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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

When I was an architect, it was common for structural engineering books to have this image of two people effortlessly supporting a third to demonstrate the cantilever principal of the famous Forth Rail Bridge outside of Edinburgh. When I was looking for this picture, I noticed that the people were different. It turns out that this iconic image is not unique and here are the three variants I could find, making this the shortest (and one of the more obscure) oobject list to date.

3 forth bridge demos

This is the real business end of $100 oil. An object that allowed Howard Hughes to become the richest man in the world by inheriting the patent. They are the world’s most highly engineered pieces of metal. Steel, tungsten carbide or increasingly Polycrystalline Diamond Compact (PDC) toothed drill bits that, in their tri-cone, rotating head form, look like the monster spice eating Sandworms from Dune. Vote for your faves.

13 ferocious oil drill bits

A gallery of giant ears. Before electronic RADAR, acoustic listening devices were like giant mechanical ear trumpets which could locate sounds and even calculate distances by bouncing sound waves in exactly the same manner that SONAR works in water. Ear trumpets themselves were only fully replaced by electronic devices in the middle of the 20th Century, because of their conspicuous nature, they were often hidden in anything form beards and wigs to table ornaments.

15 incredible listening devices

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.

12 mesmerising magicians posters

A perfect environmental nightmare, these hellish looking open faced mining machines have been largely decommissioned. Luckily some are being preserved as they are staggeringly impressive. The Ferropolis in Germany has many of these machines on display and forms an industrial park which host the famous MELT music festival. There have been several images of these floating around blogs, including the infamous pictures of the bucket wheel excavator that swallowed a full sized bulldozer, however we have tried to find as large a variety as possible.

16 giant bucket excavators

Robots often look insect like, largely because of their jerky movements and exo-skeletal look, both of which are a result of them often being works in progress at the individual and overall state of the art. Making them climb walls and hang effortlessly off a ceiling just adds them looking particularly bug like.There are a variety of movements and gripping mechanisms, from electromagnetic to air suction, however our favorite is the friction based tree climber.

15 wall climbing robots

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WTF is That? #7

May 15th, 2009 #link

mystery object

What is this, what does it do? Can I have one for my birthday?

Answers in the comments

11 Responses to “WTF is That? #7”

  1. jeremy Says:

    Looks like some kind of giant solenoid.

  2. louis Says:

    Nuclear Fission Reaction?

  3. louis Says:

    No its nuclear fussion!

  4. louis Says:

    heres more info

    largest superconducting stellarator in the world
    This Japanese fusion research device consists of intertwined coils of superconducting material, and is designed to contain a 100-million-degree nuclear fusion plasma. The research aims to solve the many engineering challenges that must be overcome in order for fusion reactors to produce more energy than they consume.

  5. james Says:

    pretty cool guy louis

  6. admin Says:


    Yes! Its the ‘Large Helical Device’.

    What I find interesting is that it demonstrates that the extreme engineering requirements of high energy physics can produce objects which are more beautiful than most product design, and without any deliberate aesthetic intent.

    More here:

  7. John Says:


    It’s a purely functional expression of mathematics based upon the natural world. Two things we already know to be beautiful in their superficial simplicity and fascinating in their deep complexities.

    When everything is in its place for a reason and based around nature you inevitably end up with something inspiring, i think.

  8. robert Says:

    Oddly reminiscent of a nightmare I once had, except it was all in constant motion!!!

  9. robert Says:

    Actually, the Japanese Large Helical Device…

  10. Dave Says:

    Looks like an air conditioning system designed by H. R. Geiger…

  11. Sullivan Says:

    That is beautiful!