Well, it's that time again: Temperatures are steadily rising, grills are being resurrected from retirement, and the streets are awash with grotesquely pale, prematurely exposed skin. That's right, summer is officially upon us. 

As is custom, I'm observing the change of season — Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year, officially arrives on Friday — by taking a leisurely jaunt down memory lane to highlight a few of the most memorable, most commented on, most Tweeted, and most liked posts from this past spring (with a few personal favorites thrown in for good measure). While this past winter was heavy on Frank Lloyd Wright- and Superstorm Sandy-related stories, spring was a decidedly more eclectic — and as you can tell from my headline, internationally flavored — affair with perennially popular topics such as tiny homes, energy-efficient lighting, shipping container reuse, green prefab, neighborly squabbles, urban farming, and, of course, the weird and wonderful world of IKEA all popping up here and there. 

What’s been your favorite post of mine from this past spring? Are there any particular topics or stories that you'd like to see me tackle this summer and beyond? More garden gnome drama, perhaps?

As always, thank you for reading! And if you aren't already, feel free to follow me on Twitter to keep up to speed.


Algae-powered apartment complex blooms in Hamburg — BIQ House, a 15-unit net-zero energy apartment complex clad with an algae-filled bio-adaptive shell, is completed in Hamburg, Germany, as part of the International Building Exhibition.

Fat-fueled power station in London to run on recycled cooking grease — The oily remnants of the morning's 'fry-up' are being reused to operate the world's largest fat-fueled power station — an East London facility capable of producing enough juice to power 40,000 homes for a year.

Italian firm invites inmates to help create prototype micro-dwelling unit — Meet the newest micro-dwelling on the (cell) block: Freedom Room is an innovative and low-cost micro-housing prototype designed in collaboration with inmates from an Italian penitentiary.

L'Uritonnoir transforms hay bales into compost-making pee stations — Designed to deliver 'liquid gold' directly into the center of a hay bale, L'Uritonnoir is a clever funnel-urinal hybrid from France that promotes urine upcycling in both festival and backyard settings.

Reimagining the row house: The Baltimore Carbon Challenge winners — In Baltimore, the U.S. Forest Service co-hosts a home design contest that highlights the versatile, CO2-trapping wonders of wood while also contributing to an on-the-mend neighborhood's recovery.


 A solar-powered plug that sticks to windows and out from the crowd — Sure, there are a few kinks to be worked out, but the designers behind the clever and unfussy Window Socket are onto something: A solar converter-charger that serves as an outlet on windows, not walls.
Norway: A recycling-happy nation in dire need of trash — Sweden isn't the only nation in the throes of a serious trash deficit. As it turns out, Norway is also desperately seeking rubbish to burn in its cogeneration plants. Perhaps the U.S. could lend a helping hand?

• From Portland, a DIY coffee maker for your Mason jar collection — Because it wouldn't make any sense otherwise, the world's first Mason jar-based French press coffee maker is proudly designed and assembled in Portland, Ore.

• 'Frightening' garden gnome revolt ad from IKEA draws complaints — Dozens of sensitive souls in the U.K. have complained to authorities about an IKEA television ad that depicts vengeful garden gnomes being murdered en masse by a suburban couple.

 'New Dutch' tiles transform pitched roofs into lush urban habitats — Designed specifically for vegetation-unfriendly pitched roofs, Roel de Boer's 'New Dutch' roofing tiles are noise-absorbing, rainwater-filtering, energy-saving 'stepping stones for wildlife in the city.'


 Green building students aim to go beyond the Gold (and Platinum) — A student team from Ontario's Endeavour Centre set out to be build a self-reliant, solar-powered spec home and wind up creating Canada's Greenest Home in the process.

• Block party: BIG unveils plans for LEGO House in Denmark — Sustainability-obsessed starchitect Bjarke Ingels reveals the design for LEGO House, a garden-topped 'experience center' to be built in the plastic brick company town of Billund, Denmark.

 Brooklyn's largest public housing development gets urban farm — A 1-acre plot at the Red Hook Houses, Brooklyn's largest public housing development, has been transformed into an urban farm that will employ local teens and provide hyperlocal food to the community.

• San Antonio sprawl threatens famed bat cave — A developer plans to build a nearly 4,000-home subdivision adjacent to a protected reserve that's the seasonal residence of the world's largest bat colon

• From Shard to shoebox: Renzo Piano does micro-housing —Renzo Piano, the architect behind Europe's tallest skyscraper, has long been preoccupied with minimalist living. Now, he's completed his first micro-home, a 'technically perfect and aesthetically attractive refuge' named Diogene. 


Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Spring rewind 2013: 15 standout posts to revisit
Algae-powered apartment complexes and hay bale urinals from France are just two topics covered in this spring's noteworthy posts.