Top 9 unique structures

obviously, construction technologies are advancing extremely quickly. couple that with multi-billionaires / deep-pocketed companies trying to outdo each other in the quest for the next standout design and you have a near-future filled with mile-high skyscrapers and buildings that no longer look like buildings.

below are 9 strange and unique structures which have either been approved or are in the final stages of approval. some have already been partially constructed.

welcome to the future landscape.

1. aqua, usa

from a distance this skyscraper, to be completed in 2009 in Chicago , will seem quite traditional. it'll only be when you get close and look up that you can appreciate the ripple/jelly effect created by variously sized balconies from top to bottom.

2. chicago spire, usa

the phenomenal Chicago spire, when completed in 2010, will be the world's tallest residential building and the tallest building of any kind in the western world. seemingly modeled on the image of a giant drill poking through the ground, the 609m structure will dominate the Chicago skyline.

3. cctv headquarters, china

at a modest 234m the cctv building isn't going to stand out from a distance. however the design and shape is a crowd stopper to say the least and will be another incredible addition to Beijing 's skyline in time for the 2008 Olympics. the shape, described as a 'z criss-cross' results in a very high, seemingly unsupported corner at the front. let's hope there's a glass floor up there.

4. regatta hotel, jakarta

taking on a nautical theme, the developers say the 10 smaller towers represent sailing boats whilst the larger building is 'the lighthouse'. it's the lighthouse that steals the show for me, possibly the most incredible looking structure I've seen for a long time. if it ends up looking anything close to these pictures I'll be impressed.

5. residence antilia, india ( architects' website )

construction has begun on residence antilia despite opposition from those who see it as an 'excessive' design in a city where more than 65% of the population live in slums. politics aside and after you recover from the initial shock of seeing a skyscraper that resembles an ikea cd rack, the building actually looks like it may succeed as a stunning, unique, green piece of architecture.

6. russia tower, russia

topped with an observation deck over the city of moscow , russia tower will become the tallest building in europe when completed in 2012 and twice the height of the eiffel tower. construction has already started on this angular beast which was designed by foster & partners, also responsible for the gherkin and spaceport america, currently in development.

7. penang global city centre, malaysia

following months of speculation and sturdy opposition, this humungous project is in the final stages of approval and apparently construction will start very soon. even so, due to the size of the plan it will take at least 15 years to complete. resembling a sci-fi city, the area will be crowned by 2 x 200m towers and completely transform the small island of penang .

8. gazprom headquarters, russia ( architects' website )

this gigantic, 300m tall glass flame of a building will house the gazprom headquarters in st. petersburg , dwarfing all structures in its vicinity. it will apparently change colour up to 10 times per day depending on the position of the sun. the building has already been nicknamed 'corn on the cob' by unhappy locals.

9. burj dubai, dubai

this is the big one. when completed next year it will be the tallest man-made structure in the world and the tallest building by a long shot with a predicted height of 818m. note: currently the tallest building on earth, excluding an antenna, is taipei 101 in taiwan which stands at 509m. the photo below is the building's current state: the skyscrapers below the burj dubai used to look tall.

Nokia Aeon

Nokia has unveiled its latest concept phone, designed to highlight the company's focus on products that allow users to more readily stamp their personality on their gadgets. The concept phone, dubbed Aeon, combines two touch-sensitive panels mounted on a fuel-cell power pack. The handset's connectivity and electronics are built into the panels to allow them to be used independendently. When assembled, one panel would operate as the display, the other as the keypad. Since the buttons are entirely virtual, Aeon can flip instantly between a numeric pad for dialling, a text-entry pad for messaging, or a media-player controller.It's a cute idea and one that ties in with Nokia's expectation that phones will become essentially "wearable" devices - if foresees users removing one of Aeon's display panels and mounting it on a watch-like strap or worn as a badge.
More than a phone, Aeon might tap into local wireless networks to transmit data acquired from sensors such as devices that monitor the user's health signs - which is the kind of application the company has in mind for its Wibree personal-area network technology. ®

A Faster Gmail With More Power User Features

Earlier this week some GMail users reported seeing links to a "newer version" in their accounts and now Google has officially detailed the changes, though they still might not show up in your account for a little while.

Among the changes are speed boosts, a new contacts app that will also show up in other Google apps and a new rich text editor like the one found in Groups and Page Creator. You also might notice that there's some new keyboard shortcuts. Most of the keyboard shortcuts were previously available with the Gmail Macro Greasemonkey scripts (or through the Better GMail extension which we've reviewed before), but now even users without Greasemonkey can use the shortcuts.

For now the changes will be limited to Firefox 2 and Internet Explorer 7 users, though Google will be adding additional browser support as time goes on.

Also worth noting is that it appears GTalk may soon support multiple protocols. Those that have the new features enabled in their accounts report that the Address Book now offers drop down menus to choose what chat networks your contacts are using. Although the GMail blog post doesn't mention it, the rumor is that GTalk will soon be leveraging Jabber Transports to allow multi-protocol chats within GTalk and Gmail.

The bad news is that many of your favorite add-ons may not work with the new version of GMail. The GMail Blog post says that the GMail team has sent out details of the changes to developers of popular add-ons, but for the time being many, including the catch-all Better GMail add-on for Firefox, don't work with the new version.

Gspace, Gmail Drive, and those Gdrive rumors

The Gdrive, the mythical, hypothetical Google-provided and free Web-based storage drive, took a giant step toward reality earlier this week. As most of America waddled out of its tryptophan-induced haze on Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the myth could become real within a few months.
However, you don't have to wait that long to get free storage from Google. Thanks to Gspace and Gmail Drive, you can start using your five-gigabyte-plus of Gmail storage as a virtual drive right now. This second, even.
There's not much of a comparison to make between the two, unless you like setting your 1982 Walkman against your iPod Classic. The Gmail Drive is a good idea that's mostly devoid of advanced features. A standalone program, it turns your Gmail storage into a virtual drive by creating a shell namespace extension that in turn creates a virtual file system around the account. It's accessible from your preferred file-tree explorer.

Gmail Drive offers basic security options when logging in from your filetree.
(Credit: CNET Networks, Inc.)
It's not a bad system, and it two advantages over Gspace: you don't need to use Firefox to use it, and you can drag and drop files. Otherwise, its features are useful, if a bit boilerplate and mundane. When you add a file, it sends an e-mail to your Gmail account with the file as an attachment. If you delete a file from the virtual drive, it deletes the associated e-mail as well.
It allows for proxy authentication and secure HTTP, it preserves long filenames and it can auto-login, important for those who want to regularly use their Google account for file transfers. Beyond those, though, it doesn't use a lot of system resources. For those looking for a more full-bodied experience, Gspace is probably what you're looking for.
Gspace is a Firefox extension that's far more robust than Gmail Drive, but it also requires running Firefox. This isn't a bad thing, necessarily, but it's something to keep in mind, and your usage may affect which solution you prefer. It's also a cross-platform plug-in that works on Linux and Mac, something that Gmail Drive doesn't.

Both Gspace and Gmail Drive let users keep track of their files from within Gmail via e-mails and attachments.
(Credit: CNET Networks, Inc.)
Accessible via a Toolbar button or from the Menubar, the extension opens a new tab with an FTP-style interface. You can transfer files by highlighting them and hitting the directional arrow. Drag and drop is not available, but the plug-in is still replete with goodies. Uploading a file sends an e-mail with it attached to your Gmail. By creating an appropriate filter and folder, it can be quite easy to keep track of the files you've uploaded. As in Gmail Drive, deleting the file from Gspace also deletes the email.
Gspace allows users to switch between different Gmail accounts, has an Inbox button so you can quickly jump back to the standard Gmail interface, and supports different uses of the virtual drive. These include a Music mode, which can be used with a Flash music player to create a Web-based MP3 player, and a Photo mode used for displaying photos--although I couldn't get that to work. Additional features include help buttons and a status bar that tells you which account you're using and the amount of space used.

Gspace sports an FTP-style interface.
(Credit: CNET Networks, Inc.)
One unexpected feature of Gspace is that it can also display files uploaded with Gmail Drive. Those files aren't accessible from Gspace, but if you do use both you can at least check what's living in Gmail Drive's shell.
Overall, the flexibility and features in Gspace trump the simplicity of Gmail Drive. In a few months, it's possible that both may be obsolete--but why wait for the future?

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