Monday, October 31, 2011



Recognized designer of modern furniture, architectural products, and LED lighting.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

This 'Safe House' may be right up your alley

We all know about a panic room, but a team of architects literally thought inside the box to come up with the ultimate safety zone for anyone harbouring apocalyptic thoughts.

The Safe House, built on the outskirts of Warsaw, Poland, is about as secure as any above-ground home will ever be - at the touch of a selection of buttons the house closes into an impregnable concrete cube

Doors and windows are sealed from the outside world using powerful concrete panels, and the only way to get in our out once the place has been shut up is via a second-floor entrance protected by a rising drawbridge.
Rather redundantly, the property is also surrounded by a wall.

Polish architectural firm KWK Promes, the architects behind the design, wrote on its website: 'The most essential item for our clients was acquiring the feeling of maximum security.'

Anyone still feeling threatened after the Safe House closes up might want to think about professional help.

The fortress effect is achieved by a series of moving walls and shutters. In 'open' mode, concrete slabs either swing or slide out to reveal windows and doorways that let in a remarkable amount of light.

When closing, metal shutters provide additional security.

And there's no reason to sacrifice comfort for security - the design features all the mod-cons and everything that a reclusive family may desire.

The architects don't reveal how long it takes for the entire property to clam up (presumably for security reasons), nor do they reveal what happens if the whole thing malfunctions and the cube becomes a well-appointed tomb.

In that event, there's undoubtedly plenty of storage space for food and water.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Architect - Marcio Kogan - Cury House


Part and parcel of Kogan's work is the purity and simplicity of the box. At closer look, though, the simplicity belies the immense requirement for detail and workmanship to achieve this simplicity.

The photos clearly show the free flow of natural daylight and passive ventilation.

"The Cury House is the alignment of design, of exhaustingly elaborated details, and of execution."

- Marcio Kogan

"The use of the materials, the form, the intention of the design, quietly materialize, as was thought out on the drawing board. This well-defined design is conjectured in the architectural detail. Each tiny re-entering angle of the house had been projected. The cleanliness and organization of the project are evident in the completed house.

The workmanship, meticulous handicraft labor, gives weight, form and color to the architecture.
In the entrance to the house, a small atrium links the spaces together: the path to the dining room and the kitchen, the living-room and, vertically, to the bedrooms on the first story and a small intimate area on the top floor. In this room, two large wooden lathe doors open onto a deck where, on one side there is a beautiful view of the city and, on the other, looks out to the garden that, further downstairs, continues out from the grand living room.

The living-room opens entirely: two window moldings are entirely imbedded into the wall, constituting a continuous open and free space while offering a cross-ventilation between the two gardens. There is no interference of the structure in this area. The garden is structured by a wooden floor, a reflecting pool and minimalist vegetation. The interplay of volumes builds a surprisingly free and continuous space.

Text by Gabriel Kogan

Photographs by Leonardo Finotti
Lifted from

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Architect - Unsangdong - "Dancing Apartments"

South Korean architects, Unsangdong, conceived "Dancing Apartments." According to the architect, the structure is “characterized by oblique forms. Each individual volume is an apartment unit, with its own terrace. Giant "S" cantilevers act as structural levels, compensating for each unit's load.”

From an architectural engineering standpoint, this project looks to pose a fun challenge of load distribution and stress.

The renderings, though, left me a bit perplexed, as the trees planted on the terraces looked to only have 6 to 8 inches of soil in which to grow. Perhaps one of those splashy features that the developers waggle in prospective buyers' faces, only to rescind it, once the non-refundable downpayment has been received, and reality takes effect.

For the long term, I recommend moss.

The 'Tetris' style puzzle pattern of apartment units doesn't appear to bode well for fluid traffic or livability, and the random, oblique angles are redolent of arbitrary, thematic architecture, but I guess it sells.

Indeed, this Unsangdong project, to me, will remain unsung.

Nonetheless, the project does promote green roofs, which mitigate impervious cover and heat island issues. We support it, and encourage it.



Panko-Encrusted Salmon Avocado Roll

Serves 4 (or 8 as teaser)

16 oz salmon center cut - 1/4" pcs
4 sheets nori (seaweed sheets)
2 avocados
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 eggs lightly beaten
2 cups toasted bread crumbs
Canola oil, for frying
2 shallots, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon fresh grated wasabi
1 tablespoon soy sauce
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil


Lay each piece of salmon on a sheet of nori (on a bamboo mat) towards the bottom half.

Season and lay down avocado slices and beansprouts and roll tightly like maki sushi.

Place flour, egg and panko in 3 separate dishes. Roll sushi in flour, then egg, then panko and fry at 375 degrees F until golden brown, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a blender, add the shallots, wasabi, soy and lemon juice and blend. Drizzle in the oil.

Friday, February 27, 2009


Want to see the future of lighting?

The world's largest lighting convention. The vanguard of sustainable architectural lighting converge upon New York, illuminating every blind alley and rusted fire escape.

500 exhibitors
21000 attendees
Lighting Seminars from industry experts

Tradeshow & Conference - May 5-7
LIGHTFAIR Daylighting Institute - May 3-4
Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, New York, NY

More information:
Full list of exhibitors here.

What about the WordCloud

Many have asked SustainableModern about the wordcloud at the bottom of the blog.

Wordclouds are dynamically-generated graphics that are a great way to get a quick idea on what a website / blog is all about. The size of each word is proportional to the frequency that that word is employed.

Create your own WordCloud here.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


Because architectural LED lighting is becoming more and more mainstream, the availablility is increasing, and the prices are decreasing.

Many compelling reasons to consider LED lighting.

One of my favorite attributes of architectural LED lighting, is that you don't require huge, unwieldy, unsightly fixtures, when employing LEDs.
Instead, you can light your space - whether with task-lighting, wall-washers, way-finding, down-lighting, uplighting, etc., with tiny points of LED light, becoming a beautiful stylistic element. When off, however, the tiny fixtures are virtually invisible, as pictured here, courtesy of
I've included a comparison, lifted from a few sites, of LED, CFL, and incandescent, so you can be the judge.

LEDs' are the superior choice over incandescent and Compact Fluorescent, for a multitude of reasons.
LED's use very little energy, often far less than the compact fluorescent bulbs that are currently being marketed as 'energy saving'. This translates to significant savings on your power bill.
LED's last a staggering 50 000hrs+ which means they will last 10 years even with heavy usage. This makes them much cheaper than other bulbs in the long term but also saves the time and inconvenience of having to change bulbs regularly, particularly in hard to reach places.
LED's emit no UV light and are safe for people with health problems that are affected by fluorescent lights.
LED's produce very little heat, greatly reducing the strain on air conditioning systems and therefore further reducing energy comsumption
LED's can be retro fitted into most standard lighting fixtures.
LED's emit no audible buzz that can make fluorescent bulbs very annoying and interfere with radio frequencies.
LED's are mercury free, unlike compact fluorescent, and they pose no immediate threat if they are broken and they do not require hazardous waste disposal. Compact fluorescents are highly toxic if broken and do require hazardous waste disposal.
LED's come in a huge range of styles and colours to suit any application.
LED's are shock and vibration resistant, there are no fragile filaments that can be easily damaged.
Long-lasting - LED bulbs last up to 10 times as long as compact fluorescents, and far longer than typical incandescents.
Durable - since LEDs do not have a filament, they are not damaged under circumstances when a regular incandescent bulb would be broken. Because they are solid, LED bulbs hold up well to jarring and bumping.
Cool - these bulbs do not cause heat build-up; LEDs produce 3.4 btu's/hour, compared to 85 for incandescent bulbs. This helps reduce the heat island effect.Mercury-free - no mercury is used in the manufacturing of LEDs.
More efficient - LED light bulbs use only 2-10 watts of electricity (1/3rd to 1/30th of Incandescent or CFL) Small LED flashlight bulbs will extend battery life 10 to 15 times longer than with incandescent bulbs.
Also, because these bulbs last for years, energy is saved in maintenance and replacement costs. For example, many cities in the US are replacing their incandescent traffic lights with LED arrays because the electricity costs can be reduced by 80% or more.
Cost-effective - although LEDs are more expensive than incandescent or CFLs, the cost is recouped over time due to dramatically lower power consumption
Light for remote areas - because of the low power requirement for LEDs, using solar panels becomes more practical and less expensive than running an electric line or using a generator for lighting.

Some of the better pricing I've seen on LED bulbs that work with normal household fixtures (i.e.: GU10, MR16, JDR (Screw-in) are found at:


Indo-Ethiopian Fried Oysters
Serves 4
1 pint shucked oysters (fresh, not frozen)
3 egg whites, beaten almost to a froth
1 1/2 cups of besan (indian chickpea flower)
1 tbsp Mit-mit'a (ethiopian spicy melange)
peanut oil - enough for deep-frying

Rinse the oysters in cold water, and strain.

In a large, deep skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Soak batches of the oysters (don't overcrowd) in the egg-whites, then transfer to the bowl of besan, and ensure full coverage. Fry the batches in oil until crispy, then transfer to plate or bowl, lined with paper towels. Allow to drain, then sprinkle the Mit-mit'a over the finished product.

Most Mit-mit'a melanges already have salt, so be sure to taste before adding more salt.

You can order Mit-mit'a off the web at many places, including here.

So delicious, that even non-fried-food-eaters jostle each other aside to eat this.

Consider investing $5 in a spider, a wire-mesh utensil for scooping the fried morsels out of the oil. Much easier, safer, and faster.


Sackler Crossing, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

SustainableModern will always herald the LED as the best lighting approach for the fact that LED lighting is both richly sustainable, being fully recyclable and requring low power consumption and enables minimalist, modern designs and distribution of light.

Article below courtesy of Architectural Record & Architectural SSL

The London- and Edinburgh-based lighting design firm Speirs and Major Associates’ portfolio boasts a gamut of neon-hued urban landmarks, ranging from the Bridge of Aspiration in London to developments in Dubai. But a recent commission to illuminate The Sackler Crossing, a John Pawson–designed footbridge at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, offered a unique exercise in subtlety: designing for a historic site while maintaining a concern for its ecology.

Situated in southwest London between Richmond and Kew, the 167-year-old Botanic Gardens is a sprawling research and education institution that has collected more than an eighth of all known plant species. When first asked to illuminate Pawson’s bridge, which spans the banks of a central lake, project designer Philip Rose wondered whether LED lighting would adversely affect the plants and historic landscapes of the Botanic Gardens. “We questioned if the bridge should be illuminated, given the possible light pollution and the environmental impact the lighting may have on the local flora and fauna,” he says.

Following the advice of the Botanic Gardens’ herbologists and ecologists, Speirs and Major developed a Minimalist design solution that complements both landscape and structure. Custom LED fittings embedded within the bridge project a warm gradient of light up each of the 1,000 freestanding bronze balustrades that enclose the walkway, creating a diaphanous perimeter that is reflected in the lake. “The lighting concept was developed to help reinforce [the architect’s] concept of walking on water, with the bridge deck seeming to float just above the water’s surface,” Rose says. Moreover, the light does not spread into the immediate habitat.
Speirs and Major also uplit a nearby cluster of trees with floodlights and ceramic metal-halide spotlights. The overall composition not only underscores the area as a visual and programmatic nexus in the gardens’ revised master plan, but allows visitors “to understand the relationship between the architecture, the water, and its natural setting,” Rose says. “It gestures toward the gardens’ long tradition of revealing ‘the picturesque.’”

Full text:

1-watt uplights by AcDc Lighting Systems feature a frosted glass lens that is bonded to the top of the ficture to eliminate any visible bevel. The aim of the project was to subtly illuminate the elegant pedestrian bridge in a manner that would require low power consumption and little maintenance. The custom-designed white exterior LED uplights were recessed into the granite of the bridge deck and located between the bronze fin balustrade, the reflection of which generated a soft, warm glow.

Architect - John Pawson
Lighting Design - Spier & Major Associates
Lighting systems - AcDc Lighting Systems

Friday, February 20, 2009

Interview with Marcio Kogan - Brazilian Architect


Marcio Kogan, long known for his modern, Brazilian minimalist architecture, is also a very solid proponent of sustainability. I've included a rare interview transcript below, courtesy of Wallpaper, original text found here.

Wallpaper* grabbed a recent opportunity to catch up with Brazilian architect Marcio Kogan, who took us through his ideas about life, architecture and his passion for São Paulo.

What is your guiding design principle?
We always seek to use a simple design with a mix of materials that are typically Brazilian. And we like to contrast materials.

Who are two of your heroes?
In the Osler House, we incorporated a ceramic panel that was specially designed by Athos Bucão. It was his last project. He did all of the classic Brasilia panels for Oscar Niemeyer and Lucio Costa. The incredible João Filgueiras Lima, or Lelé as he’s better known – he was a genius of sustainability long before the idea became commonplace.

Why are you so fascinated with the box form?
I enjoy its ludic aspect. To me, it seems to be the most natural form to use throughout the architectural process.

So much of your work is based in São Paulo. Architecturally, what emotions does the city stir in you?I am addicted to São Paulo. It’s one of the most interesting cities in the world. It is absolutely chaotic, ugly, polluted and any other unpleasant adjectives one might imagine, but with energy that is absolutely fantastic and unparalleled. The mixture of everything creates a unique and impassioned personality.

What’s in store for the city?
Even greater chaos. Its infrastructure develops at a slower pace than its growth.

Which of your buildings is your favourite?
Mi Casa Vol. B in São Paulo. But when we finish the island house in Paraty, Rio de Janeiro, that will be my favourite.

Which building do you wish you had designed?The Barcelona pavilion by Mies Van Der Rohe.

What's a well designed building?
I have always admired Brazilian modernism that began in the 1930s. Incredible work was done by dozens of starchitects like Lucio Costa, Lina Bo Bardi, Oscar Niemeyer, Rino Levi and Affonso Reidy. It’s always surprising to me that in the early and mid-20th century, Brazil produced the projects that it did – so simple and elegant. A lesson for our superfluous world in crisis.

And so what’s a badly designed building?
It is not a question of beautiful or ugly. What bothers me is the exaggeration in architecture today: it’s almost baroque and very costly. Recently, I participated in an exhibit of international architecture in Barcelona and – amid all the sophisticated and expensive designs and starchitects – the project I liked most was actually not a building but one related to renewable resources. The Community Cooker is, simply, a very low-tech process by the Kenyan company Planning Systems Services where garbage is turned into fuel. By our standards, it would be considered ugly, but it provides sustenance for thousands of people. So, which matters more? As Oscar Niemeyer would say, “Life is more important than architecture”.

What will Marcio Kogan be doing 10 years from now?
I hope to be alive.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


Basic Pesto

2 cups tightly packed basil leaf
1/3 cup pignoli (pine nuts)
1/2 cup freshly-grated parmesan / romano
5 cloves garlic
1/2 cup strong, green olive oil
sea salt to taste
Freshly ground white pepper

For optimal smoothness, grate garlic and cheese before placing into processor.
Pulse basil, pignoli, garlic, and parmesan until becomes a rough paste.
With engine running, slowly pour olive oil through feed tube. If pesto is too dry, add more olive oil.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

If you plan to freeze and consume later, make the pesto without pignoli and cheese, adding only at time of thaw.

Architect - Isay Weinfeld (Part i) - Residencia Morumbi


A solid subscriber to the "Tropical Modern" architectural movement, Isay Weinfeld is among the edgier modern architects from Brazil.
Signature element of Weinfeld's residential works is the nondescript streetside face that belies the warmth, beauty and luxury within. Clean, unadorned exterior planes, strategic choice and omission of windows, convertible spaces, blurring the lines between indoor and outdoor, passive ventilation, natural daylighting, and dramatic simplicity are key elements of Weinfeld's architecture.

But one example in Weinfeld's prolific portfolio is the Morumbi house. The grinding chaos of Sao Paulo is forgotten inside the walls of this house. Two intersecting glass walls open away from each other through the use of sliding glass wall panels, creating a protected pavilion space, ideal for gathering with friends, to watch the sheer curtains sough in the prevailing breezes.

photos Leonardo Finotti,
Leonardo Finotti

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Architect - Zaha Hadid (Part I) - The Hungerburg Funicular, Innsbruck, Austria


I'm a great fan of Zaha Hadid - an architect who is as fervently practical as she is aesthetic.
In the true spirit of her signature free-form architecture, Zaha Hadid has created a dramatic structure at the Hungerberg Funicular in Innsbruck, Austria. Most notable of the project is the striking translucent white glass canopy structures with flowing lines at the entrance of the funicular facility. To me, it resembles a collapsing snowdrift, frozen in time. The challenge was to discreetly illuminate the glass from within, to create the semblance of floating on air.

The lighting design, however, was what truly made the project dramatic - courtesy of Zumtobel. They took advantage of the curved surfaces to take advantage of the light and dark play. The handrails were also custom-designed by Zumtobel, where the LEDs were integrated into the hardware of the handrails. LEDs are recessed into the concrete walls. Composed of a combination of metal halide lamps and LEDs, the overall light plan of the project helps create a dreamlike quality.

With the incorporation of LED lighting, the quality and purity of the light was enhanced, while reducing the overall power consumption.

Product - Kinetic Energy from Revolving Door Generates Electricity

Designed by FluxxLab, the Revolution Door harnesses the otherwise wasted kinetic energy of revolving doors, and converts it into electrical energy.
Existing revolving doors already use gearing or highly viscous fluid to dampen their spin. The kinetic energy is dissipated in these systems so the door spins within a relatively predictable range of speeds, preventing malicious people from pushing the door into other people.

The difference here is that the internal resistance of the generator serves as the dampener, thus generating electricity.

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