In the latest episode of 99% Invisible, Hard to Love a Brute, Roman Mars and Avery Trufelman take a look at the potted history of the "hulking concrete brutes" of post-war Europe, centring on the UK, and the US east coast. Exploring Ernö Goldfinger's Balfron and Trellick towers, while making a pitstop in Boston, MA, this twenty minute podcast examines why people "love to hate" Brutalism and why, "as harsh as it looks, concrete is an utterly optimistic building material."
“A Chair is a difficult object. A skyscraper is almost easier.” – Mies van der Rohe
In his latest 99% Invisible podcast, Roman Mars takes listeners to the edge of their seats (literally), as he tackles one of design’s unique challenges: the chair. From Van der Rohe to Gehry, Hadid, Libeskind and Corbusier, “if they’ve designed a big building, chances are they’ve designed a thing on which to sit,” begins Mars. Yet the complexity of chair design comes from the fact that a chair “disappears when in use...Chairs need to look fantastic when empty, and remain invisible (and comfortable) while in use,” states Mars. And with numerous recent studies showing the negative impacts of sitting too much, innovative chair design is now more important than ever.
Listen to the full podcast and check out some well-known chairs designed by architects after the break.
In the latest episode of his 99% Invisible podcast, Roman Mars digs into the work of lesser-known architect Tausendsassa Friedensreich Regentag Dunkelbunt Hundertwasser. Often cited for his colorful and curvilinear forms, his name translates to “Multi-Talented Peace-Filled Rainy Day Dark-Colored Hundred Waters.” In everything from his name to his unusual ideas put forth in manifestos, it is immediately evident that Hundertwasser was no ordinary architect. Listen to the podcast and check out some of Hundertwasser’s works after the break.
In the latest episode of his 99% Invisible podcast, Roman Mars bravely takes on a very sensitive topic: the design of prisons which contain execution chambers or house prisoners in solitary confinement. More specifically, the podcast discusses whether architects have a moral duty to decline these commissions and whether, as a profession, architecture should have a code of ethics which prevents registered architects from participating in such designs.
He compares architecture to the medical profession, where the American Medical Association imposes an ethical code on its members which all but forbids them from taking part in execution by lethal injection, based on medicine's general aim of preservation, rather than destruction of life. The American Institute of Architect's ethical code is both generic and meager in comparison: “Members should uphold human rights in all their professional endeavors.”
Among the extensive discussion of Feilden Clegg Bradley's scheme to redesign the Southbank Centre in London, one issue which has sometimes been ignored by the architectural media has been the proposal to relocate the skate park in the under-croft of the Queen Elizabeth Hall to a space beneath the nearby Hungerford bridge.
Unsurprisingly, this decision has sparked a petition which has collected nearly 40,000 signatures to save one of the UK's most famous skating hotspots. We’ve talked about how skaters can teach architects about understanding space before; however, in this instance I would like to examine how skaters as a (sub)cultural entity interact with the city, and how the city can cater to their needs. Though many architects are already in favor of accepting skaters, I hope to explore why the wider community tends to see skating as a problem to be solved, and what this can reveal about the proposal at the Southbank Centre.
Read on to find out more about the peculiar way skaters experience cities
We here at ArchDaily are big fans of Roman Mars' radio program 99% Invisible, and just had to share the latest show: "In and Out of Love." In it, Mars explores the changing face of Philadelphia's JFK Plaza (more commonly known as LOVE Park), why its Modernist characteristics made it perfect for skateboarding (although city officials certainly didn't feel that way), and why Le Corbusier truly is the patron saint of skateboarders.
Read more about this episode at 99% Invisible.
A few months ago, in a little Bavarian town, far far away, an architect, by the name of Peter Zumthor (you may have heard of him), was asked to design a gate. Zumthor designed a transcendent, transparent structure, and unveiled it to the town. Upon seeing the marvel, the townspeople said it looked like a pair of “Glass Underpants.” And there our story ends.
Your first instinct may be to blame those uncouth Bavarians. But, like Jody Brown did in an excellent blog post, you could also fault Zumthor. Zumthor couldn’t “sell” his gate, because, like many an architect, he speaks “architect,” not “human.”
Roman Mars, on the other hand, is fluent in both. A population geneticist who went to college at age 15, Mars jumped off the science boat to follow his passion: radio. His show on architecture and design, 99% invisible, has become a sleeper hit, earning over $170,000 in a record-breaking Kickstarter campaign.
Its popularity comes down to its story-driven approach, which opens your eyes to the 99% of our reality that goes un-noticed: a building’s unknown history, a detail’s un-obvious purpose, a place’s hidden treasures. Through its stories, 99% invisible lives in the place where the “human” and the “architect” meet.
And, be you architect or nay, it hooks you from the start.
For the second part of our new series “Disruptive Minds,” which features people who are challenging the norm in Architecture and Design, we wanted to find out how (and why) Mars – neither a designer nor an architect himself – got so good at talking about design. Read on to discover how Mars uses sound to express space; how his show makes him see everything differently, even a cardboard box; and what’s in store for 99% invisible after its massive Kickstarter success.
Your show is about architecture and design, and yet you are neither an architect nor a designer yourself. In fact, you started out as a scientist (a population geneticist, to be exact) before becoming a radio show producer. So why, since you showed no inclination towards design in your past, do you think it was design that “unlocked” 99% invisible?
Well, I wouldn’t say I had no inclination for design in my past. I’d thought that it was incongruous that I had this show, and then someone reminded me that I named my boy Mazlo, but instead of M-a-s-l-o-w, which is who he’s named after, I spelled it M-a-z-l-o, because typographically I liked it better. So, even though it was never my job, it was always my thing. So in a way it was the culmination of a lot of interests.
But, the main thing about design that really works for me, as a person who does stories on the radio, is that there’s a process involved, and when there’s a process, there’s a story. It’s also a great lens to view all of human activity, and human activity is exactly what we’re here to talk about on the radio – so it just kind of works. It’s both my interest in the minute details of fonts and type and stuff but also the grand scheme of things of what we try to do in radio.
99% Invisible is, by far, our favorite radio show on architecture and design. Although, granted, there aren’t that many. As Roman Mars, the show’s host and producer, admits: ”since these are disciplines usually appreciated through the eye, you might be thinking: well, that’s the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard. Fair enough. It turns out , I don’t need pictures to talk about design, I like making stories that tell us about who we are through the lens of the things we build.” Despite being an auditory medium (and a low-budget project, sponsored by KALW and AIA San Francisco, but produced in Mars’ garage), the show works because it gets to the heart of any design project: its story. Well, it turns out we’re not the only ones into Mars’ quirky approach (Aside: if you are too, stay tuned, we’ll be interviewing him for our Disruptive Minds series next week). After launching a modest Kickstarter campaign to help offset costs, a goal promptly smashed in 24 hours, Mars upped the ante. But not to a price tag. Rather, he wanted a show of support. 5,000 backers. The results for this little-show-that-could were nothing short of extraordinary. Read More about 99% Invisible’s Kickstarter Campaign, including the very cool design prizes that went with it, after the break…