitants from the storm.
Check out these incredible rocky homes, from ancient cave dwellings to modern house, to the buildings that may have inspired J.R.R. Tolkien’s Hobbiton.
The Yunak Evleri Cave Hotel, Urgup, Cappadocia, Turkey






This hotel is a combination of six cave houses with a total of 39 rooms from the 5th and 6th centuries and a 200-year-old Greek mansion.



via: offgridquest  Yunak Evleri



Magnificent Green School Made From Bamboo




Bamboo is one of the most sustainable building materials in the world, can grow up to four feet in a single day and combines strength and flexibility. It is affordable and abundant and, in the case of equatorial states, can be locally sourced. Andrew Ma’s tent combines bamboo with other organic materials. The only non-organic materials used during construction were plastic ropes that hold bamboo poles together.






The building was commissioned by Green School in Bali, whose campus is made entirely from sustainably harvested bamboo. The building was used for the graduation ceremony and the Conservation Conference Weekend that featured Dr. Jane Goodall as their honorary speaker. They were looking to build a structure that could accommodate 500 people and would not destroy the site. The structure comprised multiple teepee tents connected with structural poles to ensure additional anchoring support. In order to prevent lateral movements, 15cm diameter reject bamboo poles were cut in quarters at a 50cm length and anchored down on the ends and the sides of each bamboo pole. Except for a few large poles, which were brought in from Java, most of the resources were sourced locally.



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