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Architecture

Regular readers are likely familiar with Vincent Callebaut's futuristic output by now, and the Belgian architect is at it again with a new project that follows in much the same vein as its predecessors. The Wooden Orchids project envisions a large sustainable shopping mall in Jiangxi Province, China, that boasts solar and wind power, geothermal heating, rainwater recycling, and a design that's part-inspired by the orchid.

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Dubai has more than its fair share of outlandish buildings, but 8 + 8 Concept Studio's recently-revealed proposal for an underwater tennis center would probably take the biscuit for the craziest yet – in the unlikely event it is ever built, anyway ...

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For most of human history, we've lived in groups a lot larger than our family unit, and reaped considerable benefits from it. Modern urban life, on the other hand, has moved in a different direction; privacy, disconnection, self sufficiency. Eco-village communities are aiming to buck that trend, and to that end Smart Urban Villages is planning to create medium-density, sustainably designed housing communities with optional shared meals, mortgage-free long term leases and pools of shared vehicles to cut down on car ownership costs.

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A new attraction in London, UK, gives visitors a place to swim, relax and experience nature. The King's Cross Pond Club is said to be the UK's first ever public swimming pond. It is a natural, chemical-free pool with green landscaping dropped into the urban area of King's Cross.

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A new pop-up local business campus is set to open in Brixton, London, UK. Pop Brixton will be home to local independent start-ups and small businesses. It will be housed in a temporary shipping container village, but it is the project's ethos that is perhaps its most innovative facet.

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There was more than a touch of irony about the University of Melbourne's old architecture building. As the breeding ground for generations of Australia's designers and builders, the plain brick building had come to be known as one of the campus' most drab and uninspiring structures. But a simmering discontent boiled over in 2009, when the university announced plans to knock it down and start again. Now standing in its place is a multi award-winning building that's as visually arresting as it is environmentally-friendly. The Melbourne School of Design places a premium on sustainability and collaborative education, and through an inventive architectural approach it has married the two to produce a truly unique learning environment.

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When we're looking for somewhere to stay, sometimes it needs to cater for both leisure and work. The Zoku Loft does just this. The rentable 25 sq m (269 sq ft) micro-apartment is a home-office hybrid that uses clever design to squeeze a host of features into its limited space, including a small kitchen, a recessed working area and slide in/out stairs to a screened loft.

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Bratislava's Nice Architects has revealed some renders and preliminary details concerning its Ecocapsule: a micro-shelter that operates off-grid and promises impressive sustainable technology including solar power, rainwater collection and filtration, and wind power. The firm will unveil a prototype later this month and plans to make it available for sale later this year.

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Colorado-based Rocky Mountain Tiny Houses has revealed its latest creation, and unlike the firm's mammoth Rio Grande and Custom 30 Foot homes, this one should appeal to those who like their tiny houses to be, well, tiny. Resting on a custom 5.4-m (18-ft) two-wheeled trailer, Front Range is only around half the length of its predecessors, but also commands around half their price, and is currently up for sale at US$37,000.

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Stockholm-based Tham & Videgård (of wooden high-rise fame) took an unusual approach while aiming to design a house that could be all things to all people. The firm analyzed data created by roughly 2 million Swedes – or 20 percent of the country's population – to design what's billed as a new type of democratic architecture.

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