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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.

12 classic sony designs

Nothing limits the design of interfaces like the QUERTY keyboard, however, that doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t try.Our personal favorite here is the Ergodex panel which can be configured to mimic the cockpit controls of many aircraft, including an F16.

21 futuristic interfaces

The first early warning systems were large concrete dishes which focused the sound of incoming Zeppelins towards listeners wearing stethoscopes, during WW1. Today’s nuclear attack early warning systems are largely satellite based infra red detectors and airborne dishes, mounted on planes and helicopters. They have made a vast array of geodesic domed, Cold War radar installations obsolete, where they remain abandoned in some of the most isolated places on earth such as Greenland and Northern Canada.

early warning systems

And you thought the matrix was fiction? Robots designed to access hostile areas such as radioactive areas are also used beneath the streets to clean or repair sewers or to lay cables. They were among the first things on the scene after 911 or Katrina and have a particular rugged beauty. Vote for your faves.

12 super sewer robots

The essential fashion item if you are going to the Beijing Olympics to watch people compete in air made of Jello – a gas mask. Gas masks are all more or less terrifying to look at, which is why some people get a kick out of them, creating artsy fetish masks, or artists create ironically cute masks such as Bill Barminsky’s Mickey Mouse mask.The irony is on the artists, however, since genuine Mickey Mouse inspired gas masks were given to children in both the UK and the US, during wartime, to appear less scary

unusual gas masks

Rapid deploy structures have an extreme design function, the ability to be built extremely quickly. This requirement brings architecture directly into the realm of gadgets with lightweight high tech construction and innovative forms.Here are a range of instant buildings from military command and control centers, disaster shelters and dedicated portable hangers for aircraft such as the B2 and stealth fighter. The buildings come in bags or on planes or with their own trailers and are even flat pack assembled like military IKEA buildings.

examples of instant architecture

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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:)