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When gold prospectors first ventured to California, the equivalent of a hot tub meant farting in a zinc trough full of tepid water. Today it means an object reminiscent of CERN’s LHC particle detectors, with several hundred jets, built in 40 inch plasma TVs and seating for ten.We put this list together largely because there is something fascinating and supremely gadgety about the variety of arrangements of body shaped molds and strategic placement of jets, that when laid out side by side, in a gallery, seems particularly impressive. This type of space ship like hot tub design seems like something unusual enough to define a time and place, like fins on 50s cars or undulating water beds from the 70s.

spaceship like hot tubs

Magic Lanterns are essentially pre-electric slide projectors. They hold a unique position in the history of gadgets, being popular at the end of the nineteenth century when cheap mass produced decoration became available. They represent one of the last machines to be designed like furniture rather than gadgets.The dirty little secret of design is that good taste equals expensive – when everybody could afford decoration, minimalist design with expensive materials became a way to display wealth (the early modernist, Barcelona pavilion had stainless steel columns, onyx walls and travertine floors) contrary to legend, modernism was originally product for the elite, not the masses.Magic Lanterns are pre-modernist, richly decorated items that are very different from the design of todays gadgets, which look like their design is dictated by function, but in reality (like an expensive Porsche designed to travel at speeds which it is illegal to do so) is dictated by a fetishized culture of the machine.

12 Magic Lanterns

Included here are the RC helicopters that filmed New Orleans streets after Katrina, a seven foot Yodeling man and a remote controlled zombie for halloween. Vote for your fave.

18 best remote controlled gadgets

Burning man, which currently rages in the Nevada desert, is Mecca for art cars. America is the capital of modified cars, since rules about what you can do to your car and it still be street legal are less stringent than most other developed nations. Custom vehicles are a cultural expression of individuality.There are many categories of art cars, but our favorites are where a mundane, ordinary vehicle is completely covered in a single material or item. Here are some of our faves.

12 object covered cars

There is something fantastically hellish about fiery steel manufacture, nothing seems more gigantic or obviously dangerous looking. The instruments used to transfer molten iron, steel and slag are massive solid items made of the same thing they contain in liquid form and are objects of wonder.Particularly interesting are the torpedo ladle railroad cars, which transfer hot metal from blast to oxygen furnaces. They are dramatic and interesting enough that despite their obscurity they are available in several forms for model railroads. Vote for your faves.

giant molten steel handling equipment

Watching robots get more and more sophisticated over half a century of commercials is fascinating. Trends evolve from the erector set inspired Mr Machine and terrifying Garloo to cute 70s robot buddies, through the Japanese dominated 80s and hip hop and rave culture inspired 90s.

toy robot commercials through history (videos)

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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:)