Solar Impulse Transcontinental Flight

Last Thursday, experimental aircraft Solar Impulse took off from Switzerland in route to Rabat, the capital of Morocco, on what will be the first transcontinental flight ever attempted by a solar powered aircraft.

This single seater prototype has been in development for many years and hopes to prove the viability of solar energy as a primary power source for flight. With advancements in solar cell technology and new lighter weight batteries, Solar Impulse is able to collect enough energy to fly through the night.

However, the Solar Impulse in not without it’s limitations. Its lumber 63 meter wingspan makes an excellent platform for solar panels but leaves it exposed to air turbulence. It’s for this reason that pilot Andre Borschberg will try to avoid flying through clouds. In case weather conditions turn for the absolute worse, Borschberg also wears a parachute. However in a call with the Associated Press he jokingly said ,”When you take an umbrella it never rains.”

The Solar Impulse team has been invited to Morocco by King Mohammed VI to showcase their state of the art solar technology. Morocco is about begin construction of a massive solar energy plant that is part of a country-wide solar initiative to produce 2000 megawatts by year 2020.

[ Via]

GOOD: The View From Your Bike

So apparently May was National Bike Month (news to us too), but the folks at Good Magazine were all over it. At the beginning of the month they held a photo competition for a chance to win a fully-loaded commuter repair kit and other Good gear. They asked readers to send in a picture that shows a view from their bike. After selecting their top picks, they posted an album with everyone’s submissions to their Facebook page. These are the our top 5 favorites. What do you think?

[ Via GOOD]

Nido Cabin, Finland

In Finland, you can build a structure without a permit as long as it’s under 96 sq ft or 128 sq ft, depending on the area.  As the most sparsely populated country in the European Union, at just 41 people per square mile, most people in Finland opts to get the permit. There is plenty of land to go around.  However, for Robin Falck the size limit felt more like a challenge. Could a house be built that size that would be worth living in?

Inspired by the new trends in micro-living, Falck worked on some plans while finishing up his required military duties. He had veteran architect Aires Mateus look over his plans to ensure structural feasibility and then, after getting a green light, began construction. After a summer’s worth of manual labor and only $10,500 in building material, the house was completed.

The 96 square house features a kitchen, living area, a 50 sq ft loft, and a large window that spans two both stories. In addition to letting in tons of natural light and offering views of the nearby lake during the day, the angled nature of the window makes for excellent star gazing at night. Their is also a outside wooden deck, not included in the 96 sq ft, that encourages spending more time outside.

The one draw back is that just as soon as Falck completed the structure 2010, he had to return back to his military duties. It would be a full year before he could return and live in the house he spent so long working on. Although the extended anticipation must have made his homecoming all the more satisfying.

[ Via Core 77]

Tribord: Back to Water

Back to Water is a short atmospheric film by French water sport company Tribord. From surfing to diving to sailing, Tribord offers gear for just about any water activity imaginable.

Unlike the typical Jack Johnson fueled, sun kissed, feel good surf video, Back to Water captures a raw human connection with the ocean. It attempts to communicate the invigorating and humbling experience a person feels when they enter into a vast open expanse of water. The stunning underwater photographer is underscored by a stirring arrangement of water sounds.

[ Via Adventure Journal]

Pave by Joan Sandoval

Pave is a new concept bicycle shop in Barcelona that combines minimalistic presentation with high-end cycling gear. Unlike the crowded showroom floors of most bike shops, designer Joan Sandoval wanted to keep the space open to give prospective buyers a chance to actually try the bicycles out. To highlight the aesthetic beauty of the bikes, he designed rows of of white back-lit display boxes, allowing riders to compare each bike’s particular lines against on another.

Sitting somewhere between a museum and a country club, Pave is more than just a bike retail shop. The space offers a lounge, coffee bar, a library filled with cycling books and magazines, screenings of famous road races, and a locker room and shower for use after training.

[ Via Dezeen]

FYLM Foldable Speaker

The FYLM Foldable Speaker was designed to be the ultimate portable sound system. Using recently developed film speaker technology that’s less than a quarter millimeter thick, the FYLM is able to fit into any pocket. The designers of this sleek looking prototype, Design Affairs Studio, have keep the particular type of film speaker a secret, but it looks very similar to Warwick Audio Technologies.

When in use the speaker locks into a triangular position, but can be folded nearly flat for transportation – the widest section being the 3.5 mm headphone jack. However, as with all audio devices, the true test is in the sound quality. The designers claim the speaker offer a “full and rich directional sound”, which at least matches what has been said about film speaker technology in general.

While the press images show a wide range of color options, don’t expect FYLM speakers to be available any time soon. Design Affairs Studio specializes in tantalizingly functional concepts, not large scale unit production. So a third party is going to need to step in before you see these at a store near you.

[ Via Looks Feels Works]

JDS Architects: Holmenkollen Ski Jump

In 1809, Norwegian lieutenant Olaf Rye strapped on a pair of skis and launched himself 9.5 meters into the air in front of an audience of soldiers. This reckless act of showmanship was quickly adopted by the Norwegian people and the sport of ski jumping was born. As the sport matured so did the facilities, and soon there were hill being created all around the world specifically for the purposing of jumping.

The crown jewel of these facilities is in the town of Holmenkollen, just a few miles outside of Olso. Ski jumpers have been launching off this hill since the late 1800′s and it has undergone many drastic renovations since. In 2008 the Norwegian government awarded JDS Architects a contract for a brand new facility, one that would boast world-class amenities and a unique cantilevered design.

Like most major construction projects, the ski jump was late and wildly over-budget. A consultant report ordered by the municipality found that pressure to find cost savings measures to stay within the budget, which was underestimated to begin with, resulted in slower progress and even higher costs. Despite being somewhat of a bureaucratic boondoggle, the ski jump was finally completed in 2010.

The ski jump rises a total of 69 meters and features an integrated spectator seating, judges booth, press section, warm-up lounge for skiers and trainers, as well as an observation deck on the top. The facility is also home to the Ski Museum which presents the history of skiing over the past 4,000 years. However, more so than anything, the structures represents the grandiose and insane aspect of the sport itself. Rising majestically above the misty mountain top, one can’t help but look at the ski jump and ask, “Do people really go down that?”

Iceland Electric Wire Pylons

Ever since electric utility companies started streaming high-tension wires across the lands the method for doing so has always been, well, utilitarian. Very little effort was put into lessening the eye-sore nature of running towering metal pylons across the horizon. From a visual stand point, the land was ceded over completely to function.  However in Iceland, the national power company Landsnet is looking to find a compromise. In cooperation with Association of Icelandic Architect they’ve started taking submissions from designers for new ways of transporting electrical lines.

One unique concept comes from Choi and Shine Architects, who envision giant human-like pylons carrying wires over hill and dale. Aesthetically, these 50 foot tall figures are a vast improvement over the traditional towers. Designed to be positioned according to the contours of the land, the giants can strike a variety of poses. Their arms can extend in a variety of positions, which will lessen the need to flatten out large foundations. The main selling point though is that by using duplicate parts and scaffolding, these giant human pylons will costs no more than traditional towers.

Unfortunately Landsnet ultimately decided not to move forward with the project, but the concept won first prize at the Boston Society of Architect’s annual Unbuilt Architecture Award. So there’s still hope that someday towering electrical giants will walk the earth.

[ Via Art Here and Now]

GEAR | Beach Folding Chairs + Table

For a relaxing day at the beach or just a sit in the backyard, the Beach Folding Chairs & Table combine an elegant look with a functional collapsible design.  To create this limited set of outdoor seating we partnered with Environment, a Los Angeles based furniture designer that specializes in reclaimed, recycled, and repurposed contemporary furniture. It was their unique experience in material sourcing and innovative design is what helped bring this project to life.

The chairs and table are made out of Ash hardwood with corrosion resistant hinges, rust-proof stainless steel hardware, and have been finished with a matte black water based stain. The backing fabric on the chairs as well as accompanying travel bag are made from a reclaimed army tent, which was cut, dyed, and sewn locally in Los Angeles. The two chairs and table fold down to fit instead the travel bag for easy transportation and storage.

The Beach Folding Chairs + Table are now available under the GEAR section of our site.

People People Invisible Speaker

Nowhere is the battle between aesthetics and function more pronounced than in the world of consumer electronics. From the elephant sized LCD television sitting in the corner of the room to the jumble of wires that accompany most home audio systems. You either chose the function or choose an aesthetic. You can’t have both. But the designers at People People want to change that.

While some audio designers have started creating speakers that are beautiful in their own right, People People actually want their speakers to disappear.  To achieve this they designed a speaker into a glass box, allowing it to take on the aesthetic of where ever it’s placed. The speaker is large enough to offer deep quality sound, but visually small enough to blend into the background of any room. The electronic components are visible, but streamlined wiring makes them look like they are floating.

At the moment, People People’s invisible speakers are still in development, and sadly, will probably remain there for a long time. Their website indicates that instead of shipping the glass panels, they want to partner with glass makers in each customer’s area as a way of reducing shipping costs and supporting local business. While a wonderful idea in theory, this is like telling consumers to get in contact with their local copper mine to procure the necessary material for the wiring. So until they figure that out, you may be better off going with a more DIY solution.