Step inside the world’s top interiors for 2018

INSIDE World Festival of Interiors, the leading global interior design and architecture awards program, has announced the shortlist of 77 projects that will compete to be crowned World Interior of the Year 2018.

Projects from across the globe were entered across nine diverse categories, ranging from health and educational buildings to hotels, bars and restaurants, and residential homes. Hosted alongside the World Architecture Festival (WAF), the event attracts more than 2,000 attendees each year for its three days of talks, awards, exhibitions, and fringe events.

Highlights from this year’s shortlist include:
Civic, Culture and Transport category – Danish practice BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group for its ‘Lego House’ project in the heart of Billund.
A life-size re-creation of the traditional Lego brick house, the 23-meter-tall ‘Lego House’ is an immersive experience center. Twenty-one overlapping blocks are placed like individual buildings, which frames a 2,000 m2 LEGO urban square that is illuminated through the cracks and gaps between the volumes. The central square welcomes locals and visitors to further amenities such as a café, restaurant, LEGO store and conference facilities.


Creative Re-use category – Nocenco Café by Vietnamese practice VTN architects (Vo Trong Nghia Architects).
This renovation project includes a café on the rooftop of a 7-floor middle-rise concrete building which has been transformed into a local landmark in the city center of Vinh City, north of Vietnam. Unlike other post-war buildings in the local area, bamboo has been used extensively throughout the café and to the exterior of the existing building due to its accessibility, weight, and durability as a building material.


Display category – Studio Chris Fox for their ‘Interloop’ design.
This innovative design sits above the main entrance of Wynard station in Sydney, Australia. Made from re-used 1930s OTIS escalator treads, the Interloop measures more than 50 meters in length, weighs more than five tons, and weaves in 244 wooden treads and four combs from the original escalators.


Civic, Culture and Transport category – WATG and Wimberly Interiors (Turkey) for Belmond Venice Simplon-Orient-Express. 
Art Deco interiors are featured in this renovated train. Wimberly Interiors renovated three ultra-luxurious private suites aboard the train. Drawing inspiration from the heritage and style of each of the destinations the train weaves through – Paris, Venice, and Istanbul – Wimberly Interiors has used ornate detailing, hand-beaded embroidery and lavish fabrics to reflect each city’s unique character.


Retail category – Waterfrom Design’s ‘Molecure Pharmacy’ in Taiwan.
The design is inspired by the original pharmaceutical process of extracting molecules from nature to create healing drugs. The metal, lightweight glass, and transparent acrylics are crisscrossed, and straight lines are used to build the display racks; similar to the expansion of a molecule – with medicines placed on them, the display racks seem to disappear from the space, while the varied pharmaceutical packaging adds color to the walls.

Additional projects from this year’s shortlist include:

Display category – Fleur Pavilia Sales Gallery by New World Development Company. The fleur floating island in the city, Hong Kong, China. 


Hotel category – Hisvahan Hotel by GEO_ID, Istanbul, Turkey.


Retail category – Genius loci – House of Fritz Hansen, Jakarta, Indonesia.



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Speak out for the trees

Where is your favorite tree? Tell your story on the Forest for the Trees Storymap!

Artist Katherine Wimble Fox and SoCoCulture (the South King County Cultural Coalition) 
announce an open call to the public to contribute to the crowd-sourced, online, interactive Forest for the Trees Storymap. Participants locate their favorite tree or trees on a map and upload an image and story of their tree. Forest for the Trees is meant to inspire stewardship and awareness of our tree neighbors, attunement to nature, community sharing, and attachment to place. It will also become a record of the social value of trees in South King County communities. 

This mapping project is funded by a Tech Specific artist grant from 4Culture. It is a component of SoCoCulture’s Engaging Trees Initiative, and for autumn 2018, SoCoCulture is planning a tree-centric speaker series, supported by the Port of Seattle’s Airport Community Ecology Fund, to encourage further participation in the project. Nonprofit partner support is provided by Pacific Bonsai Museum and the Highline Historical Society.

Why Trees?
As developers eye South King County’s plentiful undeveloped parcels, with chainsaws at the ready, residents stand to lose cherished trees. The loss would be immense, as people depend on the ecosystem services trees provide as producers of oxygen, shade, food, habitat, carbon storage, clean air, and clean water. In recognition of the ecological and economic value of trees, King County has pledged to plant 1 Million Trees by 2020, and communities across south King County are initiating tree canopy surveys to map current canopy coverage from the air.

Down on the ground, trees provide a social value as well. People benefit from the presence of trees, finding beauty, silence, respite, solace, shelter, fortitude, and camaraderie. They are inspired by trees, responding with physical play, storymaking, placemaking, and dreaming. Most people can recall at least one memorable experience involving a special tree or group of trees, and can tell a story about that experience.

Who Can Participate?
The Forest for the Trees storymap project is fully inclusive: anyone can contribute a story in any language about any tree that matters to them (past or present) anywhere in the world. Outreach activities and programming aimed at increasing participation will be carried out in South King County, WA.

As South King County communities are steadily becoming more culturally diverse, Forest for the Trees is a way for newer communities, too, to make their mark on the map, by introducing them to plants to facilitate familiarity and personal connections to existing trees.

How Will Stories be Collected and What Will be Done with them?
The public can navigate to to:   

  1. Locate their tree on the map;
  2. Upload an image of their tree, and 
  3. Upload a story about their tree.   

Because the storymap can be publicly accessed anywhere via smartphone, people can explore stories and contribute to the map at the site of their tree. Contributions to the map are public and will be stored on ESRI‘s (the maker of the Storymap app) server. Stories will accumulate on the Storymap for all to read and explore.

To further strengthen the connections between people, place, and trees, and to encourage more contributions to the map, selected partner organizations will organize public programs in autumn 2018. The programs will be posted online at

About Katherine Wimble Fox
Katherine Wimble Fox is driven by the belief that experiential awareness can bond people with place, connect communities, and support environmental sustainability. Her artwork converges on the intersection of art, environmentalism, and history through feminist practices defined as those that underscore participation, pluralism, embodiment, and contextualization. Katherine has collaborated on site-specific outdoor art installations as a founding member of the Unearth Collective, plus landscape architecture projects with Hapa Collaborative, site-specific art installations with Haddad|Drugan LLC, and currently works as the Communications Manager at the Pacific Bonsai Museum in Federal Way, WA. She holds a Master’s degree in landscape architecture from the University of Washington, a post-baccalaureate graduate degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and a B.S. in Forestry & Wildlife resources from Virginia Tech.

About SoCoCulture
The South King County Cultural Coalition (SoCoCulture) consists of local arts, heritage and botanical organizations that have joined forces to promote a vibrant cultural life in South King County. SoCoCulture provides advocacy, collaborative marketing, and professional development opportunities for its members. To learn more about SoCoCulture’s Engaging Trees Initiative, visit:

About 4Culture 
4Culture provides funding and support for the cultural work that makes King County
vibrant. Arts 4Culture funds individual artists, artist groups, and arts organizations that
provide access to art experiences for all King County residents and visitors.

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Opinion: Does Seattle City Council Actually Want Affordability?

Image provided by Plymouth Housing Group

Listening to City Council members’ rhetoric you might think they want cheaper housing. But do most of them, really?

The Council has done nothing about accessory units, which would be helpful to both homeowners and accessory-unit residents. They actually outlawed most of the smaller micro housing options, which used to allow unsubsidized construction affordable at the low-middle range. Land that can be redeveloped into multifamily housing or mixed-use is getting scarcer, with skyrocketing prices, because a small fraction of the city allows anything but houses. The Council hasn’t done much about that either.

Other than limit parking requirements (kudos for that), we seem to be going backward.

There’s a theme here. The Council is doing what’s popular and fits a narrative, not what’s effective.

Now they’re looking at a head tax on jobs. Isn’t it convenient that voters won’t pay anything, at least not directly? Only big bad employers.

Techs are other big companies are the lifeblood of our local economy, bringing new money in from elsewhere. The rest of us — contractors, hospitals, bakeries — mostly shuffle money that was already local. The head tax avoids small businesses but look where their money comes from. The Council seems intent on shrinking the tax base that already supports the same good things.

More money is needed for housing and human services, but we should all share the burden, in a way that doesn’t create its own headwinds for the intended causes. If the cost can’t be spread nationally or statewide, at least Seattle’s tax can make sense. For example a property tax.

A fair tax would probably pass an election. But that would be scary for the Council, and they wouldn’t be seen sticking it to big business. Maybe an affordable future isn’t as important as job security (for them, not us) and an image.

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How will commercial solar be affected by tariffs?

The following post is by Kyle Pennell, Content Manager at PowerScout.

This week, the Trump administration slapped tariffs on imported solar panels and solar cells. Set to start at 30 percent, the tariffs will decline each year by five percent and expire after four years.

Commercial and residential rooftop solar installations emerged relatively unscathed from the tariff ruling. Compared to utility-scale solar installations, rooftop installations have higher “soft costs” – the costs associated with customer acquisition, marketing, supply chain costs, installation labor, and so on. Soft costs account for nearly two-thirds of the overall commercial solar installation price tag. Of the remaining hard costs (those associated with equipment), the panels themselves only comprise about 10 to 15 percent of the overall installed system price.

In other words, for a typical commercial solar installation, the total cost will increase only about three or four percent. A standard system costs around $20,000; a three percent increase, then, would add just $600 to the price tag.

Overall, however, many analysts believe that the tariffs won’t have a significant effect. Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, said, “The global solar industry will adjust. The penetration of solar in the U.S. will continue.”

MJ Shiao, head of GTM Research’s Americas division, said the tariff decision “has a meaningful but not destructive impact on solar installations.”

And for at least some in the solar industry, the tariffs actually spell good news. While they comprise a small minority (about 15 percent) of jobs in the solar industry overall, domestic panel manufacturers broadly stand to gain from the tariffs. Companies that produce novel solar products could also benefit.

Tesla, for instance, will begin nationwide installations of its solar roof this year. Unlike traditional solar panels, the solar roof is composed of roofing tiles that look like any other but contain solar cells to generate electricity. Tesla imports the solar cells used in the tiles, but the tariff on solar cells won’t go into effect unless 2.5 gigawatts’ worth of cells are imported. Since only 0.5 gigawatts of cells were imported last year, the tariff on cells is unlikely to limit production. Tesla has also announced their plans to use imported solar cells to produce traditional solar panels.

Like other U.S. panel manufacturers, First Solar also stands to benefit from the tariffs. The company produces thin-film panels made with cadmium telluride and doesn’t even require imported solar cells. First Solar has announced plans to expand its existing manufacturing capacity in Ohio, and its share price climbed nine percent in after-hours trading following the tariff announcement. Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown (D) said the trade decision was “welcome news” and suggested that tariffs will “help level the playing field” for American panel makers.

Even some installers, who were broadly united against any kind of tariff, have benefited (at least temporarily) from the tariff announcement. Share prices for Sunrun and Vivint Solar, for instance, were bolstered by relieved investors who had expected even steeper tariffs.

Jigar Shah, the founder of SunEdison, said the tariffs were “exactly what the solar industry asked for behind closed doors” and characterized them as “good news” overall.

Still, over 80 percent of U.S. solar installations utilize foreign panels, and the tariffs will hurt some segments of the industry, especially solar installers. Abigail Harper, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, said the tariffs will “create a crisis in a part of our economy that has been thriving, which will ultimately cost tens of thousands of hard-working, blue-collar Americans their jobs.” The SEIA estimates that 23,000 jobs could be lost this year alone – though that figure is considerably lower than last year’s estimate from Bloomberg New Energy Finance and Clearview Energy Partners, which projected that tariffs could cause the U.S. solar industry to shed 88,000 jobs this year.

As prices rise, previously anticipated installation rates are expected to slow. While the tariffs are in effect, total installations will decline about 10 percent relative to the level that was previously projected. But utility-scale solar, not commercial and residential solar, will suffer the most. Prices for utility-scale installations could jump by 10 percent, and 65 percent of the overall decline in installations will be due to the slowdown of utility-scale projects.

The tariffs stem from a trade complaint brought by solar panel manufacturers Suniva and SolarWorld. The companies filed a petition with the U.S. International Trade Commission last year, blaming foreign competition for crippling domestic solar panel manufacturing. Together, they argued in favor of severe tariffs on imported solar panels.

The petition and the ITC’s subsequent ruling were broadly opposed by solar installers, as well as free trade advocates and developers of solar power plants. A bipartisan group of 69 members of Congress sent the ITC a letter urging the commission to oppose tariffs.

The tariffs were primarily aimed at panel makers in China and other Asian nations. Trump regularly vilified China and its trade policies during the 2016 presidential campaign.

But China’s Jinko Solar, one of the world’s largest panel producers, said the tariff decision was “better than expected” and even suggested that it might build a manufacturing plant in the U.S. And despite the fact that it’s owned by Shunfeng International Clean Energy Ltd., a Chinese company, Suniva thanked the president for “holding China and its proxies accountable.”

China and South Korea have criticized the White House’s decision and may petition the tariffs before the World Trade Organization. Under pressure from the WTO, the administration might withdraw the tariffs.

China might also retaliate with tariffs of its own. And since China is America’s number one trading partner, Chinese tariffs could badly damage the U.S. economy.

Kyle Pennell is the Content Manager at PowerScout — we help homeowners figure out if installing solar is right for them and get competitive bids from multiple installers. Our long-term mission is to accelerate the adoption of solar (and other smart home improvements), which will help mitigate climate change.

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Is San Diego America’s finest city?

San Diego calls itself “America’s Finest City.” That’s quite a claim. Yet somehow it seems to fly juuust under the radar. San Diego’s sun, zoo, Navy, chicken, and iconic hotel are known by many, but what about the city?

San Diego’s streets can seem very Seattle-like except the tree species.

I visited recently for a closer look. The verdict: Go there. San Diego is impressive from a tourist and urbanist city-loving perspective.

The Gaslamp Quarter might be the best downtown restaurant district on the West Coast. Picture a mix of historic and new, with eight blocks of restaurants and bars along Fifth Avenue overflowing to other streets. It feels like the real core of Downtown. The all-ages crowd mixes locals and visitors. Nightclubs and restaurants boom bass out their open windows (consider this when choosing a hotel), interspersed with quieter places and takeout of many cuisines. The open windows lend a summer resort feel even in the winter. Try Sushi Lounge on Market and get the salmon poke.

San Diego’s corporate presence is relatively small, a standard local worry. It’s also not concentrated Downtown. The real office core is 10 miles north in La Jolla, with the country’s #3 biotech cluster (some say), techs like Qualcomm (unless it’s taken over!), and UC San Diego. This means Downtown can focus more on housing, tourism, and nightlife. This is an interesting contrast to Seattle’s huge office CBD which pushes other uses to its fringes. It’s nice from a tourist perspective, but probably not so nice if you want to walk or ride transit to the office. Downtown San Diego has been adding quite a bit of housing, probably for the lifestyle more than to serve the Downtown workforce.

This ravine has a semi-wooded trail at the bottom.

New residential towers on the Downtown fringe.

San Diego overall is denser than you might think, sort of like central LA or Seattle – lots of bungalows, plus a surprising amount of multifamily. There’s lots of infill, with that great West Coast trait of trying to use land as efficiently as possible (because it’s expensive). Vacant lots are rare, aside from parking lots around the Downtown fringes that have been going away quickly. Steep hillsides and ravines woven throughout the city provide a mix of built and natural areas.

Retail in centralized neighborhoods tends to be in familiar walkable corridors like University Avenue (sort of like our 45th, with stretches of activity) or small walkable nodes. The most visible difference might be the palm trees. It’s worth a long walk.

San Diego’s low transit usage is therefore surprising. Just 3.9% of in-city residents used transit for commutes per the Census Department 2012-2016 survey, and just 3.1% walked. That’s despite the weather and some rail transit. Seattle (albeit with a smaller city limit) was 20.8% and 10.1%. The gap has apparently been getting wider since then as San Diego’s mode splits have worsened and Seattle’s have gotten better. One reason: our jobs and big university are centralized.

Another reason is very high parking requirements for new buildings. With some exceptions, even studios require 1.25 parking spaces per unit, and a two-bedroom requires two spaces! That’s a huge cost to renters. It’s also encouragement for people to have cars and use them, versus Seattle where parking is often separate. As a result, San Diego’s infill seems to be about large sites that can fit parking and fewer but larger units. The Seattle resident who pays $1,000 for a micro would probably need a roommate in San Diego. San Diego’s home prices are similar to Seattle’s despite the lack of a corporate job base, and despite an apparently-mellower form of California empowered nimbyism.

Why is the job base lacking? Airline service is one obvious factor. San Diego International has a single, short runway hemmed in by North San Diego Bay. It’s very close in, with the glide path spectacularly (if noisily) a half-mile north of Downtown. Passenger counts are less than half of Sea-Tac’s. Tijuana Airport allows you to walk over the border to routes mostly within Mexico, but its numbers aren’t huge. A long-term solution isn’t imminent. Some hope it involves an existing military airport at Miramar or Camp Pendleton.

A ferry to Coronado Island is a nice trip. The terminal is Downtown next to the USS Midway aircraft carrier. It’s a slow boat but a quick ride. The view is fantastic. You end up near a business district with several restaurants (try Saiko Sushi). From there it’s a 25-minute walk to Hotel del Coronado on the ocean side with its beach and great architecture. When you get back to Downtown, tour the Midway.

Museums at Balboa Park

Balboa Park is an easy walk from Downtown. This is theoretically 1,000 acres with a mix of park and amenities. It’s sliced apart by a freeway chasm and much of it is a golf course and the Naval Medical Center. Some parts aren’t well-connected to the city. But it has beautiful areas and many of San Diego’s top museums as well as its famous zoo. It’s easy to spend a day there. If you get your fill of arts, culture, science, and aircraft, try the Model Railroad Museum, because cities and towns are cool in miniature.

Is this America’s finest city? A lot of cities have valid claims, and San Diego is one of them.

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