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The urbane Thomas Jefferson is alleged to have invented everything from the Folding Bed to Macaroni and Cheese, while his pragmatic gentleman scientist counterpart, Benjamin Franklin, is credited with the invention of a multitude of items from the Odometer to Swim Fins. None of these were actually pioneered by them, however Franklin did invent both Bifocal Glasses and the Lightning Conductor and it was Jefferson who ironically invented the geekiest device of all, the disk cipher. George Washington, on the other hand, lent his skills to farming and invented the splendidly bucolic 16 Sided Threshing Barn.

15 Founding Father Invention Myths

If there is one kind of hammer that you don’t want to get your thumb stuck under, its a steam hammer, a giant hellish machine that defined the industrial age.There are several claims to its invention in the mid 19th century, to hammer steel into shape and smash out impurities. One of these is Creusot, who exhibited a version at the Paris Universal Exposition of 1878.Looking at the Creusot Hammer, I would argue that it was the inspiration for the Eiffel tower, ten years later.Here are a variety of hammers including the mechanical or hydraulic versions that replaced steam, but still have the same titanic look.

10 massive steam hammers

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

Not long till the awesomeness of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Oobject has some ideas for alternative inflatables. Vote for your choices.

14 macys parade ideas

The name Chrysler will be remembered if no other car is produced, in the automobile inspired skyscraper that is the pinnacle of American machine-age design.The Chrysler building is the tallest brick (steel re-enforced) building in the world but it is fundamentally modern, a triumph of both technology and design. Steel gargoyles were modeled on 1929 Chrysler automobile hood decorations and radiator caps and the earliest stainless steel cladding covered the stepped, Thai Princess-like crown. The Chrysler’s spire was unveiled in less than an hour, to make it the tallest building in the world and the first the first structure more than 1000ft high.Here are a selection of iconic views and details of the Chrysler, what I believe is America’s most important building, and an important milestone in the history of technology.

homage to the chrysler

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

Up to the 19th Century mentally ill people were sometimes chained naked in squalid conditions in places like London’s Bethlehem hospital which became synonymous with chaos (its name being contracted to bedlam) and where tourists would pay to see the freak show. Then came the extreme rationalism of the Kirkbride plan which created a very unusual form of architecture for asylums throughout the Anglosphere that was used until the 20th Century. As a result of their demise, most are abandoned ruins today, giant, rotting testimonies to a bygone era of clinical Victorian discipline combined with neo-Gothic extravagance.The Kirkbride plan consists of an enormous a symmetrical staggered wing, like a bird made out of lego. Men are on the left and women on the right in wings that radiate from the main entrance for increasingly violent or incurable patients. Early mental institutions where patients had to pay for their own incarceration would also vary in class (rich to poor) on the y axis. The staggering of the wings ensured the flow of air through each, purging them of diseased vapors perhaps, such was the Victorian obsession with fresh air, from outdoor Tuberculosis wards to seaside promenades and piers.

insane asylum plans

A gallery of some of the most impressive control rooms, including the original NASA mission control, the Beatles recording studio, the NORAD nuclear war room, what is left of Chernobyl reactor 4 control and control rooms for TV, traffic, subways and particle accelerators.

control rooms of all types

Tensegrity structures are visually stunning and their combination with computer enhanced structures is creating renewed interest for architectural applications.Buckminster Fuller coined the term tensegrity when he saw sculptures by Kenneth Snelson and realized that rigid component geodesics were a special case of perfectly balanced compression and tension. Tensegrity refers to structures where compression members (rods) are only connected to each other by tension members (cables). The end result is that the structures appear to float in air.Despite the fact that tensegrity structures are fantastically efficient, few have been built since they tend to have a single point of failure and need adjustment. Recently however, schemes which combine the intelligence of computing and tensegrity structures have lead to proposals of very large scale structures including sky scrapers.Here are our favorite tensegrity links from around the web. Vote for yours

13 wonderful tensegrity structures

Ever since Evel Knievel attempted to jump Snake River Canyon, by sitting in a rocket powered bomb, dressed like Elvis, Darwin Awards contenders have tried to create inappropriate rocket powered items. These days we have YouTube to show us 10 thousand varieties of rocket powered skateboard. Here are our favorites, vote for yours.

10 inappropriate rocket powered items

Some of the most beautiful pieces of architecture in the world have a spiral stair as the final flourish. The spiral stair is an architects favorite, from Gaudi to Corbusier to Foster, but some of the most interesting spiral stairs are accidental pieces of architecture, such as those inside lighthouses or on giant silos and storage tanks. Here is a deliberately diverse collection of some of our favorites. Vote for yours.

most beautiful spiral staircases

Flea circuses share one thing in common with combine harvesters. They are something that you hear about lot as a kid but rarely see. Popular since the 1600s till the late 19th Century, there is something fantastically creepy and Victorian about them, since they were cheap entertainment for the poor and the best performers were human fleas. Despite the mythology, flea circuses are real, and some still exist. Here are some pictures and videos to prove it.

10 flea circus contraptions

A bicycle makes for an excellent machine even when stationary, something that is shown nowhere better than in the home-brew design phenomenon of bicycles and knife sharpeners. This is a design typology that spans continents and traces back to 19th century pedal powered machines. Here are our favorite examples from around the world.

12 Knife Bikes

Before rendering, 3d computer models are displayed as wireframes, which have a particular aesthetic. Several artists have tried to capture this in real life, with surreal models of things that aren’t really there. I also threw in Gaudi’s classic upside down catenary arch model of Sagrada Familia, for its sheer prowess.

9 real wireframe models

Nothing makes architecture quite as gadget like as if it folds up into a kit or a box. Here are 12 examples of rooms in a box by various designers. Many of these are actually purchasable, which is sometimes rare for conceptual architecture. Click through the links for their sources.

12 rooms in a box

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

From commercial kits such as the Chaos Toy or Spacewarp, to the world’s largest ball run, the 70 foot high Energy Machine in the Hong Kong Science Museum, these complicated contraptions are a classic form of Rube Goldberg Machine.Here are a collection of videos of some of the worlds most impressive ball runs in action, including the Mark Bischoff machine that was recreated for Anthony Hopkins’ obsessive character in the movie Fracture, to one built for a one-off ending to Sesame Street.

15 videos of amazing rolling ball machines

There is something inherently fascinating about survival kits. Here are some of our favorites, including those below ejector seats, some nicely designed kits from Japan and at Target, and those that we thought had interesting components. We will add to this list over time, send us suggestions of genuinely interesting or unusual, non-gimmick kits.

Survival Kits

Algorithmic architecture uses computers to generate natural looking aperiodic forms that are are a revolutionary alternative to the extreme crystalline regularity of what has up to now been considered modern. The dreary exhibition of pre-fabricated architecture at New York’s MOMA, has a couple of examples of algorithmic designs at its entrance, but that is where it stops. On entering it is an mixture of of the dated, High Tech style and dumbed down Mid-Century Modern boxes for Dwell magazine readers. If you really want to see what is happening at the cutting edge of architecture, look at some of these schemes. This list could go on forever. Drill down on some of the links and explore.

Algorithmic architecture

These days, with chip based cellular devices and cameras, thing like spy radios and cameras are often toys, since the miniaturization of what used to be the realm of clandestine devices can now be made for a few bucks. As a result, modern spy radios are not that interesting, however these vintage versions from WWII right up to the Gulf War are.

a dozen vintage spy radios

By the end of the decade, not one of New York’s skyscrapers will be in the top 10 tallest, compared to those in Saudi Arabia or the Arab Emirates. The Burj Dubai, which is nearly completed will be the size of two Empire State buildings on top of each other and it would be completely dwarfed by proposals on either side of the Arabian peninsula for mile high towers. The Emirates contain some of the most surreal, monumental and ironic recent architectural projects, including a mammoth ferris wheel hotel, a twin tower Wold Trade Center and an enormous convention center intentionally modeled on the Death Star from Star Wars. Vote for the most surreal.

20 Arabian mega skyscrapers

Last week we did a roundup of quirky and interesting toolboxes. In the process of searching for these we came across a variety of beautifully designed ones. Why toolboxes? Because there is a history of superior design surrounding tools, because of their inherently ergonomic and utilitarian nature and this extends to the boxes to put them in. Some of these units are kitchen cabinet-like, except that they are better made than any kitchen unit, and if I was designing a kitchen I would use high end tool containers.Here is a list of the best designed toolboxes money can buy.

the best designed toolboxes

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