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oobject: 'daily user-ranked gadget lists'
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.

retro videophones

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.

thrones

Just like the Empire State building the Burj Dubai is opening after a crash, only it is twice the height. Here are our picks for a visual record of the construction of the world’s tallest structure, from its 200 foot deep foundation to a video from the crows nest at the top of it’s spire.

construction of the burj dubai

Sometimes, making things simpler makes things more complicated. Like telling the time on willfully minimalist watches. Watches can be minimalist and functional, but the examples here put form over function where the aesthetic gain may be questionable. There is one of these we actually really like, but we are not telling which.

Unreadable Minimalist Watches

f the industrial revolution was typified by Northern England’s dark satanic mills, the Chinese manufacturing revolution consists of of more subtle kind of hell: antiseptic, shadowless, pastel colored assembly lines.The most striking thing we noticed when putting together this list was the uniformity of color, typically green floors with hospital blue appearing here and there, and highlights of yellow or pink, drowned in uniform fluorescent lighting that would make a drug store feel like a candle lit bistro.Some of these images are from the Toronto photographer, Ed Burtynsky’s great photo essay about Chinese manufacturing, however others are from publicity shots for the factories themselves. The publicity photos unknowingly reproduce the same clinical blandness.

chinese factories

Lookout towers are often more dramatic pieces of architecture than tall buildings because they only have a single floor – the top one. This means that they can be very skeletal and the design is all about a dramatic staircase. Here are some of our favorite examples,accidental architectural gems, like mini Eiffel Towers used for watching everything from forest fires to smugglers.

lookout towers

If you are as persnickety as we are, then you also possibly fantasize about having lots of gadgets that are tiny and foldaway in beautiful, intricate transformer-like fashion.Here are our picks from big to small: houses, helicopters, cars, boats, beds, computers, coat hangers. even if you’ve seen these things before, there is something satisfying about putting all these things in one place.

collapsible gadgets

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Oobject interviews Barnaby Gunning, the architect for Top Gear presenter, James May’s Lego House (with Pics)

August 24th, 2009 #link

200_lego_house_01 View Slideshow of Construction Progress

bg_bwBarnaby Gunning has an unusual architectural background that makes him one of the few people who could design a real house from toy bricks. In addition to having worked for the world famous architects Renzo Piano and Norman Foster he has also worked with the UK’s rock star engineer Neil Thomas, at Atelier One.

Perhaps Gunning’s work with the Maverick furniture designer, Ron Arad, whose work is currently the subject of a major exhibition at MoMA, is what qualified him most. When Top Gear presenter, James May approached Arad with an unusual request, Ron Arad knew just the man. He called up Barnaby saying, “there’s a TV production team here and they want an architect to help them design a house entirely out of Lego”.

The Lego house is not an illusion, explains Barnaby, “its made of real bricks, and put together with no glue”.

Oobject: No glue?

BG: Yes, amazingly we did tests with glue and it didn’t make much difference?

Oobject: Who the blazes do you get to test Lego structural engineering?

BG: Well you need someone used to testing weird structures. Atelier One and City University ran structural tests on individual blocks, then looked at breaking loads for diffent types of Lego beams. It turned out Lego beams, the size required for a house are structurally feasible.

Oobject: What was the end solution, structurally?

BG: The structure could have been fully lego, but there is a timber ‘safety frame’ inside the walls which replaces the lego joists. We designed the bottom edge of the lego beams to use three layers of thin lego plates which perform very well in tension. Three layers of these are the size of one regular course.

Oobject: So what exactly is made of Lego?

BG: Pretty much everything except the joists, the electrics and the lighting. In fact we probably could have done some of that in Lego too. Even the toilet will be in Lego.

Oobject: The toilet – right, this the thing we want to know most, how does a Lego toilet work – I mean how much of it is actually Lego?

BG: Pretty much all of it. The exact design is being specified by the interior designer and will have a Lego cistern connected to a Lego bowl via a Lego pipe. It will even have a Lego flusher.

Oobject: But can you poop in it?

BG: That’s the least of your problems. Have you ever tried sitting on pixelated plastic?

Oobject: What have been the biggest challenges so far?

BG: Making sure we don’t run out of bricks. We have 3M on site, but they are a finite supply and I have to negotiate with the interior designer, who’ll be doing furniture and art work, for bricks for the walls.

Oobject: Do you have miniature brick layer people to build the walls?

BG: Actually we have 3000 volunteers.

Oobject: Tiny little volunteers?

BG: No, ordinary members of the public. It helps when you are recruiting people for a construction project if you have the TV presenter of Top Gear to ask around.

Oobject: I guess, unless it was that miserable one.

BG: Yes, fortunately we had James May not Jeremy Clarkson.

Oobject: One of the problems with giant Lego structures we’ve seen before is that they look nasty because the designs are literal and figurative, like something from a model village. How did you manage to get the Lego house to actually look interesting architecturally?

BG: Largely that was a result of James May being on the same page as us. James realized the kitsch potential from the get go and specifically asked that we didn’t just build an overgrown standard model.

Oobject: Thanks Barnaby, one quick question, can you build us a house out of pasta?

BG: Sure, Penne or Spaghetti?

View Slideshow of Construction Progress



5 Responses to “Oobject interviews Barnaby Gunning, the architect for Top Gear presenter, James May’s Lego House (with Pics)”

  1. Giada D. Says:

    Cool- I’d like to make a video in and about this lego house!

  2. Richard James Says:

    I did some designs for a full sized Lego house a couple years ago after a tea room conversation at work. My approach was pretty similar to the one used for James May’s house but I was working on building something that would look like a real bricks and mortar house. Naturally I was very interested in the James May house and went along the other day to help with the build. I had a good day working with the volunteers who were there and got to look around the ground floor of the house. It is pretty impresive but I think my design would have looked better.

  3. Steve Cockayne Says:

    I provided some structural engineering advice early on to Plum Pictures and have just seen the pictures which look very impressive and very contemporary. My idea was for a 50s 3 bed detatched house but I like the modern approach as well. I am not sure how they solved the first floor problem. I suggested solutions and some material testing which they seem to have adopted. The analogy to timber glulam beams is close and this would have been a way around it. Once a timber beam is designed to span a distance this could have been used everywehere and also intersected to form a two way span. The bottom, as described would be layers of the thin base board as an outer fibre. This would have been common advice from any Structural Engineer however. I look forward to seeing it in the flesh. Steve Cockayne

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  5. herbata Says:

    Thank You for sharing this! Looks great:)