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A gallery of incredible streamline design. No other period in product design is more important to American history than the Streamlined period. Here are our favorite gadgets and vehicles from the Sky Captain World of Tomorrow.Ironically the streamlined shape is less aerodynamic than it looks. It came from the high speed steam trains designed by people like Raymond Loewy or cars by Norman Bel Geddes (the father of the actress who played Miss Ellie in Dallas) and still exists in kitchen and bar-ware and the 40s style Airstream trailers which escorted the Astronauts off the Space Shuttle today and still look futuristic.

24 Sky Captain gadgets & vehicles

It is no accident that very few production gull-wing door cars have ever been built. It is a design gimmick that looks superficially interesting but is highly impractical. Most gull wing cars are concept designs, and the company that made the most famous of all, the De Lorean DMC 12, went bankrupt. The Mercedes 300 SL is a lone example of a wonderful looking gull wing car, but even that was deemed dangerous, and nicknamed 'the widowmaker'.The gull wing's marginally less impractical sister, the scissor door, has actually become a signature feature for Lamborghini. How fitting that a symbol of bad design should represent a, once great, car producer that has reduced itself to churning out expensive kitsch, since the mid 80s.Somewhere in between a scissor and a gull wing are the doors on the cheaper Toyota Sera, which is a car that looks like someone's grandmother trying to be cool.Vote for your very worst.

bad design gull wing cars

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.

pissoir designs

Most of these are either clearly dangerous, such as the shoe fitting x ray machines that were popular until the 50s or show a bizarre Alien-like (as in H.R. Geiger) aesthetic that is a world apart from current medical equipment. Bug-like metal castings in place of ubiquitous white plastic.

9 vintage x ray machines

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

16 concept watches

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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 to (permalink)

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:)

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