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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.

12 Classic Raymond Loewy Designs

Here is a collection of lamps, lights and chandeliers made from everything from car parts, umbrellas, bicycles, tableware, old globes, tape measures and speaker parts.Hopefully this will whet your creative appetite.

19 great diy lighting ideas

Movies originated from animated still images, either through a rotating slit (zoetropes), a faceted mirror (praxinoscopes) or a rotating drum with flip cards in the case of the mutoscope. Here are some sample videos of the machines themselves, from antiques to modern day installations based on them.

12 moving image machines

Dueling pistols are strange, beautiful and ironic. Gadgets to shoot each other in the face with, crafted with the delicacy and decorative extravagance of expensive jewelry.They appeared in the 18th C, as faster firing versions of flintlock guns replaced swords. Their use dwindled in the 19th C, while duels were still fought in the Western US states where the less rich would engage in gouging, similarly prearranged combat, with the aim of plucking out the opponent’s eyes.Dueling pistols were designed for the upper classes, for the preservation of honor, used illegally by generals and poets (Pushkin was killed in a duel), several US presidents (even Lincoln accepted a challenge to a duel)and even presented, with no sense of irony, as diplomatic gifts.

12 pairs of dueling pistols

Magic Lanterns are essentially pre-electric slide projectors. They hold a unique position in the history of gadgets, being popular at the end of the nineteenth century when cheap mass produced decoration became available. They represent one of the last machines to be designed like furniture rather than gadgets.The dirty little secret of design is that good taste equals expensive - when everybody could afford decoration, minimalist design with expensive materials became a way to display wealth (the early modernist, Barcelona pavilion had stainless steel columns, onyx walls and travertine floors) contrary to legend, modernism was originally product for the elite, not the masses.Magic Lanterns are pre-modernist, richly decorated items that are very different from the design of todays gadgets, which look like their design is dictated by function, but in reality (like an expensive Porsche designed to travel at speeds which it is illegal to do so) is dictated by a fetishized culture of the machine.

12 Magic Lanterns

Solar cookers are reflectors which focus sunlight enough to heat food, but they are a simple eco-friendly gadget that happens to look interesting and comes in a large variety of interesting forms.Because solar cookers are shiny and look like satellite dishes, they have a particularly futuristic appearance which often creates an extreme contrast with the surroundings where they are used, as some of these testify.

15 Solar Cookers

Balloons formed the origins of what became the USAF, have been used for stratospheric parachute jumps, bungee jumps and even to test nuclear bombs. Vote for your faves.

12 interesting balloons

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.

25 naked gadgets

This year the MIT class ring, the Brass Rat, hides a hackers' diagram of a subterranean campus wide tunnel network.Networks of secret passages and tunnels have been built on a giant scale, from components of the Maginot line to the Viet Cong Cu Chi Network. Others perform a peacetime function, such as the half mile tunnel network H.G. Dyar built under his Washington home, as a hobby, the passageways under Disney's Magic Kingdom or the unbelievable 5000 year old Lizard People tunnel network under Los Angeles that the L.A. Times published a diagram of during the depression.Here is a collection of our favorite tunnel network diagrams, drawings or models.

12 of the worlds most fascinating tunnel networks

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.

9 Roger Tallon Designs

The external fixator is a device which creates an external scaffold to holds bones in stress, allowing for regeneration of otherwise unfixable fractures. The technique was pioneered by a Russian, Dr. Ilizarov, but didn’t reach the West until the 60s after it as used to heal an Olympic athlete.These images are incredible, and they represent medical ingenuity complete with cyborg-like gadget fetish appeal. Although they are a celebration of the ability to heal people, they are, however, applied to people who have suffered terrible trauma. Something which shouldn’t be forgotten. The images which we have chosen are non squeamish, however the sites which are linked to show medical information which can be.

12 extreme examples of medical scaffolding

Bunker architecture is often better by accident than the deliberate attempts to create an aesthetic based on massive elements, through brutalism. Paul Virilio famously published a book of some of the more extreme versions of the 12,000 bunkers that formed the Atlantic Wall in WWII and Albania has an incredible 700,000 bunkers in a population of 3M, created by its mad leader, Enver Hoxha. Perhaps the strangest of all are the concealed bunkers that litter the Swiss countryside either as fake chalets or as mountains that literally open up to reveal jet fighters.

The architecture of bunkers

To celebrate I am Legend, here is a chart of our favorite abandoned technology. Disused military equipment, famous aircraft bone yards, derelict lighthouses, fun fairs subway systems and railway locomotives.

17 abandoned technology sites

I like these buildings, their high contrast sculptural forms give me a kick. But then again, I have a damaged view because I'm an architect, taught by the types of people who built these inner city sea-defenses. They were designed to last a 1000 years under the ravages of nature, but often haven't lasted 50 under the impact of public opinion.Architects will tell you that the term Brutalism comes from the French term for raw concrete, ‘beton-brut', but then again brut and brute share the same root and nobody but the completely stupid or naive would believe that the association will always be with the latter. This association is re-enforced by the use of brutalist buildings as the setting for a Clockwork Orange or the fact that Ian Flemming hated his Brutalist architect neighbor, Erno Goldfingerso much that he named a James Bond villain after him.Brutalism, for all its International credentials is really a British thing, and damp, concrete fortresses like the Park Hill Estate in Sheffield will never look like the Salk Institute, because Britain's weather is not like California's. But then again, if you like this thing then there are no better examples than Lasdun's National Theatre or Neave Brown's Alexandra Road.

18 brutalist buildings

Both the second world war and cold war produced particular styles and uses of bomb shelters that were unusual, from Swiss suburban houses with mandatory blast shelters and several years of food to the use of London’s tube stations as shelters during the second world war. Here are a few examples of vintage shelters, each with a hint of retro irony or bygone strangeness.

9 retro bomb shelters

Ironically, airports are one of the few things you often don't get to see an aerial view of since you don't get a cockpit seat. Here are a dozen of our favorites, purely in terms of their abstract graphical layout. See if you can guess them.

guess the airport from the aerial view

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

13 wonderful tensegrity structures

Although the term galvanometer is often used to refer to things other than devices which measure electrical current (such as charge or resistance), there are an amazing array of early designs for this instrument, considering their simplicity.Many of these design differences are to do with the cases that surround what is basically a twisting wire, however there is something definitively analog in their mechanism and 19th century amateur scientist in their variety. Early galvanometers represent the extreme opposite of todays high energy physics, which requires giant multi billion dollar apparatuses and extreme digital processing for measurement. A long way off a compass and a battery.

different types of galvanometer

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.

25 items to build an apple store

The first in a two part list. Here are a series of strange and unusual bus stops, including those with domestic or air conditioned interiors, odd structures and a variety of innovative integral advertising.

bus stops as art

The same week that former underdog, Apple became larger than Microsoft, the company that it infamously portrayed as Orwellian in commercials for the launch of the Macintosh, Jon Stewart suggested that it behaved like Big Brother towards Gizmodo, with police searches and assorted high drama. All over a leaked iPhone prototype.This roundup of a dozen examples shows that gadget leaks are commonplace, except for Apple (although even the iPhone prototype that is causing such brouhaha appears to have been leaked in Shenzhen). This secrecy is partly understandable as few companies innovate in terms of design the way Apple does. Most of the example below are either highly derivative of Apple designs (Dell tablet, Motorola Tao etc.) or non-groundbreaking (Lenovo T400s, Blavkberry Pearl 9110).Perhaps Apple should take a leaf out of Microsoft’s book, going forward. Instead of trying to keep things secret, Microsoft are rumored to have a strategy of creating multiple fake decoys, leaving it impossible to know whether a leak is the final version.

12 examples of leaked gadgets

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

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Category: 'furniture and lighting'

Thrones provide a history of self importance through design, from Ivan the Terrible's ivory throne to some of the more absurd set pieces, complete with enormous backdrops.The throne and sculptural setting for Papal audiences is a fitting example of something that would have Jesus rolling in his proverbial grave, quite missing the entire message of the scriptures. Other favorites include the coronation throne in Britain which is covered in antique graffiti, as if it were a unimportant school chair, or Saddam Hussein's scud missile set piece. My personal favorite is the throne which the lunatic singer, Michael Jackson had made for himself, which actually looks ordinary here.

Toilet design says a lot about a culture. In the US public toilet cubicles typically have a quarter inch gap which allows people to see in, although a pissoir, which is a partially open air urinal is almost unknown. The reason for this irony is possibly prudery. The gaps are to prevent impropriety, but the enclosed toilets are because of a general American shyness about toilet matters. A small gap allows monitoring a large one encourages voyeurism. Political correctness due to the fact that pissoirs can normally only be used by men is undoubtedly also part of the reason, although recently funnel based womens pissoirs have been developed.Pissoirs first became widespread in France but exist throughout the world, from Scandinavia to Australia. They fell out of fashion in the late 20th century, but have seen something of a revival, with ultra modern versions being built in places like Berlin. Britain, which shares anglo-saxon prudishness with America has recently relaxed its taboo against open air urinals, due to the problem of binge drinking and subsequent al fresco urination. In the south of England, cylindrical pissoirs which are hidden during the day, telescope out of the ground at night, for the relief of marauding drunken hordes.

Five of so architects have produced much of the most famous modern furniture. Here are 15 different chairs by 15 different famous modern architects. Vote for your faves.

Our favorite lights based purely upon aesthetics. Vote for your favorites.

The stuffed chick with light bulb, understandably caused some fuss when it was created. Other strange lights here include pear lights which can be plucked out of a tree, paper plane lights lights that look like water dripping out of a tap and a lamp from a spinal column cast.

Here is a collection of lamps, lights and chandeliers made from everything from car parts, umbrellas, bicycles, tableware, old globes, tape measures and speaker parts.Hopefully this will whet your creative appetite.