For the good

Musical Blob

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An inflatable concert hall will be touring Japan starting in October. Japanese architect Arata Isozaki collaborated with famed sculptor Anish Kapoor to create the bulbous, purple-membraned structure as a way to help the Ark Nova Music Festival in Matsushima City, an area devastated by the 2011 tsunami. Inside, the membrane casts a warm purple glow on wooden benches that seat 500 people. The first performance is scheduled for October 12.

Not Your Average Dorm

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A welcome alternative to dorm-room living, Tengbom Architects in Sweden recently unveiled a design for affordable, energy-efficient tiny housing units for students. On view at the Virserum Art Museum in Småland, Sweden, the 10-square meter units are model studies in efficiency, built from local, renewable cross-laminated wood, and can be constructed on-site. They include a sleeping loft, kitchen, bathroom, desk, and plenty of storage and windows – along with their own mini patio and garden.

Greener Walls

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Making London a little greener – a massive living wall was recently installed along an exterior wall of the Rubens at the Palace Hotel in Victoria. At 350 square meters, the landscape thrives with over 10,000 herbaceous plants, all recommended by the Royal Horticultural Society to attract wildlife like bees, birds and butterflies. The wall also provides a good solution for drainage, as it is irrigated with collected rainwater from storage tanks on the roof.

Human Body

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The Human Body is a great new app that teaches users all about how we humans function – with interactive features that show the processes of skeletal, muscular, nervous, circulatory, respiratory, and digestive systems in a fun way. Illustrator Kelli Anderson created beautiful renderings using cut paper or drawings of the human body, its bones, muscles and veins. Watch as food is processed through the digestive system, and see how vision works through the front camera on your device, and how hearing works with your microphone. A great educational tool.

Lifelong Learning

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Looking to brush up on your skills, or just interested in taking a class? EduPunks Atlas is a great place to browse new forms of education – online and off. Organized like a periodic table of resources, it collects and distills new learning organizations into an easily navigatable format. Represented are everything from Visualize Me (an online resume visualizer), the Johnston Center (a college where students design their own degrees), and the Amani Institute (a field-based social entrepreneurship program).

Getting Fit

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In its final days at the Center For Architecture (closing Sept 7), “FitNation” is an exhibition in conjunction with NYC’s Active Design Guidelines and new Center for Active Design. The show presents “design, policy, and grassroots strategies to promote physical activity as part of daily life,” inspiring movement in its very exhibition design by Pentagram. Huge icons of people being active – swimming, running, skating, doing yoga – blanket the walls of the space against lovely blue backgrounds, and dimensional wall panels protrude from exhibition spaces, with encouraging typography seen activated at the right angles. Projects showing active design principles are on view, and suggestions for making environments more active are encouraged throughout.

Fashioned Plastic

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Swedish designer Johanna Törnqvist works with an unexpected material to make her dresses, tops and jewelry – trash. In an effort to make excess consumption more visible, she meticulously crafts beautifully executed wares from plastic wrappers, bags, and string. She pleats and stitches the unconventional materials, making colorful and precise creations that are surprising in their fit and shapes.

Easy Gardening

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A new product is helping anyone with a 4×6 plot of land easily create a garden full of fresh veggies. Recently funded on Kickstarter, the Nourishmat is a roll-out soil cover that provides a blank canvas and color-coded garden map for growing kale, tomatoes, peppers, onions, herbs and flowers. When rolled out and staked into soil, it creates a weed barrier, and graphically shows users where to plant the included seed bombs. It also includes irrigation ducts, to easily be hooked up to a hose for watering. And for every Nourishmat purchased, four meals go to hungry children in the U.S.

Herbal App

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Alternative medicine continues to grow in popularity, with juicing, supplements, and acupuncture all gaining mainstream traction. It can be tough to navigate it all, so Memorial Sloan-Kettering’s new guide to natural therapies, “About Herbs,” is a welcome new app. Coming from the standpoint of a respected medical institution, its a refreshing encyclopedia on everything from the benefits of Chaga Mushrooms to Ginkgo, or Magnet Therapy to Tai Chi. Each has a “Professional” and “Consumer” description, giving both clinical summaries where available and understandable user benefits.

Seeking Hugs

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Sometimes all we seek is that simple, comforting moment of human contact – a hug. Artist Keetra Dean Dixon recognized this, and as part of her ongoing series of projects, “Methods & Apparati for Social Facilitation and Mood Elevation,” she created an anonymous hug wall. A giant pink wall of fabric provides a backdrop and barrier, with two arm-length gloves centered in the middle. Passers-by who need a quick squeeze, handshake, or high-five walk away with a better day.

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