133- Port of Dallas09/24/14
There’s a photograph we have tacked to our studio at 99% Invisible HQ. The photo, taken 1899, shows three men, all looking very fashionable, suspended mid-air on the lifted arm of a giant dredging machine. There are plenty of images … Continue reading...
132- Castle on the Park
On the southwest corner of Central Park West and 106th Street in New York City, there’s an enormous castle. It takes up the whole east end of the block, with its red brick cylindrical turrets topped with gleaming silver cones. … Continue reading →
131- Genesis Object
In the beginning, there was design. Before any other human discipline, even before the dawn of mankind its self, design was a practice passed down from generation to generation of early humans. Today, everything that has been designed–space ships,...
Around 2005, a Seattle neighborhood called Ballard started to see unprecedented growth. Condominiums and apartment buildings were sprouting up all over the community which had once been mostly single family homes and small businesses. Around this...
Cities, like living things, evolve slowly over time. Buildings and structures get added and renovated and removed, and in this process, bits and pieces that get left behind. Vestiges. Just as humans have tailbones and whales have pelvic bones, cities...
128- Hacking IKEA
IKEA hacking is the practice of buying things from IKEA and reengineering—or “hacking”—them to become customized, more functional, and often just better designed stuff. The locus of the IKEA hacking movement is a website called IKEAhackers.net. It’s a...
127- The Sound of Sports
Way back in October 2011 (seeepisode #38,true believers!), we broadcast a short excerpt of a radio documentary produced by Peregrine Andrews about faking the sounds of sports on TV broadcasts. It was one of our most popular and provocative programs …...
126- Walk This Way
As humans have developed cities and built environments, we have also needed to develop ways to find our way through them. Sam Greenspan went on a wayfinding tour with Jim Harding in the Atlanta airport. Harding is one of the … Continue reading →
The best knock-offs in the world are in China. There are plenty of fake designer handbags and Rolexes, but China’s knock-offs go way beyond fashion. There are knock-off Apple stores that look so much like the real thing, some employees … Continue...
Reporter Whitney Jones argues that R.E.M.’s Out of Time is the most politically significant album in the history of the United States. Because of its packaging.
Well before the early 1500s, when Sir Thomas Moore first coined the term “Utopia,” people have been thinking about how to design their ideal community. Maybe it’s one that doesn’t use money, or one that drops traditional family structures and …...
122- Good Egress
When designing a commercial structure, there isone safety componentthat must be designed right into the building from the start: egress. “Egress” refers to anentire exit system from a building: stairs, corridors, and evacuation routes outside the...
121- Cold War Kids
During the 1961 Berlin Crisis—one of the various moments in the cold war in which we came frighteningly close to engaging in actual war with the Soviets—President John F. Kennedy vowed to identify spaces in “existing structures both public and …...
The term “hijacking” goes back to prohibition days, when gangsters would rob moonshine trucks saying, “Hold your hands high, Jack!” However, in the early days of commercial air travel, the idea that someone would hijack a plane was scarcely even …...
119- Feet of Engineering
As a fashion object and symbol, the high heel shoe is weighted with meaning. It’s also weighted with the wearer’s entire body weight. The stiletto might be one of the only designs that is physically painful but has somehow has … Continue reading →
118- Song Exploder
99% Invisible presents Song Exploder.A song is a product of design. It’s difficult to create an original melody, but that’s only the blueprint. Every element of a piece of music could be produced any number of ways, depending on which … Continue...
117- Clean Trains
In just about every movie set in New York City in the 1970s and 80s there’s an establishing shot with a graffiti-covered subway. For city officials, train graffiti was a sign that they had lost control. So, starting in the … Continue reading →
116- Breaking the Bank
When I go into a bank, especially if I have to stand in line waiting to make a deposit, my mind wanders. And one of the first place it wanders to is: how I would rob the place. How could … Continue reading →
115- Cow Tunnels
The westernmost part of Manhattan, between 34th and 39th street, is pretty industrial. There’s a bus depot, a ferry terminal, and a steady stream of cars. But in the late 19th early 20th centuries, this was cow country. Cows used … Continue reading →
114- Ten Thousand Years
In 1990, the federal government invited a group of geologists, linguists, astrophysicists, architects, artists, and writers to the New Mexico desert, to visit the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. They were there on a mission. The Waste Isolation Pilot...
- San Francisco, CA