7 beautiful workplaces that put yours to shame

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Buildings you wouldn't mind commuting to

If the first thing you do upon arriving at work every day is cast a sad look at the plain, monolithic block in which you spend almost a quarter of your week, you might be interested to know that some people work in places that are not only better-looking than your office, but actually downright beautiful.

These seven buildings all come courtesy of Danish firm Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects. And some of them are even public buildings that you could visit, if only to pretend you got paid to go there every day.

Just don't start answering the phones while you're there. Receptionists kind of hate that.

Halifax Central Library (above)

This building opened this week and is Schmidt Hammer Lassen's latest project. Its four-giant-block construction might look like a set of hastily assembled LEGO boxes, but each section aligns with one of the adjoining building's streets. Additionally, the orange of the third layer matches the brick in surrounding buildings.

The library serves as a "multifunctional cultural hub with direct accessibility to the vibrant surrounding urban context of historic and new buildings, and the buzz of downtown," according to the firm's official website.

Photo: Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects

Urban Mountain

This project is still in the proposal stage, but it aims to expand an existing structure in Oslo by more than half while being more ecologically friendly.The patches of green on the outside of the building are part of this plan and also serve to make the structure's eco-responsibilty visible. Those spots are actually plants that are part of the air-intake system. The designers call them "lungs," and they are there to "clean, humidify and reduce the CO2-concentration of the incoming air for the comfort of the staff and visitors. "Other innovations include "solar chimneys" that channel heat into a rooftop greenhouse and a massive, 35,000 cubic-foot ice-storage area that contributes to the building's heating and cooling.

Photo: Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects

Nykredit HQ

The home of Danish financial-services company Nykredit in Copenhagen is a ten-story, transparent cube with a wide-open central atrium.Inside, the building has meeting rooms that hang in space like that prison cell where they kept Magneto in the first two X-Men films.So if you ever work there and find yourself stuck in a boring meeting, just imagine that you're only in that room because you're too badass for normal jail.

Photo: Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects

The Crystal

It's actually possible to walk underneath this building in Copenhagen, Denmark, although I don't know if I could do it.It's an extension for Danish financial-services corporation Nykredit, and it is "designed to interact with their surroundings, offering a subtle connection between the formal architecture of the Glyptotek Museum of Ancient and Modern Art, and the waterfront area which forms the setting for the new building."

Photo: Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects

Office Tower Warsaw

This 600-foot tall high-rise in Poland looks as much like a sculpture as it does a home for offices and financing, and it's both.It's made of three rectangular volumes and "offers a spatial coherence between roof and street level. The lobby at street level, with its spectacular shaped ceiling, corresponds with the sloping shapes of the rooftops." It even has solar panels built into its roofs and contains apparatus to harvest rainwater, therefore giving it a third duty as an engine of conservation.

Photo: Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects

Groendalsvej

Aarhus, Denmark hosts this green-clad curiosity, which aims to be the first zero-energy office building in the country.Its construction includes about 96 percent of the material left over from the building that previously stood on this site, and its abundance of windows works to regulate temperature and maximize natural light.

Photo: Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects

City of Westminster College

It would probably be a bit scary to work on the top floor of this shifted building, but that doesn't mean it doesn't look amazing.City of Westminster College in London features open learning spaces and "appears as a clean-cut, modern building with a distinct Scandinavian heritage. The building’s simple geometric forms rotate around a terraced atrium, creating a unifying yet flexible organization."

Photo: Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects

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Lust List: Lock, socks and totally smokin’ gear

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Lust List: November 2014

Each month, Cult of Mac's Lust List reveals the products we're reveling in right now.

The Athletic's Elevation sock

Normally, mismatched socks would signal you got dressed in the dark, you need to do laundry or you just don’t give a crap. But in the case of The Athletic’s cycling socks, it is a statement of fashion and a signal that you embrace the love of the sock.

My friend Annie and I (and now her “friend” Matt) are freaks for the sock. We are on a constant hunt for the best in footwear style, comfort and statement. And, as of late, The Athletic does not disappoint. The Elevation is a limited-edition sock made from merino wool. I dig the royal blue, but it is also available in plum. Go get your mismatch on. — Jim Merithew

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Kwikset Kevo smart lock

When I go to unlock my front door, I give it the finger. That is, I touch my finger to Kwikset's Kevo smart lock, and with a blink of lights and an electronic whir, it opens right up. Welcome to the future of door locks, where unlocking your house or office is a one-touch operation.

Kwikset's Kevo is a Bluetooth-enabled deadbolt that senses the presence of my iPhone to lock and unlock the door. As long as I've got my iPhone with me, it opens right up, and I really dig it. I've given “keys” to friends and family via an app, and there's a dinky keyfob (and physical keys) for backup.

Some reviewers have complained of unreliablity and poor security, but I found the Kevo, which costs about $220 on Amazon, easy to install and set up. Sometimes it doesn't detect my iPhone in my back pocket, but it does when I take it out. It's no less secure than the physical deadbolt that it replaced, and I'm looking forward to the day when all locks operate like this.

Note: Kevo is iOS-only and doesn't work with other devices. Also, it doesn't connect to the Internet or any kind of smart-home hub. — Leander Kahney

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Camerons Mini Indoor Smoker

Nothing beats a giant outdoor smoker when it comes to barbecuing large chunks of meat. But for smaller jobs, the Camerons Mini Indoor Smoker proves surprisingly effective. It's also great for curing that dead-of-winter smoked-meat withdrawal that can hit you if you live somewhere cold.

As a backyard barbecue freak, I'll admit I was skeptical of the little indoor smoker's capabilities. It's a simple stainless steel vessel, which measures 7 inches by 11 inches by 3.5 inches, and it turns your stovetop into a smoker thanks to wood chips (available in multiple "flavors" from Camerons). Slide the metal lid shut, and the burning chips smolder inside the sealed smoker. While it's not a full-on live-fire experience, it's a perfect way to quickly and easily give smaller items a touch of smoky deliciousness. It's ideal for hot-smoking salmon filets, whole trout or vegetables (smoked potatoes are especially delicious — who would've thought?). And cleanup is easy because it's dishwasher-safe. — Lewis Wallace

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

iPad Air 2

The iPad Air 2 is a beautiful piece of science fiction made real.

Just a few years ago, it would have been unimaginable that such a capable electronic slab could be built into such an impossibly thin sandwich of metal and glass. Building on the pared-back minimalism of the original iPad Air, the Air 2 takes Jony Ive's drive for thin to the next level. But nothing is sacrificed in the transition.

The Air 2 is super-fast and super-capable. The Retina screen is oh so beautiful. The po-faced critics say it's nothing "new" because it looks identical to previous iPads, but they're confusing adding stuff with innovation. The Air 2 is Apple's innovation of the highest order. They've taken something great and made it greater. It's the best tablet ever made, and I urge you get one.

The iPad Air 2 starts at $499 but get the $599 model with 64GB of memory and Wi-Fi only (you'll never use cellular). Happy tapping! — Leander Kahney

P.S. Read Cult of Mac's full iPad Air 2 review.

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Zeiss Touit 12mm f2.8 lens

The Zeiss Touit 12mm f2.8 lens  mounted on a Fujifilm XT-1 is a super-wide party for your eyes.I took the lens with me to Italy for a little workish vacation and it was a blast not only as a landscape lens, but also as a street photography weapon. With a lens this wide mounted on my XT-1, most of the people standing right in front of me had no idea they were really my subjects.

The only two knocks on this little lightweight tube of glorious glass are the missing depth of field/distance scale and the fact the aperture ring is loosey-goosey. If you are using one of Fujifilm's terrific tiny black boxes and are looking to go wide you should mount up a Touit and give it a test run. If you can do it in Italy, all the better. But just be aware, 12mm is indeed wide. — Jim Merithew

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Dakine Gemini 28L backpack

When the Dakine Gemini 28L emerged from its shipping box, my first thought was: “Ewww, khaki.” Still, the travel backpack’s slim design, black accents and bright orange zipper fobs kept me from sending it back immediately — and boy am I glad, because something almost magical happened on my next trip to the airport. As I rode the BART train from San Francisco to Oakland, the Dakine seemed to change colors like a khaki chameleon: The boring tan shifted to a greenish tint and all the way to an almost military green, depending on what kind of light (florescent, sunlight or a mix of the two) hit the bag.

I’ve honestly never seen anything like it, and I’ve become fascinated by the slippery color (Dakine labels it "taiga," which means "snowforest"). I also appreciate the way the lean Gemini pack snugs up against my back (and I’m sure my fellow travelers do, too, since I’m far less like to bump into them inadvertently like some sort of bumbling turtle-man). The roomy polyester bag’s not overloaded with fussy, unnecessary interior pouches, but it does boast comfortable shoulder straps, sturdy zippers, an iPad pocket and a TSA-compliant laptop compartment that flips out to ease you through airport security. The fleece-lined zipper pocket on top is designed for sunglasses, but it’ll fit an iPhone 6 Plus just fine.

The only negatives: That whacky khaki shows dirt more than a darker bag would, and the Gemini's design requires you to fully zip the main compartment if you’re going to pick it up by the top handle. If it’s not totally closed, the bag will gently splay open. (You’ll learn that lesson after your first couple times inadvertently peeling the bag open like a banana.) — Lewis Wallace

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Adam mDrive

The Adam Elements mDrive is a stealthy way to add storage to your Macbook Air or Pro without having to break into the machine and add a larger solid-state drive. It’s a delightful little adapter that lets you take any micro SD card, slide it into the mDrive, and then slap the whole thing home for up to 128GB of extra storage space on your portable machine.

You can then use any of  these micro SD cards as a Time Machine backup or simply as a place to store all those movies you’ve ripped from your Blu-ray disks. The beauty of it all is that once you have this $20 accessory,  you now essentially have unlimited storage options: Just buy more micro SD cards to boost your capacity. The mDrive sits flush with your Macbook’s aluminum chassis, providing you with an easy and unnoticeable storage option that you’ll want to use all the time. In fact, the hardest part about using mDrive is figuring out which models you'll need for your particular MacBook. — Rob LeFebvre

Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

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Specialized Prevail helmet

I’ve been wearing the Specialized Prevail for almost three seasons and I have a closet full of other helmets of varying pedigrees. But I can’t bring myself to retire this one.

It is comfortable in all conditions, gives me plenty of protection and looks damn fine.If you are in the market for a top-shelf road bike helmet I recommend stopping in at a Specialized dealer and checking out the new Prevail. Your head will thank you. — Jim Merithew

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Danny P iPhone 5s leather case

This handmade iPhone 5 and 5s case from Danny P is quite possibly the finest you can buy. It’s beautifully made of quality Italian leather and designed to outlast the device it will protect, with a natural velour lining that lovely snuggles up to your iPhone to keep it free from scratches and scuffs.

The pouch is protective without being too bulky, and unlike a lot of leather cases, it’s not too tight, so you’ll have no trouble getting your iPhone in and out of it. Priced at $69, it’s available in brown, dark brown and black, each of which is finished with a wax coating. While it will pick up some scrapes as you use it, they only add to its character and make it look even better. — Killian Bell

Photo: Killian Bell/Cult of Mac

SteelSeries Siberia Elite Prism gaming headphones

They make you look like a mental Teletubby, but the Siberia Elite Prism gaming headphones are comfortable, sound great and stand out for great attention to detail.

Designed for marathon gaming sessions, these well-constructed cans are the latest from SteelSeries, a Danish gaming accessories company. They feature an external USB soundcard offering Dolby Pro Logic and simulated surround sound, plus a clever microphone that tucks into the left earpad when not in use. Add a pulsating LED light show in each earpiece, a flat, tangle-free cord, and an adapter for mobile phones, and you've got a killer pair of gaming headphones that do double duty for any occasion, including taking calls. $199. — Leander Kahney

P.S. Read Cult of Mac's full review of the Siberia Elite Prism headphones.

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Meet the pigeon photographer

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Photo by David Stephenson

Photo by David Stephenson

Photo by David Stephenson

Photo by David Stephenson

Photo by David Stephenson

Photo by David Stephenson

Photo by David Stephenson

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Photo by David Stephenson

Photo by David Stephenson

Photo by David Stephenson

Woody Allen famously called pigeons flying rats. Photographer David Stephenson calls them thoroughbreds of the sky.

He also realizes the common perception of the pigeon skews more toward Allen’s view. But Stephenson has a growing body of work that could make people reconsider the much-maligned bird.

Stephenson, aka The Pigeon Photographer, runs a website and Instagram feed where his photos attempt to show the intelligence, strength and iridescent beauty of homing pigeons, which he raises in his backyard near Lexington, Kentucky.

“When we see them circling in the air, they move so fast our eye can’t comprehend the beautiful details, the way the feathers curve, the upstroke or downstroke of the wings,” Stephenson told Cult of Mac. “I just want people to appreciate them more. They are beautiful, insanely tough and intelligent.”

#TBT: Why Apple events are the World Series of tech journalism

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Waiting for the World Series of tech

It already seems like years ago that Apple unveiled its smartwatch. In this #TBT gallery, we relive the glory of last week's big event, as captured by award-winning sports photographer (and iPhoneography aficionado) Brad Mangin.

Security is tight

A security guard keeps a close on the crowd at Apple's iPhone 6 event.

Guarding Apple's mystery box

Everybody wants inside the giant white building Apple constructed outside the Flint Center. These guys make sure nobody gets in early.

What's that glow?

Anticipation builds before Apple's big event.

Behold, the iPhone 6

Phi Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing, serves up the world's first confirmed iPhone 6 sighting.

The crown jewel

The Apple Watch boasts several innovative features, including a "digital crown" designed to ease interactions with the smartwatch's tiny screen.

Strap it on

Tim Cook shows off the Apple Watch, which will be available in three styles. A wide variety of straps, colors and faces make the smartwatch extremely customizable.

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U2 closes the show

U2, a band boasting a long history of collaboration with Apple, performs to wrap up the show.

Up close and very personal

After the event, members of the media get a closer look at the Apple Watch.

The iPhone 6 is a big, big deal

I finally get my hands on an iPhone 6 Plus.

Mystery ... solved!

As the hands-on demo sessions wrap up, a few people linger inside Apple's mystery building.

CUPERTINO, California — I’m a sports photographer, not a tech blogger, so I felt out of place shooting Apple’s big iPhone 6 press event with my iPhone 5s.

Baseball is what I do — I’ve shot nine Sports Illustrated covers — but I swear it was easier getting field access to shoot a World Series game at Fenway Park than dealing with all the people and security at Apple’s event.

This thing was a free-for-all. It was crazy. The place was flooded with media types from all over the world, all standing in line to get into the Flint Center for the Performing Arts, where the event was held.

Gadget Watch: iPhone 6 cases, cameras and an astonishing TiVo

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Gadget Watch: Sept. 13, 2014

The big iPhones are here at last, and so – as surely as indigestion follows a burrito – are the oversize iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus cases. Also new on the scene this week: a game controller for all your iDevices, plus some sweet retro-style cameras.

Waterfield Spinn case for iPhone 6 Plus

A big-ass phone needs a big-ass case, and the Waterfield Spinn is both big and sits by your ass. The leather holster clips to your belt, the bottom is open for hooking up headphones and hearing the speaker, and the closing clasp doubles as a winder for unused headphone cabling. Pretty cool for a dorky holster. $59

Fujifilm X100T

Fujifilm’s successor to the amazing X100S changes little. You get refined buttons and dials, and more of these can be given custom functions. You get a double-resolution LCD on the back, plus Wi-Fi inside, and a sweet new hybrid viewfinder that can overlay a digital rangefinder on the pure optical view. $1,300

TiVo Mega

The Tivo Mega really is mega, with 24TB of DVR storage for 4,000 hours of HD and 26,000 hours of SD programming. At roughly 20 minutes each, that’s enough space to keep the entire series of Big Bang Theory 490 times over. It’s rack mountable, has six tuners and you can stream direct to your phone. How much? $5,000

Grovemade Maple & Leather iPhone 6 case

Grovemade puts a lid on its gorgeous wooden iPhone cases with the new Maple & Leather model for the 6 and 6 Plus. It has the usual bumper-like wooden surround, but with a new leather flap on the front that doubles as a kickstand, thanks to a stiffening wooden liner. It looks gorgeous. $129

Moga Rebel controller

What could be a better accessory for your new iPhone 6 Plus than the Moga Rebel, a Bluetooth game controller for your iPhone or iPad that boasts an adjustable arm and clamp to hold even a giant phone? $80

Leatherman By The Numbers

Leatherman By The Numbers is a range of 10 new tools that each pack at least four tools into one lightweight little package. There are no moving parts (except on the No. 4, which has a removable screwdriver bit), and you can pick the combo that best suits your needs. From $11

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Memobottle

Quit trying to squeeze a cylinder into your bag with your computer and books – try the book-shaped Memobottle instead. These plastic water bottles slide straight into your bag, and come in A4, A5 and U.S Letter sizes. Made from dishwasher-friendly Tritan, the only problem might be drinking from them – probably a two-handed task. From $22.

Lomo LC-A 120

Forget full-frame digital. The way to get maximum photographic quality is medium-format film. Then you can proceed to ruin that film with the plastic-fantastic Lomo LC-A 120, a relatively tiny medium-format camera with automatic exposure, four-zone manual focus and a square format. $430

SanDisk 512GB Extreme Pro SD card

Put all your photos of eggs on a single SD card, with SanDisk's new 512GB Extreme Pro SDXC card. Pointless for photos, the super-fast UHS Speed Class 3 card is better for capturing video from your movie-making DSLR. Just $800.

AeroClam bike saddle bag

The Aeroclam switches a saggy, baggy saddle bag that rattles on the rails of your racing seat for a tightly-fitted clamshell bag that stays permanently – and tightly – attached to your undercarriage. There’s space for a patch kit and maybe a multitool, but not a pump. Fits most non-Brooks saddles. NZ$50