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oobject: 'daily user-ranked gadget lists'
From Tampa to Dublin to Alicante and Dubai empty condos and villas that were never home to anyone, litter the landscape as a sterile reminder of a party that never was. But perhaps the biggest housing bubble of them all has just been popped – deliberately by the Chinese government who saw that Shanghai and Beijing real estate increases were unsustainable. Over the last month, Beijing housing prices have fallen at a unbelievable 377% annualized rate, possibly heralding part III of the Great recession following the US banking collapse and European sovereign debt crisis.The most dramatic pictures in this collection are of the empty Chinese city of Ordos, which is a piece of government led, speculative development on a scale unimaginable elsewhere. An entire city waiting to be occupied. Ordos is not a failure yet, but if it is, it will be emblematic.

9 ghost towns of the recession

Watching Wii time lapse is a socio-anthropological experience, if Warhol were alive today perhaps he would be making videos like these. A collection of our favorite videos, proving that not everyone gets off the sofa, and that Wii is so addictive some people will continue to play it while holding their new born child. Vote for your fave.

Time Lapse Wii Videos

Kinetic sculptures may have been first developed by Duchamp and Moholy-Nagy, but the tradition is still very much alive. Some of the most impressive kinetic sculptures, such as those by the famous Theo Jansen are still distinctly analog, but this is an area where digital gadgetry has opened up nearly limitless possibilities. Here are a dozen of our faves, vote for yours.

12 mesmerizing kinetic sculptures (videos)

Architect of the Lego House built for Top Gear presenter James May, Barnaby Gunning, has sent us pictures of the construction progress so far. We'll post more as we get them.

pictures of the lego house construction progress

Continuous mining machines and Roadheaders are giant automated modern day mining machines that slice through rock at high speed and look like something from hell. Here are some of our favorite examples of these magnificent machines. Vote for your faves.

Terrifying Mining Gear

Resqtec make instruments that prise open cars after a crash or find people in the rubble of buildings after an earthquake. What's amazing about this equipment, however, is quite how beautifully designed it is.

6 resqtec emergency devices

The idea of uniform is that you all look the same, yet there is an ornathological variety of ceremonial military parade outfits, with as many brightly colored feathers. The images chosen here range from the Italian Carabinieri who are allowed to wear aftershave and sport outfits designed by Valentino, the French Foreign Legion’s sappers who have to have long beards and wear leather aprons and carry axes, 7 Dwarves style, Iranian police who look like criminals, Russian women soldiers who wear mini skirts, now that Putin has reinstated the infamous May Day parades and Greek soldiers whose traditional unfrms are similarly feminine. We added the UK Queen’s husband at the trooping of the color. Wearing a 3 foot high bearskin hat may be a familiar image, but its’ no less weird.

12 bizarre military parade uniforms

Ross Lovegrove is renowned for beautiful fluid designs, earning him the nickname, Captain Organic. His $140,000 Muon speakers, for KEF were milled from enormous billets of solid aluminum, by an aeronautics manufacturer. A process that took a week.From his bladder molded, composite carbon and glass fiber DNA stair to liquid bioform furniture which is made using the same process used to manufacture body panels for Aston Martin cars, Lovegrove has teamed up with some of the world's most innovative manufacturers to combine design excellence and futuristic materials.

futuristic ross lovegrove design

Somewhere between a damp cloth and a full NBC gas mask lies the often unintentionally hilarious looking smoke hood.Promotional material for these items is a particular source of amusement, combining the creepy looking imagery of people wearing strange plastic bags on their heads with the utterly normal attire of office workers or suburban mums. The effect is like catching your boss wearing fetish bondage gear.

12 smoke hoods

For no other reason than these things look slightly disturbing here a re a variety of devices to measure bits and pieces of your head, for quack or legitimate purposes or just to hold it still.

12 fetishy head frames

Long before periscopes became uniquely associated with submarines, they were widely used to peer over the trenches in WW1. Here are other uses from on board jet aircraft to golf courses, bank vaults and even to look underwater from dry land - the inverse of what we associate periscopes with.

9 non submarine periscopes

American monuments hit the sweet spot between being young enough to have been photographed while being built, but old enough that few people can remember them not being there. Because of this an entire legacy can be viewed as it was while it was being created. From the D.C Capitol building, which ironically, slaves helped to build during the Civil War, to the Statue of Liberty, which was built in France, the forgotten train Grand Central train shed, the Empire State building when it was two storeys high or the Hollywood sign before it read Hollywood, here are our picks of America’s most famous monuments while they were being built.

american monuments under construction

Quite often a company will release a limited edition item to mark a product's anniversary that is actually worse than the original. We trawled the web to find examples of well designed anniversary gadgets, including our favorite, the 300lb limited edition espresso machine that was used by the Pope. Vote on your favorite.

14 anniversary edition products

The interior and exterior of wind tunnels have unusual design requirements that often make them accidental architectural masterpieces.Wind tunnels range from the miniature wooden box that the Wright brothers used, to the gigantic full scale tunnel at NASA Ames in Silicon Valley which drains the power supply for the entire Bay Area, and tests actual planes and space craft. Air speeds within them can reach tens of times the speed of sound, requiring super heated air.All in all, they are definitely object to go ooh about.

Spectacular Wind Tunnels

Heavy lift ships can carry loads of tens of thousands of tons, including oil platforms, other ships and even dry docks. The are often semi-submersible so that they can sink below the water line to let their cargo slide off. The sheer size of their cargo often looks impossible, as these items suggest.

12 ships with impossibly large cargo

Yesterday we managed to get into CERN and do some exploring. Our mission? Not to go to the Giant LHC experiments, such as Atlas, but to root around the campus itself, find the exact place where Tim Berners Lee invented the web, marked by a small plaque, and photograph it, license-free, since there seem to be no images of it that we could find. We went through several doors marked ‘radiation’, were told to leave one place, because ‘the beam was on’, saw the Grid data center and rooms with blackboards covered in equations – but we found it.

oobject search for web birthplace at CERN

Aside from their spectacular size, what makes floating cranes unusual and interesting objects is that they are essentially boats. As such, they dont exactly conjure up the idea of stability, which is the primary requirement for lifting things. They also look weird since boats usually consist of large hulls with smaller superstructure, here the arrangement is reversed making them seem very ungainly.Some of these cranes can lift tens of thousands of tons, at sea, and are engineering wonders.

10 enormous floating cranes

Giant projected images on buildings have been iconic examples of futurism since the movie Blade Runner. More recently they have become a lot more sophisticated via projection of animated 3d computer models onto quasi 2 dimensional surfaces such as building facades. Examples here range from the skyscraper projections for Nokia in London, to guerrilla activist projections of Al Weiwei on a Chinese Embassy and the Occupy Wall street ‘bat signal' on the Verizon tower in Manhattan.

15 video projections on buildings

Bamboo scaffolding is used around the world, but nowhere does it stand out more than in Hong Kong, where the majority of scaffolding is bamboo. It may look low tech. but bamboo is a perfect scaffold material, being strong, straight, lightweight, cheap and renewable. This ancient building material is most impressive when juxtaposed against modern high tech buildings and is sometimes used as scaffold for the tallest of skyscrapers. Here is a list of our favorite examples.

16 impressive examples of bamboo scaffolding

Following on from yesterdays gadget suitcases, here is a similar list but of different types of objects: oddities. Here is a list of suitcase kits of unusual or strange objects, from Duchamp's classic 'box in a suitcase', to a a working suitcase fireplace, an emergency crib, a Chinese sex shop and, our favorite, a suitcase with a hidden gyroscope, that is impossible to carry.

unusual suitcase kits

Some of the most beautiful mechanisms ever produced, here is a gallery of old and new mechanical movements of planets and their moons, the entire solar system and tides and eclipses. Orreries, Planetaria and Tellurions, respectively.

18 mechanical planetary models

Antarctic architecture provides imagery of the closest thing that people will be able see to a moon base, within their lifetimes. The extreme nature of the environment combined with its bizarre statelessness, provides the location for a freezing architectural expo, with each country having its own icy pavilion.Since the early days of wooden huts, the architecture has converged on a style which consists of a pod on legs, somewhat reminiscent of Thunderbird II's cargo bay or the Space 1999 freighter. In addition large scale experiments such as the south pole telescope or ice cube neutrino detector (which is technically a telescope at the north pole since it watch for particles which have traveled through the earth) provide equally interesting accidental architecture, in that their designs are purely functional.

antarchitecture

Although the Omega Speedmaster is the most famous space watch, being worn on all moon missions, it is one of 7 watches which are NASA certified, including a range of far less glamorous Casio G-Shocks. Ironically, the watch which has possibly been in space most is one that costs a fraction of the price of a Speedmaster and is more associated with computer geeks - the Timex Datalink.Rules as to what watches could be worn by Russian Cosmonauts were more relaxed, however, Poljot military watches were often worn. The Chinese have chosen the Fiyta Chronograph for their manned space missions.

watches worn in space

oobject header image

Category: 'design'

For the last decade, Apple have absolutely dominated gadget design, bringing modernism to the masses in a way that architects never did. Yves Behar, the Swiss born (but not Swiss) designer is the first person to really challenge Apple's hegemony, he designed the original Slingbox and Paypal's recent attempt to compete with Square, but is becoming well known because of the superior design of the Jawbone headset and Jambox wireless speaker. Here are our favorite Behar designs.

Bel Geddes is the industrial designer most associated with the streamline style, an aerodynamic form than was as much about aesthetics as wind resistance. These designs actually look better than more aerodynamic forms and as such were used by Geddes for things that didn't have to move at all, such as his streamlined school desk. Geddes started out as a theatrical designer then made a series of model cars and prototypes for trains and planes, including the incredible airliner number 4 - a 1929 proposal for a transatlantic boat plane carrying 450 passengers and an army of staff including a musicians and entertainers. But the other thing that Geddes created was his daughter, who was Miss Ellie in the TV series, Dallas.

At first glance this lesser known part of the telephone inventor's life seems crazy. Bell became obsessed with pyramids, building towers, buildings, boats, kites and eventually planes made entirely out of little tetrahedrons (triangular pyramids). Eventually setting up the Aerial Experiment Association, he built 3 tetrahedral kite planes where each pyramid frame component had 2 of its 4 sides covered in fabric.His obsession, however, was ingenious and is possibly feasible - that if you could fly a pyramid frame structure then by combining lots of them together you would be adding no more weight per unit of lift, so you could fly a structure of any size.Although only one of Bell's planes managed to fly under its own power, the tetrahedral frame structure was to become a much used component of high tech architecture more than half a century later, giving these images of the Victorian inventors a bizarre science fiction feel.

From double amputee, Aimee Mullins, who modeled for Alexander McQueen on a pair of beautiful hand-carved wooden prosthetic legs made from solid ash to amputee soldiers who would not have survived without advances in combat medical care and who are returning to active combat at a rate which is 7 times higher than a generation ago (2% - 16%) to athletes such as Oscar Pistorius, whose carbon fiber prosthetics help him compete at a level which calls into question the separation of 'special' athletic competition, the way we view prosthetics and disability is changing. 3d printing, advanced composite materials are enabling this from an aesthetic and design standpoint as much as the more obvious technical advances through electronics and bio feedback systems.

Famous French industrial designer, Roger Tallon recently died, leaving something of a design mystery. Newspapers universally credited him as the designer of the iconic French high speed train, the TGV, but that was almost certainly the work of Jacques Cooper. Tallon did take over from Cooper to do the TGV Atlantique, but this was an evolutionary rather than a revolutionary design. Perhaps Tallon's influence was more on the interiors? For me, Tallon's best work was his 1960's M400 spiral stair which seems to be the direct inspiration for some of Ross Lovegrove's best work.

Dieter Rams' 40 year stint at Braun until 1995 redefined the world of product design, taking pure modernism to the world of gadgets. He is the direct inspiration for much of Apple's product design after Steve Jobs returned and in many aspects his work is more rigorous and more coherent than Apple's. I've picked 15 of my favorite items, but if I had to choose just one, it would be the LE 1 electrostatic speakers from 1959. They were built around Quad technology and influenced Apple's large screen displays.

When Craig Breedlove built the first of the modern jet-propelled record breaking cars in his garage, he named it the Spirit of America, this could have just as well pertained to the place of creation as the object itself. The garage is a symbol of creative entrepreneurialism, people making anything from cars to music to robots and, of course, the Apple computer.

Since Le Corbusier, celebrity architects realized that they needed to get a look, to be an icon. But being anal retentive this often resulted in the slightly reticent gesture of sculptural eyewear, like a miniature building hanging on your nose. Philip Johnson had Cartier make a copy of Corbusier’s glasses for himself in 1934, thus cementing the trend for architects in architect glasses.Here are a dozen famous architects and their specs, with a description below of what their glasses say about them.

The fact that architecture is deriving inspiration from the foam-like membrane structures of cells is ironic since the word cell in biology derives from the architecture of monks cells in monasteries. Cell structures have come full circle with innovative structures at all scales, from metalized foam or ceramic foam structural materials to computer derived lattices based on mathematical cell properties.

The invention of the digital watch made accurate timekeeping a cheap commodity. This meant that expensive watches were a quixotic anachronism in terms of pure design. However, this very fact meant that designers were free to innovate timepiece designs for fun. In addition, the development of watch sized miniature electronic gadgetry meant that the wrist watch form factor could be used for other gadgets. For things like phones and MP3 players this has proved to be a failure, however included here are some interesting concepts for other uses for wrist devices such as insulin dosage, braille watches and health monitoring

With the notable exception of Apple, America has largely ceased to be a design culture, yet from Art Deco to Mid-Century modern, the US once ruled the world. There is no better example of a quintessentially American product designer than Raymond Loewy, who combined the exuberance of consumer culture with the asceticism of modernism and applied this to elements from pencil sharpeners to locomotives.Like Apples lead designer, Loewy was not from America. He was born in France and travelled to New York after WWI, wearing only his officers uniform and carrying $40. Here are a dozen of our favorite examples of Loewy designs.

Brittny Badger disassembles everyday appliances, carefully lays them out and photographs them, Paul Veroude takes cars entirely to pieces and suspends them from wires, like a giant real-life exploded isometric drawing, while Holger Pooten photographs gadgets as frozen in time snapshots of parts suspended in mid air. There is something satisfying, not just about the dis assembly of machines, appliances and complex objects, but the arrangement of their parts into a tableau. Here are a dozen.

1927 to 1959 was the golden era of General Motors. This was the period when Harley Earl started as Vice President of the Art and Color Division and gave birth to the modern notion of car design.Earl eschewed the purely engineering driven practicality of Ford to take inspirations from aircraft and space age concepts and add them to cars, turning them into works of art. The designs ranged from the highly futuristic Firebird gas turbine concept vehicles to the wildly successful production Corvette.Like almost all product design and architecture, the stamp of authorship is not clear cut and nor should it be. Many designs that are associated with him were produced by people working under him, but it was Early himself who created the school and he deserves a place alongside Frank Lloyd Wright and Charles and Ray Eames as one of America's most important designers.Vote for your favorite.

What makes clay models so special, is that they are the one-off original designs. In theory they are the priceless, original works of art and the production cars are the prints.The traditional process of manually refining the design of a car using clay over foam formwork, is still used even today, when CAD has replaced most drafting. Clay designs are often produced directly from computer milling and usually tweaks are fed back into the CAD design

Carbon Fiber matches wood in terms of flexibility of form and surpasses steel in terms of strength. Because of this it is beginning to be used as a decorative item, replacing walnut in car dashboards, for example. This consciously decorative use can work well, but where carbon fiber is used for pseudo functional design, like the carbon fiber letter opener shown here, the choice is inappropriate and ridiculous.

When gold prospectors first ventured to California, the equivalent of a hot tub meant farting in a zinc trough full of tepid water. Today it means an object reminiscent of CERN's LHC particle detectors, with several hundred jets, built in 40 inch plasma TVs and seating for ten.We put this list together largely because there is something fascinating and supremely gadgety about the variety of arrangements of body shaped molds and strategic placement of jets, that when laid out side by side, in a gallery, seems particularly impressive. This type of space ship like hot tub design seems like something unusual enough to define a time and place, like fins on 50s cars or undulating water beds from the 70s.

Get into a car anywhere in the world, and if you can drive you will know how to use it. The car dashboard is the perfect user interface, something that puts computer interfaces to shame.Here is a collection of our favorite car dashboards from the ergonomic simplicity of the 40s Willys Jeep, minimalist design excellence of the early Porsche, Maverick innovation of the Citroen DS and Baroque exuberance of the 50s Corvette. Vote for the top car interface of all time.

If you have a hi-fi a TV, cellphone, computer and digital camera you already own several sets of speakers, amplifiers, microphones, screens and cameras. The idea of modular gadgets appeals on multiple levels, from Zen minimalism to the joy of playing with Legos.Here are some of our favorites.

Billions of dollars are spent on car design and manufacture, and yet few vehicles match the beauty of some of those built for land speed record attempts, sometimes by a handful of people in a garage.Here are our picks purely based on looks rather than actual speed. Seeing them on one page is extremely satisfying.

Ross Lovegrove is renowned for beautiful fluid designs, earning him the nickname, Captain Organic. His $140,000 Muon speakers, for KEF were milled from enormous billets of solid aluminum, by an aeronautics manufacturer. A process that took a week.From his bladder molded, composite carbon and glass fiber DNA stair to liquid bioform furniture which is made using the same process used to manufacture body panels for Aston Martin cars, Lovegrove has teamed up with some of the world's most innovative manufacturers to combine design excellence and futuristic materials.

Pininfarina made their name as stylists of classic Ferraris. They continued their distinctive design tradition through other exotic sports car brands to ordinary sedans and, since the 80's, household product deign. Some of the latter products are hit-or-miss, but at their best there is no other company quite like them.Andrea Pininfarina, the grandson of Battista ‘Pinin' Farina, the auto design company's founder, and the current CEO was killed today. Trajically and ironically he was hit by a car while driving a Vespa scooter.

Algorithmic architecture uses computers to generate natural looking aperiodic forms that are are a revolutionary alternative to the extreme crystalline regularity of what has up to now been considered modern. The dreary exhibition of pre-fabricated architecture at New York's MOMA, has a couple of examples of algorithmic designs at its entrance, but that is where it stops. On entering it is an mixture of of the dated, High Tech style and dumbed down Mid-Century Modern boxes for Dwell magazine readers. If you really want to see what is happening at the cutting edge of architecture, look at some of these schemes. This list could go on forever. Drill down on some of the links and explore.

In the mid 50s an small Japanese electronics company, Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo, created an American sounding brand name, Sony, for a series of portable all-transistor radios. The product design was similarly American influenced, with wide spaced serif lettering, like that used on Amtrak trains or even Raymond Loewy's original Air Force One, but with a flair and attention to detail that was distinctively Japanese. Half a century later, Sony, is still a consumer brand which is associated with superior design. Here are 12 of our all time favorite classic Sony Designs.

Get into a car anywhere in the world and you are pretty much guaranteed that you will understand how to drive it. Cars have the ultimate user interface and Formula 1 cars perhaps represent the pinnacle of this UI, with the most demanding requirements.As recently as 1992, F1 steering wheels were round with 3 buttons (neutral, drinking water supply, radio), but since the advent of paddle gear changes there has been a sudden explosion of electronics and feature driven complexity.The complexity is ubiquitous, all 11 Formula 1 teams produce cars with more or less the same multi button design allowing adjustment and tweaks of traction and aerodynamics from the wheel itself. Unlike a road car, space and focus constraints mean that the entire dashboard is on the steering wheel. This is something that will no doubt be copied, unnecessarily, in consumer cars in future, but would that be a UI improvement?Given that all 11 F1 teams have converged on a remarkably similar UI, independently, you would think that dashboard steering wheel style was a rational design, however its complexity possibly caused Lewis Hamilton the 2007 F1 championship, when he accidentally pressed the neutral button (top left of the 2007 McLaren Mercedes wheel).We have gathered together as many of the modern style wheel designs that we could find and put a date to, to demonstrate the UI pattern. What is clear is that there is no clear accentuation of features (color, size) by how often the are used, merely by position. Even if drivers like Hamilton are experts and fully familiar with the UI, there is a tiny percentage chance of error. Our guess is that this trend in car UI would be a mistake if it filters through to everyday cars, and that F1 cars will revert to a more simple UI over time.

Bang and Olufsen are famous for their superior design in electronics in the period prior to the 80s, yet there are no designers employed by the company. Instead, all design is traditionally outsourced and the Bang and Olufsen heyday, when their products were must have items for the homes of architects and designers is largely due to one man Jacob Jensen who designed a range of classic products between the late 60s and 80s.Like Apple today, Jensen obsessed with build quality and finish, and eschewed visible buttons wherever possible, using below glass illuminated controls and even proposing gesture based interfaces.Most satisfyingly, unlike current trends in design from double curved car shells to rounded corner boxes on web pages, Jensens trademark was ruthlessly squared off edges.

These days most cutaways are computer rendered. Here are some physical cutaways that fascinate us as much as when travel stores had elaborate cutaway models of passenger jets.The most amazing is a model of Chernobyl reactor core 4, accurately depicting its ruined state after the disaster.

Tensegrity structures are visually stunning and their combination with computer enhanced structures is creating renewed interest for architectural applications.Buckminster Fuller coined the term tensegrity when he saw sculptures by Kenneth Snelson and realized that rigid component geodesics were a special case of perfectly balanced compression and tension. Tensegrity refers to structures where compression members (rods) are only connected to each other by tension members (cables). The end result is that the structures appear to float in air.Despite the fact that tensegrity structures are fantastically efficient, few have been built since they tend to have a single point of failure and need adjustment. Recently however, schemes which combine the intelligence of computing and tensegrity structures have lead to proposals of very large scale structures including sky scrapers.Here are our favorite tensegrity links from around the web. Vote for yours

If you want to re-model your home in the style of an Apple store, here are links to the suppliers of the actual items they use.The designs of the Apple stores may not be particularly original in terms of architecture, however they break new boundaries in retail design with an attention to detail that is normally only found in major public buildings. The principal inspirations for Apple's interiors range from Norman Foster's Mediatheque in Nimes, with its central glass staircase and I.M. Pei's entrance to the Louvre which is the inspiration for the fifth avenue store. Although the cube itself (particularly when it was shrouded in black) is more like the Kaab at Mecca, proving that Apple is a religion after all.Many of the fittings they use, such as Erco lighting are used by people like Pei and Foster (where I used to work) and the exterior panels are made by the same firm that provided the panels for San Francisco's greatest modern building - the De Young Museum.

Acrylic cases, cut aways and even solid glass mechanisms, allow for transparent enclosures where you can see the intricate workings of a machine.This tradition of 'skeleton' cases comes from watch making, but there are versions of everything from Nikon cameras to cars that show off their innards. In putting together this collection we were trying to imagine if you could have a fully glass house (several have been designed, none built) where every item in it was as translucent as possible. Vote for your faves and recommend any we can add.