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Water and Ice Inspire Beautiful Olympic Buildings in Sochi- Can They Inspire Your Design Aquarium?

Posted by on Friday, February 7th, 2014

This weekend, the Sochi Winter Olympics will kick off, and people are anticipating them with a topsy-turvy mix of emotions. There is the usual excitement that comes with the Games: the thrill of competition, the drama and pagentry of figure-skating, the usual jokes about curling (which isn’t fair, because: wouldn’t you want to be a curler?). There is also dread of what will go wrong, because it is assumed that despite spending $51 billion on the Games the Russians won’t deliver (but people think that about every Olympics). Then there is the controversy about the price tag, about Russia’s human rights violations, their policies toward gay rights, and the way people were kicked out of their homes for the Olympic venues to be built.

But we’re not going to get into that. I want to talk about the stadiums, but not about their cost, the quality of construction, or what was lost for them to be built. Those are all important, and architecture and design can’t (and shouldn’t) be divorced from their social context, but it is also important not to lose sight of their impressive design. The designers of Sochi, for all the flaws, delivered a cohesive and aesthetically-significant setting for the Olympic games.

Not many people think of Russia as being particularly water-based, and for the most part, it isn’t. Russia is known for the crushing vastness of its endless steppes and the ceaseless frozen expanse of Siberia. But Sochi is in the Caucasus mountains, a non-ethnic Russian region subjugated over hundreds of years and integrated into the federation. The Caucasus are shaped by their mountains and by the way they form an isthmus between the Black and Caspian Seas. Sochi is a gorgeous resort town hard on the Black Sea. The designers of the games took the region’s connection to the water and tied it to the spirit of winter. Here are some of the more remarkable buildings you’ll see at the games.

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Amazing Aqua Skyscraper Shows Aquatic Architecture As Inspiration for Luxury Design

Posted by on Friday, January 17th, 2014

There’s a certain sense of joyous contradiction to the Chicago lakefront. The city was built rapidly on an intense capitalistic ethos – it sprung from a swamp to a major metropolis in a generation, burned down, and was built up just as quickly. But despite it being a monument to trade- a place the Nelson Algren, in what is probably the best piece of writing on any city, called “a city on the make” – it has a sentimental side, and that’s reflected in its lakefront: miles and miles of parks and paths unbroken in the spot where the land meets the inland sea. This would be the most valuable real estate in the city, but while other Great Lakes cities built right up to the water’s edge, in Chicago, it is left for the public.

The contradiction has always been prevalent in the skyline, as well. While there is no doubt that the Chicago skyline is one of the best in the world, it stood in contrast to the lake: it was a skyline of muscle and steel, as hard and cold as the lake, but with none of her grace. That’s started to change, as most of the new skyscrapers have been built with blue and green glass. The apotheosis of this trend is the first skyscraper to really incorporate the idea of Chicago as a city built by water – the Aqua skyscraper by Jeanne Gang.

Aqua skyscraper in Chicago

The Aqua skyscraper ripples into a blue sky.
Image by gizmag.com

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From Derelict Airport to Stunning Hydrologic Park: How Water’s Natural Cycles Can Inspire Your Aquascape

Posted by on Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

Airport aquascape

Airport Lake, proposed for the derelict Quito airport.
Image source: Ggpht.com

Reduce, reuse, recycle.

I don’t know about you, but I heard those three magic words all the time while growing up. My school system tried to teach us at an early age that we all have a responsibility to be environmentally conscious. Some eco-friendly choices are easy to make, like throwing plastic bottles into the recycling bin rather than the trash can. Other choices, like figuring out how to recycle a derelict airport, are a bit tougher.

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Two-Bedroom, Two-Bathroom Floating Home is Glimpse of the Future

Posted by on Friday, December 27th, 2013

Floating Home

Floating one-story home — Image source: Trendhunter.com

A few weeks ago, we chatted about the beautiful Manta Resort off the coast of Tanzania’s Pemba Island. The two-person resort was certainly beautiful, but the structure was little more than two floating rooms in the middle of nowhere. With its small size, the Manta Resort is a place where you’d love to visit but hate to live. It wouldn’t be long before those two rooms started to feel claustrophobic and limiting. Continue reading…


“Palace for Nature”: Luxury Architecture and Water Conservation in a Pristine Oasis

Posted by on Friday, December 20th, 2013

Qatar Palace

Qatar Palace — Image source: Inhabitat.com

Far too often, luxury is synonymous with wastefulness. The very mention of a palace calls to mind extravagant excess and a disproportionately massive amount of resources poured into just a few people. Continue reading…


Eco-Friendly Thinking Finds Beauty and Profit in Rainwater

Posted by on Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

Rainwater retention

Bodies of water collect rainwater, attract wildlife, and keep the surroundings cool — Image source: Tumblr.com

Gutters don’t have a stellar reputation. The phrase “mind in the gutter” equates the gutter with filth and perversion, and cleaning decaying gunk out of your gutters is one of the worst chores ever invented. That’s really a shame, because rain is one of the most beautiful shows that Mother Nature has to offer. We’ve all seen rain countless times, but every once in a while you just have to look out the window and marvel at how stunningly beautiful and powerful rain truly is. Continue reading…


Staying Cool with Qatar’s Mist-Generating Outlook Tower and Other Aquascapes

Posted by on Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

Outlook Tower

An artist’s rendition of Outlook Tower in Qatar. — Image source: Inhabitat.com

Qatar is hot. Really hot. In July the average temperature is a sweltering 106º F, the type of heat that makes you want to lie down and cling to your air conditioner. Continue reading…


The 5 Weirdest Boats Ever Made

Posted by on Monday, November 4th, 2013

Hot Dog Boat

Image source: Marineinsight.com

A boat is a boat, right? Well, not exactly. You’d be amazed by how weird they can get! This list takes a look at 5 of the weirdest boat ideas ever imagined. Continue reading…


The Venus Project: Rebuilding Society With Giant Floating Cities

Posted by on Friday, October 11th, 2013

The Venus Project

Image source: Deviantart.net

I’ve come across some pretty ambitious architectural projects before. Up until now, I think the most ambitious project would probably be this massive floating city. I mean, it’s hard to top something like that, right? Continue reading…


5 of the Most Beautiful Lighthouses to Inspire Your Aquascaping

Posted by on Wednesday, October 9th, 2013


Image source: Bergoiata.com

The thing I love most about aquascapes is how they combine land and sea into a beautiful, cohesive whole. It’s rare to see a piece of architecture that adds the sky into the mixture, but there is one commonly adored building that represents the gorgeous trinity of sea, land, and sky: lighthouses. Continue reading…