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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.

12 floating staircases

Unlike today's universal cigar shaped commercial airliners, early aircraft took lots of design forms as people experimented with different principals. This is a normal trend in design, however the image of multiplanes (those with many wings) collapsing as an icon of naive understanding of flight masks an ironic truth.The most ridiculous looking items in this list are the three flying ‘venetian blinds', constructed by Horatio Phillips between 1883 and 1907, the last of which, with more than 50 wings, looks more like a wooden building frame than an aircraft. Phillips, however, was the first person to truly understand the science of flight and aerfoil shapes, so these mark one of the more rational developments in aviation history.

15 aircraft with lots of wings

We could go on about how empty pools, once awash with liquidity and fun are a metaphor for the wreckage left after the credit bust. But then again, there is something cool about empty pools, period. Here are our faves.

abandoned pools

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.

victorian submarines

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.

absurd armored trains

Zoetropes, Phenakistoscopes and Praxinoscopes were the machines that formed the basis of modern day movie making. Here are some movies of these amazing machines in action, complete with some great modern interpretations.

Movies of moving picture machines (videos)

Britain is probably the only country in the world where electric vehicle use is declining, due to the rapid disappearance of the electric milk delivery vehicle, or milk float.Until recently it was common place for milk to be delivered to almost every house in the UK, daily. Presumably in order to secure the national flow of tea. To achieve this a vast army of distinctive, cheap looking, sluggish, electric utility vehicles paraded suburban streets.Here are some different varieties, including new concept vehicles and milk floats from movies, all preserved for posterity.

typology of milk floats

At first glance this lesser known part of the telephone inventor's life seems crazy. Bell became obsessed with pyramids, building towers, buildings, boats, kites and eventually planes made entirely out of little tetrahedrons (triangular pyramids). Eventually setting up the Aerial Experiment Association, he built 3 tetrahedral kite planes where each pyramid frame component had 2 of its 4 sides covered in fabric.His obsession, however, was ingenious and is possibly feasible - that if you could fly a pyramid frame structure then by combining lots of them together you would be adding no more weight per unit of lift, so you could fly a structure of any size.Although only one of Bell's planes managed to fly under its own power, the tetrahedral frame structure was to become a much used component of high tech architecture more than half a century later, giving these images of the Victorian inventors a bizarre science fiction feel.

Alexander Graham Bell Tetrahedrals

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.

15 witty pieces of text graffiti

There is a saturation point where individual pieces of graffiti become a texture, when things are absolutely covered in graffiti. This tends to happen in places that are charged with emotional energy, such as the Berlin wall, however here are some less well known places. From the throne of England which is covered top to bottom in hundreds of years old carved graffiti and equally aristocratic Harrow School which features a wood paneled classroom where every inch is covered by pupils who have carved their names, including Winston Churchill to pop culture shrines such as U2's former recording studio and Elvis' Graceland and not so pop Oscar Wilde, whose grave is covered in kisses.

graffiti covered

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.

12 upside down houses

Today is the 50th anniversary of the launch of Sputnik, here are some of the other lesser known Soviet satellites.Soviet space gear looked different to NASA space gear. There was something alarming about this, since it meant that there was a cultural and aesthetic aspect to the type of their design that we expect to be based purely on rational criteria.These days the variety of satellite design does tend to reflect their function more than their provenance, however here are our picks of the ones that were quintessentially Soviet. Vote on your faves.

13 soviet satellites

Historically, military rations, comprised, in significant part, of cigarettes and alcohol, while the quantity of food was far less than today. Current US army field rations are ready to eat and focus on high energy foods including caffeine-infused gum, they must cost less than $7.25 per meal, survive for 3 years at 27 degrees C and after a 100 foot drop.Civilian rations are often far less bountiful, such as WW2 food rations current Cuban rations or the tiny hunk of bread that Gulag prisoners were given. Vote for which items are most striking.

12 different food rations

Movies originated from animated still images, either through a rotating slit (zoetropes), a faceted mirror (praxinoscopes) or a rotating drum with flip cards in the case of the mutoscope. Here are some sample videos of the machines themselves, from antiques to modern day installations based on them.

12 moving image machines

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.

thrones

One of the negative things about technological progress is when something that was originally intricate and mechanical becomes a ubiquitous piece of cheap technology. This happened in the 70s with watches and more recently has happened with cameras.A modern day spy camera is not that interesting, but the miniature ones here are, similarly the wide range of hardware solutions create much more design diversity in early cameras, from the giant 900lb box camera to the bizarre miniature ones developed for carrier pigeons, from gun like trigger activated shutters to a propeller powered film advance mechanism for a camera mounted below an early aircraft.

12 unusual cameras

The same giant multi-axle machines that are used in shipyards to transport impossibly large bits of half built ships are also used to wheel into place pieces of bridges, radio telescopes and, of course space vehicles. Here are 15 different varieties.

15 giant transporters

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