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All of these car commercials are from 1973, the last time the economy tanked because of oil. The embargo started late in 1973, at the point when family sedan’s did less than 10mpg, were the size of a boat and often sloshed around on suspension that felt like you were at sea. While the Detroit manufacturers were pitching speed, horsepower or comfort, one relatively obscure Japanese import, was already selling based on fuel economy. Can you spot the odd one out?

oil crisis car ads

A collection of ‘personal helicopters’ and flying machines.As the T-shirt says – ‘the is is the future, where is my Jetpack’. It seems that Jetpacks are basically dangerous, and since the appearance at the Los Angeles Olympics, nothing much has happened. Still, there are two manufacturers that will actually build one for you, for $250,000, and you can buy a glorified fan that will propel you on an ice rink at the same speed as a puck.If you want rotor blades rather than rockets, the current options are a bit cheaper and more practical, but are still less cool than the Soviet Fold-up helicopter, from the Cold War era.

12 flying machines

The earliest ejector seats were designed to save your life, but broke your back. Today the ultimate ejection seats are described as zero zero seats able to operate at zero altitude and zero airspeed. Ejection seats are interesting because they are the most extreme form of a commonplace design item – a chair.

12 ejector seats

If you believe adverts like these, sugar, Fat, TV, Coke, cocaine, radiation, cigarettes: they’re all actually good for you. Manufactured consent!

9 good for you ads

Although there are many ironic underwater technologies that got there by accident, such as planes and trains or by design, underwater escape training helicopters, there are also mail boxes, telephone systems, cars, motorcycles, kayaks (yes underwater kayaks) and air conditioning units that are there just to mess with us. Here are the most surreal we could find, vote for your faves.

surreal underwater technology

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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:)