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Five examples of vertical gardens – including a preview of the world’s tallest

As cities become denser and buildings continue to shoot up, the number of gardens is also on the rise – literally.

The vertical garden is not a new concept, but in recent times it has certainly become more popular. Referring to a wall partially or completely covered with vegetation, a vertical garden includes a growing medium, such as soil, and usually features an integrated water delivery system.

‘Invented’ by Patrick Blanc, the emergence of more and more vertical gardens is in direct response to the growing population in cities.

“The amount of space in these cities is increasingly at a premium, so vertical gardens can provide a welcome oasis,” Blanc tells The Wall Street Journal.

“There is also a growing alarm about things like climate change and deforestation so anything that evokes nature is becoming increasingly sacred.”

This certainly rings true for Australia, where a draft policy by the City of Sydney is calling on residents and businesses to green their roofs and walls as a way of improving air quality, supporting biodiversity, and creating new spaces in the heart of the city for food production and relaxation.

There is at least 96,000sqm of green rooftops and walls across the city of Sydney – roughly equal to 230 basketball courts. The City furthermore receives around one new development application that includes a green roof or wall each week.

To date, Sydney’s most popular vertical garden is probably One Central Park.

One Central Park by architect Jean Nouvel and Patrick Blanc

Located in Sydney, residential tower One Central Park has been billed as the world’s tallest vertical garden. Botanist and garden designer Patrick Blanc sheathed two 380 feet tall buildings in green, with plants and vines climbing up the building’s glass façade.

The greenery is meant to extend the nearby park onto the buildings, creating a verdant district that replicates the natural cliffs of the Blue Mountains. Altogether, there are 450 different types of plants, 250 of which are local species.

The building is specifically designed to redirect light to parts of the vertical garden. The tallest tower features a large cantilever, with a heliostat of motorised mirrors underneath that direct sunlight down onto the surrounding gardens. After nightfall, the cantilever is used as a canvas for a LED light installation by artist Yann Kersalé.

Clearpoint Tower by Milroy Perera Associates and Maga Engineering

Looking to give One Central Park a run for its money is the Clearpoint Tower by Milroy Perera Associates and Maga Engineering in Sri Lanka, which is set to be the world’s tallest vertical garden.

The 46 storey building will be entirely covered in foliage so that not an inch of the glass surface will be exposed to direct sunlight, therefore minimising solar heat gain and acting as a natural cooling system.

The plants will also act as sound and heat buffers, and are expected to provide cleaner air. The vertical garden will be watered using an automated drip irrigatin system that saves water and works independently from the occupants.

One Bligh Street, Sydney by Ingenhoven Architekten and Architectus

Also in Sydney, One Bligh Street in the CBD features a 377m2 green wall – the largest vertical green wall in Australia. Fytogreen was commissioned to deliver the project, with the green wall requiring both shade and wind tolerant plant species.

The project was specified by the architect to be ‘uniform green’ with ‘simplicity rather than celebration’ as its theme. The 40 metre long green wall presents its own site challenges due to its solar orientation.

Park Royal on Pickering by WOHA

Winning big at the 2013 World Architecture Festival is WOHA Architects’ Park Royal Hotel in Singapore, a building overrun with gardens, water features and green pathways.

Occupying a long and narrow plot in the city’s CBD, the 12 storey tall building does not strictly have a green wall, but features cascading planter terraces and waterfalls. A ‘C- shaped’ vegetation sits between glass-walled boxes, and the planted, contoured projections give the impression that the park continues up the building. The contoured undulations and vertical green extends into the interior, uniting the indoor and outdoor realms.

According to WOHA partner Wong Mun Summ, Park Royal had replaced 200 per cent of the green space, therefore acting as precedents for literal green living.

Palacio de Congresos Europa by Urbanarbolismo

The green façade of the Palacio de Congresos Europa in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain, was created by Spanish design firm Urbanarbolismo. Embedded into the vertical garden is 33,000 native plants, which range from wetland plant life on the south façade to the vertical orchard at the centre, and plants from the forests in the mountains of Vitoria at the northern end of the building.

A metal rod construction runs across the building’s exterior, branching off at the northern end into streams. This river is lit up by low power LED lights at night, evoking a bird’s eye view of a natural riverbed that highlights the plant life it runs through.

The base of the building consists of benches, where locals can sit among the greenery of the vertical park.


The cheapest places around the world to buy a plane ticket

With the tidal wave of low-price air carriers sweeping through Asia, airfares in the region look pretty attractive.

According to flight search engine Skyscanner, the cost of flying is lowest for travel originating in the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka (this includes both domestic and international travel). Seven of the 10 cheapest countries for travel by air are in Asia:

The world’s most expensive country to travel in is Monaco, where it costs $316 on average to travel 100 kilometers by air.

That’s nearly 40 times the cost of air travel in the Philippines, Singapore, and Malaysia, (in southeast Asia, budget carriers now account for more than half the aviation market).

Greenland is the second most expensive country in Skyscanner’s rankings; there it costs $119 to travel as far. Also high in the tally of expensive air travel countries are North Korea, Venezuela, and Hungary.

In Asia, cutthroat competition between carriers is as important a factor in airline pricing as what customers can afford to pay.

Viewed in this context, many of the countries that appear to be the cheapest air travel hubs in dollar terms are actually the costliest, based on the relative wages of their consumers.

So while affluent travelers in places like India and China benefit from cheaper flights, extreme wealth inequality makes those airfares out of reach for much of the population.

Fong qi wei compresses dawn to dusk into animated time tunnels

fong qi wei compresses dawn to dusk into animated time tunnels

singapore-based photographer fong qi wei has visualized a series of short animated gifs, which compress a full day — from dawn to dusk — into a single, looped gif. 

shanghai freeway sunrise, 2014

‘time in motion’ has originally been captured as still images, shot from the same position at various hours of the day. overlooking cityscapes.

tanah lot sunset, 2013

skyscrapers and ocean panoramas, qi wei snapshots both bustling metropolises — lights in apartments wildly flickering on and off — and serene ocean vistas. 

glassy sunset, 2013

spiraling in infinite circles that fold into each other, or folding in place and dramatically shifting in chroma, the artworks thread together


the assorted compositions, bringing them to life through the digital gif format.

changi beach sunrise, 2013

Gold Smuggling Increases 7x In India And Surpasses Illegal Drug Trade

Seized gold bars are kept on displayed by custom officers at the international airport in Kolkata November 19, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer/Files

(Reuters) – Indian gold smugglers are adopting the methods of drug couriers to sidestep a government crackdown on imports of the precious metal, stashing gold in imported vehicles and even using mules who swallow nuggets to try to get them past airport security.

Stung by rules imposed this year to cut a high trade deficit and a record duty on imports, dealers and individual customers are fanning out across Asia to buy gold and sneak it back into the country.

Sri Lanka, Thailand and Singapore are the latest hotspots as authorities crack down on travellers from Dubai, the traditional source of smuggled gold.

In a sign of the times, whistleblowers who help bust illegal gold shipments can get a bigger reward in India than those who help catch cocaine and heroin smugglers.

“Gold and narcotics operate as two different syndicates but gold smuggling has become more profitable and fashionable,” said Kiran Kumar Karlapu, an official at Mumbai’s Air Intelligence Unit.

“There has been a several-fold increase in gold smuggling this year after restrictions from the government, which has left narcotics behind.”

From travellers laden head-to-toe in jewellery to passengers who conceal carbon-wrapped gold pieces in their bodies – in the mistaken belief that metal detectors will not be set off – Indians are smuggling in more bullion than ever, government officials say, driven by the country’s insatiable demand for the metal.

That suggests official data showing a sharp fall in gold buying, which has helped narrow India’s current account gap, may significantly underestimate the real level of gold flows.

The World Gold Council estimates that 150 to 200 tonnes of smuggled gold will enter India in 2013, on top of the 900 tonnes of official demand.

Between April to September alone, India’s customs officials seized nearly double the amount of smuggled gold it nabbed in all of 2012.

“Though the quantum of seizures has increased, in our opinion it reflects only 1 to 2 percent of total smuggling,” said a revenue intelligence officer in Mumbai who declined to be named. “Dubai is still the number one place from where gold gets in and Singapore is slowly emerging. Sri Lanka has become a staging point.”

Grappling with a high trade deficit and weak currency, India imposed measures this year to crimp demand for gold, the second most expensive item on its import bill after oil. It imposed a 10-percent duty on bullion and a 15-percent tariff on jewellery. Imports plunged to 24 tonnes in October from a record 162 tonnes in May.


Gold is an integral part of Indian culture, offered at weddings and festivals. India was the world’s biggest gold consumer until last year but will be overtaken by China in 2013.

India has now stepped up cooperation with nearby countries to stem the smuggling.

Last week, Sri Lanka limited the amount of jewellery its residents can take out of the country and it will try to monitor whether they bring it back. Pakistan banned all gold imports in August for a month as it believed much was being smuggled on into India.

Indian gold premiums have soared to $130 an ounce over London prices due to the supply crunch, compared with about $2 an ounce in Hong Kong, Singapore and Thailand.

Banks and other official trading agencies in Singapore and Thailand that had supplied gold to their Indian counterparts have stopped due to India’s new rules.

But smaller dealers and retailers say they have been selling more to Indian customers than ever before, in jewellery and other forms.

Brian Lan, managing director of Singapore-based dealer GoldSilver Central Pte Ltd, said he has sold about 10 kg (22 lbs) of gold to a single Indian customer and gets multiple similarly big orders on some days.

“We have Indian dealers buying from us directly on a regular basis,” said a second Singapore dealer. “They say they have their own means of taking it in without getting caught.”

Here are the salaries of 13 major world leaders

World Leader Pay Infographic

Earlier this month, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that he and almost everyone working for him would take a 10% pay cut because of mounting economic sanctions imposed on his country.

Whether Putin and his staff will actually feel the slash in their salaries is debatable, considering Putin says he is unaware of the amount printed on his paychecks. “Frankly, I don’t even know my own salary; they just give it to me, and I put it away in my account,” he reportedly said to a group of reporters during his annual Q&A session in December.

Putin’s official salary is chump change compared with that of a prime minister of an island nation smaller than New York City.

Singapore’s Lee Hsien Loong earns 12 1/2 times as much as Putin at a whooping $1.7 million. Loong’s salary is large enough to pay for the combined salaries of the leaders of India, Brazil, Italy, Russia, France, Turkey, Japan, United Kingdom, South Africa, and Germany.

Loong’s Singapore is also the world’s most expensive city for a second year in a row, according to The Economist’s bi-annual Worldwide Cost of Living report.

These Are The World’s Safest Cities

Asian and European cities come out on top. At number 10, New York City is the safest in the United States.

In 1990, homicides in New York hit a record high of 2,245—an average of six per day. In 2013, the city recorded only 335 murders for the entire year, despite adding 1 million more residents.

In other words: “the safety of cities can ebb and flow,” as a new report puts it. Meanwhile, the type of threats change too. Twenty-five years ago, nobody was worried about climate change, and the term “cyber-security” had barely been invented. Now they’re more serious challenges than some traditional crimes.

For a snapshot of current risks to cities and a ranking of which are the safest, see the Economist Intelligence Unit‘s Safe Cities Index 2015. Bringing together 40 data indicators, it offers a multifaceted view of 50 cities worldwide across four areas: digital security, health security, infrastructure safety, and personal safety.

It’s no surprise that, generally, richer cities are safer. Tokyo and Singapore top the list, while Jakarta, in Indonesia, comes out on the bottom. The top-10 is full of well-off comfortable cities like Stockholm (4th) and Zurich (7th). But the rich-safe link isn’t always there.

Some wealthy Middle Eastern places score low down, for instance. “Four of the five Middle Eastern cities in the Index are considered high income, but only one makes it into the top half of the Index: at 25 Abu Dhabi is 21 places above Riyadh at number 46,” the report says.

Tokyo, the world’s most populous city, scores well for digital security, personal safety, and infrastructure safety, despite the risk it faces from earthquakes.

Many European cities score relatively poorly for digital safety, but dominate the top-10 list for health security, with Zurich, Brussels, Barcelona and Frankfurt all appearing. Asia dominates the top-10 for personal safety with the very safe (and dull) Singapore coming out best of all.

Interestingly, the safety of cities isn’t necessarily reflected in how safe citizens feel. That’s particularly true of U.S. cities, where people often feel less safe than perhaps they should (Chicago has the widest divergence between safety perception and reality, according to the data).

That may be a hangover from the homicide highs of the ’70s and ’80s and perhaps a certain mythologizing of crime through TV and movies. Actually, many American cities are relatively safe these days, though New York is still only in 28th place for personal safety.

Who needs air conditioning? Top 5 passively-cooled homes

Gizmag presents a look at five of our favorite passively-cooled homes

Home air-conditioning offers near-instant relief from hot weather but is both expensive and resource-heavy to run. Gizmag picks five of our current favorite passively-cooled homes that are environmentally responsible to keep comfortably cool, and – perhaps just as importantly – very desirable to live in.

In architecture, passive cooling refers to a building that uses no energy-consuming technology or devices in order to help maintain a comfortable inside temperature. Some common methods of passively-cooling a house include properly sheltering it from the sun, utilizing a reliable breeze, and using a nearby water source to cool the local air temperature.

Wind Vault House

Wind Vault House measures 553 sq m (5,950 sq ft) (Photo: Jeremy San)

The Wind Vault House, by Wallflower Architecture and Design, keeps its occupants cool in tropical Singapore with novel timber screens that are angled so as to make use of the area’s prevailing winds. Working like a ship’s sail, the screens channel the wind into the home’s interior in order to provide a constant breeze – thus highlighting the importance of taking into consideration local conditions when designing a passively-cooled house.

The architects also placed a swimming pool near the house, which lowers the local air temperature as the wind passes through, serving much like a simple swamp cooler.

Wind Vault House was completed in 2012.


Almost half the house is cantilevered over the ground floor (Photo: Piyawut Srisakul)

The YAK01 house, by Ayutt and Associates Design, is located in Bangkok, Thailand, and makes the most out of available plot space by cantilevering the upper floor over the ground floor, and thus creating a cool shaded garden space for the occupants to enjoy.

Additionally, YAK01 is built following an L shape, with a swimming pool positioned in parallel. This design draws cool air into the home’s interior when the sliding glass doors are opened. AAD also designed the house so that bathrooms, service areas and staircases act as buffer zones, absorbing the heat, and keeping the remaining inner rooms cooler.

YAK01 was completed in early 2013.

Air Villa

Air Villa is a beautiful passively-cooled Panamanian holiday retreat (Rendering: WeMake3D ...

What could possibly be more appealing than a beautiful Panamanian holiday retreat? That would be a beautiful passively-cooled Panamanian holiday retreat, of course. The Air Villa concept, by Dutch studio Haiko Cornelissen Architecten, offers a radical rethink to keeping cool indoors by turning a typical villa design on its side.

Each of Air Villa’s rooms are arranged linearly, promoting air flow. Sliding doors afford access to the cooler exterior, and, thanks to their novel “jigsaw-like” design, enable cross-ventilation. The addition of LED lighting and solar energy boosts the villa’s green-credentials yet further.

Air Villa is due to be completed in 2014.

Water-Cooled House

Water-Cooled House is based in Singapore (Photo: Albert Lim)

Once again the work of passive-cooling authority Wallflower Architecture and Design, Singapore-based Water-Cooled House takes the principle that a swimming pool can lower the local temperature, as seen in the YAK01 home, and turns it up to 11.

As its name suggests, Water-Cooled House’s main feature is its ample and innovative use of water. A fish pond on the first floor, in addition to a pool and plenty of open space for air circulation, ensures that evaporative cooling lowers the local temperature.

Some nice finishing touches include an oculus within the main entrance, and a minimal but striking spiral staircase, while a small pond running much of the length of the second floor also helps to regulate the home’s overall interior temperature.

Water-Cooled House was completed in 2009.

The Winged House

The house is built upon a triangular plot (Photo: Patrick Bingham-Hall)

The Winged House, by K2LD Architects, is also based in Singapore, and built upon a triangular plot. Taking this as an opportunity rather than a hindrance, K2LD Architects produced a modern home that draws on traditional Malay architecture.

The Winged House sports two large “wings” which serve as a roof. This is more than mere attractive design though, as the extensive overhangs enable naturally ventilated spaces, and this is complemented by opening screens, a nearby pool, and an open air-filled interior.

The Winged House was completed in 2012.

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