The invention of the digital watch made accurate timekeeping a cheap commodity. This meant that expensive watches were a quixotic anachronism in terms of pure design. However, this very fact meant that designers were free to innovate timepiece designs for fun. In addition, the development of watch sized miniature electronic gadgetry meant that the wrist watch form factor could be used for other gadgets. For things like phones and MP3 players this has proved to be a failure, however included here are some interesting concepts for other uses for wrist devices such as insulin dosage, braille watches and health monitoring
Rapid deploy structures have an extreme design function, the ability to be built extremely quickly. This requirement brings architecture directly into the realm of gadgets with lightweight high tech construction and innovative forms.Here are a range of instant buildings from military command and control centers, disaster shelters and dedicated portable hangers for aircraft such as the B2 and stealth fighter. The buildings come in bags or on planes or with their own trailers and are even flat pack assembled like military IKEA buildings.
Unintentional comedy is one of the consequences of Moores Law (that computer power doubles every two years) and almost any claim made in a computer ad more than a decade old. Included here are claims that compared to the Macbook Air that I am writing this on, a computer with 2 million times less RAM will "satisfy your lust for power"; that a computer a thousand times slower will give you "answers fast" for demanding applications and that a computer with several thousand times the volume is "compact and mobile".
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.
Before there was Lego, there was the Erector Set. This was an altogether different type of toy that resembled genuine engineering construction with trusses and girders, rather than plastic, primary color pixelated, objects.Although Erector Sets are sold today, they are re-branded versions of a different toy. The original Gilbert sets were made from 1913 till 1967 and are an iconic toy for gadget aficionados that can be picked up relatively cheaply on Ebay. Here are 10 favorite vintage kits that are currently for sale.
With the notable exception of Apple, America has largely ceased to be a design culture, yet from Art Deco to Mid-Century modern, the US once ruled the world. There is no better example of a quintessentially American product designer than Raymond Loewy, who combined the exuberance of consumer culture with the asceticism of modernism and applied this to elements from pencil sharpeners to locomotives.Like Apples lead designer, Loewy was not from America. He was born in France and travelled to New York after WWI, wearing only his officers uniform and carrying $40. Here are a dozen of our favorite examples of Loewy designs.
The launching of a ship after smashing a bottle of champagne against its bow is an iconic ritual. It is also one of the few things in life which is still impressive despite being relatively slow. Shown here are videos which are interesting because of the ships fame, sheer size or quirkiness of the launch, including those where huge waves drench onlookers. Our favorite is the time lapse submarine launch in a floating dock.
Todays welding is a long way removed from the video included here of forge welding at the beginning of the 20th century., where dissimilar metals were headed and beaten together with hammers. State of the art robotic welding machines can perform an intricate ballet of hi tech gadgety bravado, including the incredible remote welders which are shown spot welding materials several feet away, with laser beams.
Hyperbaric chambers are used either as compression/decompression chambers for divers or for medical treatment, to speed up the healing of wounds, amongst other things. They come in a variety of interesting forms, from hyperbaric lifeboats to miniature portable fold-up or telescopic versions for helicopter rescue of divers.
Bamboo scaffolding is used around the world, but nowhere does it stand out more than in Hong Kong, where the majority of scaffolding is bamboo. It may look low tech. but bamboo is a perfect scaffold material, being strong, straight, lightweight, cheap and renewable. This ancient building material is most impressive when juxtaposed against modern high tech buildings and is sometimes used as scaffold for the tallest of skyscrapers. Here is a list of our favorite examples.
Something as utilitarian as a tractor is not usually designed any differently from any another tractor, unless there is a reason. But because tractors have a such wide a varied use, often very specific, such as towing aircraft or harvesting grapes, there are a huge variety of designs that are neither willful nor spurious. Here is a non-comprehensive selection of some of our favorite designs, from a Porsche designed coffee plantation tractor to the futuristic looking KLM tow tractor.
Although the West Coast of the US and Japan have plenty of above-ground, tangled, utility cables, for some unknown reason telephone and electricity cabling in Vietnam is particularly horrendous. This list, may seem like an obscure joke until you look at the examples of some of the worlds most unbelievable rats nests of above ground cabling – all in Vietnamese cities.
Suits for hazardous materials are serious business and high tech., but look ridiculous. They come in several varieties: Splash Suit, Gas Suit, Turnout Coat for different levels of contamination. Their look ranges from giant pink translucent condom like outfits, to oversize Tasmanian Devil shaped suits. From the examples in this list, standard training procedures include washing down while standing in a regular inflatable kids paddling pool and basketball dribbling.
Charles Sheelers iconic image of the Albert Kahns Ford River Rouge Plant, with its criss crossing conveyors and spire like chimneys, is probably the most iconic image of the American Car manufacturing industry whose future, like Kahns original buildings, hangs in the balanceEven among architects, Albert Kahn is less renowned than Louis. But Albert Kahn is far more important in terms of the influence of his buildings. He is sometimes referred to as the architect of Detroit. Kahn invented the American factory style, taking early European modernism to the place where assembly lines were invented and developing an architectural style that was supremely innovative both in terms of construction and design. The plants he built are in many places around America, but most famously in Detroit, where, lie the car industry itself, some of his most important building lie in ruins.We have two favorite images in this list. One if of the abandoned Detroit Public Schools Book depository, with its once minimalist, clean modernism in absolute and total decay, overflowing with rotting books strewn across its floor. The other image is, of course, Charles Sheelers
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.
Despite being a qualified architect, IKEA furniture assembly quite often defeats me. Hence this list of self assembling objects, from computer memory to swallowable medical procedure components to chairs, particularly appeals. Perhaps Sweden should have a dedicated research institute geared around the discipline.
Aircraft factories are gargantuan, complicated and interesting.The Boeing Everett factory, where the Jumbo Jet was built and the Dreamliner is being built is the largest volume building in the world. It has a floor plan of 100 acres, enough to fit more than a thousand family houses inside, with doors that are the size of football pitches.Included alongside Everett are a variety of factory shots of famous planes from Concorde to the Virgin Galactic space craft, the Blackbird and the B2.The shots of wartime assembly lines, which churned out aircraft at a rate associated with car assembly in environments that look like computer rendering from video games lines, include the famous secret factory at Burbank which was hidden under a fake hillside.
This is a video roundup of currently available or prototyped 3D printers, a gadget which has been sitting on the sidelines for a while, but hasn’t become mainstream yet. 3D printing machines are fairly simple in their operation, building any 3D shape, no matter how complex, as a series of contour slices which are hardened as a printer head slides back and forth across. But the results look like magic, real objects, in color, with moving parts, direct from a CAD model. The main reason that 3D printers, still remain a professional niche product, used by design firms rather than end consumers, is that their output is small and slow. In addition, more people know how to create text files for 2D printers than a CAD design, and this is unlikely to change in the near future. As a result of this small market, some of the marketing videos of 3D printers shown here look distinctly old fashioned for such a futuristic product. We long for the day when we will be able to print a full sized chair in ten minutes.
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.
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 .
BASE jumping is much more interesting than ordinary skydiving, for us, because it involves architecture. Here are some videos of people jumping off notable structures, such as Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, Nervi’s influential Pirelli tower in Milan and the enormous Burg Dubai. We have also included a jump off the end of a blade on a wind turbine (because they are beautiful structures) and an indoor jump inside a cathedral like, converted airship hangar. The Macau tower bungee jump is notable because its a similar height to the Eiffel tower and is a legal amusement ride that anyone can pay for. Our favorite, however, is the jump off Calatrava’s Turning Torso building in Malmo, Sweden. Although Calatrava can sometimes appear willful in his focus on structure rather than space, revealing himself to be more of a creative engineer than an architect, the Turning Torso is his best work to date. Similarly the jump itself is spectacular, involving two parts: jumping from a plane onto its roof and then from the roof to the ground. In the rather obscure and narrow overlap between extreme sports and architecture this is a definitive piece.
Aside from their spectacular size, what makes floating cranes unusual and interesting objects is that they are essentially boats. As such, they dont exactly conjure up the idea of stability, which is the primary requirement for lifting things. They also look weird since boats usually consist of large hulls with smaller superstructure, here the arrangement is reversed making them seem very ungainly.Some of these cranes can lift tens of thousands of tons, at sea, and are engineering wonders.
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.
All around America people are preparing propane gas tanks, vats of boiling oil and elaborate hoisting mechanisms to cook turkeys in a way that poses both short and long term health risks. The great tradition of the Pilgrim Fathers puritanical feast has been replaced by an industrial accident involving a dangerous gadget. But its worth it, because it tastes absolutely delicious.We’ve collected videos of this ritual, from California to the Midwest to Texas and to Florida and each is a distinctive cultural snippet. Vote for America’s most quintessential Turkey Fryers.
Following on from yesterdays gadget suitcases, here is a similar list but of different types of objects: oddities. Here is a list of suitcase kits of unusual or strange objects, from Duchamp’s classic ‘box in a suitcase’, to a a working suitcase fireplace, an emergency crib, a Chinese sex shop and, our favorite, a suitcase with a hidden gyroscope, that is impossible to carry.
Ever since James Bond had tricked out briefcases as an accoutrement for his array of gadgets, the idea of a suitcase full of a kit of gizmos for a specific task is seductive; or morbidly curious, in the case of apocryphal suitcase nukes. The concept predates James Bond, with transmitter suitcases which were make for allied spies during WWII.
One of the most cliched images in technology is that of someone wearing a burka-like clean suit holding a raw silicon wafer, like a trophy.To complete the cliche, a favorite science photo shoot lighting effect, consists of a deep blue, purple or green background. No labs actually look like this. In reality, they tend to be shadowless environments, awash with white light, like something in between a drug store and the spaceship entrance in Close Encounters, but for some reason, pastel lighting indicates hi-tech.Vote for the most cliched image in the list.
Although crash test dummies are iconic, there are a variety of different types, dating back to the fifties. There are ones for different genders, age, size and more recently, weight, with fatter dummies to represent the growing trend of obesity. There are different ones for cars, trains, planes, motorbikes and even those used for pedestrian impacts. Here are a dozen interesting examples.
Heavy lift ships can carry loads of tens of thousands of tons, including oil platforms, other ships and even dry docks. The are often semi-submersible so that they can sink below the water line to let their cargo slide off. The sheer size of their cargo often looks impossible, as these items suggest.
Brittny Badger disassembles everyday appliances, carefully lays them out and photographs them, Paul Veroude takes cars entirely to pieces and suspends them from wires, like a giant real-life exploded isometric drawing, while Holger Pooten photographs gadgets as frozen in time snapshots of parts suspended in mid air. There is something satisfying, not just about the dis assembly of machines, appliances and complex objects, but the arrangement of their parts into a tableau. Here are a dozen.
Several star architects such as Herzog and de Meuron and Rem Koolhaas have produced building designs that have jutting out and cantilevered components that give the overall impression of a giant game of Jenga. The New Museum on the Bowery in New York, is the latest addition to this genre of minimalist deconstruction. But the most interesting Jenga building is an obscure, former Soviet ministry in Georgia, which is quite mad.
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.
Jean Nouvel created a spectacular facade, based upon electronically controlled camera iris shaped devices in the style of decorative Arab screens, for the IMA in Paris, 20 years ago. For some reason, mechanical facades have recently started cropping up here and there in architecture. Here are some of our favorites.
Chandeliers are all about opulence and excess. When decoration became cheap to mass produce, in the early 20th century, minimalist modernism was in and things like chandeliers were out. The tide is turning, now that Ikea can stamp out designer modernism for the masses, designery magazines are starting to show decorative things now. Bu why buy a horrid crystal monstrosity for $10K when you can make a chandelier out of almost anything. Here is a selection of chandeliers made out of inexpensive things or found objects – including human bones.
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.
This list covers the period from 1920 when the Harding – Cox election results were first broadcast by radio, to the present day when presenters have to interact with a virtual reality zoo of giant, artless, real-time animated charts.The first live TV election broadcasts were produced in the 50s, employing professional sign writers would have to paint charts, live. Static and very basic sets were used well into the 70s, as can be seen from the spartan US military set in South Vietnam for the 1972 Nixon election.Despite the technology behind contemporary broadcast sets, they are all unimaginatively dull, with identical patriotic, red white and blue color schemes and similar color blends and soft shading. These are the TV equivalent of a hideous blue-white blend default Powerpoint template.
Innovations in lighting design are often gimmicky or merely a case of LED everywhere. This list illustrates where lighting is sculptural and integral to architecture, from a night club made of glowing bricks, Daniel Libeskinds wireframe architectural chandelier, the amazing Lighthive exhibition at the Architectural Association and futuristic light sculptures by Kalle. Our LED example creates a grid of LED points that appear to float in mid air.
1927 to 1959 was the golden era of General Motors. This was the period when Harley Earl started as Vice President of the Art and Color Division and gave birth to the modern notion of car design.Earl eschewed the purely engineering driven practicality of Ford to take inspirations from aircraft and space age concepts and add them to cars, turning them into works of art. The designs ranged from the highly futuristic Firebird gas turbine concept vehicles to the wildly successful production Corvette.Like almost all product design and architecture, the stamp of authorship is not clear cut and nor should it be. Many designs that are associated with him were produced by people working under him, but it was Early himself who created the school and he deserves a place alongside Frank Lloyd Wright and Charles and Ray Eames as one of America’s most important designers.Vote for your favorite.
Kinetic sculptures may have been first developed by Duchamp and Moholy-Nagy, but the tradition is still very much alive. Some of the most impressive kinetic sculptures, such as those by the famous Theo Jansen are still distinctly analog, but this is an area where digital gadgetry has opened up nearly limitless possibilities. Here are a dozen of our faves, vote for yours.
Beautiful working model Stirling engines are a favorite of the Steampunk style, because these efficient engines use external flame heat as an energy source, combined with Victorian brass or steel mechanisms.But they have an added benefit, in that their workings are entirely intuitive and help people easily understand the principals of cylinder engines in things like cars. Here are a collection of videos of some of our favorites, some, but not all, ‘Steampunky’, in action.
Its strange to think that the now obsolete VCR or VTR has a half century history, from the giant Ampex and RCA machines used in TV stations to the multiple, competing format, consumer cassette players that culminated in the dominant VHS standard.Today you can by a DVD player for the same price as a DVD itself, due to the small number of moving parts and emerging market labor. However, VCRs were always relatively expensive because of their complex mechanisms, latterly involving gimballed rotating heads.In terms of design, aside from the robust utilitarian looking professional models, VCRs were ugly devices from the outside, but complex marvels inside.There are several great sites dealing with VTR history, including the excellent: http://www.totalrewind.org
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.
Moving walkways are the machine that made many sprawling airports viable. Because moving walkways allow for corridors that are unusually long, places that require them are often spectacular and understated pieces of architecture with very exaggerated perspective. These are most often at airports or places that require nudging people along, such as aquaria or exhibits such as the British crown jewels. From a visual perspective, they make a great list.
Jet engines undergo a variety of tests shown here, from chucking water, sand and flocks of dead birds into their gaping intakes. They are also tested to see what happens when a fan blade is destroyed while the turbine is spinning, with an explosive charge, not something to try at home. But the best tests of all are those involving jet engine afterburners and the best of the best has to be those with vector nozzles.These are real oobjects, objects that make you go ooh. Vote for your faves.
What makes clay models so special, is that they are the one-off original designs. In theory they are the priceless, original works of art and the production cars are the prints.The traditional process of manually refining the design of a car using clay over foam formwork, is still used even today, when CAD has replaced most drafting. Clay designs are often produced directly from computer milling and usually tweaks are fed back into the CAD design
Apple’s refresh of the Macbook line this fall is more evolutionary than revolutionary. In terms of design they have continued the trend, which started with the iPhone (see the drilled headphone jack hole on the original model) towards machining directly from block metal. This has lead to the latest Macbooks as being described as having monocoque structures, something which may not strictly be false but which is meaningless in the context.A monocoque is a single piece shell structure, it is a nice sounding word and is often used in marketing literature because it sounds technical. Because of this, and because of the fact that things like commercial airliners are hybrids of frame and shell structures almost anything can be described as such. There is a perfect geodesic truss in the list below which is described as a monocoque shell structure (the opposite), while an ordinary soda can is a monocoque. The use of machining for Apple parts has more to do with tolerances and finish and almost nothing to do with structure, so the term is not relevant.Below we discuss the merits of things which are described as monocoque – but as for the Macbook, not really
Although making a 3d image is more dramatic than increasing its resolution, say, the technology is fairly primitive. Because of this, stereo cameras are something of an interesting retro curiosity. These days, custom made stereo cameras with twin lenses at eye separation are usually replaced by custom rigs for digital cameras, with appropriate software.
Custom machinery designed for harvesting vast amounts of produce very quickly, has a particularly hellish quality. This list shows the variety of designs around a common theme, each for gathering a different product: carrots; beans; spinach; coffee; lettuce; cranberries; grapes etc. But then then there are our special favorites such as the worm harvester or the machines that eat trees, including a video of the infamous spider-like walking tree harvester.
A list of unusual snow vehicles, from Sno Cats and bizarre Russian snow cars to the amazing antarctic snow cruiser which is powered by a aircraft which is literally bolted to its roof. Unlike regular snowmobiles, these vehicles shuttle groups of people around the barren wastelands of places like the antarctic.
Toilet design says a lot about a culture. In the US public toilet cubicles typically have a quarter inch gap which allows people to see in, although a pissoir, which is a partially open air urinal is almost unknown. The reason for this irony is possibly prudery. The gaps are to prevent impropriety, but the enclosed toilets are because of a general American shyness about toilet matters. A small gap allows monitoring a large one encourages voyeurism. Political correctness due to the fact that pissoirs can normally only be used by men is undoubtedly also part of the reason, although recently funnel based womens pissoirs have been developed.Pissoirs first became widespread in France but exist throughout the world, from Scandinavia to Australia. They fell out of fashion in the late 20th century, but have seen something of a revival, with ultra modern versions being built in places like Berlin. Britain, which shares anglo-saxon prudishness with America has recently relaxed its taboo against open air urinals, due to the problem of binge drinking and subsequent al fresco urination. In the south of England, cylindrical pissoirs which are hidden during the day, telescope out of the ground at night, for the relief of marauding drunken hordes.
Although the term galvanometer is often used to refer to things other than devices which measure electrical current (such as charge or resistance), there are an amazing array of early designs for this instrument, considering their simplicity.Many of these design differences are to do with the cases that surround what is basically a twisting wire, however there is something definitively analog in their mechanism and 19th century amateur scientist in their variety. Early galvanometers represent the extreme opposite of todays high energy physics, which requires giant multi billion dollar apparatuses and extreme digital processing for measurement. A long way off a compass and a battery.
The trend for dull or matt black motorcycles originated in ‘Rat Bikes’ as a reaction against stock vehicles with bright colors and overblown fairings. For the purist a rat bike is never washed and ridden till it falls apart, a purely practical and functional idea that ends up creating a particular look. Painting bikes matt black was originally part of this utilitarian idea but was appropriated by people who create ‘Survival bikes’. These have a deliberately designed post-apocalyptic look that traces back to things like the Max Max movie series. The line between rat bikes and survival bikes is sometimes blurred as people who consciously create the menacing, industrial look of survival bikes borrow from distressed and naturally aged rat bikes.What made this list particularly interesting from a design curation perspective was how a simple thing such as the type of paint has come full circle through various subcultures and into the mainstream.The 2007 Triumph Speed Triple, shown here, is a production motorcycle that is available in matt black, with a look and feel inspired by rat bikes. It completes the design cycle where a reaction of something mainstream becomes a mainstream fashion.
Russian oligarch, Roman Abramovich donated money for a giant tunneling machine to build a tunnel between Russia and Sarah Palin’s house, when he was governor of the adjacent region to Alaska. The Wikipedia entry for Tunneling Machines and the entry for Civil Engineers in the UK Yellow Pages have something in common, they both read: ‘see boring’. Doubly ironic, since boring is one of the most interesting projects for civil engineers, and the machines used to do the job are spectacular. The set here includes a variety of shield tunnel boring machines, TBMs, including those for celebrated projects such as Yucca mountain or the Channel Tunnel. Perhaps the most ironic of all is the Air Force TBM, a machine for digging deep underground, owned by the people who defend the skies.
The design history of snowmobiles starts with propeller driven sleds, including the amazing Russian combat version and migrates to half track vehicles with rear engines. Today’s front engine vehicles were pioneered by Polaris, and are represented here by the Arctic Cat F6 600, which is driven by Sarah Palin’s husband. This list of personal snowmobiles also contains two state of the art concept single track motorcycle style vehicles by Keller and Schlootz.
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.
Carbon Fiber matches wood in terms of flexibility of form and surpasses steel in terms of strength. Because of this it is beginning to be used as a decorative item, replacing walnut in car dashboards, for example. This consciously decorative use can work well, but where carbon fiber is used for pseudo functional design, like the carbon fiber letter opener shown here, the choice is inappropriate and ridiculous.
The point of this list was to find interesting fountain designs that are truly modern, something that is rare, since fountains are luxurious, flowing and decorative by nature.For example Rome’s Trevi fountain may be a masterpiece, but trying to recreate classical splendor today always looks awful and kitsch. The horrid water display at the Vegas Bellagio is a case in point, opulence without craft. In fairness, its designers, WET design have produced many other much more interesting designs which balance fun with restraint. Here are some of our favorite designs, from computer controlled fountains such as the wonderful animated version at Detroit Airport to Chicago’s celebrated screen based Crown fountain
For high speed chase scenes or a low speed horse back rides, the film industry’s cameras occasionally have to go mobile and when they do, they rely on specialist high tech. cars and trucks.Usually wearing intimidating matte black paint (to reduce glare) these vehicles are often engineering wonders, employing after market performance upgrades, elaborate electronics, exotic materials and even gyro-stabilizers to keep a subject in frame. With companies like Pursuit Systems, AP Cam Cars and a handful of others fulfilling Hollywood’s high speed needs, the vehicles they create are rarely seen but hard to overlook.Here are some of out favorites including the amazing Go system, used for The Bourne Supremacy.Curated by Chris Hull
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.
Obviously the design criteria for four wheeled vehicles are somewhat different on other planets. This has yielded some of the most bizarre and fascinating vehicles ever proposed, from the giant Mobility Test Article test driven by Wernher von Braun to todays rovers which have ditched the most expensive component of all, the driver.Here are a variety of some of both classic and unusual space rovers from prototype to flown.
Ever since the flat screen, trading rooms and trading desk setups have become more and more extreme, a symbol of the culture of leveraged trading that disappeared in today’s meltdown. Here are some of the most interesting trading places and trading gear, from the slick, modern Frankfurt stock exchange, Geneva’s weird trading ring that (appropriately) looks like the set for the Weakest Link game show and a ridiculous 20 screen setup for a spotty-adolescent looking Hedge Fund manager. If you are looking to get a tricked out multi screen trading setup to browse the web, the second hand market is going to look pretty good.
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.
Get into a car anywhere in the world, and if you can drive you will know how to use it. The car dashboard is the perfect user interface, something that puts computer interfaces to shame.Here is a collection of our favorite car dashboards from the ergonomic simplicity of the 40s Willys Jeep, minimalist design excellence of the early Porsche, Maverick innovation of the Citroen DS and Baroque exuberance of the 50s Corvette. Vote for the top car interface of all time.
As I write this, I am surrounded by custom designed furniture and lighting, and the only thing that ruins the overall effect are the ugly power strips. A ubiquitous gadget which is often very cheap and badly designed. Here are a collection of well designed power strip ideas from sliding, plugin-anywhere systems, that have been available for high end office design for decades but haven’t been available in consumer markets, to a $3500 audiophile power strip based upon quantum Resonance technology.
There is a strange beauty to slow motion videos of car crash test dummies and airbag deployment, but these don’t compare to the similar, but far more extreme safety measure of a fighter jet ejection. Here are videos of various aspects of their deployment testing and training. Some of these are absolutely mesmerizing.
It is no accident that very few production gull-wing door cars have ever been built. It is a design gimmick that looks superficially interesting but is highly impractical. Most gull wing cars are concept designs, and the company that made the most famous of all, the De Lorean DMC 12, went bankrupt. The Mercedes 300 SL is a lone example of a wonderful looking gull wing car, but even that was deemed dangerous, and nicknamed ‘the widowmaker’.The gull wing’s marginally less impractical sister, the scissor door, has actually become a signature feature for Lamborghini. How fitting that a symbol of bad design should represent a, once great, car producer that has reduced itself to churning out expensive kitsch, since the mid 80s.Somewhere in between a scissor and a gull wing are the doors on the cheaper Toyota Sera, which is a car that looks like someone’s grandmother trying to be cool.Vote for your very worst.
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.
The styles here represent the prosperity of the post war years when the cold war space race influenced the concept of modernity. GM and Ford created a range of space age aircraft design inspired prototypes .The Corvette Sting Ray, is perhaps the culmination of this period, with Corvette stylist, Bill Mitchell’s XP-87 forming the basis of the classic Sting Ray, one of the few cars in history to go into production without losing something of the impact of the prototype.
You too can ruin your kids childhood, by making their happy smiley toys sound like Stephen Hawking or a bad Radiohead cover. Fitter Happier Stronger.Circuit bent Furbys are currently all the rage, however, all manner of kids toys have been circuit bent and modified, from classic Texas speak and spell machines, to a device called feces farm. Vote for your faves.
Nothing seemed as modern as the space race, gleaming white rockets and cutting edge technology. Except that that was decades ago, and some of the most spectacularly important pieces of technology have been left to rot. Soviet shuttle prototypes have been spotted in the most unlikely places, from the wind swept deserts of Bahrain to a river side dock, full of scrap metal, in a Moscow suburb.The NASA LUT-1 launch tower that sent the first men to the moon was described as ‘the modern day equivalent of the dock from which the Santa Maria sailed for the New World’. It lay in a rusting pile of collapsed metal until it was broken up for scrap four years ago.