It was a big week for superlatives in clean tech and green architecture -- particularly in Europe. First, construction on The Shard, architect Renzo Piano's shimmering, 72-story skyscraper, wrapped up in London, making it the tallest building in Europe. A nighttime celebration, complete with a laser light show accompanied by the London Philharmonic Orchestra was held. Just about a mile down the river, construction is moving forward on Blackfriars Station, the world's largest solar bridge. The historic bridge is being fitted with a solar array that will produce 900,000 kWh of clean electricity per year. And in Germany, solar producers have set a new world record, pumping an astounding 14.7 TWh of electricity into the grid during the first six months of 2012 -- 4.5 percent of the country's total power production during that period.
The rise of solar power in Germany is directly related to the country's phase-out of nuclear power plants -- however in Japan, the issue of nuclear power is back in the news. Two months after Japanese officials shuttered the country's final nuclear power plant, two reactors have been restarted, sparking protests in Tokyo. Meanwhile, a new independent report on the cause of the Fukushima Nuclear disaster places most of the blame on the Japanese government and the Tokyo Electric Power Company for allowing the plant to be so vulnerable in the first place. In other energy news, a team of researchers at Harvard has created an amazing hydrogen fuel cell that keeps running even after its fuel supply is exhausted. Researchers at the University of South Carolina are working on developing a cotton t-shirt that could charge mobile gadgets. And in perhaps the week's biggest blooper, a state representative from North Carolina legalized fracking by mistakenly pressing the wrong button. Whoopsie!
In one of the most-watched architecture developments in the US, California Gov. Jerry Brown fast-tracked construction approval for Apple's massive new disc-shaped Cupertino campus in California. In Syracuse, N.Y., the US Postal Service announced that it plans to plant an 11,300-square-foot green roof on a local post office. And in Thailand, architects Achawin Laohavichairat, Montakan Manosong, and Peerapon Karunwiwat came up with a design for a beehive-style apartment that would that live off the waste of existing buildings.
In other news, this week we were surprised to learn that cleaning your teeth with seaweed can be better than toothpaste. (It won't give you that minty-fresh aftertaste, though.) We also had our minds blown by this incredibly detailed Death Star made from a single ping pong ball. We were charmed by Case of Bass, a company that transforms old suitcases into stylish boom boxes, and we rolled our eyes at this $1 million vacuum cleaner that has its own rap song. Finally, we saw a larger-than-life LEGO forest spring up in Australia and we had a blast reviewing the Bildopolis Big Bilder -- a kit for making awesome forts out of cardboard.