99% Invisible

99% Invisible

99percentinvisible.org
A tiny radio show about design, architecture & the 99% invisible activity that shapes our world.
280- Half Measures
Oct 17 • 29 min
The United States is one of just a handful of countries that that isn’t officially metric. Instead, Americans measure things our own way, in units that are basically inscrutable to non-Americans, nearly all of whom have been brought up in … Continue…
279- The Containment Plan
Oct 10 • 29 min
It’s hard to overstate the vastness of the Skid Row neighborhood in Los Angeles. It spans roughly 50 blocks, which is about a fifth of the entire downtown area of Los Angeles. It’s very clear when you’ve entered Skid Row. … Continue reading →
278- The Athletic Brassiere
Oct 3 • 28 min
Among the most important advances in sports technology, few can compete with the invention of the sports bra. Following the passage of Title IX in 1972, women’s interest in athletics surged. But their breasts presented an obstacle. Bouncing breasts hurt,…
277- Ponte City Tower
Sep 26 • 33 min
Ponte City Tower, the brutalist cylindrical high-rise that towers over Johannesburg, has gone from a symbol of white opulence to something far more complicated. It’s gone through very hard times, but also it’s hopeful. It’s a microcosm of the South ……
276- The Finnish Experiment
Sep 19 • 33 min
Around the world, there is a lot of buzz around the idea of universal basic income (also known as “unconditional basic income” or UBI). It can take different forms or vary in the details, but in essence: UBI is the … Continue reading →
275- Coal Hogs Work Safe
Sep 12 • 25 min
Coal miner stickers started out as little advertisements that the manufacturers of mining equipment handed out. Even before the late 1960s, when mining safety laws started requiring reflective materials underground, miners used those stickers to stay…
274- The Age of the Algorithm
Sep 5 • 25 min
Computer algorithms now shape our world in profound and mostly invisible ways. They predict if we’ll be valuable customers and whether we’re likely to repay a loan. They filter what we see on social media, sort through resumes, and evaluate … Continue…
273- Notes on an Imagined Plaque
Aug 29 • 16 min
Monuments don’t just appear in the wake of someone’s death — they are erected for reasons specific to a time and place. In 1905, one such memorial was put up in downtown Memphis, Tennessee, to commemorate Nathan Bedford Forrest, who … Continue reading →
272- Person in Lotus Position
Aug 22 • 33 min
Tech analysts estimate that over six billion emojis are sent each day. Emojis, which started off as a collection of low-resolution pixelated images from Japan, have become a well-established and graphically sophisticated part of everyday global…
271- The Great Dismal Swamp
Aug 15 • 28 min
On the border of Virginia and North Carolina stretches a great, dismal swamp. The Great Dismal Swamp, actually — that’s the name British colonists gave it centuries ago. The swamp covers about 190 square miles today, but at its peak, … Continue reading →
270- The Stethoscope
Aug 8 • 24 min
Imagine for a moment the year 1800. A doctor is meeting with a patient – most likely in the patient’s home. The patient is complaining about shortness of breath. A cough, a fever. The doctor might check the patient’s pulse … Continue reading →
269- Ways of Hearing
Aug 1 • 42 min
When the tape started rolling in old analog recording studios, there was a feeling that musicians were about to capture a particular moment. On tape, there was no “undo.” They could try again, if they had the time and money, … Continue reading →
268- El Gordo
Jul 25 • 28 min
In Spain, they do the lottery differently. First of all, it’s a country-wide obsession — about 75% of Spaniards buy a ticket. There’s more than one lottery in Spain, but the one that Spaniards are the most passionate about is … Continue reading →
267- The Trials of Dan and Dave
Jul 18 • 57 min
This is the story of an ad campaign produced for the 1992 Olympic games in Barcelona. Perennial runner-up in the sports shoe category, Reebok, was trying to make its mark and take down Nike. They chose two athletes, plucked them … Continue reading →
266- Repackaging the Pill
Jul 11 • 22 min
Most people are familiar with at least one version of the birth control pill’s packaging — a round plastic disc which opens like a shell and looks like a makeup compact. But the pill wasn’t always packaged this way. The … Continue reading →
265- The Pool and the Stream
Jul 4 • 34 min
This is the 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.
264- Mexico 68
Jun 27 • 26 min
The 1968 Olympics took place in Mexico City, Mexico. It was the first games ever hosted in a Latin American country. And for Mexico City, the event was an opportunity to show the world that they were a metropolis as … Continue reading →
263- You Should Do a Story
Jun 20 • 30 min
“You should do a story…” is the first line to a lot of the conversations you have when you work at 99pi. This week we look into a bunch of those stories suggested by our listeners and present them to … Continue reading →
262- In the Same Ballpark
Jun 13 • 29 min
In the 1992, the Baltimore Orioles opened their baseball season at a brand new stadium called Oriole Park at Camden Yards, right along the downtown harbor. The stadium was small and intimate, built with brick and iron trusses—a throwback to … Continue …
Intro to a new Roman Mars podcast: What Trump Can Teach Us About Con Law
Jun 8 • 13 min
Special introductory episode to a new podcast produced by Roman Mars and Elizabeth Joh. Professor Elizabeth Joh teaches Intro to Constitutional Law and most of the time this is a pretty straight forward job. But with Trump in office,
199- The Yin and Yang of Basketball
Jun 6 • 23 min
In 1891, a physical education teacher in Springfield, Massachusetts invented the game we would come to know as basketball. In setting the height of the baskets, he inadvertently created a design problem that would not be resolved for decades to … Conti…
261- Squatters of the Lower East Side
May 30 • 30 min
In 1987, three years after moving to New York City, Maggie Wrigley found herself on the edge of homelessness. She was trying to figure out where to stay, when she heard about an abandoned tenement building on the Lower East … Continue reading →
260- New Jersey
May 23 • 23 min
The Brazilian soccer shirt is iconic. Its bright canary yellow with green trim, worn with blue shorts, is known worldwide. The uniform is joyful and bold and seems to capture something essential about Brazil.
259- This Is Chance: Anchorwoman of the Great Alaska Earthquake
May 16 • 31 min
This episode was recorded live as part of the Radiotopia West Coast Tour. It was the middle of the night on March 27, 1964. Earlier that evening, the second-biggest earthquake ever measured at the time had hit Anchorage, Alaska. 115 people died.
258- The Modern Necropolis
May 9 • 22 min
In the town of Colma, California, the dead outnumber the living by a thousand to one. Located just ten miles south of San Francisco, Colma is filled with rolling green hills, manicured hedges, and 17 full size cemeteries (18 if … Continue reading →
257- Reversing the Grid
May 2 • 31 min
For most people, electricity only flows one way (into the home), but there are exceptions — people who use solar panels, for instance. In those cases, excess electricity created by the solar cells travels back out into the grid to … Continue reading →
256- Sounds Natural
Apr 18 • 28 min
In most wildlife films, the sounds you hear were not recorded while the cameras were rolling. Most filmmakers use long telephoto lenses to film animals, but there’s no sonic equivalent of a zoom lens. Good audio requires a microphone close … Continue r…
255- The Architect of Hollywood
Apr 10 • 25 min
Los Angeles is rich with architectural diversity. On the same block, you could find a retro-futuristic Googie diner next to a Spanish-style mansion, sitting comfortably alongside a Dutch Colonial dwelling, all in close proximity to a Deconstructivist c…
254- Containers
Apr 4 • 36 min
We’re based in beautiful downtown Oakland, CA which is a port city in the San Francisco Bay. Massive container ships travel across the Pacific and end up here. From miles away you can see the enormous white cranes that pull … Continue reading →
253- Manzanar
Mar 28 • 29 min
When Warren Furutani was growing up in Los Angeles in the 1950s, he sometimes heard his parents refer to a place where they once spent time — a place they called “camp.” To him “camp” meant summer camp or a … Continue reading →
252- The Falling of the Lenins
Mar 21 • 27 min
On the night of December 8, 2013, a huge crowd gathered on a tree-lined boulevard in downtown Kiev, Ukraine. The crowd was there to watch as a statue in the boulevard was pulled down by a crane. The toppled statue … Continue reading →
251- Negative Space: Logo Design with Michael Bierut
Mar 14 • 50 min
Logos used to be a thing people didn’t really give much thought to. But over the last decade, the volume and intensity of arguments about logos have increased substantially. A lot of this is just the internet being the internet. … Continue reading →
250- State (Sanctuary, Part 2)
Mar 7 • 33 min
In the 1980s, the United States experienced a refugee crisis. Thousands of Central Americans were fleeing civil wars in El Salvador and Guatemala, traveling north through Mexico, and crossing the border into the U.S. [Note: Just tuning in?
249- Church (Sanctuary, Part 1)
Feb 28 • 32 min
In the 1980s, Rev. John Fife and his congregation at Southside Presbyterian Church began to help Central American migrants fleeing persecution from US backed dictatorships. Their efforts would mark the beginning of a new — and controversial — social mo…
248- Atom in the Garden of Eden
Feb 21 • 23 min
As the world entered the Atomic Age, humankind faced a new fear that permeated just about every aspect of daily life: the threat of nuclear war. And while the violent applications of atomic research had already been proven,
247- Usonia the Beautiful
Feb 14 • 24 min
Frank Lloyd Wright believed that the buildings we live in shape the kinds of people we become. His aim was nothing short of rebuilding the entire culture of the United States, changing the nation through its architecture.
246- Usonia 1
Feb 7 • 29 min
Frank Lloyd Wright was a bombastic character that ultimately 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 hou…
245- The Eponymist
Jan 31 • 31 min
Eponym (noun): A person after whom a discovery, invention, place, etc., is named or thought to be named; a name or noun formed after a person. An eponym, almost by definition, has some kind of story behind it — some reason it … Continue reading →
244- The Revolutionary Post
Jan 24 • 22 min
Winifred Gallagher, author of How the Post Office Created America: A History, argues that the post office is not simply an inexpensive way to send a letter. The service was designed to unite a bunch of disparate towns and people … Continue reading →
243- Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle
Jan 17 • 24 min
On January 3, 1979, two officers from the Los Angeles Police Department went to the home of Eulia May Love, a 39-year-old African-American mother. The police were there because of a dispute over an unpaid gas bill.
242- Mini-Stories: Volume 2
Jan 10 • 34 min
Part 2 where host Roman Mars talks to the 99pi producers about their favorite “Mini-Stories.” These are little anecdotes or seeds of a story about design and architecture that can’t quite stretch into a full episode, but we love them … Continue reading →
241- Mini-Stories: Volume 1
Dec 20, 2016 • 31 min
Host Roman Mars talks to the 99pi producers about their favorite “Mini-Stories.” These are little anecdotes or seeds of a story about design and architecture that can’t quite stretch into a full episode, but the staff loves them anyway.
240- Plat of Zion
Dec 13, 2016 • 22 min
The urban grid of Salt Lake City, Utah is designed to tell you exactly where you are in relation to Temple Square, one of the holiest sites for Mormons. Addresses can read like sets of coordinates. “300 South 2100 East,” … Continue reading →
239- Guano Island
Dec 6, 2016 • 23 min
In 2014, President Obama expanded the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, making it the largest marine preserve in the world at the time. The expansion closed 490,000 square miles of largely undisturbed ocean to commercial fishing and unde…
238- NBC Chimes
Nov 29, 2016 • 17 min
The NBC chimes may be the most famous sound in broadcasting. Originating in the 1920s, the three key sequential notes are familiar to generations of radio listeners and television watchers. Many companies have tried to trademark sounds but only around …
237- Dollar Store Town
Nov 22, 2016 • 20 min
Dollar stores are not just a U.S. phenomenon. They can be found in Australia and the United Kingdom, the Middle East and Mexico. And a lot of the stuff—the generic cheap stuff for sale in these stores—comes from one place. … Continue reading →
236- Reverb
Nov 15, 2016 • 23 min
Through a combination of passive and active acoustics, architects and acousticians can control the sounds of spaces to fit any kind of need. With sound-proofing and selective-amplification, we can add reverb or take it away.
235- Ten Letters for the President
Nov 7, 2016 • 18 min
People who write the White House know that the president himself will most likely not see their message. Many of their letters start with phrases like, “I know no one will read this.” Although someone does read those letters. And … Continue reading →
234- The Shift
Nov 1, 2016 • 20 min
Every now and again, a truly great athlete shatters all previous assumptions about what’s possible to achieve in a sport. When this happens, opposing teams scramble to find ways to stop them or slow them down. In basketball,
233- Space Trash, Space Treasure
Oct 25, 2016 • 23 min
In the summer of 1961 the upper stage of the rocket carrying the Transit 4A satellite blew up about two hours after launch. It was the first known human-made object to unintentionally explode in space, and it created hundreds of … Continue reading →
232- McMansion Hell
Oct 18, 2016 • 19 min
Few forms of contemporary architecture draw as much criticism as the McMansion, a particular type of oversized house that people love to hate. McMansions usually feature 3,000 or more square feet of space and fail to embody a cohesive style … Continue …
231- Half a House
Oct 11, 2016 • 25 min
On the night of February 27th, 2010, a magnitude of 8.8 earthquake hit Constitución, Chile and it was the second biggest that the world had seen in half a century. The quake and the tsunami it produced completely crushed the … Continue reading →
230- Project Cybersyn
Oct 4, 2016 • 26 min
On September 11, 1973, a military junta violently took control of Chile, which was led at the time by President Salvador Allende. Allende had become president in a free and democratic election. After the military coup,
124- Longbox
Sep 27, 2016 • 22 min
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. Longbox Please Vote.
229- The Trend Forecast
Sep 20, 2016 • 20 min
Who decides that the color this season is “mint green” or that denim jackets are “back?” Of course, there’s top-down fashion, where couture houses and runway shows set a trend that trickles down through the rest of the industry. Then … Continue reading →
228- Making Up Ground
Sep 13, 2016 • 23 min
Large portions of San Francisco, New York City, Boston, Seattle, Hong Kong and Marseilles were built on top of human made land. What is now Mumbai, India, was transformed by the British from a seven-island archipelago to one contiguous strip … Continue…
227- Public Works
Sep 6, 2016 • 18 min
Infrastructure makes modern civilization possible. Roads, power grids, sewage systems and water networks all underpin society as we know it, forming the basis of our built environment … at least when they work.
226- On Average
Aug 23, 2016 • 22 min
In many ways, the built world was not designed for you. It was designed for the average person. Standardized tests, building codes, insurance rates, clothing sizes, The Dow Jones – all these measurements are based around the concept of an … Continue re…
225- Photo Credit
Aug 16, 2016 • 23 min
Founded by architect Walter Gropius in 1919, the Bauhaus school in Germany would go on to shape modern architecture, art, and design for decades to come. The school sought to combine design and industrialization,
224- A Sea Worth its Salt
Aug 9, 2016 • 22 min
The largest body of water in California was formed by a mistake. In 1905, the California Development Company accidentally flooded a huge depression in the Sonora Desert, creating an enormous salty lake called the Salton Sea.
223- The Magic Bureaucrat
Aug 2, 2016 • 36 min
In 1996, President Bill Clinton and the Congress undertook a reform effort to redesign the welfare system from one that many believed trapped people in a cycle of dependence, to one, that in the President’s words, would give people “a … Continue reading →
222- Combat Hearing Loss
Jul 26, 2016 • 21 min
The US military buys a lot of foam ear plugs. Visit any base and you’ll find them under the bleachers at the firing range, in the bottoms of washing machines. They are cheap and effective at making noise less … noisy. … Continue reading →
221- America’s Last Top Model
Jul 19, 2016 • 22 min
In 1943, the Army Corps of Engineers began construction on a scale model that could test flooding in all 1.25 million square miles of the Mississippi River. It would be a three-dimensional map of nearly half of the continental United … Continue reading →
220- The Mind of an Architect
Jul 12, 2016 • 26 min
In the late 1950s, the Institute of Personality Assessment and Research embarked on a mission to study the personalities of particularly creative scientists and artists. Researchers established categories, grouping analytical creatives together (includ…
219- Unpleasant Design
Jul 5, 2016 • 19 min
Benches in parks, train stations, bus shelters and other public places are meant to offer seating, but only for a limited duration. Many elements of such seats are subtly or overtly restrictive. Arm rests, for instance,
218- Remembering Stonewall
Jun 28, 2016 • 31 min
It started with a place called the Stonewall Inn. Gay bars had been raided by police for decades. Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people had been routinely arrested and subjected to harassment and beatings by the people who were meant … Continu…
217- Home on Lagrange
Jun 21, 2016 • 31 min
In 1968, an Italian industrialist and a Scottish scientist started a club to address what they considered to be humankind’s greatest problems—issues like pollution, resource scarcity, and overpopulation. Meeting in Rome, Italy,
216- The Blazer Experiment
Jun 14, 2016 • 26 min
In 1968, the police department in Menlo Park, California hired a new police chief. His name was Victor Cizanckas and his main goal was to reform the department, which had a strained relationship with the community at the time.
215- H-Day
Jun 7, 2016 • 21 min
September 3rd, 1967, also known as H-Day, is etched in the collective memory of Sweden. That morning, millions of Swedes switched from driving on the left side of the road to driving on the right. The changeover was an unprecedented … Continue reading →
130- Holdout
May 31, 2016 • 20 min
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.
214- Loud and Clear
May 24, 2016 • 24 min
Sub Pop Records has signed some of the most famous and influential indie bands of the last 30 years, including Nirvana, Sleater-Kinney, The Postal Service, and Beach House. Over time, the stars and hits have changed and the formats have … Continue read…
213- Separation Anxiety
May 17, 2016 • 21 min
“Für Elise” is one of the world’s most widely-recognized pieces of music. The Beethoven melody has been played by pianists the world over, and its near-universal recognition has been used to attract customers for companies as big as McDonald’s and as …
212- Turf Wars of East New York
May 10, 2016 • 32 min
Neighborhoods are constantly changing, but it tends to be the people with money and power who get to decide the shape of things to come. New York City has an especially long history with change driven by landlords and real … Continue reading →
211- The Grand Dame of Broad Street
May 4, 2016 • 24 min
The Bellevue-Stratford opened in 1904 and quickly became one of the most luxurious hotels of its time, rivaling the Waldorf Astoria in New York. The building was an incredible work of French Renaissance architecture. It was 19 stories high,
210- Unseen City
Apr 26, 2016 • 31 min
Humans form cities from concrete, metal, and glass, designing structures and infrastructure primarily to serve a single bipedal species. Walking down a familiar city street, it is easy to overlook squirrels climbing in trees,
209- Supertall 101
Apr 19, 2016 • 21 min
Starting in the late 1990s, the government of Taipei began looking into how they could turn global attention to their city, the capital of the small island of Taiwan. The initial idea was to create two 66-story office towers, which … Continue reading →
208- Vox Ex Machina
Apr 12, 2016 • 27 min
In 1939, an astonishing new machine debuted at the New York World’s Fair. It was called the “Voder,” short for “Voice Operating Demonstrator.” It looked sort of like a futuristic church organ. An operator — known as a “Voderette” — … Continue reading →
207- Soul City
Apr 5, 2016 • 36 min
In the late 1960s, a civil rights leader named Floyd B. McKissick, at one time the head of CORE (the Congress on Racial Equality) proposed an idea for a new town. He would call this town Soul City and it would be … Continue reading →
206- The White Elephant Of Tel Aviv
Mar 29, 2016 • 40 min
Israeli buses regularly make international headlines, be it for suicide bombings, fights over gender segregation, or clashes concerning Shabbat schedules. One particular ill-fated megastructure, however, has been at the nexus of various lesser-publiciz…
205- Flying Food
Mar 22, 2016 • 20 min
The last hundred years or so of food advertising have been shaped by this one simple fact: real food usually looks pretty unappetizing on camera. It’s static and boring to look at, and it tends to wilt under the glare … Continue reading →
204- The SoHo Effect
Mar 15, 2016 • 21 min
In San Francisco, the area South of Market Street is called SoMa. The part of town North of the Panhandle is known as NoPa. Around the intersection of North Oakland, Berkeley and Emeryville, real estate brokers are pitching properties as part … Continu…
203- The Giftschrank
Mar 8, 2016 • 23 min
Centuries ago, Germany came up with a way to keep books that contained “dangerous” information without releasing them to the general public: The Giftschrank. The word, a combination of “poison” and “cabinet,
202- Mojave Phone Booth
Mar 1, 2016 • 22 min
Situated in the middle of the Mojave desert, over a dozen miles from the nearest pavement, a lone phone booth sat along a dirt road, just waiting to become an international sensation. Mojave Phone Booth 760-733-9969 The piece was produced by … Continue…
Video- The Norman Door with Vox
Feb 27, 2016 • 2 min
There is an epidemic of terrible doors in the world. But when Don Norman got frustrated with them, he ended up changing the way people everywhere think about design. Video by Joe Posner of Vox, featuring Roman Mars of 99% … Continue reading →
201- The Green Book
Feb 23, 2016 • 24 min
The middle of the 20th Century was a golden age for road travel in the United States. Cars had become cheap and spacious enough to carry families comfortably for hundreds of miles. The Interstate Highway System had started to connect … Continue reading →
200- Miss Manhattan
Feb 16, 2016 • 21 min
All around the country, there stands a figure so much a part of historical architecture and urban landscapes that she is rarely noticed. She has gone by many names, from Star Maiden to Priestess of Culture, Spirit of Life to … Continue reading →
199- The Yin and Yang of Basketball
Feb 9, 2016 • 23 min
In 1891, a physical education teacher in Springfield, Massachusetts invented the game we would come to know as basketball. In setting the height of the baskets, he inadvertently created a design problem that would not be resolved for decades to come.
198- The Ice King
Feb 2, 2016 • 20 min
In the mid-19th century, decades before home refrigeration became the norm, you could find ice clinking in glasses from India to the Caribbean, thanks to a global commodities industry that has since melted into obscurity: the frozen water trade.
197- Fish Cannon
Jan 26, 2016 • 20 min
The Iron Curtain was an 8,000-mile border separating East from West during the Cold War. Something unexpected evolved in the “no man’s land” that the massive border created. In the absence of human intervention and disruption,
196- The Fresno Drop
Jan 19, 2016 • 17 min
In September 1958, Bank of America began an experiment – one that would have far reaching effects on our lives and on the economy. They decided after careful consideration to conduct this experiment in Fresno, California.
195- Best Enjoyed By
Jan 12, 2016 • 19 min
Date labels (e.g. “use-by”, “sell-by”, “best-by”, “best if used by,” “expires on”, etc.) are on a lot of products. Forty-one states require a date label on at least some food product, but there are huge inconsistencies,
194- Bone Music
Dec 22, 2015 • 16 min
In 1950s Soviet Russia, citizens craved Western popular music—everything from jazz to rock & roll. But smuggling vinyl was dangerous, and acquiring the scarce material to make copies of those records that did make it into the country was expensive.
193- Tube Benders
Dec 15, 2015 • 18 min
The skyline of beautiful downtown Oakland, California, is defined by various towers by day, but at night there is one that shines far more brightly than the rest: the neon-illuminated Tribune Tower. Each side of the tower says “Tribune” in … Continue r…
192- Pagodas and Dragon Gates
Dec 8, 2015 • 26 min
For Americans, the sight of pagoda roofs and dragon gates means that you are in Chinatown. Whether in San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, or Las Vegas, the chinoiserie look is distinctive. But for those just arriving from China, the … Continue reading →
191- Worst Smell in the World
Dec 2, 2015 • 16 min
Many material trifles, such as Silly Putty, started as attempts at serious inventions, but in rare cases, the process works in reverse: something developed as a gag gift can turn into something truly heroic.
190- Fixing the Hobo Suit
Nov 24, 2015 • 23 min
Superhero costumes for TV and film used to be pretty cringe-worthy. Lately, however, super outfits are looking much better. Costume designers are learning new tricks, and using better technology, but there has also been a change in attitude.
189- The Landlord’s Game
Nov 17, 2015 • 20 min
From rock-paper-scissors, to tennis, to Mario Kart, every game is a designed system and all games are grounded in the same design principles. One popular game in particular has a mixed reputation with game players and designers alike: Monopoly.
188- Fountain Drinks
Nov 10, 2015 • 37 min
On April 21st, 1859, an incredible thing happened in London and thousands of people came out to celebrate it. Women wore their finest clothing. Men were in suits and top hats, and children clamored to get a glimpse…of the very … Continue reading →
187- Butterfly Effects
Nov 3, 2015 • 22 min
Ballots are an essential component to a working democracy, yet they are rarely created (or even reviewed) by design professionals. Good ballot design is mainly a matter of following good design principles in general—familiar territory for graphic desig…
186- War and Pizza
Oct 27, 2015 • 22 min
Households tend to take pantry food for granted, but canned beans, powered cheese, and bags of moist cookies were not designed for everyday convenience. These standard products were made to meet the needs of the military. Reporter Tina Antolini,
Radiotopia Forever- Coin Check
Oct 23, 2015 • 17 min
To get your exclusive 99% Invisible Challenge Coin, make a donation to the Radiotopia Forever campaign. Thanks! Coin Check The United States Military is not known for being touchy-feely. There’s not much hugging or head-patting,
185- Atmospherians
Oct 20, 2015 • 26 min
The phrase ‘from Central Casting’ has become a kind of cultural shorthand for a stereotype or archetype, a subject so visually suited to its part it appears to have been designed for that role. Search the news for ‘straight out … Continue reading →
110- Structural Integrity (Rebroadcast)
Oct 13, 2015 • 29 min
99% Invisible is honored to accept a 2015 Third Coast International Audio Festival award for Structural Integrity, a story of architectural engineering gone wrong, and then covertly made right. When it was built in 1977,
184- Rajneeshpuram
Oct 6, 2015 • 33 min
Indian philosopher and mystic Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh had a vision: he would build a Utopian city from the ground up, starting with 64,000 acres of muddy ranchland in rural Oregon. Purchased in 1981, this expanse was to become both a … Continue reading →
183- Dead Letter Office
Sep 29, 2015 • 21 min
When something is lost in the mail, it feels like it has disappeared into the ether, like it was sucked into a black hole, like it no longer exists. But, it turns out, a lot of the mail we think … Continue reading →
182- A Sweet Surprise Awaits You
Sep 23, 2015 • 20 min
On the night of March 30, 2005, the Powerball jackpot was 25 million dollars. The grand prize winner was in Tennessee, but all over the United States, one hundred and ten second-place winners came forward. Normally just three or four … Continue reading →
181- Milk Carton Kids
Sep 15, 2015 • 22 min
On a Sunday morning in 1982, in Des Moines, Iowa, Johnny Gosch left his house to begin his usual paper route. A short time later, his parents were awakened by a phone call–it was a neighbor—their paper hadn’t come. When … Continue reading →
180- Reefer Madness
Sep 9, 2015 • 20 min
There are around 6,000 cargo vessels out on the ocean right now, carrying 20,000,000 shipping containers, which are delivering most of the products you see around you. And among all the containers are a special subset of temperature-controlled units kn…
179- Bathysphere
Sep 2, 2015 • 26 min
In 1860, a chance find at sea forever changed our understanding of marine habitats, sparking an unprecedented push to explore a new world of possibilities far below the surface of our planet’s oceans. Deep sea life,
178- The Great Restoration
Aug 26, 2015 • 34 min
Stirling, Scotland is the home of Stirling Castle, which sits atop a giant crag, or hill, overlooking the whole town of Stirling. There has been a castle on that hill since the 12th century at least, and maybe before, but … Continue reading →
177- Lawn Order
Aug 19, 2015 • 21 min
In communities across America, lawns that are brown or overgrown are considered especially heinous. Elite squads of dedicated individuals have been deputized by their local governments or homeowners’ associations to take action against those whose lawn…
176- Hard to Love a Brute
Aug 11, 2015 • 22 min
No matter which James Bond actor is your favorite, it’s undeniable that the Sean Connery films had the best villains. There’s Blofeld, who turned cat-stroking into a thing that super-villains do, and then there’s Goldfinger—Bond’s flashiest nemesis.
175- The Sunshine Hotel
Aug 5, 2015 • 33 min
The Bowery, in lower Manhattan, is one of New York’s oldest neighborhoods. It’s been through a lot of iterations. In the 1650s, a handful of freed slaves were the neighborhood’s first residents. At the time, New York was still a … Continue reading →
174- From the Sea, Freedom
Jul 29, 2015 • 22 min
In 1933, delegates from the United States and fourteen other countries met in Montevideo, Uruguay to define what it means to be a state. The resulting treaty from the Montevideo Convention established four basic criteria for statehood—essentially,
173- Awareness
Jul 21, 2015 • 22 min
By the late 1980s, AIDS had been in the United States for almost a decade. AIDS had be the number one killer of young men in New York City, then of young men in the country, then of young men … Continue reading →
172- On Location
Jul 14, 2015 • 19 min
So many classic movies have been made in downtown Los Angeles. Though many don’t actually take place in downtown Los Angeles. L.A. has played almost every city in the world, thanks to its diverse landscape and architectural variety,
171- Johnnycab (Automation Paradox, Pt. 2)
Jul 1, 2015 • 26 min
More than 90% of all automobile accidents are all attributable to human error, for some car industry people, a fully-automated car is a kind of holy grail. However, as automation makes our lives easier and safer, it also creates more … Continue reading →
170- Children of the Magenta (Automation Paradox, pt. 1)
Jun 23, 2015 • 33 min
On the evening of May 31, 2009, 216 passengers, three pilots, and nine flight attendants boarded an Airbus 330 in Rio de Janeiro. This flight, Air France 447, was headed across to Paris. Everything proceeded normally for several hours. Then,
169- Freud’s Couch
Jun 17, 2015 • 18 min
Sigmund Freud’s ground-breaking techniques and theories for therapy came to be called “psychoanalysis,” and it was embodied, in practice and popular culture, by a single piece of furniture: the couch. Producer Ann Hepperman explores the role of this ca…
168- All In Your Head
Jun 10, 2015 • 35 min
People who make horror movies know: if you want to scare someone, use scary music. Some of the most creative use of music and sound to evoke fear and anxiety is on the TV show Hannibal. Hrishikesh Hirway of Song … Continue reading →
167- Voices in the Wire
Jun 2, 2015 • 43 min
This week on 99% Invisible, we have two stories about the early days of broadcasting and home sound recording, produced by Radio Diaries and the Kitchen Sisters. The sounds that came out Frank Conrad’s Garage in 1919 and 1920 are … Continue reading →
166- Viva La Arquitectura!
May 27, 2015 • 24 min
On January 3rd, 1961, Che Guevara suggested to Fidel Castro that they go play a round of golf. They drove out to what was then the ritziest, most elite country club in Havana. It was empty—almost all the members had … Continue reading →
165- The Nutshell Studies
May 20, 2015 • 28 min
The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore, Maryland is a busy place. Anyone who dies unexpectedly in the state of Maryland will end up there for an autopsy. On an average day, they might perform twelve autopsies; on … Continue reading →
164- The Post-Billiards Age
May 13, 2015 • 18 min
We live in a post-billiards age. There was an age of billiards, and it has been over for so long, most of us have no idea how huge billiards once was. For many decades, starting in the mid-19th Century, billiards … Continue reading →
163- The Gruen Effect
May 5, 2015 • 20 min
Retail spaces are designed for impulse shopping. When you go to a store looking for socks and come out with a new shirt, it’s only partly your fault. Shops are trying to look so beautiful, so welcoming, the items so enticingly displayed and … Continue…
162- Mystery House
Apr 28, 2015 • 22 min
According to legend, Sarah Winchester’s friends advised the grieving widow to seek the services of a Boston spiritual medium named Adam Koombs. The story goes, Koombs put Mrs. Winchester in touch with her deceased husband—but William had bad news.
161- Show of Force
Apr 22, 2015 • 24 min
During World War II, a massive recruitment effort targeted students from the top art schools across the country. These young designers, artists, and makers were being asked to help execute a wild idea that came out of one the nation’s most conservative…
160- Perfect Security
Apr 14, 2015 • 20 min
The pursuit of lock picking is as old as the lock, which is itself as old as civilization. But in the entire history of the world, there was only one brief moment, lasting about 70 years, where you could put … Continue reading →
159- The Calendar
Apr 8, 2015 • 22 min
A month is hardly a unit of measurement. It can start on any day of the week and last anywhere from 28 to 31 days. Sometimes a month is four weeks long, sometimes five, sometimes six. You have to buy … Continue reading →
158- Sandhogs
Mar 31, 2015 • 28 min
Eighty years ago, New York City needed another tunnel under the Hudson River. The Holland Tunnel and the George Washington Bridge could no longer handle the mounting traffic between New Jersey and Manhattan.
54- The Colour of Money (R)
Mar 25, 2015 • 23 min
United States paper currency is so ubiquitous that to really look at its graphic design with fresh eyes requires some deliberate and focused attention. Pull a greenback out from your wallet (or look at a picture online) and really take … Continue readi…
157- Devil’s Rope
Mar 18, 2015 • 25 min
In the mid 1800s, not many (non-native) Americans had ever been west of the Mississippi. When Frederick Law Olmstead visited the west in the 1850s, he remarked that the plains looked like a sea of grasses that moved “in swells after … Continue reading →
156- Coin Check
Mar 10, 2015 • 20 min
design, coin, military, clip art, recognition, challenge, currency, medal, honor
155- Palm Reading
Mar 3, 2015 • 19 min
design, city, landscape, tree, palm, architecture, California, Los Angeles
154- PDX Carpet
Feb 24, 2015 • 19 min
design, carpet, rug, PDX, airport, cult, pattern, foot, selfie, rendered, panther
153- Game Over (R)
Feb 17, 2015 • 14 min
design, video games, a life well wasted, sims, archive, ea land, apocalypse
152- Guerrilla Public Service
Feb 11, 2015 • 18 min
design, road, sign, highway, freeway, wayfinding, signage, caltrans, transportation
151- La Mascotte
Feb 3, 2015 • 21 min
design, costume, mascot, sports, baseball, Phanatic, Phillies, Muppet, Youppi, Max Patkin
150- Under The Moonlight
Jan 27, 2015 • 20 min
In 1885, Austin, Texas was terrorized by a serial killer known as the Servant Girl Annihilator. The murderer was never actually found, but he claimed eight victims, mostly black servant girls, all attacked in the dark of night. The very,
149- Of Mice And Men
Jan 20, 2015 • 21 min
If you are looking at a computer screen, your right hand is probably resting on a mouse. To the left of that mouse (or above, if you’re on a laptop) is your keyboard. As you work on the computer, your right hand … Continue reading →
148- The Sizzle
Jan 13, 2015 • 18 min
The first trademark for a sound in the United States was issued in 1978 to NBC for their chimes. MGM has a sound trademark for their roaring lion, as does 20th Century Fox for their trumpet fanfare. Harley Davidson tried to trademark the sound … Contin…
147- Penn Station Sucks
Jan 6, 2015 • 20 min
New Yorkers are known to disagree about a lot of things. Who’s got the best pizza? What’s the fastest subway route? Yankees or Mets? But all 8.5 million New Yorkers are likely to agree on one thing: Penn Station sucks. … Continue reading →
146- Mooallempalooza
Dec 31, 2014 • 48 min
As you probably know, 99% Invisible is a show about the built world, about things manufactured by humans. We don’t tend to do stories about animals or nature. But our friend Jon Mooallem writes brilliant stories about the weird interactions between ani…
145- Octothorpe
Dec 16, 2014 • 18 min
If you want to follow conversation threads relating to this show on social media—whether Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, Tumblr—you know to look for the hashtag: #99pi. In our current digital age, the hashtag identifies movements, events, happenings,
144- There Is A Light That Never Goes Out
Dec 9, 2014 • 18 min
Hanging in the garage of Fire Station #6 in Livermore, California, there’s a small, pear-shaped light bulb. It is glowing right now. This lightbulb has been glowing, with just a couple of momentary interruptions, for 113 years.
143- Inflatable Men
Dec 3, 2014 • 19 min
You see them on street corners, at gas stations, at shopping malls. You see them at blowout sales and grand openings of all kinds. Their wacky faces hover over us, and then fall down to meet us, and then rise … Continue reading →
142- And The Winner Is
Nov 25, 2014 • 18 min
There’s a little trophy shop called Aardvark Laser Engraving down the street from our office in Oakland. Its small but bustling, and its windows are stuffed to the brim with awards made of all kinds of materials and in any … Continue reading →
141- Three Records from Sundown
Nov 19, 2014 • 34 min
This week on the show we’re presenting one of our favorite radio features, “Three Records from Sundown,” about singer Nick Drake. The documentary, by producer Charles Maynes, retraces the roots of Drake’s legend through interviews with Drake’s producer…
140- Vexillonaire
Nov 12, 2014 • 16 min
Vexillologists—those who study flags—tend to fall into one of two schools of thought. The first is one that focuses on history, category, and usage, and maintains that vexillologists should be scholars and historians of all flags,
139- Edge of Your Seat
Nov 4, 2014 • 20 min
“A Chair is a difficult object. A skyscraper is almost easier.” — Mies van der Rohe. The chair presents an interesting design challenge, because it is an object that disappears when in use. The person replaces the chair.
138- O-U-I-J-A
Oct 28, 2014 • 24 min
The Ouija board is so simple and iconic that it looks like it comes from another time, or maybe another realm. The game is not as ancient as it was designed to look, but those two arched rows of letters have … Continue reading →
137- Good Bread
Oct 22, 2014 • 21 min
The first print advertisement for Wonder Bread came out before the bread itself. It stated only that “a wonder” was coming. In a lot of ways, the statement was true. Wonder Bread was the perfect loaf. “Slow food” advocates have pronounced industrial ……
Kickstart Radiotopia- A Storytelling Revolution
Oct 19, 2014 • 2 min
When you support Radiotopia, you are making sure 99% Invisible can keep coming to you weekly and you’ll be supporting our entire collective of award-winning, independent radiomakers. Thanks!
136- Lights Out
Oct 14, 2014 • 21 min
On July 13th, 1977, lightning struck an electricity transmission line in New York City, causing the line’s automatic circuit breaker to kick in. The electricity from the affected line was diverted to another line.
135- For Amusement Only
Oct 7, 2014 • 17 min
Everyone has tried it at some point. The authorities started turning a blind eye years ago, but it wasn’t officially legalized until the summer of 2014. Finally, after more than 80 years of illegitimacy, the City of Oakland has legalized…pinball … Cont…
134- The Straight Line Is A Godless Line
Sep 30, 2014 • 20 min
Straight lines form the core of our built environment. Building in straight lines makes predicting costs and calculating structural loads easier, since building materials come in linear units. Straight lines might be logical, predictable,
133- Port of Dallas
Sep 24, 2014 • 22 min
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
Sep 16, 2014 • 21 min
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
Sep 10, 2014 • 16 min
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,
130- Holdout
Sep 2, 2014 • 21 min
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.
129- Thomassons
Aug 26, 2014 • 18 min
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,
128- Hacking IKEA
Aug 19, 2014 • 22 min
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.
127- The Sound of Sports
Aug 11, 2014 • 64 min
Way back in October 2011 (see episode #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
Aug 4, 2014 • 19 min
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 →
125- Duplitecture
Jul 29, 2014 • 14 min
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,
124- Longbox
Jul 22, 2014 • 21 min
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.
123- Snowflake
Jul 15, 2014 • 20 min
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 … Continu…
122- Good Egress
Jul 8, 2014 • 21 min
When designing a commercial structure, there is one safety component that must be designed right into the building from the start: egress. “Egress” refers to an entire exit system from a building: stairs, corridors,
121- Cold War Kids
Jul 1, 2014 • 26 min
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 … Contin…
120- Skyjacking
Jun 24, 2014 • 19 min
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 … Cont…
119- Feet of Engineering
Jun 17, 2014 • 18 min
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
Jun 10, 2014 • 23 min
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,
117- Clean Trains
Jun 3, 2014 • 23 min
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
May 27, 2014 • 23 min
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
May 20, 2014 • 25 min
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
May 13, 2014 • 33 min
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.
113- Monumental Dilemma
May 6, 2014 • 27 min
About ten miles north of Concord, New Hampshire, off of interstate 93 there’s a little island with a great, big monument on it. The monument depicts a woman, who is holding a hatchet in her right hand and bunch of … Continue reading →
112- Young Ruin
Apr 29, 2014 • 22 min
If you’ve wandered around Machu Picchu, or Stonehenge, or the Colosseum, or even snuck into that abandoned house on the edge of town, you know the power in a piece of decrepit architecture. And even if you don’t want to … Continue reading →
111- Masters of the Uni-verse
Apr 22, 2014 • 20 min
Uniforms matter. When it comes to sports, they might be the only thing to which we’re actually loyal. Sports uniforms are packaging. But unlike any other packaging, if the product inside changes or degrades, we remain loyal.
110- Structural Integrity
Apr 15, 2014 • 27 min
When it was built in 1977, Citicorp Center (later renamed Citigroup Center, now called 601 Lexington) was, at 59 stories, the seventh-tallest building in the world. You can pick it out of the New York City skyline by its 45-degree … Continue reading →
109- Title TK
Apr 8, 2014 • 20 min
The name is important. It’s the first thing of any product you use or buy or see. The tip of the spear. You are bombarded by thousands of names every day. In this daily barrage, only the names that are … Continue reading →
108- Barcodes
Apr 1, 2014 • 21 min
When George Laurer goes to the grocery store, he doesn’t tell the check-out people that he invented the barcode, but his wife used to point it out. “My husband here’s the one who invented that barcode,” she’d occasionally say. And … Continue reading →
107- Call Now
Mar 25, 2014 • 23 min
When it’s three o’clock in the morning and everything is going wrong in your life, there’s a certain kind of ad you might see on basic cable. Lawyers–usually guys–promise to battle the heartless, tight-wad insurance companies on your behalf.
106- The Fancy Shape
Mar 18, 2014 • 19 min
Quatrefoil is the name of the four-lobed cloverleaf shape. It’s everywhere: adorning Gothic cathedrals, more modern churches, Rhode Island mansions, mission-style roofs in California, and decorating victorian homes from coast to coast.
105- One Man is An Island
Mar 11, 2014 • 23 min
A few years ago, reporter Sean Cole was working on a radio story and needed to interview the rapper Busta Rhymes. Sean was living in Boston at the time, so he did a Google search for “Busta Rhymes” and “Boston” to see … Continue reading →
104- Tunnel 57
Mar 4, 2014 • 24 min
At its peak, the Berlin Wall was 100 miles long. Today only about a mile is left standing. Compared with other famous walls in history, this wall had a pretty short life span. The Great Wall of China has been … Continue reading →
103- UTBAPH
Feb 25, 2014 • 19 min
It started with some Pittsburgh humor. Pittsburgh-based comedian Tom Muisal does a bit about a GPS unit that can give directions in “Pittsburghese.” Because in Pittsburgh, no one calls it “Interstate 376,” it’s “The Parkway.
102- Icon for Access
Feb 18, 2014 • 19 min
There is a beauty to a universal standard. The idea that people across the world can agree that when they interact with one specific thing, everyone will be on the same page– regardless of language or culture or geographic locale. … Continue reading →
101- Cover Story
Feb 11, 2014 • 22 min
You know the saying: you can’t judge a book by its cover. With magazines, it’s pretty much the opposite. The cover of a magazine is the unified identity for a whole host of ideas, authors, and designers who have created … Continue reading →
100- Higher And Higher
Feb 3, 2014 • 21 min
Like the best of these stories, the two bitter rivals started out as best friends: William Van Alen and Craig Severance. They were business partners. Van Alen was considered the artistic maverick and Severance was the savvy businessman.
99- The View From The 79th Floor
Jan 15, 2014 • 19 min
On July 28, 1945, an airplane crashed into the Empire State Building. A B-25 bomber was flying a routine mission, chartering servicemen from Massachusetts to New York City. Capt. William F. Smith, who had led some of the most dangerous … Continue readi…
98- Six Stories- the memory palace
Jan 2, 2014 • 23 min
Elevators are old. They would have to be. Because it is in our nature to rise. History is full of things that lift other things. In ancient Greece, and China, and Hungary, there were systems of weights and pulleys and … Continue reading →
97- Numbers Stations
Dec 20, 2013 • 26 min
If you tune around on a shortwave radio, you might stumble across a voice reciting an endless stream of numbers. Just numbers, all day, everyday. These so-called “numbers stations,” say nothing about where they are transmitting from or who they … Conti…
96- DIY Space Suit
Dec 3, 2013 • 18 min
Cameron Smith is building a space suit in his apartment. He’s not an astronaut. He’s not even an engineer. Cameron Smith is an archaeologist–on faculty in the anthropology department at Portland State University in Oregon.
95- Future Screens are Mostly Blue
Nov 21, 2013 • 27 min
We have seen the future, and the future is mostly blue. Or, put another way: in our representations of the future in science fiction movies, blue seems to be the dominant color of our interfaces with technology yet to come. … Continue reading →
94- Unbuilt
Nov 12, 2013 • 28 min
There is an allure in unbuilt structures: the utopian, futuristic transports, the impossibly tall skyscrapers, even the horrible highways, all capture our imagination with what could have been. Whether these never built structures are perceived as good…
93- Revolving Doors
Nov 6, 2013 • 20 min
The story goes like this: Theophilus Van Kannel hated chivalry. There was nothing he despised more than trying to walk in or out of a building, and locking horns with other men in a game of “oh you first, I … Continue reading →
92- All the Buildings
Oct 29, 2013 • 23 min
I love those moments when you’re walking in your neighborhood and suddenly nothing is familiar. In a good way. Sean Cole began seeing his neighborhood, actually the whole city of New York, with new eyes because of one artist who … Continue reading →
91x- Always Read the Plaque- Kickstarter Announcement
Oct 25, 2013 • 5 min
We’re taking the show weekly in 2014 with your help. Join us! In this mini-episode, we revisit John Marr’s story that started a tiny 99% Invisible movement: “Always Read the Plaque.”
Kickstart Season 4 of 99% Invisible- Weekly Episodes
Oct 23, 2013 • 2 min
99% Invisible started as a side project I made in my bedroom at night, and after two years of making the program, I turned to Kickstarter to see if I should keep it going. To my great surprise, the Season … Continue reading →
91- Wild Ones Live
Oct 14, 2013 • 35 min
We have one cardinal rule on 99% Invisible: No cardinals. Meaning, we deal with the built world, not the natural world. So, when I read Jon Mooallem’s brilliant book, Wild Ones: A Sometimes Dismaying, Weirdly Reassuring Story About Looking at … Continu…
90- Strowger and Purple Reign Redux
Oct 2, 2013 • 27 min
If you are an undertaker in 1878 Kansas City, and you learn that your competitor’s wife works as a telephone switchboard operator and has been diverting business calls meant for you to her husband, you have a few potential courses … Continue reading →
89- Bubble Houses
Sep 17, 2013 • 27 min
If you were a movie star in the market for a mansion in 1930s Los Angeles, there was a good chance you might call on Wallace Neff. Neff wasn’t just an architect–he was a starchitect. One of his most famous … Continue reading →
88- The Broadcast Clock
Sep 3, 2013 • 19 min
There’s a term that epitomizes what we radio producers aspire to create: the “driveway moment.” It’s when a story is so good that you literally can’t get out of your car. Inside of a driveway moment, time becomes elastic–you could … Continue reading →
87- I Heart NY, TM
Aug 21, 2013 • 22 min
By now, the story is well known. A man sits in the backseat of a cab, sketching on a notepad as night falls over a crumbling city. He scribbles the letter I. He draws a heart. And then an N, … Continue reading →
86- Reversal of Fortune
Aug 8, 2013 • 22 min
Chicago’s biggest design achievement probably isn’t one of its amazing skyscrapers, but the Chicago River, a waterway disguised as a remnant of the natural landscape. But it isn’t natural, not really. It’s hard to tell when you see the river,
85- Noble Effort
Jul 29, 2013 • 20 min
If you grew up watching Warner Brothers cartoons, you might remember seeing the name Chuck Jones in big letters in the opening credits. Chuck Jones directed cartoons like Looney Tunes from the 1930s until his death in 2002. He was … Continue reading →
84- Ode to Ladislav Sutnar plus Trading Places with Planet Money
Jul 15, 2013 • 33 min
An ode to an information designer who made life a little bit easier for millions and millions of people: Ladislav Sutnar, the man who put parentheses around area codes. Plus 99% Invisible and Planet Money team up and we talk … Continue reading →
83- Heyoon
Jul 2, 2013 • 30 min
Growing up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Alex Goldman was a misfit. Bored and disaffected and angry, he longed for a place to escape to. And then he found Heyoon. The only way to find out about Heyoon for someone to … Continue reading →
82- The Man of Tomorrow
Jun 20, 2013 • 15 min
I’m willing to concede from the get-go that I might be wrong about the entire premise of this story, but Superman has never really worked for me as a character. I preferred the more grounded Marvel Comic book characters, like … Continue reading →
81- Rebar and the Alvord Lake Bridge
Jun 7, 2013 • 14 min
There’s something about rebar that fascinates me. If nothing else because there are very few things that invoke a fear of being skewered. My preoccupation with metal reinforcement bars dovetails nicely with a structure in San Francisco I’ve kind of … C…
80- An Architect’s Code
May 28, 2013 • 20 min
Lawyers have an ethics code. Journalists have an ethics code. Architects do, too. According to Ethical Standard 1.4 of the American Institute of Architects (AIA): “Members should uphold human rights in all their professional endeavors.
79- The Symphony of Sirens plus Soviet Design
May 8, 2013 • 26 min
For the ancient Greeks, sirens were mythical creatures who sang out to passing sailors from rocks in the sea. Their music was so beautiful, it was said, that the sailors were powerless against it–they would turn their ships towards these … Continue rea…
78- No Armed Bandit
Apr 29, 2013 • 21 min
Americans have always had an uneasy relationship with gambling. To circumvent anti-gambling laws in the US, early slot machines masqueraded as vending machines. They gave out chewing gum as prizes, and those prizes could be redeemed for cash.
77- Game Changer
Apr 15, 2013 • 15 min
Regardless of how you feel about basketball, you’ve got to appreciate the way it can bring groups of strangers together to share moments of pure adulation and collective defeat. That moment when time is running out, the team is down … Continue reading →
76- The Modern Moloch
Apr 3, 2013 • 26 min
On the streets of early 20th Century America, nothing moved faster than 10 miles per hour. Responsible parents would tell their children, “Go outside, and play in the streets. All day.” And then the automobile happened.
99% Invisible-75- Secret Staircases
Mar 20, 2013 • 14 min
Wherever there is sufficient demand to move between two points of differing elevation, there are stairs. In some hilly neighborhoods of California–if you know where to look–you’ll find public, outdoor staircases.
99% Invisible-74- Hand Painted Signs
Mar 8, 2013 • 15 min
There was a time when every street sign, every billboard, and every window display was made by a sign artist with a paint kit and an arsenal of squirrel- or camel-hair brushes. Some lived an itinerant lifestyle, traveling from town … Continue reading →
99% Invisible-73- The Zanzibar and Other Building Poems
Feb 18, 2013 • 14 min
There comes a time in the life of a modern city where it begins to grow up–literally. Santiago, the capital of Chile, has been going through a tremendous growth spurt since its economic boom of the mid 1990s. It happened … Continue reading →
99% Invisible-72- New Old Town
Feb 5, 2013 • 23 min
Like many cities in Central Europe, Warsaw is made up largely of grey, ugly, communist block-style architecture. Except for one part: The Old Town. Walking through this historic district, it’s just like any other quaint European city.
99% Invisible-71- In and Out of LOVE
Jan 23, 2013 • 19 min
Though its officially name is JFK Plaza, the open space near Philadelphia’s City Hall is more commonly known as LOVE Park. With its sleek granite benches, geometric raised planter beds, and long expanses of pavement,
99% Invisible-70- The Great Red Car Conspiracy
Jan 11, 2013 • 16 min
When Eric Molinsky lived in Los Angeles, he kept hearing this story about a bygone transportation system called the Red Car. The Red Car, he was told, had been this amazing network of streetcars that connected the city–until a car … Continue reading →
99% Invisible-69- The Brief and Tumultuous Life of the New UC Logo
Dec 31, 2012 • 27 min
If you’re not from California, or missed this bit of news, the University of California has a new logo. Or rather had a new logo. To be more precise they had a new “visual identity system,” which is the kind … Continue reading →
99% Invisible-68- Built for Speed
Dec 12, 2012 • 15 min
I want you to conjure an image in your mind of the white stripes that divide the lanes of traffic going the same direction on a major highway. How long are the stripes and the spaces between them? You can … Continue reading →
99% Invisible-67- Broken Window
Nov 29, 2012 • 14 min
When Melissa Lee was growing up in Hastings-on-Hudson, a small town in upstate New York, there were only so many fun things to do. One was buying geodes and smashing them apart with a hammer. (You know geodes, right? Those … Continue reading →
99% Invisible-66- Kowloon Walled City
Nov 19, 2012 • 18 min
Kowloon Walled City was the densest place in the world, ever. By its peak in the 1990s, the 6.5 acre Kowloon Walled City was home to at least 33,000 people (with estimates of up to 50,000). That’s a population density … Continue reading →
99% Invisible-65- Razzle Dazzle
Nov 5, 2012 • 15 min
When most people think of camouflage they think of blending in with the environment, but camouflage can also take the opposite approach. It has long been hypothesized that stripes on zebras make it difficult for a predator to distinguish one … Continue…
99% Invisible-64- Derelict Dome
Oct 25, 2012 • 17 min
In the Cape Cod town of Woods Hole, buildings are not usually dome-shaped. Producer Katie Klocksin was pretty surprised when she came across one. Katie started asking around about the dome. She found it was built by the late Buckminster … Continue rea…
99% Invisible-63- The Political Stage
Oct 12, 2012 • 17 min
On this special edition of 99% Invisible, we joined forces with Andrea Seabrook of DecodeDC to investigate all the thought that goes into the most miniscule details of a political campaign. Andrea was the star of episode #48 of 99% … Continue reading →
99% Invisible-62- Q2
Oct 2, 2012 • 17 min
Benjamen Walker had a theory that priority queues are changing the American experience of waiting in line. So he visited amusement parks, highways, and community colleges to find out how these priority queues work and who is using them.
99% Invisible-61- A Series of Tubes
Sep 20, 2012 • 19 min
Pneumatic (adj.): of, or pertaining to, air, gases, or wind. In the world before telephone, radio, and email, the tasks of transmitting information and moving material objects were essentially the same challenge.
99% Invisible-60b- BackStory- Heyward Shepherd Memorial
Sep 10, 2012 • 15 min
I only recently started listening to BackStory with the American History Guys, but it’s already earned a top spot in my crowded weekly rotation. With great stories and lively discussion, the “History Guys” connect our history to the present day.
99% Invisible-60a- Two Storeys
Aug 22, 2012 • 11 min
While we’re gearing up for season 3, we present two pieces from two shows we love: First up, Language Bites from RTE Choice in Ireland. Language Bites is a series of 1-minute programs exploring the origins of popular phrases in … Continue reading →
99% Invisible-60- Names vs The Nothing
Aug 6, 2012 • 18 min
New Public Sites is an investigation into some of the invisible sites and overlooked features of our everyday public spaces. These are the liminal spaces within cities that are not traditionally framed as “public space” because, quite frankly,
99% Invisible-59- Some Other Sign that People Do Not Totally Regret Life
Jul 25, 2012 • 22 min
Sean Cole is a poet and he knows what you think of that. He is also a radio producer. One night, drunk and stumbling around the Hudson River with his friend Malissa O’Donnell, he discovered a monument — two of … Continue reading →
99% Invisible-58- Purple Reign
Jul 13, 2012 • 21 min
What’s the difference between what the public sees and what an architect sees when they look at a building? The hotel on the very prominent corner of Touhy and Kilbourn Avenues in Lincolnwood, Illinois used to be the town’s most … Continue reading →
Kickstarter Video for Season 3 of 99% Invisible
Jul 12, 2012 • 2 min
This is the Kickstarter video for funding the new season of 99% Invisible. If you enjoy the show and want to help keep it going, now is the time to go to our funding page and chip in a little. … Continue reading →
99% Invisible-57- What Gave You That Idea
Jun 28, 2012 • 16 min
Starlee Kine’s friend Noel works in advertising. In 2003, Noel was working in at an agency in Richmond, VA. Everyone wanted to work on flashy spots like Apple or Nike or Gatorade. Do you know what wasn’t flashy? Insurance. Which … Continue reading →
99% Invisible-56- Frozen Music
Jun 14, 2012 • 12 min
Goethe said, “Architecture is frozen music.” I like that. Of course that was before audio recording, so now, for the most part, music is frozen music. It’s only very recently in the history of music that we’ve been able to … Continue reading →
99% Invisible-55- The Best Beer in the World
May 31, 2012 • 15 min
If you’re a beer nerd, or have a friend who’s a beer nerd, you’ve heard of Belgian beers. Belgians take beer very seriously. Amongst the 200 Belgian breweries, there’s a very specific sub-type: Trappist beers.
99% Invisible-54- The Colour of Money
May 16, 2012 • 19 min
US paper currency is so ubiquitous that to really look at its graphic design with fresh eyes requires some deliberate and focused attention. So pull out a greenback from your wallet (or look at a picture one online) and just … Continue reading →
99% Invisible-53- The Xanadu Effect
May 1, 2012 • 13 min
What happens when we build big? Julia Barton remembers going to the top floor of Dallas’s then-new city hall when she was teenager. The building, designed by I.M. Pei, is a huge trapezoid jutting out over a wide plaza. Julia … Continue reading →
99% Invisible-52- Galloping Gertie
Apr 18, 2012 • 14 min
Even during the construction of the original Tacoma Narrows Bridge, the deck would go up and down by several feet with the slightest breeze. Construction workers on the span chewed on lemon wedges to stop their motion sickness.
99% Invisible-51- The Arsenal of Exclusion
Apr 3, 2012 • 13 min
“Cities exist to bring people together, but cities can also keep people apart” – Daniel D’Oca, Urban Planner, Interboro Partners. Cities are great. They have movement, activity and diversity. But go to any city and it’s pretty clear,
99% Invisible-50- DeafSpace
Mar 22, 2012 • 14 min
The acoustics of a building are a big concern for architects. But for designers at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC, it’s the absence of sound that defines the approach to architecture. Gallaudet is a university dedicated to educating the deaf … …
99% Invisible-49- Queue Theory and Design
Mar 8, 2012 • 12 min
In the US, it’s called a line. In Canada, it’s often referred to as a line-up. Pretty much everywhere else, it’s known as a queue. My friend Benjamen Walker is obsessed with queues. He keeps sending me YouTube clips of … Continue reading →
99% Invisible-48- The Bathtubs or the Boiler Room
Feb 26, 2012 • 13 min
“I have this habit of walking into any door that’s unlocked…You start poking around, going into doors…you find the coolest things…” -Andrea Seabrook, NPR Congressional Correspondent In the eight years Andrea Seabrook has been reporting on Congress,
99% Invisible-47- US Postal Service Stamps
Feb 10, 2012 • 14 min
Somebody might be able to do a great painting that’s 20 x 30 inches, but you take that down to 1 x 1.5 inches, and it’s a challenge to make it work. -Ethel Kessler, Art Director for USPS Stamp Services … Continue reading →
99% Invisible-46- Vulcanite Dentures
Jan 27, 2012 • 11 min
Before the 1850s, dentures were made out of very hard, very painful and very expensive material, like gold or ivory. They were a luxury item. The invention of Vulcanite hard rubber changed everything. It was moldable,
99% Invisible-45- Immersive Ideal
Jan 18, 2012 • 14 min
Beauty Pill is band I really like from Washington DC. They have released two EPs (The Cigarette Girl From the Future and You Are Right to be Afraid) and their last album, The Unsustainable Lifestyle, came out in 2004. In … Continue reading →
99% Invisible-44- The Pruitt-Igoe Myth
Jan 5, 2012 • 13 min
The Pruitt-Igoe housing project in St. Louis became most famous at the moment of its demise. The thirty-three high-rise towers built in the 1950’s were supposed to solve the impending population crisis in inner city St. Louis.
99% Invisible-43- Accidental Music of Imperfect Escalators
Dec 19, 2011 • 9 min
“There’s a secret jazz seeping from Washington’s aging Metro escalators – those anemic metal walkways that fill our transit system…they honk and bleat and squawk…why are you still wearing those earbuds?” -Chris Richards,
99% Invisible-42- Recognizably Anonymous
Dec 8, 2011 • 13 min
Anonymous is not group. It is not an organization. Rob Walker describes Anonymous as a “loosely affiliated and ever-changing band of individuals who… have been variously described as hackers, hacktivists, free-expression zealots,
99% Invisible-41- The Human-Human Interface
Dec 2, 2011 • 7 min
Paola Antonelli is the Senior Curator in the Department of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art. Her most recent blockbuster show, Talk to Me, explored the communication between people and objects: from chairs that talk to subway … Conti…
99% Invisible-40- Billy Possum
Nov 23, 2011 • 14 min
It’s totally unfair. Hydrox cookies came out four years before the introduction of Oreos, but Hydrox could never shake the image that it was a cheap knock-off, an also-ran. As a consumer product, it’s completely out of your hands if … Continue reading →
99% Invisible-39X- The Biography of 100,000 Square Feet
Nov 18, 2011 • 33 min
United Nations Plaza sits in the center of San Francisco. Most people consider it a complete failure as a public space. Its central feature, at the entrance of the plaza, is a unique fountain that was designed by Lawrence Halprin … Continue reading →
99% Invisible-39- Darth Vader Family Courthouse
Oct 28, 2011 • 10 min
It’s hard to imagine a place where more desperate and depressing drama unfolds on a daily basis than a family courthouse- custody battles, abuse, divorce- and if you were to design a place to reflect and amplify that misery, not … Continue reading →
99% Invisible-38- Sound of Sport
Oct 13, 2011 • 7 min
If Dennis Baxter and Bill Whiston are doing their job right, you probably don’t notice that they’re doing their job. But they are so good at doing their job, that you probably don’t even know that their job exists at … Continue reading →
99% Invisible-37- The Steering Wheel
Sep 29, 2011 • 9 min
If I asked you to close your eyes and mimic the action of using one of the simple human interfaces of everyday life, you could probably do it. Without having a button to push, you could close your eyes and … Continue reading →
99% Invisible-36- Super Bon Bonn
Sep 16, 2011 • 12 min
Cities are pretty robust organisms, they tend to survive even when put under tremendous stress and strain. Local industries rise and fall, people immigrate and emigrate, but most of these changes happen over decades.
99% Invisible-35- Elegy for WTC
Sep 1, 2011 • 8 min
I want to be careful not to overstate what it means for a building to die. A building’s worth is an infinitesimal fraction of the worth a person’s life. Even two buildings don’t even move the needle in comparison to … Continue reading →
99% Invisible-34- The Speed of Light for Building Pyramids
Aug 18, 2011 • 12 min
Last year, Steve Burrows CBE (Principle at the engineering consulting firm Arup) spent several weeks in Egypt studying the pyramids through the eyes of a modern day structural engineer. The result, which was presented in a documentary for the Discovery…
99% Invisible-33- A Cheer for Samuel Plimsoll
Aug 4, 2011 • 9 min
If you look at the outer hull of commercial ships, you might find a painted circle bisected with a long horizontal line. This marking is called the load line, or as I prefer, the Plimsoll line. This simple graphic design … Continue reading →
99% Invisible-32- Design for Airports
Jul 27, 2011 • 10 min
When I spoke with Allison Arieff about the design of airports, she said to me, if all airports simply played Brian Eno’s album Ambient 1: Music for Airports over the speakers, every airport would be better. I say this to … Continue reading →
99% Invisible-31- Feltron Annual Report
Jul 14, 2011 • 12 min
Nicholas Felton is an information designer. Since 2005, he has tabulated thousands upon thousands of tiny measurements in his life and designed stunning graphs and maps and created concise infographics that detail that year’s activities.
99% Invisible-30- The Blue Yarn
Jun 30, 2011 • 12 min
In 1998 Dr. Gary Kaplan, the CEO of Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle received some bad news about his hospital. It was losing money. So Dr. Kaplan started studying how other hospitals were being run to see if there … Continue reading →
99% Invisible-29- Cul de Sac
Jun 16, 2011 • 14 min
When people critique cul-de-sacs, a lot of the time, they’re actually critiquing the suburbs more generally. The cul-de-sac has become sort of like the mascot of the suburbs– like if suburbia had a flag, it would have a picture of … Continue reading →
99% Invisible-28- Movie Title Sequences
Jun 9, 2011 • 11 min
More and more I’m finding that the first 2-3 minutes of a movie are my favorite part of the film. My life is devoted to the beautiful expression of information, which is why film title sequences hold a special place … Continue reading →
99% Invisible-27- Bridge to the Sky
Jun 3, 2011 • 7 min
There are rules that dicate what you can build and how. Rules of physics and rules of men who sit on various bureaucratic boards and bodies. These rules dictated that if silk magnate John Noble Stearns wanted to build one … Continue reading →
99% Invisible-26- Chicago’s Jailhouse Skyscraper
May 20, 2011 • 9 min
The Metropolitan Correctional Center, or MCC, is a federal jail right in the middle of downtown Chicago. It’s a triangle-shaped skyscraper, 27 stories, with tall, super-narrow, irregularly-spaced windows up and down each wall.
99% Invisible-25- Unsung Icons of Soviet Design
May 12, 2011 • 10 min
There’s something that links most of the everyday objects presented in “Made in Russia: Unsung Icons of Soviet Design.” But it’s hard to tell exactly what that is just by looking at this collection of wobbly dolls, drinking glasses,
99% Invisible-24- The Capitol Columns
May 6, 2011 • 8 min
If you were present for any of the presidential inaugurations, from Andrew Jackson to Dwight D. Eisenhower, you saw the solemn oath of office taken between twenty-two smooth, sandstone columns at the East Portico of the U.S. Capitol Building.
99% Invisible-23- You Are Listening To + Radio Net
Apr 22, 2011 • 22 min
youarelistening.to appeared online on March 6, 2011 and I was hooked instantly. The combination of the police scanner and ambient music is an intriguing, and distinctly live, experience (unlike most of the time shifted audio I tend to consume).
99% Invisible-22- Free Speech Monument
Apr 15, 2011 • 10 min
In 1989, a group called the Berkeley Art Project decided to hold a national public art competition to create a monument that would commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Free Speech Movement, which began on the University of California Berkeley … Cont…
99% Invisible-21- BLDGBLOG: On Sound
Apr 1, 2011 • 7 min
Most sound design in architecture is centered around designing for silence. Buildings are trying to block out that constant stream noise from the street and insulate you from those jarring clangs of industry.
99% Invisible-20- Nikko Concrete Commando
Mar 25, 2011 • 9 min
In 2001, Delfin Vigil was walking the streets of San Francisco and ran across the name “Nikko” carved into the concrete sidewalk. After seeing Nikko once, Delfin began to see the name everywhere. One block after another, there he was … Continue reading →
99% Invisible-19X- RJDJ Reactive Music
Mar 21, 2011 • 11 min
This week, the radio audience heard episode #10, but for you web and podcast listeners, I have a story I did about a year and a half ago, about the reactive music app called RJDJ. I did this piece for … Continue reading →
99% Invisible-19- Liberation Squares plus NY Dick
Mar 10, 2011 • 13 min
In a recent piece from Urban Omnibus, Vishaan Chakrabarti (Professor at the Graduate School for Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University), wrote about how urban open spaces contribute to political change,
99% Invisible-18- Check Cashing Stores
Mar 3, 2011 • 7 min
A few years ago, journalist Douglas McGray learned that the largest chain of check cashing stores in Southern California, Nix Check Cashing, was being bought by the nation’s largest credit union, Kinecta. The credit union thought it had something to … …
99% Invisible-17- Concrete Furniture
Feb 25, 2011 • 9 min
The New City Hall, designed by Finnish architect Viljo Revell, was the first modern, concrete, civic building in Toronto. When it opened in 1965, it stood out very prominently in the traditional Victorian fabric of the city.
99% Invisible-16- A Designed Language
Feb 18, 2011 • 8 min
The idea is simple and quite beautiful: if we all shared a second, politically neutral language, people of all different nations and cultures could communicate freely and easily, and it would foster international understanding and peace.
99% Invisible-15- Sounds of the Artificial World
Feb 11, 2011 • 7 min
Without all the beeps and chimes, without sonic feedback, all of your modern conveniences would be very hard to use. If a device and its sounds are designed correctly, it creates a special “theater of the mind” that users completely … Continue reading →
99% Invisible-14- Periodic Table
Feb 4, 2011 • 8 min
Everyone knows it when they see it. The classic “castle with turrets” periodic table is a beautiful and concise icon that contains a great deal of amazing information, if you only know how to read it. And even if you … Continue reading →
99% Invisible-13x-Game Over (Snap Judgment)
Jan 7, 2011 • 13 min
99% Invisible Extra! The tape rolls as we witness the tearful end of a perfect online world. This is a piece I did for Snap Judgment, based on a story from Robert Ashley’s brilliant A Life Well Wasted internet radio … Continue reading →
99% Invisible-13- Maps
Dec 16, 2010 • 7 min
I’m sorry, but if you don’t love maps, I don’t think we can be friends anymore. Maps are amazing. They are art and story. A representation of where we are and where we wish we could be. They’ve always had … Continue reading →
99% Invisible-12- 99% Guilt Free
Dec 3, 2010 • 6 min
“Sustainable Design is a design philosophy that seeks to maximize the quality of the built environment, while minimizing or eliminating the negative impact to the natural environment.” -Jason F. McLennan, The Philosophy of Sustainable Design I like McL…
99% Invisible-11- 99% Undesigned
Nov 24, 2010 • 7 min
Almost everything in modern life is designed to waste energy. The whole system evolved on a false premise that petroleum is cheap and plentiful and will be that way forever. The awesome Lisa Margonelli, author of Oil on The Brain … Continue reading →
99% Invisible-10- 99% Sound and Feel
Nov 19, 2010 • 7 min
Chris Downey explains it like this, “Beethoven continued to write music, even some of his best music, after he lost his hearing…What’s more preposterous, composing music you can’t hear, or designing architecture you can’t see?
99% Invisible-09X-99% Doomed
Nov 13, 2010 • 14 min
99% Invisible Extra! NASA is figuring out how to take the next great leap into space. The difficulty is, if we leap to Mars, we might not make it back. This is a story I produced last year (Summer 2009) … Continue reading →
99% Invisible-09- 99% Private
Nov 5, 2010 • 6 min
Privately Owned Public Open Spaces, or POPOS, are these little gardens, terraces, plazas, and seating areas that are private property, but are mandated for public use. City planners require developers to add these little “parks” to their buildings to m…
99% Invisible-08- 99% Free Parking
Oct 29, 2010 • 7 min
It’s weird how much anxiety comes from parking in a city. Beyond the stress of looking for parking, you must contend with the frequently unreliable meters. The signage can be indecipherable. As a point of interaction with your municipality,
99% Invisible-07- 99% Alien
Oct 14, 2010 • 7 min
Humans need a few basic things to survive- air, water, food, heat, shelter- but just surviving isn’t really enough. We also need familiarity, a little comfort, interaction, a small place of our own. When it comes to designing space habitat … Continue r…
99% Invisible-06- 99% Symbolic
Oct 7, 2010 • 6 min
Before I moved to Chicago in 2005, I didn’t even know cities had their own flags. In Chicago, the city flag is everywhere. It’s incorporated into all different aspects of city life and the design elements are used on businesses, … Continue reading →
99% Invisible-05- 99% Forgotten
Oct 1, 2010 • 6 min
At the top of Mt. Olympus in San Francisco, on what was once thought to be the geographic center of the city, is a pedestal for a statue that isn’t there. There’s no marker. You can just make out the … Continue reading →
99% Invisible-04- 99% Details
Sep 24, 2010 • 7 min
It’s a stick with bristles poking out of it. It doesn’t even qualify as a simple machine, but the careful thought and design that went into the creation of the modern, angled bristle, fat handled toothbrush shows just how much … Continue reading →
99% Invisible-03- 99% Reality (only)
Sep 24, 2010 • 7 min
There’s not much that we can do about all the physical matter that’s been designed and built by someone else. It is the way it is. But with the advent of portable devices with GPS, a compass, and a network, … Continue reading →
99% Invisible-02- 99% 180
Sep 23, 2010 • 7 min
In the beginning, former AIA-SF president Henrik Bull and the Transamerica Pyramid did not get along. The building was an affront to late 1960’s modernist ideals. It was silly. It looked like a dunce cap. Its large scale had no … Continue reading →
99% Invisible-01- 99% Noise
Sep 23, 2010 • 7 min
This episode of 99% Invisible is all about acoustic design, the city soundscape, and how to make listening in shared spaces pleasant (or at the very least, possible). It features an interview with Dennis Paoletti from Shen Milsom & Wilke.