99 invisible

The Factories That Churn Out America's Most Iconic Trophies

There’s a little trophy shop called Aardvark Laser Engraving down the street from our office in Oakland. It’s small but bustling, and its windows are stuffed to the brim with awards made of all kinds of materials and in any shape you can imagine: chalices, orbs, golfers, gavels, apples and plaques. Plenty of plaques. They are engraved to award the Club DJ of the Year, the newest member of a local Freemason branch, one mysterious trophy just says “Rifle Expert”, and there are plenty of heartfelt engravings to spouses, family members and retiring co-workers.


The Problem With The Chair

“A Chair is a difficult object. A skyscraper is almost easier.” — Mies van der Rohe. Van der Rohe, as with Eames, Gehry, Hadid, Libeskind, Corbusier, and Breuer: if they have designed a big building, chances are they have designed a thing on which to sit.


Why We Still Haven't Killed Off The High Heel

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 it has somehow has persisted for centuries.


The City Pipes And Stairways That Get Left Behind And Lead To Nowhere

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 have doors that open into a limb-breaking drop, segments of fences that anyone can walk around, and pipes that carry nothing at all.


The Secret Ways Airports Tell Us Where To Go

As humans have developed cities and built environments, we have also needed to develop ways to find our way through them. Signage goes back at least as far as the Roman Empire where they constructed “milestones” along their roadways.


The Weird, Eerie World Of China's Knockoff Cities

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.


The Secret History Of Emergency Exits

When designing a commercial structure, there is one safety component that must be designed right into the building from the start: egress.


The Secret Solid Marble Bathtubs In The US Senate's Boiler Room

In 1869, the bathtubs in the basement of the US Capitol building looked something like the painting below.


How A Simple Design Error Could Have Toppled A NYC Skyscraper

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 angled top.


The Untold History Of Where Barcodes Come From

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 the checkout people would look at him like, “You mean there was a time when we didn’t have barcodes?”