Natural Glow: Australia’s Amazing Bioluminescent Lake

By Delana

In the Australian summer of 2008/2009, a hauntingly beautiful phenomenon illuminated the Gippsland Lakes and created scenes that those present will never forget. An unusually high concentration of Noctiluca scintillans, a bioluminescent microorganism, turned the water a bright, glowing, ethereal blue. Photographer Phil Hart was there to document the amazing display.

Noctiluca scintillans – also known as “sea sparkle,” “sea fire,” “sea ghost” and any number of other delightfully romantic-sounding names – are a species of dinoflagellate that feed on algae, plankton and bacteria. In December 2008, a high concentration of blue-green algae called Synechococcus prompted a higher-than-usual population of N. scintillans in the Gippsland Lakes.

When Phil Hart embarked on his annual trek to the lakes, he and his companions discovered a blue luminescence in the water unlike anything any of them had ever seen before. N. scintillans uses its bioluminescence as a defense mechanism, lighting up when it senses a predator coming near. The ghostly glow attracts even larger predators to eat the first predator, keeping the N. scintillans safe to glow another day.

Hart and his friends used this defense mechanism to create some truly incredible photographs. Using a long exposure on his camera, Hart had his friends splash in the water to light up and spread the bioluminescent organisms around. In other photos, Hart used a fast lens and threw sand and pebbles into the water to activate the glow.

(all images via: Phil Hart)

The Melbourne-based photographer marvels at how fortunate he was to see this phenomenon. Not only is it a rare sight at this particular location; it is highly unusual to see this concentration of bioluminescent organisms anywhere in the world. The magical event was truly a breathtaking displays of nature’s unexpected beauty.

Stepping Out: 10 Stupendous Indoor Architectural Slides

By Delana

Remember how much fun it was to zip down the slides at the playground as a kid (or as an adult, depending on your disposition)? The almost-weightless feeling of flying through space was so exhilarating that you just couldn’t wait to climb the stairs and do it again, over and over. Some architects and artists are taking a cue from their younger selves and bringing the gleeful fun of slides into buildings for everyone’s enjoyment. But far from just being indulgent bits of fun for the office or home, they also serve some unexpectedly practical purposes.

Technische Universitat, Munich

(image via: Gizmodo)

Architects seem to be trending toward interactive buildings. No longer are we content to just exist inside of a structure; we want to be able to experience it. That is the idea behind the architectural slide trend. Buildings with interactive elements such as slides provide a point of interest for the people who work and study inside of them – not to mention a tension-breaker, a mid-day laugh and (provided you take the stairs up to the top) even some exercise. This double slide in a college in Munich takes riders from the top floor to the patio on the ground floor in a matter of seconds.

Corus Entertainment, Toronto

(image via: blogTO)

The tubular white slide inside Corus Entertainment’s impressive new Toronto headquarters spans three stories and offers employees and visitors a chance to take a break from whatever grown-up responsibilities they are dealing with and simply enjoy being young at heart for a few moments. Besides offering a fun distraction from the day that lines up well with the company’s area of business, Corus’ slide adds a unique architectural element to their very modern new building.

City Museum, St. Louis

(image via: TravelPod)

The City Museum is a truly fun experience, with all sorts of artistic and creative wonders for visitors of all ages. But everyone becomes a kid again when faced with the massive seven-story indoor slides. The twisty metal slides are rather scary-looking, but who could resist the chance to shoot down a chute that is so distinctive?

Grip Limited, Toronto

(images via: Mashable and Unlimited Magazine)

Indoor slides can add a sense of fun to just about any space (we’re thinking even prisons would be happier with slides), and that’s exactly what the heads of Grip Limited had in mind when installing the “big orange slide” in their Toronto office. The slide represents the fun, open nature of the company and their creative approach to problem-solving. This is what is at the heart of the architectural slide movement: fun, openness, and a willingness to throw the prim, proper adult attitude out the door in favor of taking a more relaxed view.

Google, Zurich

(image via: Treehugger)

Could there be reasons for this trend that extend beyond the instant gratification of having fun at the office? It turns out that many companies which incorporate slides also do so for the health of their employees and visitors. No one takes an elevator to the top of a slide: they run up a set of (usually quite steep) stairs again and again, promoting at least a few moments of exercise and boosting energy. And even people who only use the slide as an egress from an upper floor after riding the elevator up are doing the company – not to mention the planet – a favor by saving the energy that an elevator ride would have used. But judging from the face of this Google employee in the company’s Zurich office, sliders aren’t thinking of the more abstract benefits when they jump on the slide; they just want to feel that rush of wind and joyful burst of speed.

Tate Modern, London

(images via: Carsten Holler and Rory Hyde)

An art museum may be the last place you would expect to see a huge slide, but in the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall an artistic/architectural slide actually fits perfectly into the surroundings. Belgian artist Carsten Holler installed this gigantic sculptural slide in the museum in 2007, inviting visitors to experience art like never before. Placing a slide – traditionally a child’s toy – in the middle of an art museum where patrons are generally asked not to touch anything is a particularly delightful juxtaposition of art and play.

Sliding in to Home

(images via: Dornob 1, 2)

Public spaces aren’t the only places you’ll find architectural slides. These fun additions are making their way into homes all around the world. Whether it’s a child’s playhouse that is topped off by a quick exit from the second floor to the first or a stuffy den that was just screaming out for a fun feature, slides are becoming surprisingly common in residences. And when home is this exciting, even taking out the trash can be a treat!

UK Celebrity Plans on Building Huge Underground Eco-Home

Shaped like an abstract flower and amazing from any aerial view, this underground house is nearly invisible – a rolling hill in the landscape – viewed from on the ground and all around. From below it blends in seamlessly with the natural surroundings. From above it is a beacon in the night. And inside, well, the pictures show it all.

At nearly ten thousand square feet, this house designed by Make Architects for all-star football player Gary Neville is as architecturally daring as it is eco-friendly – it aims to be the first carbon-neutral house in all of Great Britain.

Local materials and traditional construction techniques will reduce transportation and technology waste while geothermal heat, solar roof panels and wind turbines will generate sustainable energy on the site. In short: this house is about as green as it gets on all fronts, inside and out.

This may be the boldest, biggest and best modern underground home plan to date. Sometimes green architecture is makes grass-roots progress – but in other cases it takes someone eccentric with power, money and fame to push the envelop on environmental home construction.

‘Invisible’ Set of Green Homes to be Hidden Underground

underground home design idea

Going green does not just mean eco-friendly building systems and sustainable construction materials. It can also imply a blending with the landscape – an implied recognition that our structures come second to nature. That, at least, is the idea behind this set of remarkable modern underground home designs commissioned by Michael Hill

underground green home design

The restrictions on their construction are severe with good reason: to preserve the rolling hillscape of this former golf course, all of the houses will be nearly entirely underground and environment-disturbing exterior amenities (such as spas or swimming pools) are forbidden as they would spoil the surrounding landscapes. Seventeen homes in total are planned for this expansive stretch of grassy hills.

underground green house design

The design concept revolves around privacy but also around maintaining natural beauty and the seclusion that comes with being in a truly natural setting. While small outdoor fireplaces and courtyards will be permitted much of the design of these homes is interior-focused, including libraries and wine cellars.

Rocket Signs: Space Race Monuments Of The USA & USSR

By Steve

Remember the Space Race? Over the better part of a decade, the world’s two superpowers competed in the coldest of wars far above the atmosphere… and beyond! These 10 Space Race monuments document the milestones achieved by the USA and the USSR that eventually led to one small step for a man; one giant leap for mankind.

Monument to Yuri Gagarin – Moscow, Russia

(images via: Mad Wraith, Anders Thorsell and Yuri Degtyarev)

On April 12th, 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to orbit the Earth. Gagarin, who died in a 1968 plane crash, is commemorated by a number of monuments, sculptures, busts and obelisks highlighted by the Monument to Yuri Gagarin located in Yuri Gagarin Square, Moscow.

(image via: Dave Pyle)

The 131-ft (40 m) tall titanium monument to Yuri Gagarin was erected in July of 1980, and features an inspirational design created by sculptor Pavel Bondarenko. The monument depicts Gagarin in his space suit, arms partially raised as if he were about to leap into the sky.

Mercury Monument, Kennedy Space Center, FL, USA

(images via: NASA Images, Apollo Mission Control Photos and

The Project Mercury Monument is located at Launch Complex 14 (LC-14) at the Kennedy Space Center. On February 20th, 1962, astronaut John Glenn’s Friendship 7 spacecraft rode the flames of an Atlas rocket booster to become the first American to orbit the Earth. The monument combines the number 7, representing the seven original astronauts, with the astronomical symbol of the planet Mercury.

(image via: Food For Thought)

Dedicated on November 10th, 1964, the Mercury Monument commemorates the six Project Mercury missions that lofted American astronauts into space between May 1961 and May 1963. A similar monument to Project Mercury is located in Space View Park, Titusville, Florida, as part of a much larger complex of monuments celebrating the American space program.

Monument to the Conquerors of Space – Moscow, Russia

(images via: Buran-Energia, SkyWookiee and Mungo Teazer)

The Monument to the Conquerors of Space in Moscow, Russia, may be the most awe-inspiring of all Space Age sculptures. Its design (by A.P. Faidysh-Krandievsky in 1964) succeeds in capturing the concept of “escaping the surly bonds of Earth” while remaining, by necessity, attached to the world’s surface. A sculpted frieze along the monument’s base pays tribute to the pioneers of Soviet space exploration and the Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics inside the base (opened in 1981) welcomes approximately 300,000 visitors each year.

(image via: Skyscraper City)

The monument stands 350 feet (107 meters) tall, twice the height of the Statue of Liberty, and is covered with titanium plates that are impervious to tarnish or corrosion. It’s magnificent sweep from ground level to the stylized rocket at its apex crystallizes the impression of a rocket launch and its accompanying plume of smoke and fire.

Gemini Monument at Space View Park – Titusville, FL, USA

(images via: Turbojoe, Kellyv and NASA)

The oft-overlooked Project Gemini encompassed a total of 10 manned missions beginning in March of 1965 and ending with Gemini 12 in November of 1966. The program successfully proved a wide range of space technologies that would prove to be essential for the upcoming series of Apollo moon missions. The monument bears the names of 515 space workers whose efforts were essential to the overwhelming success of Project Gemini.

(image via: A Spacehistory)

The Gemini Monument at Space View Park in Titusville, Florida, consists of a stainless steel Project Gemini logo mounted on a base of polished black granite. The total height of the monument is approximately 22 feet (6.7 meters).

Zhitomir Space Exploration Monument – Zhitomir, Ukraine

(image via: Kiwix)

Zhitomir has a special claim to fame when it comes to space exploration: it’s the birthplace of Sergei Korolëv, who was plucked from Siberian exile to design the USSR’s first space satellites, space capsules and heavy lift rockets.

(images via: UkraineTrek)

The Korolëv Museum is also located in Zhitomir, not far from the Space Exploration Monument, and features several early Soviet rockets mounted on the grounds.

Apollo Monument at Space View Park – Titusville, FL, USA

(images via: Medley, RustyAlaska, NBBD and A Spacehistory)

The Apollo Monument at the US Space Walk of Fame and Museum in Space View Park was dedicated in July of 1994. The sculptures and structures in the park are the result of a partnership between the non-profit US Space Walk of Fame Foundation (USSWOFF) and the City of Titusville, Florida.

(image via: CollectSpace)

The monument commemorates not only the Apollo astronauts, but everyone involved in the immense efforts that saw men land on the moon before 1970, as per the late president John F. Kennedy’s pledge. Said astronaut Alan Shepard of the monument during a 1996 speech, “We need to remember the people who made it possible, so little is said of them.”

Laika Space Dog Monument – Moscow, Russia

(images via: Starr Hendon, Visualrian and Motel De Moka)

The Soviet Union launched Sputnik 2, carrying Laika, the first dog to orbit the Earth, on November 3rd, 1957. The western media dubbed the satellite “Muttnik” but the launch only added to the Soviet space program’s prestige. As for Laika, she didn’t survive the mission though there were never any plans to recover the capsule safely. Though Laika died approximately 5 to 7 hours after launch from stress and overheating, she did succeed in demonstrating that lifeforms could withstand the effects of a rocket launch into orbit.

(image via: The People’s Cube)

In April of 2008, a monument to Laika was unveiled in Moscow just outside the research institute that originally planned the mission. The monument shows a bronzed sculpture of Laika standing on a combination rocket and human hand. Passersby often leave fresh flowers or dog toys at Laika’s feet, showing the affection Russian citizens still feel for their four-legged space pioneer.

Space Mirror Memorial – Kennedy Space Center, FL, USA

(images via: Sparks68, Florida Today and Ed McGill)

The Space Mirror Memorial differs from other, more statuesque monuments in that no human or mechanical representation is included. Instead, the names of 24 American astronauts who died while members of the astronaut program have their names cut into the mirror allowing light from behind to illuminate them. The mirror’s construction makes it seem as if the names of the fallen astronauts are floating in the sky.

(image via: Mosley.Brian)

The astronauts commemorated on the Space Mirror Memorial are grouped together in cases such as the Apollo 1 or Challenger disasters in which the astronauts perished on the same mission and/or occasion. The names range chronologically from that of Theodore C. Freeman, who died in a T-38 jet crash on October 31st, 1964, to the Space Shuttle Columbia’s crew whose vehicle broke up upon re-entry on February, 1st, 2003.

Cosmonaut Monument – Kaliningrad, Russia

(images via: Where Is Larry, Getty Images, Paul Flury and Mil_Es)

The Cosmonaut Monument in Kaliningrad (formerly the German East Prussian city of Konigsberg) was built to honor cosmonauts Alexey Leonov (who performed the first space walk), Yuri Romanenko (who was in space a total of 430 days) and Aleksandr Viktorenko (whose space missions totaled 489 days).

(images via: Ricardas Vysniauskas, Flickr/Kaliningrad and The Baltic Coast To Prague)

This rather large monument displays hallmarks of heavy-handed Soviet style but the colorful tiled base and embossed bronze plaques depicting the cosmonauts help give the monument a warm, human touch.

Illegal Moon Landing Monument – Krakow, Poland

(images via: PolandSite and Dziennik)

Our final space exploration monument ties together the USA and the USSR in an unexpected way – via a short-lived and illegal monument that appeared on the grounds of a local stadium in Krakow, Poland. The 19.5 foot (6 meter) tall statue, depicting a stylized figure reaching for the sky, was constructed in secret by residents of Krakow and its unveiling surprised and infuriated communist authorities all the way to Moscow.

(image via: WorldNews)

Poles were aware of the American moon landing because Poland was the only Communist bloc country to directly broadcast the event on television. Word of the Krakow monument escaped party censorship and President Nixon sent a congratulatory telegram to Polish communist party secretary Gomu?ka, which did not help matters locally. To our knowledge, the Krakow moon landing monument has not been rebuilt, which is a pity considering the vast changes in US-Polish relations since the fall of communism. Such a gesture would serve well to commemorate giant steps for mankind… on the moon and here on Earth.

12 Life-Like 3D Renderings of Remarkable Interior Spaces

Sometimes a sketch is intentionally vague, to let the onlooker’s imagination fill in the blanks. In other cases, something more photo-realistic is called for, like this stunning series of images that looks almost more real than reality itself.

When someone like motion graphics designer Lilit Hayrapetyan has a vision of what a home could look like, computers increasingly make it not only possible but feasible in a limited time frame to render space in full color, vibrant texture and with complex light and shadow like never before.

The particular series of rooms shown above draws on a variety of cultural sources and shows off the possibilities of using various materials to give warmth to the abode. Wall art, bare brick, chipped concrete and faded paint all add to the convincing sense of these being actual lived-in rooms.

In some shots, there is clearly post-production work (or too-clean edges) that reveals the image to be less than natural. All the same, the effect is convincing, and any client could learn a lot about their house-to-be before it was built by looking at such gorgeous and complete snapshots.

Not sure about that shiny surface on the kitchen cabinets? No worries – let’s take a look at that in faux-wood finish. The catch, of course, is that realism can be blinding – a viewer can become hung up on the details in a way that more sketch-like approaches help avoid.

Faux Finishes: Awesome Plywood & MDF Architecture

By Steph

Plywood and other manufactured wood building materials are like the undergarments of architecture – foundational elements that are then covered with a more stylish, finished layer. But their low cost, strong grain, flexibility and the sheer shock of seeing them prominently featured in modern design has given them a more visible role. From kitchen islands finished in humble waferboard to entire houses clad in marine plywood, manufactured wood gives us a glimpse of what it can do in these 13 projects.

Multi-Level Plywood Maze in Fukawa, Japan

(images via: dezeen)

Plywood pops up in this home in Fukawa, Japan in the most unexpected way – as the main material used to create an interior stairway that branches off into various rooms and platforms. Created by Japanese architecture firm Suppose Design Office, the unusual structure is intended to break up a high-ceilinged space, making it appear larger than it actually is.

Colorful MDF Cladding Contrasts with Cedar

(images via: archdaily)

MDF in the ever-changing hues of surrounding deciduous trees makes a stunning contrast with silvery weathered cedar in this Green Lake, Wisconsin house by Johnsen Schmaling Architects. In pursuit of a modern look that blends in with the natural surroundings, the architects chose a low profile and interspersed the colorful MDF, cedar and glass for an effect that mimics the view one gets between trees in a forest.

XS House Finished in Marine Plywood, Massachusetts

(images via: archdaily)

Strong, waterproof marine-grade plywood makes a warm, modern sheath for the XS House in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Architects UNI/Chaewon Kim + Beat Schenk stacked three 16-by-22-foot boxes vertically to get as much use out of a small divided lot as possible. Inside, the plywood theme is continued on the staircase on the first floor, and serves as the main wall covering throughout the second floor.

Dbd Studio’s Digitally Fabricated MDF Bookshelf

(images via: design milk)

Not many materials bend and flow quite so effortlessly in an application like this fluid free-form bookcase by dbd Studio, which acts as both functional storage and a sculptural art piece in a Washington, D.C. apartment. MDF is an ideal material for digitally fabricated furniture, which is designed and cut using computer programs.

Amazing Birch Plywood Ceiling at Banq Restaurant, Boston

(images via: freshome)

Birch plywood was used to completely transform an abandoned space – the former Penny Savings Bank in Boston – into an unforgettable dining space. The design is like an enormous wave undulating from one side of the room to the other, dripping down in columns to the floor. The resulting wood ‘canopy’ hides unsightly elements like mechanical equipment, vents and plumbing.

Veneered Plywood at Nishimura Restaurant, Los Angeles

(images via:

It took 1,000 sheets of plywood to create the 4-foot-thick, 30-foot-long wall that divides the sushi bar from the dining area in Los Angeles’ Nishimura Restaurant. The sheets had to be laminated in place before it was sanded smooth and waxed, and what results is a warm wall that resembles bamboo in its variation of lights and darks. Engineered oak veneers were also used for the booths in the main dining room.

MDF Honeycomb Wall, Germany

(images via: dezeen)

Architecture students at the Institute for Lightweight Structures and Conceptual Design at the University of Stuttgart in Germany created this incredible honeycomb-inspired MDF wall, which acts as a display stand for art exhibitions. Each honeycomb ‘cell’ is uniquely angled to provide a defined focal point, steering the gaze of viewers onto specific objects behind the wall. “Each element of the structure is unique, generated by algorithms based on the location of the wall and the locations of the items exhibited. Once generated, the element shapes were transferred directly to a CNC mill for fabrication,” the students explain.

Plywood Parisian Loft

(images via: loft life)

‘Chic’, ‘Parisian’, ‘Loft’ and ‘Plywood’ – which one of these words doesn’t belong? It’s one of the last materials you’d expect to take center stage in a fashionable European apartment, but in this otherwise all-white loft, the grain of plywood panels provides a natural touch of pattern.

Prominent Waferboard at Cubby House

(images via: archdaily)

Made from flakes of wood glued together into a flat planel, waferboard is both strong and cheap, but it’s not pretty – or at least, it’s not often used in ways that cause us to consider its visual value. But it’s certainly not hiding behind paint and drywall in this application, as the exterior surface for kitchen cabinets and an island. For ‘Cubby House’, a renovation of an apartment in Melbourne, Australia, architecture firm Edwards Moore contrasted the rough, tactile surface of waferboard with the smooth uniformity of the walls and floors surrounding it.

Chalet Lanel Plywood Home, France

(images via: plastolux)

Pale plywood and textural exposed concrete make a strong statement at ‘Chalet Lanel’, a home in France. In fact, plywood covers nearly every surface – walls, ceiling, built-in niches – even the bed platform.

Faceted Plywood Cafe Bar, Poland

(images via: dezeen)

A large faceted plywood bar acts as the centerpiece at MS cafe, located on the ground floor of the Muzeum Sztuki in Lodz, Poland. Design studio Wunderteam wanted to reflect the museum’s avant-garde collection throughout the space, and the bar – made of wooden triangular planes interspersed with back-lit plexiglass panels – is definitely cutting-edge.

Black Painted Plywood Interior, Tokyo

(images via: archdaily)

Most of the architectural and interior designs that have self-consciously included exposed plywood have left it bare, but what kind of impact does it make when painted? Architecture firm GENETO paints it black in this Tokyo home, aiming for bold built-ins that can be produced economically. Up close, the wood grain can still be seen, preventing the black from overpowering the space.

Stuttgart Plywood Research Pavilion, Germany

(images via:

The architectural students at the University of Stuttgart prove that manufactured wood surfaces are good for larger applications as well with this incredible plywood pavilion, located on the university campus. ““The starting point of our deliberations was one of the properties of plywood, the potential of which has not been exploited for structural purposes up until now,” said student Manuel Vollrath. “What I mean by that is its elasticity, resulting from the inherent stresses in the material.” The whole complex process of creating such a structure is laid out at