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oobject: 'daily user-ranked gadget lists'
Tool chests can provide perfect gadget porn – lots of beautifully crafted objects that fit intricately into a perfect container.Here are some of our favorites, including the stunning chest which resides in the Smithsonian and belonged to Organ and Piano maker, Henry O Studley at the other end of the scale is the garden variety, utilitarian tool box that saved the NASA Spacelab .

top 10 interesting tool chests

You can pick up an old Boeing jetliner for the price of scrap, and turn it into the ultimate trailer home. Here are some of our favorite examples of recycled planes used as houses and restaurants, including a former Irish airliner that ended up as a bar in Syria and a Jumbo Jet that is a restaurant in South Korea.

10 buildings in old planes

Glove boxes are a staple of apocalyptic movies – chambers where scientists can manipulate dangerous substances through pockets with integral gloves.These are gadgets that everyone can recognize yet few can name. Here are our favorite picks, from radiation shielded plutonium glove boxes at Los Alamos to those aboard the Space Station, a version for welding exotic materials and a Class III device for handling biological or chemical Weapons of Mass Destruction.

12 real life glove boxes

Adding a sound system to something as skeletal as a bicycle is tricky task, but one that has been perfected around the world. From gangs in Queens to Critical Mass rallies boom box bikes are an interesting technological mix of eco and brash.

boombox bikes

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

Forget the kinds of kitchen gadgets you see on infomercials, if you want the real deal you have to go to the pros. Who doesnt want a computer controlled Instant Noodle machine, a bagel production line, a 2000 piece and hour sushi robot or a 60 foot long mobile smoker. Vote for your faves.

14 extreme kitchen gadgets

The Segway took the idea of the two wheeled vehicle and made it require thousands of dollars of electronics to remain as stable as an ordinary two wheeled bicycle. The Apple Newton was a personal organizer that required a personal assistant to carry it around for you.The common thread in the choices here is people mistaking sophisticated engineering for sophisticated design. Many were and still are technical triumphs.The Space Shuttle, for example, still bathes in the reflected glory of the Apollo missions, yet its design was largely a mistake based upon the PR potential of a plane-like craft, rather than practicality. Its replacement will look much more like a Saturn 5 rocket and it forms part of the hardware for what Nasa refer to internally as the ‘crude missions’.Below is our chart of the biggest all time tech. failures. Vote for the biggest loser or suggest some alternatives in the comments.

10 biggest tech product failures

Inflatable structures have the advantage of being able to be deployed very quickly, and the disadvantage that they are vulnerable to failure, over time. This makes them ideal for temporary shelters, from mine accidents to military deployment, festivals and even on the moon.

8 inflatable shelters

The legendary fleet of BBC spy vehicles. The BBC has a cosy reputation, but to people outside the UK the fact that TV owners have to pay a compulsory license fee to fund the BBC (even if they only watch other channels) seems absurd. Coupled with this, the BBC actively police whether people pay for their license and to do so they have a mythical fleet of hilariously creepy ‘TV detector vans’ that supposedly can spy on you and pinpoint exactly which room you might be watching a TV in. Whether they work, or whether they even exist or not, is open to question, these few images are the only ones we could find of them. Nevertheless, their very concept is an Orwellian nightmare.

sinister bbc spy vehicles

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

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery then Apple is getting it in spades.For those that worry about Apple blazing a trail for others to copy less expensively, its not that simple. A product like the iPhone is heavily tooled rather than fabricated. The hole for the headphones is actually drilled. To do this, Apple have hogged the world’s supply of the type of high tech, multi-dimensional machine tool needed.While companies like Nokia may copy, they may not be able to get the same build quality, even if they want to. Vote on the most blatant copy and post tips in the comments.

12 biggest apple design ripoffs

These are possibly the most impressive gadgets on earth, beautifully complicated, polished stainless steel instruments that employ electron, x-ray, and ion probes, often in combination with depth profiling techniques, for surface analysis. They are the instruments featured on the covers of science lab and university brochures and are exactly what I want for my birthday. Vote for your faves.

12 ultra complex surface analysis systems

Resqtec make instruments that prise open cars after a crash or find people in the rubble of buildings after an earthquake. What’s amazing about this equipment, however, is quite how beautifully designed it is.

6 resqtec emergency devices

One of the ways to get something architecturally novel built is to tell people it is temporary. Despite the fact that 99.9% of buildings are temporary over a few generations, people seem to tolerate something as long as it will be gone before they are. As a result, several of the worlds most famous pieces of architecture (Barcelona and Rietveld pavilions) or some of the worlds most famous city landmarks (Eiffel Tower, London Eye) have remained because they won people over after the fact.

9 permanent temporary structures

The earliest remotes were neither wireless or used to control TVs. Since the 30s devices were available to control radios, Philcos 1939 wood and Bakelite model was actually wireless and predates any TV remote. TV remotes started with gadgets such as the Zenith Lazy Bones and it was Zenith who introduced the first cable free TV remote, with the Flash-matic.

9 early remote controls

Early brick sized cellphones spanned the end of the 80s and beginning of the 90s when Nokia was still remembered as the manufacturer of jackboots for the Soviet army. The distinction between carphones and portable cellular phones was blurred and even today the largest cellphone outlet in the UK is called the Carphone Warehouse.Here is a nostalgic lineup of videos of some of these with 2 notable inclusions, the Nokia 9000, which you could use to access a server from more effectively than an iPhone or Blackberry, in the early days of the web and the Iridium, whose demise is one of the few examples of technology regress: there is no longer a truly global cellphone network, but there used to be.

brick sized cellphone ads (videos)

RIP Google Phone, long live concept phones. A roundup of the best cellphone concepts and prototypes. Vote for your fave.

22 best concept cellphones

Such was the propensity for the Soviets to put fighter jets on plinths dotted around the empire that they are sometimes referred to as Migs on sticks. Other people did this, of course. In the US, Phantom jets were a favorite and some of these Migs are in places outside the Soviet Union, like Somalia, where Russian jets were bought. The trend also intended to a variety of other planes such as the particularly ungainly looking Tupelov monument, in this list. But there is something about a Mig on an angled concrete base that is reminiscent of Soviet graphic design, crass and muscular with people leaning forward in earnest. Comic like, but deadly serious.

soviet fighter plane monuments

There were justifiable fears of being buried alive, before modern medicine could safely identify the difference between certain types of paralysis or coma and being dead. Fears which were exacerbated by fiction such as The Premature Burial by Edgar Allan Poe. As a result a bizarre range of contraptions were invented to signal having been buried alive, from bells, whistles and even a spring loaded ejector coffin which might actually kill other people from the shock of seeing an interred body spring out of the ground in a cemetery.Added to this were ranges of hermetically sealed iron coffins and a device to prevent grave robbing consisting of a booby-trap subterranean torpedo.For more of these, check out: http://deathreferencedesk.org/2010/02/02/premature-burial-device-patents/

12 Safety Coffins

oobject header image

For no other reason than these things look slightly disturbing here a re a variety of devices to measure bits and pieces of your head, for quack or legitimate purposes or just to hold it still.

Oobject/Cribcandy Favorite Source

February 11th, 2011 link to (permalink)

3 years ago
Getbackinc, have a fantastic collection of vintage industrial era furniture. We thoroughly recommend having a look around their site.

Oobject/Cribcandy Favorite Source

February 11th, 2011 link to (permalink)

3 years ago
Another great source for oobjecty stuff to actually buy, which we came across today: Koma Designs in Toronto

This may seem like an overly esoteric oobject, but there is something interesting about the shape of a hairdryer – an item designed largely as a female beauty product that is often shaped like a gun or looks like sticking your head in a jet engine. One of these is actually shaped like a gun. The most interesting ones I could find were the machine age chrome ones or some of the more bizarre soft bonnet versions.

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.

Magician’s posters are a particularly interesting form of advertising, since they are selling something which is, by definition, fake. This often leads to a particularly exaggerated and interesting graphic style, particularly with hypnotists. My favorites are the turn of the century ones which have early modernist or art deco graphics which predate their use in movie posters.

I like these buildings, their high contrast sculptural forms give me a kick. But then again, I have a damaged view because I’m an architect, taught by the types of people who built these inner city sea-defenses. They were designed to last a 1000 years under the ravages of nature, but often haven’t lasted 50 under the impact of public opinion.Architects will tell you that the term Brutalism comes from the French term for raw concrete, ‘beton-brut’, but then again brut and brute share the same root and nobody but the completely stupid or naive would believe that the association will always be with the latter. This association is re-enforced by the use of brutalist buildings as the setting for a Clockwork Orange or the fact that Ian Flemming hated his Brutalist architect neighbor, Erno Goldfingerso much that he named a James Bond villain after him.Brutalism, for all its International credentials is really a British thing, and damp, concrete fortresses like the Park Hill Estate in Sheffield will never look like the Salk Institute, because Britain’s weather is not like California’s. But then again, if you like this thing then there are no better examples than Lasdun’s National Theatre or Neave Brown’s Alexandra Road.

Although current proposals for 4000 mph Maglev trains running in evacuated tubes, would offer New York to Beijing in less than 2 hours, built versions of pneumatic railways predate regular subways. Brunel built one, and an underground pneumatic railway was built by Alfred Ely Beach, in Manhattan, in 1869. The late 19th century stock market crash, depression and Civil War, destroyed the idea and little of it remains apart from the station, which features in the movie Ghost Busters II.

Cargo holds are often impressive, cavernous spaces containing strange and interesting objects and equally interesting when empty, often displaying a stark minimalist beauty. They are iconic spaces which often feature in video games and in science fiction, perhaps most famously in Aliens. Here we show our favorites from the real world including giant cargo planes, ships holds that have been turned into a restaurant and a theater and, of course, the Space Shuttle cargo bay.

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.

I started this list as a Thanksgiving homage to American innovation via its greatest inventor. Reading more about Edison and his strange obsession with things like filming electrocutions, using alternating current, of everything from small animals to people and even an elephant, just to try and put people off the rival AC system, managed to put me off him. So as an act of revenge here are some of his less successful, stranger inventions from concrete phonographs to what became the tattoo machine and a ghost detection instrument. Happy Thanksgiving anyway.

In some sense these are steampunk iPods, a ridiculously old fashioned and quixotic category of technology, because there is nothing portable about a record, particularly the brittle shellac versions of the gramophone era. Overcoming this lack of portability is precisely what makes these devices so beautiful and intricate, however, from the later versions which were installed in cars and music systems to the fantastic Peter Pan picnic player, where everything folds out including the platter and the telescopic trumpet. The Peter Pan style came from Europe, when they were called Kamerphones since they looked like the box cameras of the time. They were imported by the Jehovah’s Witnesses to take on their rounds and play bible discourses outside people’s doors.

Vintage Exercise Machines

November 18th, 2010 link to (permalink)

3 years ago
A nice collection of images of exercise machines from circa 1920

Oobject favorite store: Trouvaillen am Munster

November 15th, 2010 link to (permalink)

3 years ago
On our recent trip to Bern we discovered this fantastic antique store, in the Wunderkammer tradition. It's located at 16 Munstergasse in the center of Bern, 50 yards as the crow flies from where Einstein was living in 1905.

The Oobject/Cribcandy Barn

November 15th, 2010 link to (permalink)

3 years ago
We've moved temporarily from New York to the Swiss-French border where we've bought a derelict barn.

Although I will presumably go bankrupt doing this, its been fun re-learning my old architecture skills. I'll upload progress images here.

David


According to Bismarck the two things you should never see being made are laws and sausages. Here we reveal the machines involved in the process that is less stomach churning – it involves taking meat and making it into a brown paste then putting it into a colon, traditionally pigs intestines but now plastic. The irony of this being the exact reverse of eating and pooping, obviously hadn’t been lost on the German general.There are no more distressing images here beyond what you’d see in the meat section at the supermarket (merely gross ones), but the clip for the Advanced Meat Recovery System which is accompanied by some smooth dinner jazz and whose opening caption reads ‘preparing the beef neckbones with a bandsaw’ wins a prize for lack of sensitivity.

Babel is interesting because it represents the ultimate in imaginary architecture, a skyscraper of the mind. The Tower of Babel is the archetypal image of a giant tower, a man made hill, yet nothing like our idea of it has ever been built. The closest are possibly Mont Saint-Michel or perhaps the downtown Manhattan cluster, yet one is a natural mound and the other an apparent hill created from many buildings.The idea of Babel traces back to ancient Sumerian stories from the time of 5000 year old Mesopotamian Ziggurats, to the reinterpretation of these myths in the book of Genesis. In the 16th century the ironic obsession with Babel among 16th century painters in hill-less Lowland Europe, created the most well known imagery, but it evolved further with the unbuilt Palace of the Soviets or the imaginary babel in the retro futuristic skyscraper cities of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.

Favorite place for Oobjects: Amberley Museum

November 1st, 2010 link to (permalink)

3 years ago
Yesterday, we visited the Amberley Working Museum, in the picturesque Sussex countryside, in England.

This is a great place for exotic man made objects, from phones that were struck by lightning to a great collection of obsolete electronics, including some Sinclair radios that we didn't know existed.

Amberley Museum has what bigger institutions sometimes don't have – character. It's an eccentric place run by enthusiasts which give it a feeling all of its own. Enjoy!


Oobject favorite source: Architakes

October 31st, 2010 link to (permalink)

3 years ago
What I like about this site: Its an architecture blog that is about the non superficial aspects of design, rather than a Zoolanderesque blog full of signature architecture and willful posing. And I like the 'Pattern Language' style rules. Enjoy.
David

The monorail perfectly exemplifies that nothing dates like the future, it is a piece of anachronistic technology that is today largely relegated to theme parks and inter terminal airport transit. Although the archetypal image of a monorail is the 1959 Disneyland version, as this list shows, its design history traces back to the middle of the 19th century, with steam driven versions that share none of the futuristic aesthetic of the streamlined post war versions. In this case, although the pioneering system from a technical point of view was the 1952 German Alweg, the 1911 Boyes monorail prototype shows the origins of the futuristic look.

Scoping this list was more difficult than finding the items – I’ve tried to keep to electronic devices, the first transistor radio rather than the First radio, and products that were actually sold such as the Dycam Model 1 digital camera rather than the Fuji DS-1P.My favorite here is the first web server, it was one of 2 NeXT machines bought for Tim Berners Lee and nobody knows which one (they both survive) was the first to serve a web page. The NeXT was a beautifully designed machine that Steve Jobs built to show what a personal computer should be, after being ousted from Apple. Berners Lee specifically needed a NeXT to be able to build the web and had difficulty getting approval.You could argue the first web server is merely the machine that happened to perform a first role, rather than a device designed for a purpose, but the fact that Berners Lee needed the NeXT to be able to develop the web quickly and elegantly, shows that sometimes the development of the first example of something predates it actually being used for the pioneering purpose for which it is suited.

Anyone self respecting geek who has been spellbound by the inspired rescue of the Chilean miners, will have found plenty of great info-graphics showing just how impressive a mine is. Here we have gathered some other cutaways, sections and 3d models showing a variety of mines, from the two coal mine alternatives (room and pillar or longwall) to the cavernous chambers of salt mines. Most impressive of all, however, is the physical model of Kidd Creek mine in Ontario where the relatively insignificant looking blobs at the bottom are the world’s tallest man made structures, to scale.

Its October 2010 and Chinese property booms while most of the Western world’s houses have shrunk to more realistic levels. In the US, homes have ceased to be ATMs to buy oriental barbecues, but in Britain, a crowded island with a cultural attachment to carving out a personal defensible space are Englishmen’s homes still castles, with prices to match.As US housing prices adjusted, UK ones, faltered then regained their losses smack in the middle of the recession. This time things look different, with last month seeing the largest dip in housing prices in history. Perhaps prices in Britain will go up forever, or perhaps Britain will be like Japan, another crowded island which had the same phenomenon and where eventual capitulation resulted in a crash where property is worth less than a decade ago?One way to judge judge this is to look at what a million dollars gets you in London and its hinterland – a place where an apartment recently sold for a quarter of a billion dollars during the biggest downturn since the Great Depression.

When Craig Breedlove built the first of the modern jet-propelled record breaking cars in his garage, he named it the Spirit of America, this could have just as well pertained to the place of creation as the object itself. The garage is a symbol of creative entrepreneurialism, people making anything from cars to music to robots and, of course, the Apple computer.

We tend to think of submarines as being a particularly 20th century object when we imagine the nuclear powered, nuclear missile carrying versions. Obviously however, they feature in the Jules Verne classic, ‘20 Thousand Leagues Under the Sea’ and are, as such a definitive Victorian piece of technology, or to use the term currently in vogue, ‘steampunk’.Although the idea of a submarine began as early as the 16th century, it was in the Victorian era that the modern cigar with periscope form was developed with France’s Gymnote in 1889.Included here is a picture of the model of the Plongeur which was exhibited at the Exposition Universelle in 1867. This was the actual item that Jules Verne saw and inspired the Nautilus in his seminal science fiction work, making it an historic item in the cultural history of technology.

Today, prosthetics are a world apart from these pre-digital age examples, using advanced robotic and cybernetic technologies and tools such as 3-d printers for mass customization. As such vintage prosthetics often have the particularly strange look which is both creepy and fascinating and accompanies technological obsolescence.Early prosthetic limbs date from ancient Egypt and Rome, however examples from the middle ages appear more regularly, being made of armor. The were later replaced by non articulated wooden prosthetics, of the caricature style normally worn by pirates. The tragically large number of amputees in the Napoleonic Wars led to the development of the ‘Clapper’, named after the sound made by its articulated toes which were controlled by artificial tendons. This prosthetic became the model for the ‘American Leg’ which was developed during the American Civil war. Wooden prosthetics were heavy and were not improved on till the development of lightweight alloys, during the first World War.

After the furor over the potential Koran burnings last week, I had a look at the precedents, which it seems are everywhere, from Harry Potter to the Bible. For thousands of years, all religions and ideologies have been burning each others’ texts.

Antarctic architecture provides imagery of the closest thing that people will be able see to a moon base, within their lifetimes. The extreme nature of the environment combined with its bizarre statelessness, provides the location for a freezing architectural expo, with each country having its own icy pavilion.Since the early days of wooden huts, the architecture has converged on a style which consists of a pod on legs, somewhat reminiscent of Thunderbird II’s cargo bay or the Space 1999 freighter. In addition large scale experiments such as the south pole telescope or ice cube neutrino detector (which is technically a telescope at the north pole since it watch for particles which have traveled through the earth) provide equally interesting accidental architecture, in that their designs are purely functional.

Included here are notable landings based upon being spectacularly close to high rises (the old Hong Kong airport), very short runways (Saba, aircraft carriers), specific vehicles (the Space Shuttle and Concorde) or a reconstruction of the Amazing US Airways flight 1549 which ditched safely in the Hudson after all engines failed.

Oobject favorite source: Heritage Key

September 9th, 2010 link to (permalink)

3 years ago
Unlike journalists I like to share my sources. Among the many sites we trawl through some are lesser known gems and Heritage Key is one of them. Rather than link to their front page, this link is to a particularly great story about the football pitch sized tomb of the first emperor of China – the one who made the terracotta army. amazingly people know where it is but have not opened it or looked for its fabled rivers of mercury.

Like fossils for creationists, these medical dinosaurs are concrete evidence of the tragic fallacy of anti-vaccinationism. During the 1940s and 50s entire hospital wards were filled with these terrifying looking submarine-like devices, to help polio victims whose paralysis rendered them unable to breath.Although modern day respirators tend to work with positive rather than negative pressure, polio itself has been almost entirely eradicated due to the successful widespread use of vaccines, saving countless lives.

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.

Why absurd? Well, there is something particularly vulnerable about a piece of military hardware that can be rendered inactive by a group of boy scouts laying an iron bar sufficient to derail it. At the same time, the ordinary look of many steam trains seemed more robust than some of these tin can efforts. I chose this list because they are a design backwater with unusual looking phenotypes.

Seven US Presidents may have been born in a log cabin, but only one is shown here. Alongside are some of the more unusual ones, few were born in cities or apartments and few grew up in grand houses. Click through to reveal who was born where.Nothing symbolizes the concept of the rags to riches American dream more than Lincoln’s enshrined log cabin.

Ironically, airports are one of the few things you often don’t get to see an aerial view of since you don’t get a cockpit seat. Here are a dozen of our favorites, purely in terms of their abstract graphical layout. See if you can guess them.

I’ve picked the most interesting selection I could find from the worlds largest gatherings. The largest anti war protest was in Rome in 2003, against the Iraq war, where more people gathered than for the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, the Haj. In fact, Sao Paulo’s Gay Pride festival is roughly the same size as the Haj, with 2.5 million attending in 2006 and the Haj isn’t even necessarily the largest gathering in Islam, with 14 million people attending the Shiite Arab’een in Iraq. Religious ceremonies dominate, with a Papal mass in Ireland in 1979 resulting in a third of the population (1.25M) gathering in a single field, but paling in comparison with religious gatherings in India, including the Kumbh Mela which drew an unbelievable 60-70 million people over 45 days in 2007, making it the largest gathering in history.

Almost everything there is to know about modernism is contained in a single room slice of a curtain wall tower dropped into the Illinois countryside. The Farnsworth house was a project designed and built by Mies van der Rohe 60 years ago, undeserving of its patron’s name, who wrongfully sued and which still seems to win prizes and be declared as innovative when architects consciously or unconsciously copy it today. Here are a dozen examples to demonstrate it.

Old shoes doesn’t sound interesting but I managed to find some fine examples, from the incredibly short and tall Venetian Chopines which had 2 foot soles for courtesans to wade through sewage lined streets to the opposite shaped long skinny medieval Poulaines which had toes stuffed with moss. Interestingly the worlds oldest shoes come from the New World, or Oregon to be exact.My personal favorite are the Roman shoes from the time of Constantine, whose style show just show eastern or to our eyes, Arabic, the Empire would have felt at that time.

WTF is that? #21

July 19th, 2010 link to (permalink)

4 years ago

wtf

What is this machine – or far more interestingly, what does it make?


There are some design classics here, from the John Russell Barlow, French Opinel and Laguiole, Japanese Higo no Kami and of course the Swiss Army knife, where we show the original 19th C version and the one actually issued to Swiss soldiers today. We have included a couple of multi-tool curiosities such as a surgeons knife with gruesome implements such as an abscess lance and a Veterinary blood letting pocket knife which we found in our attic. To demonstrate the history of pocket knives which go back to 500BC we have selected a modern looking Viking pocket knife and an amazing Roman Soldiers multi-tool which predates the Swiss Army by nearly 2000 years.

(Not) Crappy Taxidermy

July 11th, 2010 link to (permalink)

4 years ago
I was looking to do a list that was taxidermy related, but this was one of those occasions where you find out that someone has created a site so great that there is no point in doing anything other than link to it. Behold, crappy taxidermy.

The Wienermobile is quintessentially American: pure, whimsical, 4-wheeled fun in the name of capitalism. It’s history goes rather like most design classics form Apple computers to the Coke bottle: 2 custom built homebrew prototypes (1936-40), a defining form (1958), a refinement of this to produce a classic, by a famous designer (1958, Brooks Stevens), variations on the same theme till now, with a novelty version in 2008.

Yesterday we managed to get into CERN and do some exploring. Our mission? Not to go to the Giant LHC experiments, such as Atlas, but to root around the campus itself, find the exact place where Tim Berners Lee invented the web, marked by a small plaque, and photograph it, license-free, since there seem to be no images of it that we could find. We went through several doors marked ‘radiation’, were told to leave one place, because ‘the beam was on’, saw the Grid data center and rooms with blackboards covered in equations – but we found it.

The history of photography starts at the human scale, with the first picture of a face in 1838 and moves in both directions, culminating in the WMAP cosmic background radiation image in 2003 and the first complete image of a molecule in 2009.

The Olympics is to the World Cup as the Eurovision Song Contest is to Saturday Night at the Apollo. An event created by top down bureaucracy rather than grass roots passion. This is sometimes reflected in its architecture, which has a far worse track record in terms of long term use. Many Olympic sites fail to live up to their aims at sustainability or regeneration and instead lie in ruin or have since been demolished.After the recent scandal about the horrendous state of the recent Athens Olympics’ facilities we decided to look for more examples. Here is what we found. Some are the products of politics and war rather than over-ambitious folly, but it seems that about half of the Olympic sites are gone or wrecked.

There’s not much information about helter skelters on Wikipedia, so we decided to find out more:Despite becoming a recent fixture at Victorian themed winter fairs and a perennial one at summer funfairs, the helter skelter is clearly modeled on a Victorian lighthouse, and so is originally and end of pier attraction. We found a picture from 1907 where the helter skelter is clearly labeled as a one and we even found one labeled a helter skelter at Coney Island, so perhaps its a term that did carry to the US. The architectural style is even referenced in a spire at Disneyland, the capital of the funfair world.An almost exclusively British term for a spiral fairground slide, helter skelter is known in the US from songs by the Beatles, Oasis and Genesis, and from the association with Charles Manson. In the UK its one of those things that every child can recognize, but which when you really look at, becomes strangely unfamiliar and weird – an architectural naked lunch. The taste of this naked lunch combines hints of jousting, medieval pageants and overtones of Paganesque Englishness, from Morris Dancing to the Wicker Man. Its principal flavor, however, is of the English seaside: damp and Victorian.

Kowloon Walled City (KWC) was a 10-16 storey monolithic 6.5 acre city block in the flight path of the old Hong Kong airport, that housed somewhere between 35,000 and 50,000 people when it was finally demolished in 1993. 30 times the density of Manhattan with no streets and little daylight, it was a rat infested, cockroach ridden filthy labyrinth. KWC was a no-man’s land that fell neither under British Jurisdiction nor Chinese, where Hong Kong’s appetites for the 3 vices: prostitution drugs and gambling could be satiated, but where ordinary families lived alongside nearly 800 factories and shops. It had 161 unregulated doctors and dentists along with food producers from whole pig roasters to the suppliers of most of Hong Kong’s fish balls. Most of the people that lived in KWC never left.Dozens of sites have covered KWC before (as have we), but its such a strange and unusual Oobject that we’ve trawled through hundreds of sites to try a pull together a list of our favorite images and links which succinctly describe it.

Terry Gilliam was perhaps first to notice the architectural qualities of power station cooling towers, setting the torture scene from Brazil inside the base of one in South London. Their sheer size, monolithic masonry walls and gentle curves make them like enormous castle towers. Particularly special are the ones that have open structures at the base, making them appear to float impossibly, and the view from the inside is what we have focused on in this list. Accidental architectural masterpieces indeed.

It seems that for maximum impact, upside down houses need to be cartoon versions of what a building should be, pitched roof, symmetric, central door.

The fact that if a nuke is used to extinguish the Deepwater Horizon leak, it will be the 6th time this has been done speaks volumes of how extreme the technological requirements of our fossil fuel dependence.Oil and gas require a gargantuan infrastructure of superlative technology that permeates every level from extraction to dispatch, from hellish looking oil drill bits, drilling rigs that are the size of cities, storage tanks the size of cathedrals and pipelines that rival the Great Wall of China.The extreme environments that this technology operates in require unsinkable boats, skyscraper sized structures in some of the world’s least inhabited places and firefighting tools that include large bombs and fighter jet engines.Pause for a moment and reflect on just how unusual these objects are.

Wtf is that? #20

May 28th, 2010 link to (permalink)

4 years ago

wtf

A boat that goes in two directions. What could be the purpose of this crazy looking ship? The answer is suitably topical.


Skyscrapers produce great charts because they are long and skinny like the columns in a bar graph. They combine the nerdy attraction of big buildings with infographics and therefore at Oobject we are obsessed with them. Here we have collected a bunch of skyscraper style size comparisons, and not just of buildings, so that you can compare the empire state building with the Titanic, a deep salt mine, space rockets and a neutrino telescope under the antarctic ice.

Whenever you see a picture of the ancient pyramids of Giza the view behind is of endless sweeping sands rather than the smog heavy skyline of downtown Cairo. Here we’ve collected some of the least flattering and depressing views of famous monuments or places, from the Stonhenge car park to the Starbucks in the Louvre. There are a couple of unlikely ones such as the Acropolis which in some ways is depressing from every angle, having been destroyed while used as a munitions dump, or the more preserved version of Trajan’s column which is hidden away in a London museum, with a janitor’s closet in its base. Vote for the worst.

Incredibly, automatic car parks have been around since the 30s culminating in the incredibly futuristic VW Autostadt. Here are some of our favorites.

From Tampa to Dublin to Alicante and Dubai empty condos and villas that were never home to anyone, litter the landscape as a sterile reminder of a party that never was. But perhaps the biggest housing bubble of them all has just been popped – deliberately by the Chinese government who saw that Shanghai and Beijing real estate increases were unsustainable. Over the last month, Beijing housing prices have fallen at a unbelievable 377% annualized rate, possibly heralding part III of the Great recession following the US banking collapse and European sovereign debt crisis.The most dramatic pictures in this collection are of the empty Chinese city of Ordos, which is a piece of government led, speculative development on a scale unimaginable elsewhere. An entire city waiting to be occupied. Ordos is not a failure yet, but if it is, it will be emblematic.

Teasmades possibly represent the nadir of industrial design, combining Rube Goldberg, or more appropriately, Heath Robinsonesque unnecessary mechanic complexity with technological denialist styling and often capped off with horrid little lampshades.Appropriately enough, these diabolical devices were pioneered by a brand called Goblin, and were rendered obsolete after unfashionable UK Prime Minister, John Major’s wife Norma confessed to having one in Downing St. Sadly, someone is making them again.

It seems like oil cleanup includes some of the most basic and advanced technologies, from literally hoovering it up, to skimming it and burning it, using oil eating bacteria and swarms of Roomba style oil cleanup bots.

The same week that former underdog, Apple became larger than Microsoft, the company that it infamously portrayed as Orwellian in commercials for the launch of the Macintosh, Jon Stewart suggested that it behaved like Big Brother towards Gizmodo, with police searches and assorted high drama. All over a leaked iPhone prototype.This roundup of a dozen examples shows that gadget leaks are commonplace, except for Apple (although even the iPhone prototype that is causing such brouhaha appears to have been leaked in Shenzhen). This secrecy is partly understandable as few companies innovate in terms of design the way Apple does. Most of the example below are either highly derivative of Apple designs (Dell tablet, Motorola Tao etc.) or non-groundbreaking (Lenovo T400s, Blavkberry Pearl 9110).Perhaps Apple should take a leaf out of Microsoft’s book, going forward. Instead of trying to keep things secret, Microsoft are rumored to have a strategy of creating multiple fake decoys, leaving it impossible to know whether a leak is the final version.

The image of former Rodeo performer Slim Pickens riding a nuclear bomb as he would a wild horse in the 1964 movie, Dr Strangelove, is a cinema classic, but it has a long history.For decades, people have posed, sitting astride dangerous bombs. It’s a strange thing to do, but extends, sense-of-irony free to kids toys, like the image shown here of a hobby horse bomb.Most people think that the image of Pickens riding the bomb comes from WWII pinup straddled bombs on airplane nose cone art, however, the Comiccoverage blog has put together a great list of comic book covers, showing that they were using this iconic image before the US entered WWII, most notably with Captain Marvel in 1940.

The idea of uniform is that you all look the same, yet there is an ornathological variety of ceremonial military parade outfits, with as many brightly colored feathers. The images chosen here range from the Italian Carabinieri who are allowed to wear aftershave and sport outfits designed by Valentino, the French Foreign Legion’s sappers who have to have long beards and wear leather aprons and carry axes, 7 Dwarves style, Iranian police who look like criminals, Russian women soldiers who wear mini skirts, now that Putin has reinstated the infamous May Day parades and Greek soldiers whose traditional unfrms are similarly feminine. We added the UK Queen’s husband at the trooping of the color. Wearing a 3 foot high bearskin hat may be a familiar image, but its’ no less weird.

American monuments hit the sweet spot between being young enough to have been photographed while being built, but old enough that few people can remember them not being there. Because of this an entire legacy can be viewed as it was while it was being created. From the D.C Capitol building, which ironically, slaves helped to build during the Civil War, to the Statue of Liberty, which was built in France, the forgotten train Grand Central train shed, the Empire State building when it was two storeys high or the Hollywood sign before it read Hollywood, here are our picks of America’s most famous monuments while they were being built.

Something went very wrong in the 18th century. A 100 year long attempt to wear the most ridiculous artificial hair involved dandies sporting macaroni and culminated in Marie Antoinette’s utterly mad ship wig. The last vestige of this is the bizarre tradition of British and colonial judges who continue to don 300 year old clothing in a profession which is supposed to be rational.

New York, a city which is defined by its skyline, existed as a metropolis well before skyscrapers and has gone through several distinct architectural phases.I’ve picked this collection to demonstrate these, from the earliest known photograph of New York in the 1840s which shows the Upper West side as rural, to the Brooklyn Bridge dominated skyline of the mid nineteenth century.A postcard from 1904 is labeled ‘New York Skyscrapers’ but shows very few of what we would call skyscrapers today, consisting of the early steel framed buildings epitomized by the flatiron.Between the 1920′s and 1930′s the machine age skyscraper city of masonry-clad, art deco splendor grows at breakneck speed and remains similar in texture until the emergence of curtain wall, glass and steel buildings in the 1950s, after the completion of the Seagram in 1958.The 1973 opening of the iconic World Trade Center coincides the building of other inferior block like buildings along the periphery of lower Manhattan, notably at Water St., which destroy the hill like collection of spires.

Since Le Corbusier, celebrity architects realized that they needed to get a look, to be an icon. But being anal retentive this often resulted in the slightly reticent gesture of sculptural eyewear, like a miniature building hanging on your nose. Philip Johnson had Cartier make a copy of Corbusier’s glasses for himself in 1934, thus cementing the trend for architects in architect glasses.Here are a dozen famous architects and their specs, with a description below of what their glasses say about them.

Many of today’s most notable collections, such as the British Museum started off as wunderkammer, or cabinets of curiosities. These started in the 16th century are were somewhere between Ripley’s Believe it or Not and the Smithsonian, eclectic collections of man-made and natural objects of wonder. These were either rooms or spectacular intricate cabinets.Today there are deliberate attempts to re-create the very particular feel of these collections, such as at the museum of Jurassic Technology in L.A, which combines the real and fake or the British Museum’s Enlightenment Gallery.

Collectors are my favorite type of people, so when I started this list I missed the obvious by focusing on finding pictures of strange collections. It became clear that the most interesting images were where the collectors themselves were showing off what they collected. The items here range from what would be an unremarkable subject – stamps, were it not for the fact that the wold’s top bond trader collects them to an army general’s collection of tattooed, severed heads.

Being slightly anally retentive about this list, I’ve limited it to pictures of the actual typewriters that were used by 9 famous writers, not just examples of the same model. Included are James Bond creator Ian Flemming’s gold plated portable that would have been worthy of Goldfinger himself, and the typewriter used by Apple Mac user, Douglas Adams, to write the Hitchhikers Guide, before there were such things as Apple Macs.

As technology companies oozed slowly from San Jose to San Francisco, the architecture morphed from purely university campus, to a hybrid between this and a South of Market warehouse, complete with loft living accoutrements such as foosball tables. The new Facebook HQ is a perfect example of this, looking something like a Wholefoods, whereas Google looks more like the place full of plastic balls that you leave your kids when shopping at IKEA.

We’re looking for people with a strong design background to help create lists. Please email me, with your credentials and 3 lists you would like to do, if you are interested: david@wists.com


Ever since the strapline ‘Nicholas Parsons is the neo-opiate of the People’ graced a concrete roundabout in Harrow in the 1970s, I’ve been a fan of sardonic or facetious textual graffiti. Sadly, my all-time favorite, the simultaneously mindless and profound spaying of the word ‘wanker’ above a bronze statue of Freud in London’s Swiss cottage, couldn’t be found, however here are 15 choice favorites from the many collections of these around the web.

WTF is that? #19

March 10th, 2010 link to (permalink)

4 years ago

wtf

It might not look like much, but recent evidence suggests that this might be one of the most historically important man-made artifacts in the world. What might it be?


Unlike the obvious candidates, such as the Flatiron or various svelte skyscrapers, these buildings aren’t famous pieces of architecture, but accidental vernacular gems which seemingly defy gravity.

Until very recently, dental surgery appears to have been carried out with carpentry equipment. In fact, quite literally, since early dental drills were adapted from woodworking equipment. Here are some of our favorites ranging from the beautiful to the macabre.

WTF is that? #18

March 1st, 2010 link to (permalink)

4 years ago

wtf

This object has some relevance, considering recent news. What is it?


WTF is that? #17

February 23rd, 2010 link to (permalink)

4 years ago

wtf

These are false teeth not unique, but of a type with a sad and macabre history. What’s the story?


The view straight down from a bridge tower, a skyscraper creates a perspective which we looks surprising. Cars look like models and the base of something like the Eiffel tower looks tiny and distorted. That and the fact that these views are absolutely terrifying. Here are a dozen of our favorites.

A three year challenge to recreate the equipment used by Mallory and Irvine in their ill fated attempt to climb Everest in the 1920s revealed that they were adequately clothed, wearing an unbelievable number of layers, as shown in this list. Today, the number of layers has changed as have nearly all the materials used for Everest kit, with high tech, breathable yet waterproof fabrics and lightweight alloys. The extreme requirements of Everest are a good way to demonstrate technology and design innovation through history.

Nothing dates like the future and nothing is more symbolic of gadgety futurism than a modern kitchen. Included here is a design lab from a trendy Michelin starred restaurant that makes endless courses of microscopic over-engineered food, a trend which we feel is now obsolete.

Creating the illusion that a staircase is floating in mid air has become a recent design trend. It can be achieved using a glass balustrade and hidden bolts, hanging the treads from above, cantilevering the stairs from a concealed beam or by using the structure of a spiral shape to make the entire staircase self supporting. Here are some of our favorites.

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