Charge Your Devices on Boston’s New Smart Benches

Thanks to a new park bench design equipped with solar-powered docking stations, it’s easier than ever for Bostonians to enjoy the great outdoors by staring directly into their phones. The benches, which are known as “Soofas“, include two charging docks and have begun popping up in city parks as part of a pilot program.

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The Boston Globe reported that these Soofas were created by a MIT Media Lab spinoff called Changing Environments, which is a Verizon Innovation Program. “The creators behind the smart urban furniture, Soofa, are three women who share one vision: Getting you out of the homes and into a new, smarter and more sustainable city,” the group explained on their website. These benches don’t just charge phones, they are also wifi enabled allowing them to report information on local noise levels, air quality, etc.

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Images: Soofa

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Take a Look at South Africa’s Stunning Treetop Walkway

The much anticipated Treetop Walkway through the Arboretum in Cape Town’s Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden is now open to the public. Located 36 feet (11 meters) above the ground, the galvanised steel and timber structure offers breathtaking views from the treetops. The project, a collaboration between Mark Thomas Architects and Henry Fagan & Partners consulting engineers, has been nicknamed Boomslang - a large, highly venomous African tree snake – due to its elevated, twisting form. Check out the stunning photographs by Adam Harrower, a horticulturist at the garden.

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Images: ArchDaily (© Adam Harrower)

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2014 Market Winner: Idea Paint by Fusion Design Consultants LLC

As the winners of the 2014 Design is … Award Market Award, Shaw Contract Group winning firms interviewed as part of a section of Shaw Contract Group blog which will last a year. Throughout the year, readers can learn more about the 40 winning projects and the individuals who perform them. These are their stories.

Veronica Emig, Project Manager, and Jennifer Peters, Director, spoke to us about the importance of flexibility, how to gauge a successful space, and to always keep ‘simplicity’ in the back of your mind.

Describe this project in one word.


How does this project demonstrate the power of design to impact users in a space?
Seeing employees utilize and benefit from planning strategies which promote communal gathering and collaboration underscores the importance of flexibility and “the impromptu” in today’s workplace. We have had direct feedback from all levels of staff at IdeaPaint that the space has an overall energy, a buzz that unites the entire office as one connected workforce. This vitality stems not only from planning practices but finish selection and finish placement as well. Using the standard kit of parts such as drywall and carpet allows for a truly customized interpretation of the client’s vision for the workspace. 


Design is a process. Explain your journey.
Our journey starts with listening and communicating with our client. By work closely as a team, we define an overall project mission- and this helps lay the groundwork for all future design decisions. Design is all about thoughtful decisions on all aspects of a project- from initial concept all the way through to the finishing touches, We don’t gauge a project’s success against a certain design agenda or image, but rather by its ability to meet the clients functional and aesthetic goals, and how well is resonates with their identity, brand and culture.


What are the most important lessons you’ve learned through this project that you’d want to share with the designers of tomorrow?
Don’t reject the power of simplicity. Too often the design waters get muddy, and it’s easy to lose track of the powerful impact that one wall, one finish or one table can have on the larger workplace experience.

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Need a Standing Desk? Pull Up a Chair.

By now, I am sure you have heard that sitting for long periods of time is bad for you. Because of that, you are now interested in one of those standing desks – whether it be designer or DIY. Or you could try the StorkStand, which recently passed its fundraising goal on Kickstarter.

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While it may not have the accessories that some standing desks do, StorkStand does offer you portability – allowing you to create a desk anywhere. All you need is a chair. A little tabletop you strap in place, the StorkStand was invented by Mike Goldberg from San Francisco. He explains in the pitch video (below) that he was tired of sitting all day (preach!) and wanted something different.

Goldberg says it weighs 4.2 pounds, supports 50 pounds (which is enough for several laptops) and comes with a built-in holder for your phone. One perk is that you can adjust the height (assuming you use an office-type chair), which is obviously important. It is not 100% perfect (where do you put your papers? Etc.), but it beats sitting all day!

Now that Goldberg has the funds for full production, you can buy your StorkStand here for just $199.

Images: Fast Company

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Repurposing Brazil’s World Cup Stadiums

Now that the World Cup excitement is over, one question remains: what will Brazil do with the 12 stadiums built for the massive sport event? Architects Axel de Stampa and Sylvain Macaux of 1Week1Project created hypothetical designs entitled “Casa Futebol” that propose to insert affordable housing units into the existing structures.


A large number of the buildings will have to be repurposed or demolished (otherwise they will end up sitting vacant). Some of the stadiums might be converted into public parks, but one of the most cost effective reuse plans is based on the idea of keeping them as event-based venues.


Casa Futebol, on the other hand, proposes to transform the stadiums into much needed affordable housing structures. Modular housing units would be installed between concrete pylons and stacked around the stadiums’ perimeter, making use of most of the space which is otherwise not used. The architects plan to keep the original function of the stadiums active, with some of the ticket revenue used for maintenance of the residential units.


While Casa Futebol seems to be the most socially conscious option (considering the great housing deficit), many questions will be raised about the structural stability and capacity of the existing stadiums to make this plan a reality. What do you think?

Images: 1week1project

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