New retractable membrane for an open-air theater

October 1, 2017

The charming town of Tecklenburg, Germany, is home to the largest open-air musical theater in the country. Set against the backdrop of a medieval castle ruin, Freilichtbühne Tecklenburg e.V. stages operettas, musicals, concerts and other events. The 2,300-seat theater features a retractable canopy designed and installed 25 years ago by consulting engineers IPL, now formTL …

IIT Innovation Center uses inflatable ETFE

It’s only appropriate that the design for a building dedicated to fostering innovation, entrepreneurship and collaboration should itself push the envelope on creativity. So it is with the new Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship, currently under construction at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. The institute will be the new …

Natural wallpaper

Take two unique natural materials and put them together, and the result is a stunning tapestry of color for a new wallpaper collection. Omexco, a Belgian designer of high-end wallcoverings, has introduced the one-of-a-kind Rainbows collection, made by weaving recycled sari silk with strips of bakbak (bark of the banana tree). The deep colors of …

Smart bandage monitors wounds

When a patient has a chronic wound, tracking the healing process and regularly changing the dressing is important to recovery. Nurses and other caregivers must guard against bacteria that could cause infections as well as keep the skin from getting irritated. Researchers from Empa, ETH Zurich, Centre Suisse d’Electronique et de Microtechnique (CSEM), and University …

Pavilion brightens Amsterdam Light Festival

During the dark days of winter, the Amsterdam Light Festival brightens the city with light-filled artwork created by architects and designers from around the world. There are two routes of artwork: Water Colors, the boat route; and Illuminade, the walking route. Last year’s theme was biomimicry: the imitation of natural phenomena for the purpose of …

Walk-in installation offers perspectives on light, pattern and texture

September 1, 2017

Europe’s biggest international lighting exhibition is Euroluce, held in Milan in conjunction with Salone del Mobile Milano (the Milan Furniture Fair). At Euroluce 2017 last April, 485 exhibitors displayed the latest in indoor, outdoor and industrial lighting products, including many innovative, cutting-edge designs. The Italian lighting company Leucos created a dramatic rendition of their own …

The Ocean Cleanup foundation plans to rid oceans of plastic

In the Pacific Ocean, there is an area known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a mass of plastic and other debris that doesn’t biodegrade. Estimated to be between the size of the state of Texas and the continental United States twice over, the patch is held in place by ocean currents.    Boyan Slat, …

T-shirt monitors respiratory rate

Researchers at Université Laval in Quebec City, Canada, have developed a technology that could help people who suffer from respiratory conditions including asthma, sleep apnea and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. They created a smart T-shirt that monitors a person’s respiratory rate in real time. Best of all, it uses an antenna sewn into the shirt …

Project explores form and movement in architecture

Can one visualize the wind? That was one of the ideas explored by Estudio Invasivo or Invasive Study, a Chilean design studio that studies the cardinal logic of architecture and its pedagogical dialogues. The project, Archetypical Sessions, placed architectural elements in different settings to explore how people interacted with the different scenarios. Participants were asked …

Eco-friendly sponge soaks up oil spills

There are many challenges to cleaning up oil spills. Consider the devastating Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. A portion of the millions of gallons of oil that escaped drifted through the ocean rather than rising to the surface. Because it did not rise to the top, the oil could not …

Silk fiber implant helps restore hearing

As many as 330 million people worldwide suffer from Chronic Middle Ear Disease, a debilitating condition that is the most common cause of perforated eardrums. It can cause hearing loss and great pain when there is damage to the eardrum and mastoid bone. A team of scientists at the Ear Science Institute Australia and the …

Lumen illuminates courtyard at The Museum of Modern Art PS1

For the last 18 years, the Young Architects Program at The Museum of Modern Art and MoMA PS1 in Manhattan has sponsored a design competition for emerging architects. The challenge was to develop a creative design for a temporary outdoor installation that provides shade, seating and water. Guidelines regarding environmental issues, including sustainability and recycling, …

Exosuit assists Lowe’s employees

Working the floor of a big-box store requires heavy lifting and moving bulky products around. Employees are at risk for muscle fatigue from repetitive motion or even injury from improper lifting techniques. The home improvement giant Lowe’s has developed technology to offer employees support. Lowe’s Innovation Labs worked in partnership with a team at Virginia …

Koons’ inflatable graced Rockefeller Center

August 1, 2017

American artist Jeff Koons, well known for vivid and often whimsical takes on pop culture and everyday life, created a show-stopping inflatable sculpture of a ballerina that was installed at Rockefeller Center from May 12 to June 2, 2017. Seated Ballerina was a larger-than-life version of a piece he did for his Antiquity Series that …

Chair knitted using 3-D technology

The Tent Chair from Benjamin Hubert of the London-based experience design agency Layer Design is laid-back and modern. Created for the renowned Italian furniture brand Moroso, the chair’s fabrication is in itself cutting-edge. The chair is knitted in one seamless piece using 3-D knitting technology. The fabric is comprised of more than two million knitted …

Soft robotics virtual reality gloves

Wouldn’t it be great to play the piano like a virtuoso? Now there’s a soft robotics glove that gives you the experience—in virtual reality. Engineers at the University of California San Diego have created gloves that take simulated experiences to a more sophisticated level than existing devices. Using soft robotics technology, they developed light, flexible …

Toronto theater gets a facelift

The Toronto Centre for the Arts needed a facelift; managers wanted to reconfigure the main theater, which was underutilized. Toronto-based Diamond Schmitt Architects divided the 1800-seat space into two smaller spaces: a 300-seat black box theater and a 574-seat proscenium stage. Color and drama were added to the proscenium theater in the form of an …

MIT researchers design breathable workout suit

It seems counterintuitive that something associated with dampness and sweaty aromas could be used to help keep the body cool and dry. But a team of MIT researchers is looking at bacteria in a fresh way and using it in apparel that provides ventilation in response to body heat and sweat. According to the researchers, …

Sneakers for Mars

Maybe someday, along with cruise wear, there will be a special fashion category: space wear. It could be sooner than later, given that SpaceX, the space exploration company started by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, recently announced plans to fly two tourists around the moon in 2018. Shoes for space travel have already gotten off on …

Fabric pots for everyday gardening

Why use heavy, breakable terra cotta or nonporous plastic pots for plants and flowers when you can use pots made of breathable fabric? That’s the idea behind Jardisac, the all-fabric containers. Jardisac pots are permeable, allowing water to run through the soil for maximum air circulation and drainage to keep the plant’s roots healthy. The …

Artwork-inspired home interiors

Aboriginal art is one of the world’s oldest art forms, dating back 50,000 years. Today, it expresses the richness of Aboriginal culture and a diversity of experiences and beliefs. The sacred connection to the land is often expressed in the artwork, which depicts the landscape, plants and animals of Australia’s central desert. Bay Gallery Home, …

Redesigned steam suits for the U.S. Navy

July 1, 2017

One of the dangers of life on a submarine is the potential for one of the pressurized steam lines aboard to rupture. In such a situation, steam would leak at extremely high temperatures, potentially resulting in severe injury or death. While it is highly unlikely for this to occur, safeguards must be in place in …

Digital knitting machine

Nothing to wear? What if you could just push a button and print out a sweater? While it sounds like the stuff of science fiction, technology is revolutionizing the fashion industry in exciting ways—including the development of a 3-D printer for knitting. Called Kniterate, the printer automatically turns digital designs into knitted garments. The computer-controlled …

A hammock/tent for sleeping in the air

Designed for one person—up to 250 pounds—REI’s Quarter Dome Air Hammock is a minimalist alternative to a tent. Lightweight and easy to set up and take down, it’s made of 15-denier ripstop nylon to provide tear-resistant protection. Settling into a fabric sling is great for relaxing or napping, but it doesn’t offer the support needed …

Woven metal fabric for space travel

Maybe it’s the Game of Thrones effect, because these days, metal fabrics are super hip. And just like the practical purpose they served in medieval times, a new woven metal fabric being developed by NASA can be put to use in a number of ways. Raul Polit Casillas, a systems engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion …

Durable, flexible fiber-reinforced hydrogel

Scientists at Hokkaido University in Sapporo, Japan, have combined hydrogels containing high levels of water with glass fiber fabric to create a flexible, reinforced material that is five times tougher than carbon steel. The researchers developed the durable, tensile material utilizing the same method used to produce reinforced plastics. They combined polyampholyte (PA) gels, a …

Sustainable housing for eco-friendly living

June 29, 2017

Living sustainably often means challenging the status quo to develop new, more eco-friendly alternatives. That’s the case with Breathe—MINI Living, a unique housing prototype introduced at Milan Salone del Mobile 2017. Designed by New York-based architects SO-IL for MINI Living, Breathe—MINI Living challenges people to think about how much space they need, how the space …

Can you go home again?

June 1, 2017

Artist Do Ho Suh often explores the meaning of home, transience and identity in his work. His own journey, which led him from his native South Korea to New York and now London, was the inspiration for Passage/s, a recent exhibition at the Victoria Miro gallery in London. Passage/s explored the idea of home and …

Couture goes digital

More and more, fashion designers are looking to technology for their designs. To demonstrate the possibilities, Epson partnered with 13 designers from North America and Latin America to create one-of-a kind fashions using the company’s textile printers. The designs were showcased at the third annual Epson Digital Couture Project event held in February in advance …

A portrait in tulle

Artist Benjamin Shine is known for creating distinctive pieces using fabric and other unique materials. The British designer, whose great-grandfather was a tailor, started early in the clothing industry working for a fashion company when he was a teenager. That experience sealed his interest in using fabric as a medium. Shine started working with tulle …

A ‘frames and fabrics’ approach

These days, tradeshow booths are evolving to be more adaptable and sustainable by using unique materials. Now Netherlands-based Van Straaten Group and its North American member, Cees Smit Inc., have departed from the norm and developed an eco-friendly trade show booth that is completely wood-free. Using the “frames and fabric” approach, the booth is constructed …

Clothing with a cause

Working for the ROTC at the University of Minnesota Duluth, Tech. Sgt. Jim Lewis interacts with active-duty service members and veterans as well as new recruits. He started to see a pattern among some of the veterans he met; too many of them who suffered with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were not being treated for …

Innovation on the fly

May 1, 2017

When it comes to predicting hurricanes and other severe weather events, getting accurate, up-to-the-minute details can literally be the difference between life and death. Now NASA is developing a glider that could be a game changer in weather prediction. The Weather Hazard Alert and Awareness Technology Radiation Radiosonde (WHAATRR) Glider is the brainchild of students …

The play of color and light

The Piazza della Signoria in Florence, Italy, a plaza central to the city’s history, is a popular tourist attraction and gathering spot. A short walk away, located amidst a series of courtyards, is the Brac Bookstore + Café, a fresh, modern respite from the hubbub of the square. Recently, the 807-square-foot space was renovated to …

Weaving biological tissues

Researchers at the University of New South Wales Sydney (UNSW) have developed a smart fabric with properties similar to the bone tissue periosteum, and are now ready to produce fabric prototypes for a number of different functional materials. In developing the fabric, the biomedical engineers looked to the adaptive properties of plant and animal tissues. …

A forest in fabric

Imagine walking through a dense forest canopy made entirely of fabric. That was the vision of French designer Élise Fouin, who was tasked with showcasing the Sunbrella® Indoor-Outdoor 2015-2017 Fabric Collection in a new and unique way. Fouin created a mosaic of colors in shades ranging from earth red to various hues of green and …

Roofed: dramatic tension

An exciting new stadium is rising on the Canadian prairie. Part of the Regina Revitalization Initiative, the new Mosaic Stadium will be home to the Canadian Football League’s Saskatchewan Roughriders. Slated to open in the summer of 2017, the multipurpose facility seats 33,000 and can expand to 40,000 in order to hold large events like …

Sleek styling for space

April 1, 2017

What does the well-appointed astronaut wear on a shuttle mission? That was the challenge for designers tasked with rethinking the spacesuits to be worn on the Boeing-built CST-100 Starliner that will launch in 2018 and be used for low-Earth orbit missions and trips to and from the International Space Station. The new Starliner spacesuit, which …

Extreme storage, on ice

How do you build an adequate equipment and maintenance facility on the summit of the Greenland Ice Sheet where temperatures fluctuate between -49°F and 14°F and snow fall amounts threaten to bury food and supplies? The National Science Foundation and their operations partner, CH2M Hill, wanted a practical storage option at the Summit Station, home …

Extra muscle, senior style

The typical solution to help an aging person who is losing strength and stamina is to provide assistance that takes away the burden of daily chores and requires less mobility. But what if you could help him or her become more mobile and retain independence and mobility? Now there’s a smart suit that can do …

Texturizing space

The Hirikata T-SITE bookstore, located in a popular shopping center near Osaka, Japan, is a tranquil respite from the busy world. Dramatic two-story walls of books surround customers who are encouraged to sit, read and relax on lounge furniture or in the coffee shop area. The bookstore also features three 26-foot-high floor-to-ceiling windows that flood …

Instant kayak, on the go

Anyone who loves outdoor adventures knows what it’s like to be on a hike, come upon a lake and wish you could just jump in and go. Or, travel light but not miss out on a memorable paddle. That’s the thinking behind a new fully portable kayak. Justin Case Kayak is the brainchild of Canadian …

Sculpted in classical lace

Lace has always played an important role in Dutch culture and art. Think of the painter Vermeer’s “The Lacemaker,” or other works of the time depicting women in traditional lace bonnets. So when the design team Jin Choi and Thomas Shine of Amsterdam-based Choi+Shine Architects was asked to create a piece for the 2016 Amsterdam …

Washington’s wartime headquarters, restored

March 29, 2017

A significant artifact from the Revolutionary War, George Washington’s Headquarters Tent has been restored and is on display at the new Museum of the American Revolution. Just opened in Philadelphia, Pa., in April 2017, the museum tells the story of America’s founding through immersive gallery experiences, object theaters and recreated historical scenes. The tent’s journey …

Mathematics + design = visual drama

March 1, 2017

The science and art of mathematics comes together dramatically in the redesigned Mathematics: The Winton Gallery at London’s Science Museum. A vision of the late architect Zaha Hadid, whose Zaha Hadid Architects created the design in collaboration with curator David Rooney, the exhibit showcases 400 years of mathematics history from the renaissance to the present …

Shapeshifting inflatables

The concept of inflatables is certainly not new; they’re available in every size, shape and color imaginable. But what is new is a process to create inflatables that can fold themselves into complex shapes. MIT Media Lab’s Tangible Media Group has introduced aeroMorph, inflatable structures that have the capacity to fold like Origami all on …

Minimal gear, maximum adventure

The freedom of the open road. It means getting on your motorcycle and going, not worrying about where or when to stop. The equipment a biker takes along can make all the difference. That’s the idea behind the Bivouac tent designed by Swiss-based Expose, a group of outdoor and motorcycle enthusiasts who prefer to travel …

Fashion-forward exhibit: the personal touch

London’s NOW Gallery at Greenwich Peninsula, a public exhibition space for contemporary art and design, was recently transformed into a sea of tulle by hip young fashion designer Mary Goddard. Known for designing flamboyant yet feminine clothing in unlikely materials, Goddard created oversized dresses using about 1300 feet of tulle in vibrant colors and suspended …

Applying the perfect sunscreen

The Musee de L’Homme, a museum of anthropology in Paris, recently reopened its doors after being shuttered for a six-year renovation. One of the goals for the building, which is listed as a historical monument, was to bring space and light into its halls. The project included the creation of the Gallery of Mankind, a …

Local color, in style

It took big ideas and creativity to transform a 45,000-square-foot space into Rebel, Toronto’s hottest new nightclub. Local designer Studio Munge was up to the challenge, mixing bold colors and sensual patterns in multiple layers to create a unique, changing environment that breaks up the two-story space into distinctively themed gathering spaces. Eventscape, a Toronto-based …