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A Great Green Wall

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The Great Wall of China will have some competition when Africa’s Great Green Wall project comes to fruition. Once completed it will be the largest man-made structure on Earth and a new Wonder of the World. The project, backed by more than 20 African nations, received funding this week by world leaders and heads of international agencies at COP21–with $4 billion pledged over the next five years. The Wall aims to restore land and plant a 8,000km line of plants and trees across the entire African continent with the goal of providing food, jobs and a future for the millions of people who live in a region on the frontline of climate change.   

A virtual reality film–Growing a World Wonder–by Venturethree (who recently branded the project) producer Al Maxwell and VR specialists Apache has recently launched, telling the story of a young Senegalese girl and her family who have been given hope by the prospect of this Great Green Wall.

32 Days to the New Cooper Hewitt

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“Renovation” does not do justice to the changes that have been made to this beloved institution. Re-opening in just 32 days, the completely face-lifted, sixty-four room, one hundred plus year old mansion (as well as the Arthur Ross Terrace + Garden and two townhouses on East 90th St.) seeks to redefine the museum experience. Even their font was transformed.

A team of leading design firms joined forces to realize the project. Gluckman Mayner developed the vision for the interiors collaborating with Beyer Blinder Belle. Hood Design tied the garden to neighboring Central Park. Diller Scofidio + Renfro designed exhibitions and a new retail space; Thinc Design conceived the Tools exhibit and Local Projects created interactive media including an Immersion Room where visitors select digital images of wallpapers – or sketch their own – and project them onto the walls.

(Too impatient to wait for the the opening? You can download your own 3D model museum, and engineer your own design.)

California Living

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Beginning March 29, the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) in Salem, Massachusetts will present California Design, 1930-1965: Living in a Modern Way. More than 250 mid-century design artifacts, including furniture, textiles, fashion, and vehicles will immerse the viewer in the airy California style that Charles and Ray Eames, Richard Neutra, and RM Schindler made iconic. The progressive designs are contextualized with information that reflects on the period’s social, cultural, and creative consciousness. The goal of these designers, according to the exhibition’s curator Barron Bailly, was “to make everyday life beautiful and comfortable.” The groundbreaking exhibition organized by the LACMA is the first major study of modern California design, and PEM is its only stop on the East Coast. Catch it before it closes July 6.

Image via PEM

Cineteca Nacional

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Mexico City has a beautifully updated National Film Archive and Film Institute thanks to the work of Rojkind Arquitectos. The institution’s renovation incorporates intricate new structures like an angular aluminum canopy perforated with triangles, an outdoor amphitheater, and a two-story zone for shops that have transformed the well-trodden campus (a frequently used cut-through to a nearby metro station) into a popular social and cultural hub for the community. The building’s renewal continued internally with the addition of four extra screening rooms, two archive vaults, and a museum dedicated to the history of Latin America cinema. What was once a ‘temporary facility’ that partially burned down in 1982, is now a welcoming complex that is used by thousands of people a day as a pathway, lunch spot, and event space.

Image by Marysol*

Creative Play

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A new company, Free Play, specially designs delightful and thoughtful abstract playgrounds that encourage creative play. After noticing his daughters’ obsession with the hulking metal structures in a Richard Serra exhibition at the MoMA, Dan Schriebman began to brainstorm ideas for a playground that children actually wanted to use. The results are sculptural designs that encourage a different engagement than run of the mill swings and slides, motivating ‘unstructured play’ where kids can explore, discover, and reconfigure. This kind of imaginative play is proven to be critical to a child’s intellectual, physical, and social development. The first set of structures will be unveiled at a new FIFA stadium in Al Ain, UAE.

Image Free Play via Wired

Design Shanghai

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Design Shanghai launches February 27 bringing 150 of the brightest names in architecture and international design to China for a week of showcases featuring contemporary, classic, and limited edition furniture, textiles, lighting, and more. Set in the palatial and newly renovated Shanghai Exhibition Centre, the event will place a strong emphasis on China’s rapid growth and give their growing class of elite consumers the opportunity to purchase high-end global designs from the likes of Tom Dixon, Alessi, and Fritz Hansen. The most sought after and exclusive collectibles will go up for auction March 2.

Image via Design Show Shanghai

100 Years of History at Grand Central

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A new beautifully designed website commemorates 100 years of rich history at Grand Central Station in New York City. Created in partnership with the New York Transit Museum, the website explores the engineering, design, and “decline & renewal” of one of the country’s largest and busiest public travel hubs. Videos, stories, historical documents and photographs take the user on a journey from the station’s early days of steam fueled travel to its central role today as a travel, cultural, and culinary destination. In addition, the resource offers insight into the iconic depot’s future with plans, maps, and images of the new train station being dug beneath Manhattan at this very moment.

Image via mkfeeney

Light Play

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Following in the footsteps of Random International’s wildly popular Rain Room installation that debuted at London’s Barbican before moving on to the Museum of Modern Art, United Visual Artists (UVA) debuts their own immersive exhibit Momentum at the London art centre this month. The spatial experience consists of “12 pendulums that activate light and sound as they swing” patterning the curved walls and encircling the visitor in fluid light and a rhythmic soundscape. Conceptualized and executed in just six months and described as “a blissfully meditative experience,” the installation is certainly not to be missed if in London between now and June 1.

Image by James Medcraft via It’s Nice That

Panama’s Bold Biomuseo

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World-famous architect Frank Gehry is set to debut his first built work in Latin America. After a number of delays, the Biomuseo in Panama City, a bold and colorful 43,000-square-foot concrete structure with an elaborate folded roof system is now receiving a limited number of visitors in five of its eight interactive galleries. Built on a former U.S. Army base at the entry of the Panama canal, the museum was conceived to highlight the country’s biodiversity and rich ecosystem. The project has dual intentions – to introduce tourists to Panama’s natural charms and serve as a catalyst for environmental conservancy among locals.

Image via Skyscraperlife

Bookshelf: What We’re Reading

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Design Brooklyn: Renovation, Restoration, Innovation tracks the trajectory of Brooklyn’s urban development – from ramshackle and rough around the edges to a posh and leafy enclave for NYC creative types. Of special note, is the spread on Beastie Boy Mike D.’s Cobble Hill townhouse, which features an array of designed in Brooklyn pieces including wallpaper, curtains, lighting, and furniture. A new mammoth volume, Powerhouse 4 highlights 124 awe-inspiring retail interiors. Showcasing the latest trends in environmental design, the book includes bakeries, boutiques, sneaker shops, and supermarkets that captivate the imagination of the consumer and elevate shopping to a whole new level. Franco Maria Ricci’s Labyrinths: The Art of the Maze documents labyrinths in a myriad of mediums including stamped on coins, traced in manuscripts, cultivated in gardens, and even its history in literary quotations.

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