The earliest remotes were neither wireless or used to control TVs. Since the 30s devices were available to control radios, Philcos 1939 wood and Bakelite model was actually wireless and predates any TV remote. TV remotes started with gadgets such as the Zenith Lazy Bones and it was Zenith who introduced the first cable free TV remote, with the Flash-matic.
I deliberately picked spiral ramps as opposed to spiral staircases, since they include buildings whose entire form is determined by the ramp rather than being merely a feature. Examples include everything from the Guggenheim to the Reichstag, the Tatlin Tower, Lingotto Factory or Lubetkin’s brilliant Penguin Pool at London Zoo. My personal favorite is the spiral ramp at Convair Aeronautics, by Pereira and Luckman, the people that designed the now defunct control tower at LAX. The insane but amazing proposal for a half mile high drive up skyscraper for the 1937 Paris exhibition is one example of a spiral ramp car park, and I’ve thrown a few examples of anonymous car park ramps into the mix to show how beautifu these often overlooked pieces of background architecture are.
I didn’t go for just massive or complex for the items in this list but tried to pick a variety of water slides that were each special in their own way. Items range from the obviously impressive ‘Insano’ in Brazil to various sinewy beauties and the simple but surreal canal side water slide in the Netherlands, which looks like a post modern take on a 17th Century Dutch landscape painting.
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.
One of the ways to get something architecturally novel built is to tell people it is temporary. Despite the fact that 99.9% of buildings are temporary over a few generations, people seem to tolerate something as long as it will be gone before they are. As a result, several of the worlds most famous pieces of architecture (Barcelona and Rietveld pavilions) or some of the worlds most famous city landmarks (Eiffel Tower, London Eye) have remained because they won people over after the fact.
Bridge layers have to be about the closest thing in the real world to a Transformer, giant fold up, extendable instantly deployable bridges that are most often fixed to modified tanks. They have been around since tanks first existed, during WW1, and are one of the more bizarre and obscure forms of military hardware. There is also something incredibly circular about a vehicle that carries its own road.
When I was an architect, it was common for structural engineering books to have this image of two people effortlessly supporting a third to demonstrate the cantilever principal of the famous Forth Rail Bridge outside of Edinburgh. When I was looking for this picture, I noticed that the people were different. It turns out that this iconic image is not unique and here are the three variants I could find, making this the shortest (and one of the more obscure) oobject list to date.
Roman cavalry would often have lifelike armored face masks which were deliberately expressionless to add to their creepiness. Conversely, traditional Japanese face armor is often contorted into aggressive displays of anger. Ironic somehow, since the Japanese are considered stoic and in control of their emotions whereas modern day Italians are caricatured as anything but. Military masks are interesting because they reveal the underlying hidden character of the often faceless uniforms of war. They range from early lifelike representations to some of the more abstract examples during the Renaissance or the accidentally terrifying arctic warfare masks of the otherwise friendly Swedish.
Up to the 19th Century mentally ill people were sometimes chained naked in squalid conditions in places like London’s Bethlehem hospital which became synonymous with chaos (its name being contracted to bedlam) and where tourists would pay to see the freak show. Then came the extreme rationalism of the Kirkbride plan which created a very unusual form of architecture for asylums throughout the Anglosphere that was used until the 20th Century. As a result of their demise, most are abandoned ruins today, giant, rotting testimonies to a bygone era of clinical Victorian discipline combined with neo-Gothic extravagance.The Kirkbride plan consists of an enormous a symmetrical staggered wing, like a bird made out of lego. Men are on the left and women on the right in wings that radiate from the main entrance for increasingly violent or incurable patients. Early mental institutions where patients had to pay for their own incarceration would also vary in class (rich to poor) on the y axis. The staggering of the wings ensured the flow of air through each, purging them of diseased vapors perhaps, such was the Victorian obsession with fresh air, from outdoor Tuberculosis wards to seaside promenades and piers.
Before rendering, 3d computer models are displayed as wireframes, which have a particular aesthetic. Several artists have tried to capture this in real life, with surreal models of things that aren't really there. I also threw in Gaudi's classic upside down catenary arch model of Sagrada Familia, for its sheer prowess.
Crumbling hospitals are archetypal places of creepiness, because they are ironic. An hospital is a place that is supposed to be clean, from bedding to bathing to surgery and this has been exploited for dramatic effect in films from Jacob's Ladder to 12 Monkeys and the more recent Shutter Island.Abandoned hospitals are also a popular destination for urban explorers, so here I've picked the best examples I could find from records of their adventures on Flickr. But continue to have a look there for some other great shots.The set pieces are where a few pieces of furniture and medical equipment remain in a decaying room, to the extent that some of these are obviously staged from found objects, but they're no less impressive.
This may seem like an overly esoteric oobject, but there is something interesting about the shape of a hairdryer - an item designed largely as a female beauty product that is often shaped like a gun or looks like sticking your head in a jet engine. One of these is actually shaped like a gun. The most interesting ones I could find were the machine age chrome ones or some of the more bizarre soft bonnet versions.
Magician's posters are a particularly interesting form of advertising, since they are selling something which is, by definition, fake. This often leads to a particularly exaggerated and interesting graphic style, particularly with hypnotists. My favorites are the turn of the century ones which have early modernist or art deco graphics which predate their use in movie posters.
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.
Although current proposals for 4000 mph Maglev trains running in evacuated tubes, would offer New York to Beijing in less than 2 hours, built versions of pneumatic railways predate regular subways. Brunel built one, and an underground pneumatic railway was built by Alfred Ely Beach, in Manhattan, in 1869. The late 19th century stock market crash, depression and Civil War, destroyed the idea and little of it remains apart from the station, which features in the movie Ghost Busters II.
Cargo holds are often impressive, cavernous spaces containing strange and interesting objects and equally interesting when empty, often displaying a stark minimalist beauty. They are iconic spaces which often feature in video games and in science fiction, perhaps most famously in Aliens. Here we show our favorites from the real world including giant cargo planes, ships holds that have been turned into a restaurant and a theater and, of course, the Space Shuttle cargo bay.
Skype is an idea that was conceived of by the Victorians, featured in movies in the 20s and became an icon for futurism, and yet the videophone has become ubiquitous independently of telecoms companies. How is it that an idea that could have been seen from such a long way off didn't get developed by phone companies, leading to the ridiculous situation where a phone call costs money but a Skype video phone call is free? Here's a visual history of early videophone concepts.
I started this list as a Thanksgiving homage to American innovation via its greatest inventor. Reading more about Edison and his strange obsession with things like filming electrocutions, using alternating current, of everything from small animals to people and even an elephant, just to try and put people off the rival AC system, managed to put me off him. So as an act of revenge here are some of his less successful, stranger inventions from concrete phonographs to what became the tattoo machine and a ghost detection instrument. Happy Thanksgiving anyway.
In some sense these are steampunk iPods, a ridiculously old fashioned and quixotic category of technology, because there is nothing portable about a record, particularly the brittle shellac versions of the gramophone era. Overcoming this lack of portability is precisely what makes these devices so beautiful and intricate, however, from the later versions which were installed in cars and music systems to the fantastic Peter Pan picnic player, where everything folds out including the platter and the telescopic trumpet. The Peter Pan style came from Europe, when they were called Kamerphones since they looked like the box cameras of the time. They were imported by the Jehovah's Witnesses to take on their rounds and play bible discourses outside people's doors.
According to Bismarck the two things you should never see being made are laws and sausages. Here we reveal the machines involved in the process that is less stomach churning - it involves taking meat and making it into a brown paste then putting it into a colon, traditionally pigs intestines but now plastic. The irony of this being the exact reverse of eating and pooping, obviously hadn't been lost on the German general.There are no more distressing images here beyond what you'd see in the meat section at the supermarket (merely gross ones), but the clip for the Advanced Meat Recovery System which is accompanied by some smooth dinner jazz and whose opening caption reads ‘preparing the beef neckbones with a bandsaw' wins a prize for lack of sensitivity.
Babel is interesting because it represents the ultimate in imaginary architecture, a skyscraper of the mind. The Tower of Babel is the archetypal image of a giant tower, a man made hill, yet nothing like our idea of it has ever been built. The closest are possibly Mont Saint-Michel or perhaps the downtown Manhattan cluster, yet one is a natural mound and the other an apparent hill created from many buildings.The idea of Babel traces back to ancient Sumerian stories from the time of 5000 year old Mesopotamian Ziggurats, to the reinterpretation of these myths in the book of Genesis. In the 16th century the ironic obsession with Babel among 16th century painters in hill-less Lowland Europe, created the most well known imagery, but it evolved further with the unbuilt Palace of the Soviets or the imaginary babel in the retro futuristic skyscraper cities of Fritz Lang's Metropolis.
The monorail perfectly exemplifies that nothing dates like the future, it is a piece of anachronistic technology that is today largely relegated to theme parks and inter terminal airport transit. Although the archetypal image of a monorail is the 1959 Disneyland version, as this list shows, its design history traces back to the middle of the 19th century, with steam driven versions that share none of the futuristic aesthetic of the streamlined post war versions. In this case, although the pioneering system from a technical point of view was the 1952 German Alweg, the 1911 Boyes monorail prototype shows the origins of the futuristic look.
Scoping this list was more difficult than finding the items - I've tried to keep to electronic devices, the first transistor radio rather than the First radio, and products that were actually sold such as the Dycam Model 1 digital camera rather than the Fuji DS-1P.My favorite here is the first web server, it was one of 2 NeXT machines bought for Tim Berners Lee and nobody knows which one (they both survive) was the first to serve a web page. The NeXT was a beautifully designed machine that Steve Jobs built to show what a personal computer should be, after being ousted from Apple. Berners Lee specifically needed a NeXT to be able to build the web and had difficulty getting approval.You could argue the first web server is merely the machine that happened to perform a first role, rather than a device designed for a purpose, but the fact that Berners Lee needed the NeXT to be able to develop the web quickly and elegantly, shows that sometimes the development of the first example of something predates it actually being used for the pioneering purpose for which it is suited.
Anyone self respecting geek who has been spellbound by the inspired rescue of the Chilean miners, will have found plenty of great info-graphics showing just how impressive a mine is. Here we have gathered some other cutaways, sections and 3d models showing a variety of mines, from the two coal mine alternatives (room and pillar or longwall) to the cavernous chambers of salt mines. Most impressive of all, however, is the physical model of Kidd Creek mine in Ontario where the relatively insignificant looking blobs at the bottom are the world's tallest man made structures, to scale.
Its October 2010 and Chinese property booms while most of the Western world's houses have shrunk to more realistic levels. In the US, homes have ceased to be ATMs to buy oriental barbecues, but in Britain, a crowded island with a cultural attachment to carving out a personal defensible space are Englishmen's homes still castles, with prices to match.As US housing prices adjusted, UK ones, faltered then regained their losses smack in the middle of the recession. This time things look different, with last month seeing the largest dip in housing prices in history. Perhaps prices in Britain will go up forever, or perhaps Britain will be like Japan, another crowded island which had the same phenomenon and where eventual capitulation resulted in a crash where property is worth less than a decade ago?One way to judge judge this is to look at what a million dollars gets you in London and its hinterland - a place where an apartment recently sold for a quarter of a billion dollars during the biggest downturn since the Great Depression.
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.
We tend to think of submarines as being a particularly 20th century object when we imagine the nuclear powered, nuclear missile carrying versions. Obviously however, they feature in the Jules Verne classic, ‘20 Thousand Leagues Under the Sea' and are, as such a definitive Victorian piece of technology, or to use the term currently in vogue, 'steampunk'.Although the idea of a submarine began as early as the 16th century, it was in the Victorian era that the modern cigar with periscope form was developed with France's Gymnote in 1889.Included here is a picture of the model of the Plongeur which was exhibited at the Exposition Universelle in 1867. This was the actual item that Jules Verne saw and inspired the Nautilus in his seminal science fiction work, making it an historic item in the cultural history of technology.
Today, prosthetics are a world apart from these pre-digital age examples, using advanced robotic and cybernetic technologies and tools such as 3-d printers for mass customization. As such vintage prosthetics often have the particularly strange look which is both creepy and fascinating and accompanies technological obsolescence.Early prosthetic limbs date from ancient Egypt and Rome, however examples from the middle ages appear more regularly, being made of armor. The were later replaced by non articulated wooden prosthetics, of the caricature style normally worn by pirates. The tragically large number of amputees in the Napoleonic Wars led to the development of the 'Clapper', named after the sound made by its articulated toes which were controlled by artificial tendons. This prosthetic became the model for the 'American Leg' which was developed during the American Civil war. Wooden prosthetics were heavy and were not improved on till the development of lightweight alloys, during the first World War.
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.