Design briefing: Toronto’s transformational timber town – and more

In our regular new survey of design ideas you shouldn’t miss, Imogen Privett of WORKTECH Academy rounds up the latest developments - from printable zero-waste furniture to self-driving hotel rooms

Modular, timber, automated…city?

Sidewalk Toronto has shared its plans for creating a new kind of mixed-used development on Toronto’s Eastern Waterfront. Aiming to address some of the key challenges facing the contemporary city, it will offer a range of residential, retail and business units alongside an innovation zone and public and community space, all linked by an integrated digital infrastructure. The plans propose that one of the world’s oldest building materials form the basis for a cutting-edge ‘smart’ neighbourhood, with the structure built from a modular timber kit of parts. As planned, it would become the largest timber project in the world, with the tallest rower topping out at 30 stories. With Toronto winters particularly brutal, the development includes umbrella-like structures to block out the worst of the weather, and heated pavers to keep the roads clear; these are expected to double the amount of time that residents will be able to spend outdoors.

‘The Nobel of architecture’

The Pritzker Architecture Prize 2019 – the discipline’s top honour – has been won by Japanese architect Arata Isozaki. The jury declared that ‘embracing the avant-garde, he never merely replicated the status quo but challenged it.’ A prolific designer, during the course of his career Isozaki has taken on elements of Brutalism, High Tech, Postmodernism and traditional vernaculars.  Recent works include the ultra-slim Allianz Headquarters Tower in Milan, the Shenzhen Cultural Centre, the Shanghai Symphony Hall, the Ceramic Park Mino in Gifu, Japan, and the Qatar National Convention Centre in Doha. This brings the number of Japanese laureates up to four out of the last ten years – an impressive tally.

Zero waste furniture

Need a space to sit and some office greenery? Print it! Rotterdam-based research and design studio The New Raw has launched an initiative called Print Your City, starting with a Zero Waste Lab. Outfitted with a 3D printing robotic arm and impressive recycling facilities, it takes plastic household waste and turns it into 3D printed furniture. Currently aimed at public spaces, the first prototypes not only offer seating, but double as planters to help green the city. Visitors can collaborate on the furniture designs by choosing the shape, colour, additional functions, and the space they want their furniture to go into. Possibly not as comfortable as your office chair, but even so…

Acoustic solutions

Are your colleagues’ music choices getting a bit much? A team of Boston University researchers might have the answer. Dubbed an ‘acoustic meta-material’, a 3D printed ring was developed from a mathematically modelled design. Shaped to catch certain frequencies as they pass through the air and reflecting them back towards their source, the ring cut 94 per cent of the sound travelling through a PVC pipe from a speaker at the other end. Traditional acoustic panelling works for dampening sound, turning the vibrations into heat. This muffler is completely open, meaning that both air and light can travel through it, but sound cannot. The research team believe that these metamaterials have the potential to be incorporated into a wide range of products and systems, from soundproof transparent cubicles to noisy HVAC systems. Unfortunately, not available in stores near you. Yet.

Self-driving hotel

Don’t book a hotel, choose Transpitality. Aprilli is aiming to disrupt the hotel industry with its Automated Travel Suites. Currently at concept stage, this vehicular hotel room based on the self-driving car takes location decisions out of the equation, taking aim at a central pillar of the average hotel’s value proposition. Each Suite comes with a bed, lounge area, work area and bathroom with plans for central docking locations that provide a wider range of amenities. It could take the tired out of travel for executives on the move, but you’d have to be comfortable with big windows.

IKEA launches…clean air

The need for clean, fresh air at work is well recognised, with a recent study suggesting that stale, polluted office air significantly impairs productivity. Well known for its affordable solutions to most of our everyday domestic issues, IKEA is coming to the rescue once more. While its garden section has typically been the only option for an air purifying purchase, IKEA has announced the development of an air purifying textile. The curtains are treated with a catalytic mineral that causes air pollution to break down when light shines through it. The technology works with both natural and artificial light in a similar way to photosynthesis. Expected to arrive in stores in 2020, so you might have to make do with an office plant for the time bring.

Imogen Privett is a Senior Research Associate in WORKTECH Academy. An architectural designer and researcher, she holds degrees in both History and Architecture. Imogen has worked in architectural practice focusing on workplace design with projects including UK headquarters for Barclays, Macquarie Bank and Reuters