Big Balls

Polyhedra with up to 144 components can form by self-assembly (Nature, 22 December 2016, D. Fujita et al).  Familiar examples are the outline structures of golf balls and footballs.

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All that’s needed is a range of ligands – ions that bind to a central metal atom to form a coordination complex:


The resulting ‘Goldberg Polyhedra’ are complex shells that protect viruses and cellular structures.      th-3.jpeg

The organic-metallic cages encapsulate proteins and other molecules, and may retain particular enzymes within particular structures.


Elphie – Hamburg

Rising more than 100 metres above Hamburg’s harbour like a great glass galleon marooned atop an old brick warehouse, the Elbphilharmonie concert hall

4000.jpg, The Swiss architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron have never looked so relieved.

The project began as the unlikely dream of Alexander Gérard, a private developer and former classmate of Herzog and De Meuron, who had hoped to finance the scheme with the 45 luxury flats and 250-room hotel that are also housed in the big glass mountain. He commissioned the architects to come up with a dazzling alternative to a dreary plan for a 90-metre media office tower on the site, which died away with the end of the dotcom boom. The Swiss starchitects’ thrilling images quickly caught the public imagination and the project was adopted by the city in 2003 and prioritised as a plan of national importance.

The grand hall, itself hung from the 700-tonne roof like a dangling cocoon, features 1,000 hand-blown glass lamps and 10,000 uniquely carved acoustic panels, while the facade incorporates 600 curved panes of 48mm-thick glass. It has been compared to Kaiser Wilhelm’s megalomania,

5376.jpgThe escalator is gently curved in a hump-backed profile, so you can’t see where you’re going, adding to the camp drama of it all, before you emerge at a big picture window punched into the brick wall, affording the first great view across the harbour.
Hamburg’s completed ‘Elphie’ concert hall shines triumphant

5472-1.jpgIntricacy and complexity … the white ceiling1593.jpgOur role is to connect the old city with the new city beyond,” says De Mueron, referring to the HafenCity quarter, an emerging district slated to house 12,000 people in the former docklands, in which the “Elphie”, as locals have nicknamed the concert hall, stands as a shining beacon.


London Bridge was Falling Down

Parson Brinckerhoff and Grimshaw are leading the design to develop London Bridge Station. The new station building is beside The Shard (Europe’s tallest building – top left in the photograph below) and is opening in stages while the railway continues to run.

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Over 150 years, science has advanced building structure and design. But nature allows familiar images to prevail. One such is London Bridge At Half Tide by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1836-1893






Fairy Cottage

A Romanian couple have spent two years building an eco-friendly “fairytale castle” in the mountains of Transylvania, using only natural materials.

Razvan and Gabriela Vasile sold their home near the capital Bucharest to build the “castle” in a village 24 miles (40 km) from the city of Sibiu, Casa Mea website reports. Called the “Clay Castle of the Valley of Fairies”, it is made of “100% organic” clay, straw and sand, with all wooden pillars and not a lick of modern paint or varnish. As the couple are singers rather than master builders, they enlisted the help of a professional architect to make their dream come true.

Casa Mea says the building “looks like something out of the Hobbit” rather than a castle in the conventional sense, and the owners hope eventually to open it as a hotel, given its location in the spectacular Carpathian Mountains and proximity to the famous Transfagarasan highway and medieval Sibiu.

Wooden Theatre

Chateau d’Hardelot is near Boulogne-sur-Mer by the English Channel and now has a 388-seat Elizabethan theatre. Its first public performance was on Friday, 24 June, the day after the referendum vote.


The theatre is made of wood with a vertical and galleried auditorium. There is a stage thrust into the middle, and behind it an update of a Shakespearean tiring house, a two-storey structure whose doors and balconies enable actors’ appearances and exits.


The architect wanted to make a building that “is absolutely up to date but could be 500 years old”. There is also selective use of steel though the basic structure is of cross-laminated timber, a modern technique using factory-made panels that are strong, lightweight and efficient in their use of wood.



Walking on Water

17christoItem-superJumbo.jpgA new installation by the artist Christo, “The Floating Piers,” consists of temporary bridges spanning Italy’s Lake Iseo and connecting two small islands.

17christo-5-master675.jpgThe saffron-coloured platforms float on specially designed plastic bottles.


The installation attempts to reframe a familiar landscape. Some visitors wonder what its purpose might be and ask the artist to explain. “Look!” Christo said, pointing to a juncture where two pathways joined to form a bright saffron-colored V, contrasting against the deep blue of the lake. “You see! It falls in that way so you can see the movement,” he said. “It’s actually breathing.” They still find it hard to accept.


(thanks to The New York Times.)



The Gardener

Lancelot (Capability) Brown (1716 – 1783) was the supreme landscape gardener and subject of a new biography which values his work for being as much scientific as artistic. He mastered the technique of creating his own order within a natural setting, making the whole look as though nothing had been done by human intervention.


Appropriately, he shunned celebrity and ignored glamorous social occasions. But he rose to fame with royal commissions and a salary of £2,000 a year. He even commanded an extra £100 for ‘raising pineapples’.


He had a staff of 20 foremen supervising site work on contracts at Hampton Court, Richmond, and more than 150 estates including those at Stowe, Blenheim (below left) and Chatsworth (above and below, right).

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Capability Brown and His Landscape Gardens by Sarah Rutherford is published this month by National Trust Books.