For the good

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*

Sunlight in your Pocket

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Little Sun, designed by renowned artist Olafur Eliasson in collaboration with Frederick Ottesen, is a sunburst-shaped solar-powered LED light that is already bringing electricity-free illumination to far corners of the globe. Little Sun debuted at the World Economic Forum in Africa in 2012 and was recently awarded MIT’s 2014 Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts. The $100,000 cash prize will go towards producing the light, a 6 cm x 6 cm single cell mono-crystalline solar module that produces five hours of reading light for every four hours of sunlight it absorbs. Eliasson explains, “It offers a solution to energy inequality, of course — but it also ties us emotionally and physically to what energy means today.” Available at the MoMa Store.

Image via Little Sun

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

Watson travels to Africa

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IBM is bringing super computer Watson to Africa to assist researchers in tackling pressing needs in the healthcare, sanitation, education, human mobility, and infrastructure sectors. “Project Lucy,” named after our earliest known human descendant, is IBM’s ten-year and 100 million dollar initiative that gives scientists the time and resources to utilize Watson’s computing abilities to help solve Africa’s most crucial challenges. The compilation and analysis of big data will assist experts in comprehending the obstacles that contribute to Africa’s stagnate economy and pervasive poverty. Food prices, GDP, and the size of diseased populations are just a few of the categories the project will seek to better understand through data compilation and the identification of emerging patterns.

Image via Freestock.ca

Empowering Europe’s Digital Economy

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The European Digital Forum, a new think tank dedicated to empowering tech entrepreneurs, has been established to help grow Europe’s digital economy. The program was announced by Neelie Kroes, vice-president of the European Commission, at the World Economic Forum in Davos. The venture plans to host an annual Digital Forum that will bring together entrepreneurs, political leaders, and policymakers creating an outlet for cross-continental discourse on startups and technological innovation. The day-to-day operations of the forum will rest in the hands of the Lisbon Council and Nesta, two esteemed innovation think tanks, and will have additional support from a coalition of influential companies and tech leaders.

Image via Eric Fischer

Sustainable Sculptures

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Discarded rubber flip flops wash ashore in Kenya at an alarming rate littering the beaches and harming wildlife. Ocean Sole, a community-driven marine conservation organization, set out to recycle the detritus in creative ways while providing jobs for locals. The results are vibrant and colorful rubber sculptures of elephants, lions, giraffes and a variety of other animals. Ocean Sole plans to recycle 400,000 flip flops a year and currently recycles 220 pounds of sandals a week. The sculptures are sold to zoos and museums around the world and a percentage of profits go to marine conservation and adult education.

Image via inhabitat

Reading Rooms

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Belgian architecture studio BC Architects has designed the first building of a new school for deaf children in Burundi, Africa. The clay colored structure was built by the firm along with community members and features local materials including rammed earth walls and baked ceiling tiles. The design borrows from indigenous building typologies and serves as both a quiet educational space and gathering place for the community. Another take on a library, The Bookmobile Project travels the United States and Canada via a vintage airstream trailer that contains 300 books you can’t get at your local library including one-of-a-kind photocopied zines and small press publications.

Image via Dezeen

Shedding Light on Global Issues

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To raise awareness of the daily challenges faced by 1.3 billion people without electricity, ‘Cut out the Darkness’ asks participants to design a lantern shade. 100 of these designs will be chosen, fabricated and delivered to non-electrified areas worldwide, as an alternative to CO2 kerosene lamps. Other socially-conscious case studies are featured on the Design for Good platform on the AIGA website, which is celebrating its 100 year anniversary this year.

Internet Balloons

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New initiatives seek to provide internet access to people living in remote areas with balloons. The balloons work as transmission towers and can reach large swaths of space through wireless connections. Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) is actively researching the new technology and hopes to employ it in the Amazon and other rural regions of the country. They are currently working on creating balloons that can withstand lightning and wind as to avoid the possible disruption or damage caused by bad weather. Other countries and private sector companies are also beginning to experiment with internet balloons, which are a  lower cost alternative to terrestrial stations and satellite systems.

Community Driven Streetscapes

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In an effort to make its streets more pedestrian and cyclist friendly, Los Angeles’s Department of Transportation is launching People St. The new grassroots initiative allows community members to apply online for city approval to transform unfrequented stretches of road into parklets, bike corrals, and plazas. While the applicant will bear the costs of the installation and upkeep, the city will provide the infrastructure that will convert existing spaces into safe and welcoming places for the community. Slated to begin in early 2014, People St. will address the growing demand for public space in L.A.

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