Desert X

Sleeping Figure by Matt Johnson
Image courtesy of Desert X Sleeping Figure by Matt Johnson

The fourth edition of Desert X, a collection of contemporary art exhibitions throughout California’s Coachella Valley, is on display through May 7th. This year, The Desert Biennial—the Palm Springs nonprofit that produces Desert X—infused social justice themes, among others, throughout the showing. Sleeping Figure by Matt Johnson, for example, is a pileup of railroad freight cars welded together that recalls a reclining form. It’s more than a massive sculpture; it’s an artful reminder of the triumphs and shortcomings of railroads, and their historical impact. Another piece, Immersion, by Native American artist Gerald Clarke, is a life-size, rounded board-game form that encourages onlookers to learn more about Indigenous history and culture.

Artistic director Neville Wakefield and curator Diana Campbell were responsible for selecting the 12 artists showing at this year’s event. “I find it exciting, compelling, and also challenging to address the many histories that make up the changing landscape of the Coachella Valley that has inspired so many people, especially artists, and architects, for such a long time,” Campbell says in an interview on the organization’s website. “The desert is full of mythologies, ones that equip people with a strong will to survive in conditions some might think to be impossible, and this combination of tenacity through storytelling contributes to the important role of ‘the desert’ in many cultures around the world.” [New York Times]

Namibia's Sustainability Plan

Namibia’s plan to protect its ecosystem—increasingly threatened by Acacia Mellifera, a heavily invasive shrub—is a major sustainability initiative designed to preserve ecological diversity and reduce carbon emissions. A new, government-run program will work to uproot more than 300 million tons of the shrub over the next 15 years. With the help of MycoHAB, a foundation that develops ways of creating food security, building materials and carbon positive environments, Namibia hopes to process the plant into wood dust that might help farmers harvest oyster mushrooms and improve food scarcity. The dust also has the potential to help create strong, insulating blocks for building affordable housing units. [Architizer]


Known for its embrace of cyclists, Amsterdam regularly invests in bike-centric infrastructure that helps residents enjoy and store their bikes. One of the city’s latest architectural projects is the IJboulevard, an underwater bicycle storage facility designed by local firm VenhoevenCS architecture+urbanism. Located underneath the IJ river on De Ruijterkade, the new complex—which that opened last month—can comfortably park 40,000 cycles. Putting the bike garage underground allowed the architects to free up 6,000 square meters of public space on the street level, where patrons can inhabit a vast pedestrian area along the river and the Amsterdam Central Station. The IJboulevard is crafted from sustainable materials and works to support biodiversity. [Azure]

Dam Removal

One of four dams on the Klamath River
Courtesy of Klamath River Renewal Corporation One of four dams on the Klamath River

Soon, the U.S. will begin construction on its largest dam removal project in history. Nebraska-based contractor Kiewit and Knight Piésold, a South African engineering and environmental firm, will remove four hydroelectric dams along the Klamath River in California and Oregon to help restore the waterway’s natural habitat. The project was approved in November 2022 by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and is scheduled for completion in 2024. Local Native American tribes, environmental organizations, and fisheries are hopeful the project will revive the river’s salmon population, which has been threatened by the dams. [Construction Dive]

Benin's First Venice Biennale Pavilion

Felicia Abban's series of untitled portraits and self portraits from the 1960s and 1970s, digital images generated from original prints, on display at the "Ghana Freedom" pavilion at the 2019 Venice Biennale.
David Levene Felicia Abban's series of untitled portraits and self portraits from the 1960s and 1970s, digital images generated from original prints, on display at the "Ghana Freedom" pavilion at the 2019 Venice Biennale.

The West African country of Benin will present its first pavilion at the 2024 Venice Biennale. Azu Nwagbogu, the director of the African Artists’ Foundation in Lagos, Nigeria, will curate and organize it in collaboration with the nation’s president Patrice Talon, tourism manager Jean Michel Abimbola, and staff at the National Gallery of Benin. Since 2019, when David Adjaye designed Ghana's first pavilion, more African countries have been represented at the Venice Biennale for the first time including Madagascar, also in 2019, and Uganda, Namibia, and Cameroon in 2022. [ARTnews]


According to research in the journal Nature Sustainability, cities across the globe could be powered by solar panels that float in existing water reservoirs. The group of researchers from China, Sweden, Thailand, and the U.S. found that 6,256 cities, across more than 120 countries, can theoretically meet their electricity needs if they cover around 30% of a chosen body ofwater’s surface in their locale with floatovoltaics. As an added bonus, the measure could lead to an improvement in water conservation efforts, as suspended solar panels would be able to block the right amount of sunlight to abate evaporation. [The Verge]

Reducing Air Pollution

Studio Roosegaarde’s Smog Free Tower.
Daan Roosegaarde Studio Roosegaarde’s Smog Free Tower.

Air pollution in cities should be of global concern, according to ARCHITECT columnist Blaine Brownell, FAIA. “Left unchecked, air pollution will lead to a rising global death toll,” he writes in his latest. “By 2100, the proliferation of ground-level ozone and PM2.5 may result in estimated mortality rate increases of 14% and 16%, respectively. Like global warming, atmospheric air quality is another wicked problem that must be boldly addressed by the AEC industry. Distributed monitoring, remediating infrastructure, and superior material surfaces are a few of the efficacious tools to meet this challenge.” [ARCHITECT]

Decarbonizing Manufacturing

The Biden Administrationrecently announced a $6.3 billion plan—the Industrial Demonstrations Program—to help decarbonize U.S. industrial manufacturing, which accounts for about one-third of the nation’s carbon footprint, according to the Department of Energy. The White House says it believes the monetary investment into eligible programs and projects will, at some point, help lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Liquid Windows

"Liquid Window" prototype
Artist’s impression courtesy Raphael Kay, Adrian So / University of Toronto Engineering "Liquid Window" prototype

Researchers at the University of Toronto have designed and built a one-square-foot prototype window that allows users to control the color, intensity, and diffusion of sunlight using fluid—such as alcohol, oil, or water—and a digitally controlled pump system. These “liquid windows,” according to the team’s study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, have three layers of channels between two panes of glass. Each channel is filled with fluid, that—when pumped in and out of the channels—determines how much light can pass through the window. In due time, the prototype could be tuned to work like a thermostat. “This could be made most efficient if all the windows are talking to each other and the whole building learns, based on solar conditions and seasons,” says Benjamin Hatton, a professor of materials science and engineering at the University of Toronto and a co-author of the study. [University of Toronto]

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