All posts by Giulio

Qingdao Future City — the Fantastic Jungle

Wandering in the Fantastic Jungle

CLOU architects was commissioned by Vanke to design the fourth-floor atrium of the newly opened Future City Mall in Qingdao. Located in Qingdao’s northern district, Vanke Future City is a brand-new shopping and leisure destination devoted to mingling aesthetics, creativity, and social experiences, hoping to bring fresh vitality to Qingdao’s old town and its surroundings.


The crux of the design challenge was to create an iconic social space, tempting customers to the mall’s upper levels and energizing its retail and dining areas. This led to the concept of an immersive jungle garden.


Today’s consumers value comfort and intimacy in commercial and public spaces, and cherish nature, outdoors, wellness, and social interaction above all. Responding to this, the firm decided to integrate nature and art into an immersive space. Drawing inspiration from the paintings of Henri Rousseau, CLOU created a vibrant, experientially unique jungle garden.


Tropical Forest with Monkeys, Henri Rousseau

In the atrium’s central space, the firm chose a two-storey red cube structure as the focal point, surrounded by a jungle of plants and water. Reminiscent of the primitive and mysterious scenes in Rousseau’s paintings, the vibrant colours, light, and shade invoke an imaginative and dreamlike atmosphere.


CLOU chose bright red as a primary colour to create a striking visual impression to quickly grab people’s attention. Like the flowers and animals that populate Rosseau’s mysterious paintings, the firm created a dazzling contrast between the colourful subject, detailed background, and a pleasing sense of illusion.

A circular bridge on the first floor connects the central cube to its surrounding areas with varying staircases. Tropical greenery, seating, water features, and staircases create human-scale details, enhancing the walking experience and enticing customers to linger and explore. This alluring, outdoor feeling provides its visitors with a place where their imaginations can roam freely.

A variety of paths and steps create fun and interactive scenes for socializing, exploring, and taking photos. The entire atrium serves as a public space for the local community to relax and enjoy a perfect venue for joyful community events.

With the unique spatial experience created for Qingdao Future City, CLOU hopes to activate the social and artistic potential of the commercial space by creating a fun, intimate, and pleasurable place for creating lasting memories.

Photography: Zhu Runzi

Introducing the world’s first vertical resort

Aera Vertical Resort in Dubai by OBM International wins Best Futuristic Project Award

An Urban Escape; Disconnect Within These Walls

What if there was a resort experience that was accessible within your own urban center? Can you imagine an exotic vacation within driving distance of your home, and yet—a world away. What if you could experience the indulgence of a resort within a global city so that you didn’t have to choose between the cultural richness of international urban travel and the restorative serenity of a beach vacation?


While the landscape of luxury travel has looked a certain way, the team seeks to reframe this idea in order to provide a new, distinct offering that is vertically integrated into a city’s urban center. By redefining resorts, we hope to expand our understanding of what is by creating something that has never been. 

The Vertical Resort will capture every resort amenity in a way that is entirely new; it will embody the same un-plugged escape that one finds on a private island without leaving a city’s epicenter— marrying relaxation, convenience and connectedness.


Resort Of The Future…

Enter the Vertical Resort—a world of escape that will instantly transport guests to another dimension. The arrival experience overwhelms the senses—aromatic smells, a rushing indoor waterfall, breathtaking design, artful details everywhere—the whole space buzzes with an energy that is distinct and separate from the world outside. 

A host escorts guests to the elevator that transports them to the rooftop, passing vertical pocket gardens, a historic neighbourhood with cultural meanderings and “sidewalk” cafes to reach a domed, glass greenhouse that erupts with vibrant greenery. The rooftop features one of many infinity pools, each offering a unique view of the city below and a different angle to watch the sky at sunset. 



An ideal location for a quick, romantic getaway—an escape to connect—without enduring lengthy flights and strenuous travel. Upon arrival, guests are invited to sit in a cocooned cabana and served a complimentary welcome cocktail garnished with fresh mint from the resort’s edible garden as the host walks them through personalized options for their stay. This really is a world of its own.

Reimagining A Resort In An Urban Context 

The Vertical Resort Hotel is the one-stop-shop; a destination that guests return to, again and again. Just like a typical resort at an exotic destination, there is intrigue for an entire family. The Vertical Resort will offer a variety of moods to choose from, with separate active zones and quiet spaces, complete with effective noise isolation or curated sound landscapes—depending on what you desire. There will be recreational fun for all ages, lavish spa offerings and a multitude of culinary experiences means that you can come to The Vertical Resort Hotel with your whole family without having to long book flights and coordinate transportation; when you arrive, you won’t even have leave the hotel.



Arrival And Sky Lobby

Guests will enter through a landscaped park, with lush blooms and climbing gardens that flow through and under the building, and into the lower lobby, instantly highlighting the idea of arriving to an urban oasis—a surprising paradise amongst the cityscape. The lower lobby is simply a drop-off zone for luggage before guests are vertically transported to the sky-dome lobby with stretching panoramic views of the city. 


Art and Culinary District

Many esteemed urban hotels are culinary destinations for those traveling to major cities. Michelin Chefs create decadent menus and creative cocktails draw in cultured crowds who want to experience the hotel’s ambiance for even a brief moment. 

Aera will feature multiple culinary offerings that are curated around the layered edible gardens that thrives throughout the resort. As such, the menus will be local-by-design, allowing for organically grown produce that is fresh and exclusively available within the resort. While the fine-dining restaurants, juice bars, cocktail lounges, bakery and casual cafes will be available to the resort’s guests, they will also attract an audience of people who seek exceptional culinary experiences—either locals or travelers staying elsewhere—which will further emphasize the magnetic, alluring qualities of the resort.


Lastly, there will be adaptable F&B spaces that are designed to shift with the changing atmosphere

HAUSSMANN 2.0, A Resilient, Green & Breathable Paris, by @vincentcallebautarchitectures

Prefect of the Seine from 1853 to 1870, Baron Haussmann directed the transformations of Paris during the Second Empire under the aegis of Napoleon III, by deepening the vast renovation plan established by the Simeon commission. The transformations are such that we speak of “Haussmannian” buildings for the many buildings built along the wide avenues cut through in Paris under his responsibility, the work carried out having given the old medieval Paris the face that we know today.

Haussmann wanted to establish a policy facilitating the flow of flows, both of population, of goods and of air and water, convinced by the hygienist theories inherited from the Enlightenment and which spread following the cholera epidemic of 1832. This campaign was entitled “Paris embellished, Paris enlarged, Paris sanitized”.

In 2023, in line with the “Paris Smart City 2050” ecological transition plan initiated in 2014 by the agency Vincent Callebaut Architectures on the basis of the “Climate-Air-Energy Plan” for the City of Paris and the Municipal Services of the Urban Ecology, our team of architects continues to explore, via new artificial intelligence tools, the concept of climate and energy solidarity between energy-intensive Haussmann buildings and positive energy biomimetic architectures inspired by both shapes and structures. and ecosystem feedback loops.

Through a sensitive and contemporary dialogue, which preserves the intrinsic historical heritage of the French capital, it is first a question of creating islands of urban freshness by repatriating nature, biodiversity and urban agriculture in permaculture at the heart of the city. Then, these “Archibiotics” (Archi+Bio+ICT) aim to massively integrate renewable energies into buildings constructed from biobased materials (as cross laminated timber, rammed earth, hempcrete, solid structural stone, bamboo, microalgae, mycelium, and straw) and producing their own energy and recycling their own waste into resources, to achieve the national objective of carbon neutrality in 2050.


The result is a fair symbiosis of the Humanity-Nature couple, futuristic bio-inspired architectures that rely on the high degree of engineering of French know-how, its craftsmanship and its cutting-edge industry. This desire to invent a resilient urbanism, on a human scale, imagined for and in consultation with Parisians, could be part of a new campaign entitled “Resilient Paris, green Paris, breathable Paris”.

Vincent Callebaut Architectures

 INSTAGRAM : @vincentcallebautarchitectures

FACEBOOK : @vincentcallebautarchitectures

LINKEDIN : @VincentCallebaut


World Building of the Year

Quay Quarter Tower (QQT) in Sydney, Australia has been declared the World Building of the Year 2022 at the fifteenth annual World Architecture Festival (WAF), held in Lisbon.

It was announced amongst other ultimate accolades including World Interior of the Year, Future Project of the Year and Landscape of the Year, at a glittering gala dinner held at the Convento Do Beato, a former Portuguese convent dating back to the 16th century, located in a historic part of Lisbon.

The World Building of the Year, supported by GROHE went to Quay Quarter Tower (QQT), designed by 3XN Architects.

The 206-metre tower, located close to the Sydney Opera House, is an office building arranged as a vertical village, creating a sense of community and providing spaces that focus on collaboration, health, well-being and external terraces.

Constructed of five stacked shifting volumes, 3XN employed a radical sustainability strategy which involved upcycling the existing tower. The series of stacked atria create a social spine with exceptional views, while also allowing daylight deep into each floor.

Paul Finch, Programme Director of the World Architecture Festival commented: “The winner was commissioned to provide a building on a world class site, and to retain a huge proportion of an existing fifty-year-old commercial tower. The result was an excellent example of adaptive re-use. It has an excellent carbon story, and it is an example of anticipatory workspace design produced pre-COVID which nevertheless has provided healthy and attractive space for post-pandemic users. The client was prepared to risk building out an idea on a speculative basis – it worked”.


“The electric car is perfectly noiseless and clean. There is no smell or vibration. They should become very useful when fixed charging stations can be arranged.”
The Hon. Charles Stewart Rolls, Co-Founder, Rolls-Royce, 1900


In 1900, Rolls-Royce co-founder, Charles Rolls, prophesised an electric future for the motor car. Having acquired an electric vehicle named The Columbia Electric Carriage, he foresaw its suitability as a clean, noiseless alternative to the internal combustion engine – providing there was sufficient infrastructure to support it. Today, more than 120 years later, the time has come for Rolls-Royce Motor Cars to fulfil the prophecy of its founding father.

This prophecy could not have been fulfilled without a more recent promise, when Rolls-Royce CEO, Torsten Müller-Ötvös, made a public commitment to electrification by announcing that he would bring a fully-electric Rolls-Royce to market within the current decade. Charles Rolls’ prophecy and Torsten Müller-Ötvös’ promise led to an historic moment. In September 2021, the marque confirmed that it had commenced testing of Spectre, the first Rolls-Royce to be conceived and engineered from the very beginning as an electric car.

Spectre is not only an historic moment for Rolls-Royce, but also an historic moment for electrification – with Spectre, the marque confirms that the technology has reached a standard that can contain the Rolls-Royce experience. To that end, Rolls-Royce has confirmed that by the end of 2030 its entire product portfolio will be fully-electric.


Spectre is more than a motor car. It is a statement of intent and a symbol of a bright, bold future as Rolls-Royce progresses into an all-electric era. This commitment to an all-electric powertrain will only enhance the Rolls-Royce experience – instant torque, silent running and the sense of one imperceptible gear have defined the characteristics of an extraordinary canon of products dating back to the very first Rolls-Royce, the 1904 10 H.P.


In unveiling Spectre, Rolls-Royce sets a new precedent in the creation of an entirely original class of motor car: the Ultra-Luxury Electric Super Coupé. This designation refers to Spectre’s indulgent proportions, specified in response to a commitment that there is no greater luxury than that of space.

The marque’s designers are deeply rooted in the context occupied by their motor cars. Therefore, their inspiration is drawn from worlds far beyond automotive, including haute couture, modernist sculpture, nautical design, tailoring and contemporary art. In conceiving the principal sketches for Spectre, the marque’s creatives were drawn to modern yacht concepts, specifically the clarity and precision of line, intelligent use of reflection and application of taper to emotionalize silhouettes.

The proportional demands of Spectre’s scale required Rolls-Royce to embolden its wheel strategy. Spectre is the first production two-door coupé to be equipped with 23-inch wheels in almost one hundred years.
Inside, Spectre is provisioned with the most technologically advanced Bespoke features yet, drawing inspiration from the timeless mystique of the night’s sky. For the first time on a series production Rolls-Royce, Spectre is available with Starlight Doors, which incorporate 4,796 softly illuminated ‘stars’. The coach doors can also be commissioned with a backdrop of wood Canadel Panelling, which takes its name from the cove in the South of France where Sir Henry Royce and his design team spent their winters.


The final power, acceleration and range figures are still being refined, as the extraordinary undertaking of finessing Spectre enters its final phase before concluding in the second quarter of 2023. Preliminary data shows that Spectre is expected to have an all-electric range of 320 miles/520 kilometres WLTP and offer 900Nm of torque from its 430kW powertrain. It is anticipated to achieve 0-60mph in 4.4 seconds (0-100km/h in 4.5 seconds).

With many months of testing and optimisation of Spectre still ahead, these figures are subject to change ahead of official confirmation prior to market launch in Q4 2023.


WLTP:   Power consumption: 2.9 mi/kWh. / 21.5 kWh/100km*

Electric range: 323 miles / 520 kilometres*

Co2 emissions 0 g/km.

*Preliminary data not yet confirmed, subject to change.

Spectre is available for commission immediately, with first client deliveries commencing in Q4 2023. Spectre pricing will be positioned between Cullinan and Phantom.

Quantum Passivhaus adheres to promise of quality sustainable housing at a reasonable cost


Not only does Quantum Passivhaus offer prefab-certified international passive house systems, but the Minden company is exceedingly proud of its quality control, value and sustainable approach.

And the world is taking notice.

Quantum Passivhaus (QP) has four building components certified with the Passive House Institute (PHI), the only internationally-recognized, performance-based energy standard in construction, plus six more in development. No other Canadian company has reached that certification.

“Sustainability is in everything we do,” says Deborah Byrne, QP’s Vice-President of Operations & Innovations. “PHI is acknowledged as having the most rigorous building standard in the world; we approach a build with the best-in-the-market prefab wall systems.”

Notably, QP was the first to offer a cold climate wall and has begun the Arctic certification process in support of Indigenous housing in the north.

“Sustainability isn’t just about energy and carbon,” Byrne says. “True sustainability addresses one’s ability to flourish, grow and give back.”

She says that a QP build allows people to live healthily, comfortably, in an energy-efficient durable home, but also has the ability to shelter in times of blackouts or climate crisis.  QP homes and buildings are resilient and robust to changes in temperature and, as such, can keep people safe for days in the cold even when there is no power.  Moreover, QP homes can be fully electric, affordably.

The QP approach is showcased on many levels with a project at Lorne Beach near Kincardine, Ontario, where multiple unique features are in place that could not be duplicated by quality trades locally.

Abby Xerri, President & General Manager at QP, says that project is a perfect example of prefab rapid housing as smart solution, especially through challenging times.

“Not only did the project stay within three per cent of its budget, but its construction was completed in under 13 months with only two days required for superstructure assembly,” Xerri says.

He pointed out that the homeowner had friends in the building industry and they were much more expensive than the cost from QP.

“They (friends) confirmed to them that they would not attempt to construct a home on their behalf with such aggressive energy targets,” Xerri says.

“Their resources were also extremely limited to the experience required to provide other components for cold climate-certified passive house windows and energy-recovery ventilation (ERV). QP’s processes and passive house prefab ‘kept-simple’ approach allowed the project to experience predictable logistical costs through challenging pandemic times.”

QP strictly followed all health and government protocols, for example, organizing safe site activity/access with clients, suppliers or sub trades.

“We managed material deliveries, handling and critical tool/station sharing,” Xerri explains. “We took the necessary measures to work with our sub trades and forecasting of material availability and predictable market pricing.

“We addressed, with the homeowner, the opportunity to re-evaluate or strategize must-haves or appropriate compromises in order manage budget expectations. QP even absorbed certain costs to try to provide an exceptional product and experience for the homeowners.

At the Lorne Beach project, Xerri says all major components were engineered and met all PHI-certified component requirements.

“That passive house prefab build showcased some unique design and living space areas,” he says, “such as an over-garage rec room, and access to the upper level of the main home. The budget included many component-allowance upgrades such as engineered hardwood flooring, tiled bathrooms and kitchen surrounds, custom-built kitchen, solid custom staircase and railings, as well as exterior finish upgrades.”

Xerri says QP is committed to taking part in pilot projects with PHI as part of their development of the standard, science and components.

“We want to be able to offer innovative climate secure solutions to all our clients – homeowners, builders or developers,” says Byrne. “Having simple affordable approaches to climate change is very important to us. Everyone should have access to resilient housing/buildings.

“We continue to work on making sure our product is of the highest quality, while keeping our costs of certified wall panel components down. While other building materials continue to creep up, we’ve managed to remain affordable.”

Xerri says that QP has been making strides to be an industry leader.

“Our focus on providing solutions to many construction challenges using a prefab system is what makes us stand out from the rest.”

He says that in addition to its world-first cold climate sustainable PHI-certified panels, QP will soon have the first certified Arctic panels and structures.

“Also, QP will soon be manufacturing its own PH window line in partnership with a world-renowned passive house window manufacturer. These windows will not only provide our projects with great value, but the open market stands to benefit, as well, with a homegrown solution suitable for all of climates in Canada.”

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Coulter Dawe continues streak as premier custom/design firm in southern Georgian Bay


There’s something to be said about a custom home builder that stands the test of time.

In many ways, Coulter Dawe and Associates can attest to that.

The premier custom design/build firm in southern Georgian Bay has been in business for more than 50 years, and that, alone, says a lot. That longevity, however, is merely the tip of the iceberg.

“We have been in business since 1968,” says company president Patrick B. Coulter, “focusing on high-end custom homes. We have built more homes in southern Georgian Bay than any other builder and are considered the premier custom home builder in the region.”

Dawe joined the firm 15 years ago and worked his way through the ranks to his current position of vice-president and principal.  He now leads the firm. His in-house projects represent the ultimate in quality and elegance.


Offering full client consultation, from land purchase to occupancy, the company’s management team has been together for 30 years and is fully qualified to assist clients all the way to the final finishes. They have been exceeding customers’ expectations and take pride in getting credit for building projects that will be remembered for generations.

Coulter Dawe believes that choosing the right builder should not be based on a sales pitch; the selection should be done by looking at a firm’s long-standing reputation of guiding clients through the architectural and building process, followed up by delivering what is promised.


“We have a tremendously capable team of staff, experts and associates,” says Coulter. “Distinct by the depth of our experience, the core management team has vast experience at unique site locations and difficult build sites.


“Our firm is always client-first. We are always respectful of schedule and budget and will not authorize additional spending without client authorization. Every past client would refer us to friends and relatives.”

Currently, when discussing a build with clients, Coulter says many are interested in knowing more about wind and solar power.

“They are all seeking high quality systems, with greater air tightness, higher insulation levels, efficient lighting systems, high-efficient boilers with multiple air handlers, with radiant floor heat considerations.

“We have done a number of solar and wind surveys for clients. Our clients generally have elected to go with high-efficiency conventional systems, including ground source options.”

Coulter says the firm has participated in all educational and energy management projects to develop a company attitude towards energy responsibility at all levels of their work.

“We are very focused on perfection at all levels of construction,” says Coulter, whose role into the future will be as senior advisor to Dawe and the team. “We practise a green approach in every one of our projects – it’s not an isolated part of our work. Overall, we produce top-quality projects for our country’s most elite clients.


He says Coulter Dawe has an established team of design and system experts who coordinate the performance of a building to ensure the best possible energy performance within the limits created by the building design.


“We are proud to be recognized as the premier custom home builder in southern Georgian Bay,” adds Coulter. “We have studied energy management to guarantee we are ready and aware of the options every client will face and ensure they are guided to wise choices.

“We feel that the choices that are made today in housing must be considered prudent for the next 50 years.”

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Sustaining a vision

Onwards and upwards for the Strashin Family’s 501 Alliance project


His mantra has been tweaked ever so slightly over the years, but Elliot Strashin’s ultimate goals and aspirations make even more sense today than ever before.

Nowhere is that more evident than in the ongoing progress at 501 Alliance, the Toronto project managed by Strashin Developments, which is undergoing continuous renovation and targeting LEED platinum certification.

“I continue to stand by my belief that the greenest building is the one that already exists,” says Strashin, President of Strashin Developments. “What I find even more true today than ever before, however, is that for sustainability or green technology to gain any traction, it must also make financial sense. Otherwise, people will rationalize that they can’t adopt it right now and nothing will happen.”

Changing with the times, on any level, means adapting and refining the status quo, something Strashin Developments has done continually … with stellar results.

“Since we started out with 501 Alliance back in 2012, greenhouse gas emissions have only gotten worse,” he says. “Now we face rising interest rates and a possible recession. And Covid has certainly changed the nature of work in the office”.

“But these facts of life only highlight our goals of sustainable, green buildings which reduce carbon emissions and make financial sense. I save money with the changes I have adopted, as well as reduce carbon emissions.”

This project, through its wholly-owned subsidiary 501 Alliance Investments Inc., is taking place at the former Cooper Canada sporting goods factory, near Weston Road and Black Creek. The original building was built in two stages, a one-storey section in 1965 and a four-storey section with full underground parking in 1975.

The building is geographically located in the heart of the city, with access to the St. Clair dedicated streetcar, the Eglinton LRT, the Smart Track, GO Transit, plus buses and major highways near Weston Road and Black Creek.

The Strashin project at the 380,000-square-foot facility involves gutting and renovating throughout. It is 2/3 renovated and tenanted to date but is expected to be finished within three years, Strashin says.

Some of the changes included in the renovation include:

  • 20-year high SRI reflective roof;
  • 298 KW solar farm;
  • Insulated roof and walls;
  • Storm water harvesting;
  • Geothermal HVAC throughout;
  • High efficiency plumbing fixtures;
  • High efficiency LED lighting and controls;
  • Geothermal-heated sidewalks and parking lots;
  • Parking for bicycles and electric cars;
  • And fibre-optic connectivity.

How is the project taking aim at LEED platinum certification? Strashin says there are a number of initiatives, including stormwater harvesting, geothermal HVAC, passive heating and cooling of the make-up air, high-efficiency LED lighting and insulated roofing and walls.

The 298KW solar farm is part of the feed-in tariff (FIT) program undertaken by the previous Liberal provincial government in Ontario.

“The other additions we include make a significant difference, yet they don’t cost much more than a regular renovation,” Strashin explains.

As with any project, occasionally developers have to deal with unforeseen stumbling blocks.  In the case of 501 Alliance, Strashin says they were confronted with the fact that the site is located on a floodplain, and work has been affected by three separate once-in-a-hundred-year floods. They persevered, however, flood-proofed the building and continue to follow a sustainable path, despite the obstacles.

With excellent support from like-minded sustainability experts, Strashin has evolved and forged ahead. For example, one of the existing 501 Alliance tenants, Dennis Campbell, of Polar Bear Water Source Heat Pumps Mfg. Inc., interested Strashin with his geothermal technology ideas, so much so that he incorporated geothermal into the building.

“Geothermal HVAC, with heat pumps operating off ground or lake loops, make the most sense in reducing greenhouse emissions for buildings,” says Strashin, who has now partnered with Dennis and Roman Dychka in Green Systems Group Inc., the successor of Polar Bear. The new company has about 6 projects on the go including an apartment building, a school and some smaller residential and commercial installations

“It’s true that there is incredible demand for geothermal today, what we refer to as ground-source heat pumps. Actually, what other viable choices are there? Ground-source heat pumps work anywhere, no matter the conditions or weather. Compare that to air-source heat pumps that really don’t work well in extreme temperatures.

“Sure, there are drilling costs up front, but depending on your source of heating and AC the payback can be as little as seven years, which is the case for 501.”

At the end of the day, Strashin firmly believes that no matter what materials you use, no matter how carbon neutral you attempt to be, you can never surpass the savings in carbon emissions generated by re-using and repurposing an existing building such as 501 Alliance.

“Again, I target my construction projects to be green because it makes economic sense,” says Strashin. “Green technologies and sustainable development will only become mainstream if it also makes economic sense. Everything we do is carefully engineered by our consultants and researched beforehand, to confirm the savings.”