Design is everywhere in our lives, perhaps most importantly in the places where we've just stopped noticing. 99% Invisible is a weekly exploration of the process and power of design and architecture. From award winning producer Roman Mars. Learn more at 99percentinvisible.org.
A proud member of Radiotopia, from PRX. Learn more at radiotopia.fm.
This is the newly updated story of a curvy, kidney-shaped swimming pool born in Northern Europe that had a huge ripple effect on popular culture in Southern California and landscape architecture in Northern California, and then the world. A documentary in three parts with a brand new update about how this episode resulted in a brand new skate park in a very special city.
Waiting is something that we all do every day, but our experience of waiting, varies radically depending on the context. And it turns out that design can completely change whether a five minute wait feels reasonable or completely unbearable. Transparency is key.
Before we turned our phones to silent or vibrate, there was a time when everyone had ringtones -- when the song your phone played really said something about you. These simple, 15 second melodies were disposable, yet highly personal trinkets. They started with monophonic bleeps and bloops and eventually became actual clips of real songs. And it was all thanks to a man named Vesku-Matti Paananen.
There are many walls in Belfast which physically separate Protestant neighborhoods from Catholic ones. Some are fences that you can see through, while others are made of bricks and steel. Many have clearly been reinforced over time: a cinderblock wall topped with corrugated iron, then topped with razor wire, stretching up towards the sky. Many of the walls in Northern Ireland went up in the 1970s and ?80s at the height of what?s become known as ?The Troubles.? Decades later, almost all of the walls remain standing. They cut across communities like monuments to the conflict, etched into the physical landscape. Taking them down isn?t going to be easy.
During the depths of the Depression in the late 1930s, 300 craftspeople came together for two years to build an enormous scale model of the City of San Francisco. This Works Progress Administration (WPA) project was conceived as a way of putting artists to work while also creating a planning tool for the city to imagine its future.
The massive work was meant to remain on public view for all to see, but World War II broke out and the 6,000 piece, hand-carved and painted wooden model was put into storage for almost 80 years.
This episode was produced by The Kitchen Sisters, Nikki Silva and Davia Nelson with Nathan Dalton and Brandi Howell. Mixed by Jim McKee
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Farmers have known for centuries that putting a hive of honeybees in an orchard results in more blossoms becoming cherries, almonds, apples and the like. Yet it?s only in the last 30 years that pollination services have become such an enormous part of American agriculture. Today, bees have become more livestock than wild creatures, little winged cows, that depend on humans for food and shelter.
When confronted with trash piling up on a median in front of their home in Oakland, Dan and Lu Stevenson decided to try something unusual: they would install a statue of the Buddha to watch over the place. When asked by Criminal?s Phoebe Judge why they chose this particular religious figure, Dan explained simply: ?He?s neutral.?
Men are often the default subjects of design, which can have a huge impact on big and critical aspects of everyday life. Caroline Criado Perez is the author of Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men, a book about how data from women is ignored and how this bakes in bias and discrimination in the things we design.
Sand is so tiny and ubiquitous that it's easy to take for granted. But in his book The World in a Grain, author Vince Beiser traces the history of sand, exploring how it fundamentally shaped the world as we know it. "Sand is actually the most important solid substance on Earth," he argues. "It's the literal foundation of modern civilization."
Plus, Roman talks with Kate Simonen of the Carbon Leadership Forum at the University of Washington about measuring the embodied carbon in building materials.
Reporter Andrew Leland has always loved to read. An early love of books in childhood eventually led to a job in publishing with McSweeney?s where Andrew edited essays and interviews, laid out articles, and was trained to take as much care with the look and feel of the words as he did with the expression of the ideas in the text. But as much as Andrew loves print, he has a condition that will eventually change his relationship to it pretty radically. He?s going blind. And this fact has made him deeply curious about how blind people experience literature and the long history of designing a tactile language that sometimes suffered from trying to be too universal.
When Singapore gained its independence they went on a mission to re-house the population from densely-packed thatched roof huts into giant concrete skyscrapers. In 1960, they formed the Housing and Development Board, or HDB, and just five years later they had already housed 400,000 people! In Singapore, where land is scarce, it?s not unlikely for apartment buildings to be built on top of land that was graveyards not too long ago. But building on top of a graveyard has its complications.
The Anthropocene is the current geological age, in which human activity has profoundly shaped the planet and its biodiversity. On The Anthropocene Reviewed, John Green rates different facets of the human-centered planet on a five-star scale. This week 99% Invisible is featuring two episodes of The Anthropocene Reviewed in which John Green dissects: pennies, the Piggly Wiggly grocery store chain, a 17,000-year-old cave painting, and the Taco Bell breakfast menu. Plus, Roman talks with John about the show, sports, and all the things we love now, but hated as teenagers.
All over Oakland right now people are wearing Warriors shirts and flying their Warriors flags from their cars, and as much as we like our hometown team here at 99pi, we've been following these NBA finals for another design-related reason. When you watch the games in Toronto the whole stadium is filled with people wearing red raptors jerseys, but every now and then you'll see these little flashes of purple. Those bold fans are wearing one of the most polarizing jerseys in the history of sports. A jersey that we actually did a whole episode about last year. So in honor of the Toronto Raptors, and the beautifully ugly jersey they gave the world, we're gonna rerun that episode for you today, along with an update from our new 99pi team member Chris Berube, a Torontonian and Raptors fan since he was a kid.
The inside of a Horn & Hardart Automat looked like a glamorous, ornate cafeteria -- but instead of a human handing you hot food over a counter, you would push your tray up to a wall of little glass cubbies. Each cubby housed a fresh, hot portion of food on a small plate. It could be anything from a side of peas to a turkey sandwich, to a slice of pie. You simply put in some nickels, and then the door to that cubby would unlock and you could take the plate that was inside. This automated food experience has reemerged in new restaurants today.
Plus, we revisit the story of when food advertising was revolutionized by motion.
Mexico City is in a water crisis. Despite rains and floods, it is running out of drinking water.
To solve the scarcity issue, the city began piping water in from far away as well as from aquifer below ground, creating yet another problem: the city began to sink as the moisture was sucked up and out from below. Meanwhile, rainwater which should be replenishing the ground can?t penetrate it thanks to impermeable paved surfaces above. Uneven ground and crooked buildings reflect this subterranean crisis on the surface, misshaping the city?s infrastructure and architecture.
Sound can have serious impacts on our health and wellbeing. And there?s no better place to think about health than hospitals.
According to Joel Beckerman, sound designer and composer at Man Made Music: "Hospitals are horrible places to get better." Hospitals can be bad for your health because hospitals sound terrible. But sound designers and health care workers are looking to change that.
This is part two in a two-part series supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation about how sound can be designed to reduce harm and even improve wellbeing.
Learn more about Sonic Humanism
There are a lot of Gothic churches in Spain, but this one is different. It doesn?t look like a Gothic cathedral. It looks organic, like it was built out of bones or sand. But there?s another thing that sets it apart from your average old Gothic cathedral: it isn?t actually old.
Gaudí wasn?t able to build very much of his famous church before he died in 1926. Most of it has been built in the last 40 years, and it still isn?t finished. Which means that architects have had to figure out, and still are figuring out, how Gaudí wanted the church to be built
This episode was originally broadcast in October 2017
Is our blaring modern soundscape harming our health? Cities are noisy places and while people are pretty good at tuning it out on a day-to-day basis our sonic environments have serious, long-term impacts on our mental and physical health. This is part one in a two-part series supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation about how sound can be designed to reduce harm and even improve wellbeing.
Learn more about Sonic Humanism
Libraries get rid of books all the time. There are so many new books coming in every day and only a finite amount of library space. The practice of freeing up library space is called weeding. When the main branch of the San Francisco Public Library was damaged by an earthquake 1989, the argument over which books need to be weeded, and how they were chosen for removal, reached fever pitch.
This episode also features ?The Pack Horse Librarians Of Eastern Kentucky? produced by the Kitchen Sisters and mixed by Jim McKee. Subscribe the The Kitchen Sisters Present on Apple Podcasts and RadioPublic
From the 1950s right up to its collapse, people in the Soviet Union were completely infatuated with Indian cinema. India and The Soviet Union had completely different politics, languages, and cultures. But for a brief time, these two nations found they had much more in common than expected, and realized this through a love of movies.
This past fall, two hundred people gathered at The Explorer?s Club in New York City. The building was once a clubhouse for famed naturalists and explorers. Now it?s an archive of ephemera and rarities from pioneering expeditions around the globe. But this latest gathering was held to celebrate the first biological census of its kind ?an effort to count all of the squirrels in New York City?s Central Park. Squirrels were purposefully introduced into our cities in the 1800s, and when their population exploded, we lost track of how many there are.
Even if you don't recognize a Noguchi table by name, you've definitely seen one. In movies or tv shows when they want to show that a lawyer or art dealer is really sophisticated, they put a Noguchi table in their waiting room. Noguchi was a world renowned sculptor and he had huge ambitions. His largest and most personal concept was a giant public sculpture that took the form of a massive pyramid. Try to Imagine a cross between a Mayan temple and a mountain. It pushes out of the earth with a long slide sloping down with steps on two of its faces. Noguchi thought of it as a playground, and he called it Play Mountain. Noguchi?s ideas - about imagination, and freedom to play - have left a deep mark on playground designers, and are continuing to shape the playgrounds all around us.
Gimlet?s Reply All orchestrated a grand podcast crossover event to try to solve a years old bug plaguing 99% Invisible listeners that drive certain models of Mazda.
You can find all the fake podcast episodes and feeds on the Reply All website. Reply All is a fantastic show! If you don?t know it, you'll love it. Start listening now.
Find the link to the Mazda-safe podcast feed here: The Roman Mars Mazda Virus
In the late 1700s, a young man named Freidrich Froebel was on track to become an architect when a friend convinced him to pursue a path toward education instead. And in changing course, Froebel arguably ended up having more influence on the world of architecture and design than any single architect -- all because Friedrich Froebel created kindergarten. If you?ve ever looked at a piece of abstract art or Modernist architecture and thought ?my kindergartener could have made that," well, that may be more true than you realize.
50 Things That Made The Modern Economy is a podcast that explores the fascinating histories of a number of powerful inventions and their far-reaching consequences. This week, 99% Invisible is featuring three episodes that explain how the s-bend pipe revolutionized indoor plumbing, how high-tech ?death ray? led to the invention of radar, and the impact of bricks.
When Barnett Newman?s painting Who?s Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue III was placed in the Stedelijk museum it was meant to be provocative, but one reaction that it received was so intense, so violent, it set off a chain of events that shook the art world to its core.
Social Infrastructure is the glue that binds communities together, and it is just as real as the infrastructure for water, power, or communications, although it's often harder to see. But Eric Klinenberg says that when we invest in social infrastructures such as libraries, parks, or schools, we reap all kinds of benefits. We become more likely to interact with people around us, and connected to the broader public. If we neglect social infrastructure, we tend to grow more isolated, which can have serious consequences.
Articles of Interest, Avery Trufelman?s acclaimed podcast mini-series about what we wear, now has its own feed. Subscribe to AOI on Apple Podcasts and RadioPublic. Please leave a review and spread the word. Thanks!
Cartoon sound effects are some of the most iconic sounds ever made. Even modern cartoons continue to use the same sound effects from decades ago. How were these legendary sounds made and how have they stood the test of time?
This story originally appeared on Twenty Thousand Hertz
The tradition of the Tomb of the Unknowns goes back only about a century, but it has become one of the most solemn and reverential monuments. When President Reagan added the remains of an unknown serviceman who died in combat in Vietnam to the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery in 1984, it was the only set of remains that couldn?t be identified from the war. Now, thankfully, there will never likely be a soldier who dies in battle whose body can?t be identified. And as a result of DNA technology, even the unknowns currently interred in the tomb can be positively identified.
Frank Lloyd Wright changed the field of architecture, and not just through his big, famous buildings. Before designing many of his most well-known works, Wright created a small and inexpensive yet beautiful house. This modest home would go on to shape the way working- and middle-class Americans live to this day.
This episode is a recut combination of episodes 246 & 247
In the 1950s, Los Angeles was an up-and-coming city but wasn?t quite there yet. City leaders were looking for a way to boost Los Angeles's profile as a world class city and also give Angelenos something to rally behind. They believed that what L.A. really needed was a baseball team.
They picked Chavez Ravine, near downtown LA, as the perfect home for a perfect new stadium, but the land had been home to a vibrant community of Mexican and Mexican American families for decades.
Where does your recycling go? In most places in the U.S., you throw it in a bin, and then it gets carted off to be sorted and cleaned at a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF). From there, much of it is shipped off to mills, where bales of paper, glass, aluminum, and plastic are pulped or melted into raw materials. Some of these mills are here in the U.S. And once upon a time, many of them were in China.
Since 2001, China was one of the biggest buyers of American recycling. That is, until last year, when China pulled a move that no one saw coming: they stopped buying.
Here at 99% Invisible, we think about color a lot, so it was really exciting when we came across a beautiful book called The Secret Lives of Color by Kassia St. Clair It?s this amazing collection of stories about different colors, the way they?ve been made through history, and the lengths to which people will go to get the brightest splash of color.
In May of 1990, law enforcement raided a warehouse in Douglas, AZ and a private home across the border in Agua Prieta, Mexico. Connecting the two buildings, they found a tunnel, more sophisticated than anything anyone had seen before. The tunnel in Douglas became a kind of prototype for many tunnels afterwards and a hallmark of the Sinaloa Cartel.
Santa Barbara, California, is a famously beautiful place, but if you look offshore from one of the city's many beaches, you'll see a series of artificial structures that stand out against the natural blue horizon. These oil platforms are at the center of a complicated debate going on right now within the environmental community about the relationship between nature and human infrastructure.
99% Invisible?s Impact Design coverage is supported by Autodesk. The Autodesk Foundation supports the design and creation of innovative solutions to the world's most pressing social and environmental challenges. Learn more about these efforts on Autodesk's RedShift.
In the early 1950s, teenage students in Lake County, Indiana, got up from their desks, marched down the halls and lined up at stations. There, fingers were pricked, blood was tested and the teenagers were sent on to the library, where they waited to get a specialized tattoo. Each one was in the same place on the torso, just under the left arm, and spelled out the blood type of the student.
This experimental program was called Operation Tat-Type. It was administered by the county and the idea was simple: to make it easier to transfuse blood after an atomic bomb. At the age of 16, producer Liza Yeager's grandmother, who went to school in Lake County, was permanently marked in anticipation of a nuclear catastrophe.
99% Invisible is starting the year off with the sixth installment of our staff mini-stories. Kicking off 2019 are a set of tales about a perpetual lie about New York City, karaoke, a 50-foot-tall burning puppet, the result of a Canada-U.S. border dispute, and time thieves.
Magic: The Gathering is a card game and your goal is to knock your opponent down to zero points. But Magic: The Gathering also has a deep mythology about an infinite number of parallel worlds. Eric Molinsky of Imaginary Worlds looks at why this handheld card game has survived the onslaught of competition from digital games, and how the designers at Wizards of the Coast create a sense of story and world-building within a non-sequential card game.
For the holidays this year, we're presenting a two-part Radiotopia feature with friend of the show (and host of The Allusionist podcast) Helen Zaltzman, each tackling a different aspect of this festive season.
It?s the end of 2018 and time for our annual Mini-stories episodes. These are my favorite episodes of the year to make. Mini-stories are fun, quick hit stories that don?t quite warrant a full episode and two months of hard reporting, but they?re great 99pi stories nonetheless. This week we have stories of 60s cult TV shows, semi-useless gadgets, woo woo miracles cures, and a modern Christmas tradition.
A group of artists find a secret room in a massive shopping center in Providence, RI and discover a new way to experience the mall.
Plus, we look at the origin of the very first mall and the fascinating man who designed it, Victor Gruen.
Subscribe to Vanessa Lowe?s Nocturne
Juan de Oñate is one of the world?s lesser-known conquistadors, but his name can be found all over New Mexico. There are Oñate streets, Oñate schools, and, of course, Oñate statues. When an activist group removed one foot off an Oñate statue in 1998, they said it was a symbolic act meant to highlight the atrocities Oñate committed against the indigenous population.
Just as people in New Mexico were learning more of this history, the city of Albuquerque was considering building yet another statue of him. This resulted in a years long conflict about how New Mexico should commemorate a ?founding father? who committed such cruel acts.
This was a collaboration with Reveal, from the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX
Please support the 2018 Radiotopia fund drive!
After Toronto unveiled its "raccoon-resistant" compost bins in 2016, some people feared the animals would be starved, but many more celebrated the innovative design. Rolling out this novel locked bin opened a new battlefront in city's ongoing "war on raccoons."
Journalist Amy Dempsey was researching the bins and raccoon behavior when her reporting took an unexpected turn down her own garbage-strewn alleyway. Had local raccoons finally figured out how to defeat the greatest human effort in our ?war? against their kind?
The new film ?Green Book? is rolling out across the country. I have not seen the film, so I can?t speak to its merits or shortcomings, but while people are possibly being introduced to the concept of the Green Book for the first time, we thought we?d re-release this story from a few years ago about the origin and significance of the Green Book: the Negro Motorists? Travel Guide to the segregated US.
As a special bonus to our story, we also have a Green Book story from Nate DiMeo of the memory palace. Nate had coincidentally written his episode called ?Open Road? and we both released them without having heard the other. I think hearing them one after the other is real treat.
We chronicle the epic struggle to get drugs that treat very rare diseases on the market, and the unintended consequence of that fight, which affected the cost of all kinds of drugs. This is a strange story that involves a hit 70s TV show, a fake march on Washington, a courageous advocate, a carnival concessions wholesaler, and a new drug law that helped a lot of people, made drug companies billions of dollars, and opened a whole can of worms.
Adapted from the new podcast An Arm and a Leg by Dan Weissmann
It?s hard to overstate just how important record album art was to music in the days before people downloaded everything. Visuals were a key part of one's experience with a record or tape or CD. The design of the album cover created a first impression of what was to come. Album art was certainly important to reporter Sean Cole, one particular album by one particular band: Devo. This is the story of Devo?s first record and the fight over the arresting image of a flashy, handsome golf legend on the cover.
Plus, Katie Mingle gets the backstory of the Langley Schools Music Project LP, a haunting and uplifting outsider artist masterpiece.
Early on the morning of September 20th, 2017, a category four hurricane named Maria hit the island of Puerto Rico. It was a beast of a hurricane -- the strongest one to hit the island since 1932.
Daniel Alarcon went down to Puerto Rico to report on the aftermath of the storm. He wrote a piece for Wired about the almost year-long struggle to get power working on the island, and the utility worker who became a Puerto Rican folk hero.
At least for the time being, art is the primary way we experience dinosaurs. We can study bones and fossils, but barring the invention of time travel, we will never see how these animals lived with our own eyes. There are no photos or videos, of course, which means that if we want to picture how they look, someone has to draw them.
The illustrated interpretation of dinosaur morphology and behavior has had a big impact on how the public views dinosaurs and it's gone through a couple of key turning points, including a more recent push for more speculative paleoart.