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Product design

From molecular ‘glue’ to stackable football pitches and a camouflaged solar roof, we take a look at the most exciting innovations in product design


GD-Lighting Design illuminate multifaceted MOCAPE

Chief designer Yenchin Wang / Photo: He Shu
Chief designer Yenchin Wang Photo: He Shu

G-D Lighting Design has revealed its lighting design for the Museum of Contemporary Art and Planning Exhibition (MOCAPE) in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, China. 

The shapes that form the exterior of the newly opened Coop Himmelblau facility proved to be a challenge to light however, with lighting designers Yenchin Wang, Hui Ren and Tim Cheng having to find a solution to glare and self illumination caused by the shape of the structure. 

They found the solution with the use of building information modelling (BIM) and CAD programme Rhino.  

By constructing a 1:1 digital architectural model of the MOCAPE in Rhino, the designers were able to accurately map lighting positions across the face of the building and successfully trial lighting designs. 

They were also able to analyse photometrics, power supplies and material reflectance. 

The design incorporates U-shaped shading grooves with exterior baffles, custom made for the project. 

CLAD-kit keyword: GD Lighting

A challenging building to light
A challenging building to light

Olivier Clavel blends water and tech to make zen spaces

Olivier Clavel
Olivier Clavel

French artist and designer Olivier Clavel has drawn inspiration from science and technology to create a water sculpture for a new French spa and wellness development. 

Clavel’s water fountains for the forthcoming Le Royaume des Sens City Spa in Merignac, near Bordeaux, blend technology, light and water to create the effect of levitating water. 

Clavel uses water to custom create indoor and outdoor spaces including water walls, fountains, ponds or swimming pools. 

Controlled by a mobile phone app, the water, sound and light effects can be changed to alter the mood. 

The designer is expecting to duplicate his fountain design for several cities including Paris, Toulouse and Bordeaux. 

He said: “It’s no accident that we find the sound of water flowing to be relaxing. This is why I combine the vibration of water with the music transmitted through my fountains. When light is added, the whole contributes to developing that zen feeling that is so sought after.”

Clavel has previously installed his designs at Domaine de Verchant, Relais & Château 5* hotel, in Castelnau-le-Lez. 

The LED or optical-fibre lighting used in Clavel’s designs can be controlled by a smartphone and built into a home-automation system in order to create a customised ambiance.

CLAD-kit keyword: Clavel

Olivier Clavel has created water displays that can be controlled via an app / Photo: Olivier Clavel
Olivier Clavel has created water displays that can be controlled via an app Photo: Olivier Clavel

Elon Musk unveils camouflaged solar roofs

The billionaire has big plans for solar
The billionaire has big plans for solar

Billionaire entrepreneur and Tesla founder Elon Musk has fully unveiled his plans for solar roofs, which use camouflaged tiles to disguise the presence of fully integrated solar cells – boosting the aesthetic appeal of the sustainable technology. 

The new solar roof concept has been designed for home use in mind, with sunlight captured by the tiles turned into electricity for immediate use or storage in one of Tesla’s at-home Powerwall batteries. However, the resilience of the tiles, and the fact they are to be scalable and customisable, means they could one day be used for almost any building. 

In the long-term, Musk said he wants to see developers shift away from placing individual solar panels on top of a pre-existing roof structure.

“The goal is to make solar roofs that look better than a normal roof, generate electricity, last longer, have better insulation and cost less than a normal roof plus the cost of electricity,” he said. “Why would you buy anything else?”

The solar roof tiles come in four styles / Photo: Tesla
The solar roof tiles come in four styles Photo: Tesla

AL_A design stackable football pitches to revive fading communities

Amanda Levete’s architecture studio, AL_A, have created a unique concept to bring stackable 5-a-side football pitches to derelict sites in London. 

The project, called Pitch/Pitch, is designed to bring communities together through sport. Each three-storey carbon fibre structure is conceived as a temporary installation that is fast and easy to erect, meaning the pitches could be built to coincide with major football tournaments or to quickly bring life back to fading communities.

Developed in collaboration with Arup, each system is modular – with the levels linked by two staircases – and can be stored in shipping containers to be transported to another venue once it has been dismantled. Platforms for spectators are incorporated into the design, and extra facilities such as changing rooms can be prefabricated and delivered to a site on demand. 

AL_A director Maximiliano Arrocet said: “As an office we enjoy sport, and we’ve always viewed is as a way of creating social cohesion.”

Each pitch is standard size for 5-a-side, but the facilities can also host dance classes and yoga, and could feasibly adapted for other sports. 

AL_A are seeking partners to aid the financing and implementation of the scheme across London.

CLAD-kit keyword: AL_A

The three-storey pitches are built using a carbon fibre structure / Image credits: AL_A
The three-storey pitches are built using a carbon fibre structure Image credits: AL_A
AL_A believe the temporary pitches could boost social cohesion in communities
AL_A believe the temporary pitches could boost social cohesion in communities

The windows of the future will use quantum dots to generate power

A team of researchers have made a breakthrough in developing technology that can turn any window into a daytime power source. 

By covering windows with sunlight harvesting quantum dots, called luminescent solar concentrators, the team says it is able “to disrupt the way we think about energy.” 

Experts from the Center for Advanced Solar Photophysics at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in the US have scaled up palm-sized demonstration models of the technology to windows large enough to put in and power a building. 

“A fraction of light transmitted through the window is absorbed by nanosized particles, or semiconductor quantum dots, dispersed in a glass window, re-emitted at the infrared wavelength invisible to the human eye, and wave-guided to a solar cell at the edge of the window,” said lead researcher Victor Klimov. “A window becomes an electrical generator that can power your room’s air conditioner on a hot day or a heater on a cold one.” 

CLAD-kit keyword: Quantum dots

A large-scale model has been developed / Center for Advanced Solar Photophysics
A large-scale model has been developed Center for Advanced Solar Photophysics

Nulty launches bespoke luminaire division

Trevor Morgan, Managing Director
Trevor Morgan, Managing Director

Lighting design consultancy Nulty has launched a bespoke luminaire design and manufacturing company named Nulty Bespoke. 

As lighting scheme designers for establishments such as the Royal Albert Hall, Nulty has often required handcrafted alternatives to off-the-shelf fittings, in order to achieve a delicacy of detail and seamlessness between light and space. 

Nulty Bespoke is a solution for architects, interior designers and other lighting design practices who are increasingly demanding their own tailor-made fixtures. 

Company founder Paul Nulty said: “Our experience in all aspects of the design, manufacturing and installation process mean we can create exquisite products on time and on budget.” 

Since opening in 2011, Nulty has delivered high-end projects across several sectors within the UK and internationally. 

CLAD-kit keyword: Nulty

“By scratching our own itch, we’re also able to provide our colleagues in the industry with the handcrafted and unique lighting fixtures they desire”
Trevor Morgan, Managing Director

The launch of Nulty Bespoke coincides with the practice’s fifth birthday. / Photo: Nulty
The launch of Nulty Bespoke coincides with the practice’s fifth birthday. Photo: Nulty

Molecular ‘glue’ could make towering timber skyscrapers a reality, research finds

Molecules 10,000 times narrower than the width of a human hair could hold the key to building super-strong wooden skyscrapers in the future, new research has found.

Team at the Universities of Warwick and Cambridge in England have unlocked the mystery of how key sugars in cells bind to form strong, indigestible materials.

The research explains how thick, rod-like cellulose and long, winding xylan – the Earth’s two most common large molecules – stick together to form strong plant walls despite being fundamentally different.

“We knew the answer must be elegant and simple,” said Professor Paul Dupree from the department of biochemistry at the University of Cambridge. “And in fact, it was.

“What we found was that cellulose induces xylan to untwist itself and straighten out, allowing it to attach itself to the cellulose molecule. It then acts as a kind of ‘glue’ that can protect cellulose or bind the molecules together, making very strong structures.”

Wooden skyscrapers may become commonplace
Wooden skyscrapers may become commonplace
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