Venice architecture biennale 2016 – ideas for real world problems

A sense of social purpose drives this year’s Venice biennale, and while good intentions don’t always translate into good ideas, the best combine usefulness, economy and beauty

by Rowan Moore

 One of Block Research Group’s ‘beautiful

One of Block Research Group’s ‘beautiful, delicate’ vaults. Photograph: Italo Rondinella/La Biennale di Venezia

Architects are insecure about their usefulness. They work with buildings, which are generally large, expensive, long-lived and important to life, but it’s not always obvious what is significant about the specifically architectural aspect of their work – the refinements and rearrangements to the functional object that might otherwise come into being without architects’ help. If they have some influence over large budgets, it is developers or politicians who usually make the real decisions. At best, an architect can be like a jockey on a horse. Often, he or she is more like the groom, who puts nice plaits in its mane and tail.

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Sustainable energy: inside Iceland’s geothermal power plant

In the first of a series, we visit the Hellisheiði plant, which provides 300MW of power – and Reykjavik’s hot water

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 Hellisheiði geothermal plant, Iceland. Photograph Pedro Alvarez for the Observer

Hellisheiði geothermal plant, Iceland. Photograph Pedro Alvarez for the Observer

Thanks to its position on a volatile section of the Mid-Atlantic ridge, Iceland is a world leader in the the use of geothermal energy, and of the six geothermal power plants in Iceland, Hellisheiði (pronounced “het-li-shay-thee”) is the newest and largest. Fully operational since 2010, it sits on the mossy slopes of the Hengill volcano in the south-west of the country; a green and placid-looking landscape that belies the turbulent geological activity rumbling beneath it.

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Podcast: Cities as flows in a circular economy

Lena Gravis

Podcast: Cities as flows in a circular economy – Circulate

The pattern in which cities have grown is predictable across the world, and it’s based on the economic relationship between the centre and the edge. There are some clues that this pattern is changing, driven by advanced information technology. But what may happen to the city if we develop regenerative activities by internalising energy and material flows? In this episode Michael Batty elaborates on the future developments of cities.

Michael Batty is Bartlett Professor of Planning at University College London where he is Chair of the Centre of Advanced Spatial Analysis (ASA).

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Circular Economy Helping Nike Double Its Business with Half the Impact

by Hannah Furlong
Nike

Image credit: Nike/Business Wire

On Wednesday, leading apparel and footwear brand Nike released its latest sustainability report and was announced as the newest Global Partner of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Nike has made impressive progress during a period of continued growth, and recognizes that to continue as such, it must innovate on an unprecedented scale. The company has set “a vision for a low-carbon, closed-loop future as part of the company’s growth strategy.”

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London Craft Week: design highlights

Girih Treasure Chest by David Linley is on show during London Craft Week

Girih Treasure Chest by David Linley is on show during London Craft Week

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Given how much it has grown already, it’s hard to believeLondon Craft Week is just a year old. But as the initiative celebrates its first birthday (kicking things off once again with an almighty party at the V&A) it’s hard not to sound like an overexcited aunt, pinch its chubby metaphorical cheeks and say “Gosh! How you’ve grown…” Because this second edition is not only almost twice the size of the first (there are more than 130 events taking place across the city compared to last year’s 70) but the quality promises to be even better still – with a surge of interest from potential partners and participants the organisers have had to be ruthless as to what events and exactly who is allowed under the umbrella. But the biggest difference of all? If London Craft Week already feels like an established event on the calendar, then it means craft as a discipline might have finally found its voice.

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Can the circular economy transform the world’s number one consumer of raw materials?

Circular economy

The construction industry’s appetite for raw materials is vast; it is the world’s largest consumer of them and accounts for 25-40% of global carbon emissions.

Yet very little gets reused or recycled. The World Economic Forum’s new reportShaping the Future of Construction found that only a fraction of construction waste gets recycled. Instead, billions of tonnes of materials that could be used elsewhere are being dumped.

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