Category Archives: architecture

Miscellanea: clearing the favourites backlog

These articles and links caught my attention over the last while and have collected in my favourites folder. Time to deal with the link delivery backlog:

International development

A missionary-activist (aka ‘Tarzan agitator’) helping protect Amazonian tribes from oil and mining companies – from The Guardian.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation vs ‘Extreme humanitarianism’

Is aid doing Haiti more harm than good?

Gardian article: before you pay to volunteer abroad, think of the harm you might do.

Western vs Chinese aid: Which is better? – from Moneyweb

Good interactive graphic of the Corruption Index 2010

Losing our history:

Article chronicling the destruction of some of South Africa’s irreplaceable industrial heritage, through indifference and neglect.

A view on whether Christchurch’s iconic bell tower should be restored after the earthquake –  by Simon Jenkins

Detroit in Ruins – photographs by Yves Marchand and Romaine Meffre (also see this article: Detroit: the Ultimate Food Desert)

However see this grittily uplifting superbowl ad: Imported from Detroit

New thinking and projects in sustainability and design:

A treatment plant that converts sewerage to clean water, biogas energy and compost – by Amaresco in the US. (Expect to see more like this as cities realise that there needs to be a closed loop of resource use if we are ever going to be come sustainable)

Beyond food miles – from the Oil Drum.

Interview with John Egan on the importance of design

Article from Fast Company on roll-out of electric car charging stations

Also from Fast Company: The rise of the Aerotropolis

Civil and infrastructure engineering:

‘Civilised streets’ – A report from CABE (which has subsequently been shut down by the UK govt in a misguided attempt to save money)

Fantastic website on mini-roundabouts by someone who really understands his craft.

CSIR guide to Potholes

A guided tour of London’s sewer system

A Guide to South African Passes and Poorts. (More comprehensive than the Getaway book thats currently on sale)


An article in the Financial Mail that shares my scepticism on High Speed rail in South Africa. (Lets rather spend the money on urban rail)

Interview with Charles Taylor of Ballito

Nomkhubulwane – an Andries Botha elephant

The above two are from Comment from the Couch, a blog dedicated to hot-dipped galvanising.

Dennis Guichard – architectural and engineering photographer


Two articles you get when you google ‘design efficiency’: here and here. I always though the process of design could be efficient to varying degrees, hence the name of this blog, but I never considered actually trying to measure it, as they have done.

An incredibly smart guy who solved a Cypher Security Challenge. (He won a season ticket to Bletchley Park for his efforts…)

An ode to butter and butter making


Miscellanea on Africa, development, PoMo and more

This from random links that I have ‘favourited’ over the last while and want recorded for future reference…

It looks like the world’s oil reserves have been deliberately overstated.

The ‘Green Agenda’ may be good for developed countries but perhaps counterproductive for developing countries.

A really good initaitive in Cape Town with the faith and business communities working together for the Common Good. (Can LIV be the catalyst for something similar in Durban?) Also 350 bible verses relating to ‘creation care’.

One of the results you get when you google ‘postmodern engineering’ (PoMo = postmodern)

A Times article on electric buses.

An interview with innovative American town planner Peter Calthorpe: The City of Tomorrow, together with his urban network concept.

An excellent primer on sustainability in the built environment: Playbook for Green Buildings and Neighborhoods.

What the industry wants – brief but perceptive thoughts from Seth Godin on how big business influences what we eat and our healthcare choices.

A link to Park-Tec because they have a picture of a security gate with great architectural desgn.

Singaporian design and sustainability consultancy I have worked with – CPG.

China is buying Africa, and Africa stands by while other Africans continue with self destructing their countries. Meanwhile young middle-class Westerners try and help – but does it?

The darker side of Dubai (I hope to elaborate on this at some stage).

A South African engineer with (I think) some of the same intentions as me.

Solar water disinfection – water treatment could not be lower tech…

An article on Scott Harrison, whom I have mentioned before and is someone you really should know.

A mobile phone based home energy management system.

Green wall eco flop

Paradise Park
Paradise Park

This looks like a serious case of a client and architect hopping on to the green bandwagon and then falling off with a crash… my last post was on Patrick Blanc, a scientist who has for years studied what attributes are required for a successful ‘vertical garden’ and has a track record of many installations around the world.

Enter a local council and an architectural practice looking for a green icon in the borough. It was decided a ‘living wall’ was the statement they needed and went ahead, notably without any input from Patrick Blanc. Well, they got what they wanted, according to the Architect’s Journal, it was high profile and was shortlisted for and apparently won some awards. But two years later – well look at the photo. The Architects Journal has an article with some scathing quotes from other practitioners and other architects commenting on the article don’t hold back.
My take-home thougths on this:
  1. Greenwashing anyone? There is a lot of infrastructure, materials, pumps and maintenence required to make it work. Ostensibly a green wall should contribute to insualtion, cooling and so on but whether it outweighs the embodied input is questionable.
  2. Beware of fads in architecture. Unlike clothing fashion its not easy to change a style after two years and it will remain, mocking…
  3. Architecture awards are not a good indicator of good architecture.
  4. What is it about local government and maintenence? It seems like it was a lack of maintenence of the irrigation pump system. (They are not admitting it of course).
  5. What is wrong with just using a creeper? Grows in the ground, naturally clings to the wall, needs same amount of maintenence, looks pretty much the same…

A good looking book by Howard Liddell that takes aim at the green hubris is Ecominimalism: the antidote to eco-bling.

Patrick Blanc Vertical Garden

Vertical Gardens

Open Source Architecture

Open Architecture Network

Open Source Architecture for Africa

Open source engineering anyone..?

Masdar City

Been meaning to link to this for a while…















Masdar – official site

Masdar – wikipedia

A summary from Melange

Foster + Partners Project Description

Beyond Crass: Germaine Greer’s day in Dubai

She didn’t like it.