Trees Burst Through Gallery Walls and Ceilings

Brazilian artist Henrique Oliveira’s powerful recycled wood art installations snake through their exhibition spaces like massive living trees that burst out of walls and through ceilings. Oliveira scours the streets of Sao Paulo to gather plywood, which he then separates into layers and combines to create his massive “tridimensionals” sculptures. The stunning mixed media pieces are a combination of sculpture, painting and architecture.

source 1, 2, 3


Second Life: The Heineken WOBO Doubles as Beer Bottle and Brick

Fifty years ago, Heineken developed a revolutionary and sustainable design solution to give its beer bottles a second life: as an architectural brick. The concept arose after brewing magnate Alfred Heineken visited Curacao during a world tour of his factories in 1960. He was struck by the amount of beer bottles—many bearing his name—littering the beaches and the lack of affordable building materials for residents. In a stroke of genius (or madness), Heineken realized both problems could be solved if beer bottles could be reused as structural building components. Enlisting the help of Dutch architect N. John Habraken, Heineken created a new bottled design—dubbed the Heineken WOBO (World Bottle)—that doubled as a drinking vessel and a brick. As author and architecture critic Martin Pawley notes, the WOBO was “the first mass production container ever designed from the outset for secondary use as a building component.” The new squared off bottle was both inter-locking and self-aligning, allowing it to nestle seamlessly and snugly into adjoining “bricks.” With Habraken’s design, a 10 by 10 foot hut could be constructed with 1,000 WOBO bottles. Though a test run of 100,000 bottles was produced in 1963, the marketing department’s worries about liabilities doomed the project. The WOBO was subsequently and unceremoniously retired. Though only two official WOBO buildings remain, both on the Heineken estate in Noordwijk near Amsterdam, the concept remains a powerful and inspiring one. Indeed, the experiment is a reminder of how a major corporation might seriously take on sustainability in an innovative way.


The Incredible Story of the Watts Towers

Hidden in an eastern part of the city of Los Angeles lies a little-known enormous treasure of art — The Watts Towers. The highest tower contains the longest slender reinforced concrete column in the world.

However the most fascinating fact about the ‘Towers’, aside from the fact that they are almost 100 years old, is about the one man that built them: a 19th century Italian immigrant named Simon Rodia.

Rodia was born in 1879 in Ribottoli, Italy. He immigrated to the United States in 1898 and initially set down in Pennsylvania to work in the coal mines. Little is known about his early life other than he moved to the west coast of California in 1917 and found work in rock quarries and logging and railroad camps as a construction worker.

In 1921 after having lived in the city of Long Beach for five years, Rodia purchased a triangular-shaped lot at 1761-1765 107th Street in Los Angeles and began to construct his masterpiece, which he called “Nuestro Pueblo” (meaning “our town”). When asked why he made the towers, he answered, “I wanted to do something big and I did it.” Rodia spent almost 25 years working on the Towers from 1921 to 1955.

In 1955, when Rodia was approaching 75, he deeded his property to a neighbor and retired to Martinez, California to be near his family. After ten years of retirement, Rodia passed away in 1965.

The Watts Towers installation consists of seventeen major sculptures constructed of structural steel and covered with mortar, adorned with a diverse mosaic of broken glass, sea shells, pottery and tile, a rare piece of 19th century, hand painted Canton ware and many pieces of 20th century American ceramics. The ‘Towers’ were built without the benefit of any machine equipment, scaffolding, bolts, rivets, welds or drawing board designs. With his own ingenuity, Rodia used only simple tools, pipe fitter pliers and a window-washer’s belt and buckle.

The tallest tower is 30 meters high. The tower to its left is 29.5 meters and the next is 16.76 meters high. The highest tower contains the longest slender reinforced concrete column in the world. The monument also features a gazebo with a center column and a spire that reaches a height of 38 feet. The Watts Towers are under the care of the Watts Towers Arts Center and is available for tours. If you are planning a trip to Los Angeles or live in the area, it’s definitely worth the time to see the fruition of one man’s dream.

source 1, 2, 3

some photos from honestlywtf


Dithyrambalina is a magical community installation and a village of musical, playable houses. That’s right. The structures themselves are recycled musical instruments, ready to express the joy, pain, or wonder of anyone who cares to take the time to play them.

Even before the destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans had been afflicted by huge numbers of run down properties and abandoned lots. These tragic symbols are the backdrop of city-wide dysfunction, but they are also the tableau in front of which New Orleans’ rich musical and visual heritage parades and performs. This project is an imaginative attempt to redress the futility of this blight by finding within it vast resources of salvageable materials. By turning our salvaged construction into a music box that is free, public, and playful we are inviting the wider community to imagine and participate in a new landscape of potential and possibility.


The World’s Largest Tree House

Located in Crossville, Tennessee, Horrace Burgess built the world’s largest tree house using only recycled lumber, donated or salvaged from demolition sites. He says that since so much of the material used to build the house was given to him, the whole project has only cost him around $12 thousand—most of which was spent on nails. The structure, which climbs 100 feet into the air, is mainly supported by a single large tree which makes up it’s foundation—though a spiral staircase allows access inside from the ground level. At ten stories tall, with roughly 10,000 square feet, the tree house may be more aptly called a ‘tree mansion’, but according Horrace, it’s a work in progress.

Some brilliant ideas for 20ft containers by Michael Janzen from Tiny House Living

This is just a little design exploration for how one might finish out a shipping container as a home.  Some of the issues I’m noodling-through are:

  1. Should a side door be cut into the container and how does that make the floor plan more flexible?
  2. Should the bathroom be placed at one end or in the middle?
  3. Should custom built-in beds be fabricated or can standard beds and bunk beds be used just as efficiently?
  4. How many beds can be placed inside a 20-foot shipping container and still have space for a micro kitchen and bathroom?

Not sure where this design exploration is going yet, but I’m having fun thinking about what can fit inside the box.


Studio KCA won an AIA New York Chapter competition to build their “Head in the Clouds” installation on New York’s Governors Island. The work features 53,780 used plastic bottles and jugs, approximately the number of empties the city discards in a single hour. Photography by Chuck Choi.