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Below is the strangest skyscraper proposal you will ever see, an upside down underground tower block lit by a giant mirror.From deflecting the suns rays with mirrors to light up an entire Austrian town which is shrouded in shadow to fiber optic channels which light underground caverns, combinations of heliostats (sun trackers) and light pipes are being increasing used to create architectural lighting effects which are entirely natural.Included here are a variety of technique, including the recent park heliostats, in New York and light pipes which channel daylight from street level to the subway in Berlin. Vote for your faves.

light pipe architecture

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.

accidental masterpieces cooling towers

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.

12 real life jenga buildings

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

As someone who fell the height of the Eiffel tower in a climbing accident, each one of these images makes my palms sweat, from Bettmans classic views of acrobats on the edges of newly built NY skyscrapers to Li Wei’s elaborate illusions of people seemingly in mid air. One however, stands out from all the rest, the legendary stuntman Dar Robinson on the edge of the CN tower. Click through to see a video of the stunt.

12 images of hanging over the edge of skyscrapers

Fixed-gear bicycles, without gears or brakes were created for the controlled environment of a velodrome. This environment could not be more different from hilly San Francisco or car ridden New York, but their appeal as being both stripped down and minimalist as well as requiring considerable risk and commitment to learn to ride has made them fashionable in hip neighborhoods of large cities, such as New York’s Williamsburg.This has lead to an interesting morphing of a classic post-war track bike design, to city fixies which inevitable become like beefier road bikes to be ridable and more recently to celebrity endorsed and/or fashion branded, limited edition products.The stunningly beautiful 1950′s Cinelli, Italian team bike, best represents the classic track bike and the solid titanium saddle and merlin frame captures the road-bike-in-denial urban fixie (albeit, without the current vogue of sawn off straight handle-bars). The fashion house branded versions include graffiti artist, Futura’s Colnago track frame, a Kid Robot bike a Fuji and Obey fixie and the surprisingly nice Nike AF1. The fashion bikes are particularly odd, because they are created by designers rather than bike enthusiasts and mix and match components purely on the basis of how they look. In this sense the transition of fixies from track to urban messenger to fashion designer is a continuous trend away from ergonomics to superficiality.Vote for your faves, ours is the 59 Cinelli.

the genealogy of fixies

Ross Lovegrove is renowned for beautiful fluid designs, earning him the nickname, Captain Organic. His $140,000 Muon speakers, for KEF were milled from enormous billets of solid aluminum, by an aeronautics manufacturer. A process that took a week.From his bladder molded, composite carbon and glass fiber DNA stair to liquid bioform furniture which is made using the same process used to manufacture body panels for Aston Martin cars, Lovegrove has teamed up with some of the world’s most innovative manufacturers to combine design excellence and futuristic materials.

futuristic ross lovegrove design

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WTF is That? #5

May 1st, 2009 #link

wtf is that

What is this unfamiliar object? As always there is a clue in the question. Answers in the comments



12 Responses to “WTF is That? #5”

  1. spliffer Says:

    It’s a model of an abattoir after a swine flu cull.

  2. jeremy Says:

    Its the under frame for an Elizabethan dress.

  3. Rich Says:

    its an upside down model used to design some famous church or cathedral

  4. admin Says:

    @Rich – yes.

    Does anyone know which one? The shapes formed are catenary arches which when inverted would create a very efficient structures following optimum stress lines.

    Despite the simplicity of the method, this is a rather sophisticated structural approach – far more so than gothic cathedrals which are often surprisingly structurally inelegant.

  5. rob Says:

    It’s Gaudi model for the structure of the La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. Strings with weights – when inverted – becomes the model for the structure.

  6. admin Says:

    @Rob Spot on. The ‘unfamiliar’ item is indeed an inverted model of Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s unfinished masterpiece in Barcelona.

  7. scott Says:

    not to split hairs, but i believe that’s gaudi’s catenary arch model for the unfinished cathedral at colonia guell outside of barcelona. the appearances of the two churches’ designs are similar in some respects, and gaudi DID use this method of representation for both, but the sagrada familia has more pronounced, elongated towers (whereas the ones on the church at colonia guell were to have a more conical appearance)

  8. admin Says:

    @Scott. Looks like you’re right. The model is in the basement of Sagrada Familia but is of the Colonia Guell .

    http://www.gaudidesigner.com/uk/colonia-guell-old-photograph-of-the-model-for-the-guell-colonias-study-realised-by-edouard-goetz_366.html

  9. Val Hallan Says:

    It looks like the ballast bag array for a Japanese WWII transcontinental balloon bomb. I saw one at the US Air Force Museum many years ago.

  10. kreatiiv Says:

    unfinished for now…. to watch them work inside the cathedral using the traditional stone cutting techniques is absolutely amazing…. maybe one day they will actually finish it :)

  11. Gina Says:

    It’s a model used by Gaudi to create the towers and archs of the Church of La Colonia Guell of Barcelona (in Catalonia).
    Is based on the museum of La Sagrada Familia where it explain how Gaudi created his buildings :)

  12. robert Says:

    it appears to be part of a “fly gallery”, the system of ropes and counterweights to suspend various theatrical scene elements backstage, hmmm.