Core77 Design Awards on Fab This Weekend Only!

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The Core77 Design Awards‘ mandate is to push the boundaries and reach of the design professions so it is a natural that we are teaming up this Weekend with Internet phenomenon Fab to put the word out to their broad, design-savvy audience. Check it out here!

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Tyvek Sneakers: Wrap Your House / Wrap Your Feet

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Designers always seem to be on a constant quest for the next big material innovation. From the the first application of steam bending in the Thonet chair to things like Glass Snowboards, material exploration is forever married to object design. One of the materials making a minor resurgence in design projects is Tyvek—you know, the stuff you wrap around houses.

Made from polyethylene fibers, the synthetic sheet material is surprisingly strong and waterproof with a paper-like appearance. It would seem there are endless possibilities for what essentially acts like waterproof paper (such as Jiwon Choi’s Vases), but among an incredible number of wallets and envelopes there are few other notable products on the market that incorporate Tyvek. At risk of inciting a Tyvek revolution, one might question where are all of the great design projects that make use of Tyvek? One of the cooler applications in the last few years is from New Jersey-based Civic Duty Shoes in the form of Tyvek sneakers.

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Civic Duty has been around since 2009, headed by Steven Weinreb. The Tyvek uppers are dyed a variety of colors, allowing a bit of visual distance from their close relatives, the FedEx envelope and disposable work suit. While durability of the Tyvek isn’t quite on par with traditional canvas or leather, they do offer extreme lightness and recyclability. While perhaps the perfect application would be a Tyvek portyanki—hard to deny that this is bold sneaker-vation.

The design of the shoes include a nod to classic high top, low top and slip-ons sneaker designs, but the material appeal of Tyvek might not extend too far beyond the design geek demographic. Either way, when you decide to invest in a new pair of kicks, remember that Converse high-tops don’t employ the same technology as the construction site down the road.

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Tomas Kral’s Homework Desk: Drawerless, with Drainage

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Switzerland-based designer Tomas Kral’s Homework Desk is unusual: Made from cast aluminum sandwiched between two sheets of ash, it contains a sort of gutter that runs around three edges. Rather than being for drainage, it’s meant to store desktop items, well, off of the desktop. For his part, he describes the wraparound as “A toolbox to store documents, objects, photos that you need or simply desire to work.” No drawers necessary.

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Here’s a shot of an early mockup made with cardboard and particle board:

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‘The ABC of Architects’ Video

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We’re glad we didn’t have to put this list together: Argentinian architect Andrea Stinga and creative director Federico Gonzalez compiled a list called The ABC of Architects, “an alphabetical list of the most important architects with their best known building.” They then distilled those buildings into simplified graphics and animated it into a video:

The video was done for fun and isn’t meant to be a completely comprehensive list. “A lot of [architects] have been left out with grief because we only need one for each letter,” write Stinga and Gonzalez, “and we [made] an effort to [include a multitude of] nationalities.”

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Smittybilt G.E.A.R. Turns Your Jeep/Truck into a Rolling Rucksack

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Here in New York, from time to time I’ll still spot broken safety glass in the gutter. Sometimes the burglarized car is still sitting there, the seats picked clean, the glovebox open. I’m amazed anyone in NYC would leave anything in their car to tempt a thief, but I think our declining crime rates are making people complacent.

For those who live in areas where burglary isn’t a problem, a car can be a handy place to store things. Off-road vehicle accessories manufacturer Smittybilt makes a line of gear for just that purpose: Their G.E.A.R. seat covers use what looks like the military’s PALS (Pouch Attachment Ladder System) webbing to modularly attach a series of bags, pouches and tool rolls.

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The bulk of the G.E.A.R. line-up is made to custom-fit different models of Jeep (CJ, Wrangler, and Wrangler Unlimited models made from the mid-’70s to today), though they also offer Universal models without the seatcovers.

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While I like the concept and design, they may need to upgrade their materials; if one Amazon review is to be believed, the front seams frayed after six months of top-down, always-exposed-to-the-sun use. My guess is they used polyester thread rather than nylon, as the former tends to break down under constant UV.

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Video of Snowblowing Trains

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Prompted by the photo above of yet another type of snow-clearing train, this one in Alaska, I wanted to find video of the various types of snowblowing trains in action. Armed with these monster circular blades–it kind of looks like the tunneling machines we looked at last year—a train like this can clear snow in one pass when the level is manageable, i.e. less than half the height of the train:

But once the snow reaches a certain height and/or density, the snowblowing train has to go at it jackhammer-style:

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Snow Removal, New-York-MTA-Style

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The American northeast is still digging out from Friday’s blizzard. Core77 HQ and the rest of NYC got off relatively easy, with just under a foot of snow. Up in New England, Coroflot HQ was buried in the two-foot range, and Massachusetts got walloped with closer to three.

While our Yankee snow removal techniques are not as involved as Japan’s Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route, New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority at least has some pretty bad-ass machinery. The MTA’s job is to keep the tracks clear, and they use this thing for the outdoor subway lines:

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That’s a jet-powered snowblower, which sweeps, grinds and launches the snow up to 200 feet away, where it becomes someone else’s problem. But for clearing the Metro-North rails, which run proper trains up and out of the city, the MTA uses this beast:

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That’s one of three jet-powered snow melters the MTA’s recently tuned up. While they move along the tracks via a conventional diesel motor, it’s a powerful turbine engine designed for aircraft that does the melting.

The engines produce exhaust that’s 600 degrees Fahrenheit, which virtually vaporizes snow. “If the jets do the job right, all you see is steam coming off the steel,” said Peter Hall, Foreman of the Maintenance of Way Equipment Shop in North White Plains. “They produce 2,500 pounds of thrust, which makes them very good at getting under heavy, wet slush, ice and crusty snow.”

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Luke Mastrangelo’s ‘Prism’: An Internal Frame Backpack for the Concrete Jungle

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As our society seems to grow more tech-enhanced by the minute, so too are we burdened with more gadgets that represent extensions of our bodies (not to mention a host of newfangled gestures and body language). Citing water and impact as the major weaknesses of electronic devices, Luke Mastrangelo recently designed a backpack that offers protection from both, based on a distinctive form factor that follows from its polycarbonate skeleton. “What we carry, why we carry and how we carry has changed dramatically. Prism is a personal project, reflecting on this notion; seeking to answer both a digital and analog challenge.”

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The 1000D cordura nylon and embedded solar panels aren’t breakthroughs by any means, but combined with the internal polycarbonate frame and thoughtful details, the Prism represents a nicely executed personal project, largely unconstrained by manufacturing considerations. Regarding the construction, Mastrangelo told us

The polycarbonate frame was CNC cut out of a sheet of 1/4″ thick Lexan, and bent into shape on a cold-steel bender. It’s entirely removable, which was a manufacturing decision to simplify the sewing process. Basically the fabric skin is stretched taught over the frame, and then zipped up around it, which keeps the whole system in tension, providing a tesseract of sorts for your laptop/tablet on the inside (think old school egg-drop style). The backpack is 100% functional, the lights, solar charger, rain-proofing, etc.

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As we saw with Crumpler’s laptop bag, the laptop compartment can be accessed from the side for the sake of expediency.

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Adidas Announces New “Boost” Foam Material

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There’s no consensus on whether it’s better to have more, or less, cushioning in a running shoe; this article crystallizes some of the larger theories being debated, enlisting the opinions of an evolutionary biologist who’s conducted biomechanical analyses of how the human foot operates during running. But while consensus will have to wait, Adidas isn’t. Yesterday they announced their new Boost foam material, “a revolutionary cushioning technology which provides the highest energy return in the running industry.”

The foundation of the BOOST innovation is centred on its cushioning material. Based on a groundbreaking development process created by adidas partner BASF, the world’s leading chemical company, solid granular material (TPU) is literally blown up and turned into thousands of small energy capsules which make up the footwear’s distinctive midsole. With their unique cell structure, these capsules store and unleash energy more efficiently in every stride. Tests conducted by the adidas Innovation Team show that the highly durable material found only in Energy Boost products provides the highest energy return in the running industry.

Here’s a quick vid demonstrating the base difference between Boost foam, the industry-standard EVA (ethylene-vinyl acetate) stuff, and concrete:

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