99% Invisible

99% Invisible

United States

Design is everywhere in our lives, perhaps most importantly in the places where we’ve just stopped noticing. 99% Invisible (99 Percent Invisible) is a weekly exploration of the process and power of design and architecture. From award winning producer Roman Mars, KALW in San Francisco, and Radiotopia from PRX. Learn more: http://99percentinvisible.org Proud member of PRX’s Radiotopia.

Episodes

256- Sounds Natural  

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 to the source of the sound, which can be difficult and dangerous. And so many of the subtle movement sounds — a chimpanzee rustling through leaves, or a hippo squelching in the muck, or a lizard fleeing snakes — don’t come from animals at all. They’re made by Foley artists. Sound recordists and Foley artists go to great lengths to give us accurate and satisfying sounds. But both know that nature documentaries are not reality. As much as people want to believe it’s all real, nature documentaries are still movies, and they need a little movie magic just like any other film. Emmett FitzGerald reports. Sounds Natural Don’t forget: Radiotopia Live!

255- The Architect of Hollywood  

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 concert hall. In the golden era of Hollywood, in the 1930s, 40s and 50s, the new movie industry titans who flocked to L.A. had an opportunity to construct whatever style houses they wanted. After all, Los Angeles had a lot of open space to develop, and no unifying architectural style. And there was one particular architect who could make any kind of building and make it well: Paul Revere Williams. Avery Trufelman reports. The Architect of Hollywood Live in LA with Helen Zaltzman 4/14, use code “savethearts” for special $20 tickets Vote for Roman as “Best Host” in the Webby Awards Don’t forget: Radiotopia Live, May 8- 12!

254- Containers  

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 giant, uniformly-sized metal boxes off the ships. People say the cranes are the inspiration for the AT-AT walkers in The Empire Strikes Back, but that’s not true; it’s just a good story to tell as you pass by on the bridge. The port was the driving economic force in Oakland for many decades. Not so much anymore. Those big containers have something to do with it. When people started shipping things in standardized containers all kinds of inefficiencies in global shipping that had existed for hundreds of years were eliminated and the world changed forever. This the backdrop for the story that Alexis Madrigal is telling in his new eight-part documentary podcast series on “global capitalism, trade, and big-ass ships.” It’s called “Containers.” We’re featuring episode #3 in the series. Live shows! Los Angeles with Helen Zaltzman April 14, Arts for LA West Coast Tour May 8-12 Radiotopia Live

253- Manzanar  

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 YMCA camp, but this was something different. During World War II the US government incarcerated Warren Furutani’s parents, along with over 110,000 other Japanese Americans, in ten different detention centers throughout the United States. When they talked about “camp” that’s what they meant. In 1969, Warren Furutani and his friend, Victor Shibata, went looking for the closest camp to Los Angeles, a place called Manzanar. Live shows! Los Angeles with Helen Zaltzman April 14, Arts for LA West Coast Tour May 8-12 Radiotopia Live

252- The Falling of the Lenins  

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 was of Vladimir Lenin – the communist leader who started the revolution that created the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Ukraine was once a part of the Soviet Union. The same protests that brought down that Lenin statue eventually brought about a new government in Ukraine, which sought to eliminate all physical reminders of communism and Russia. But it hasn’t been easy, logistically or politically, because removing these things erases history that is still important to some Ukrainians. Furthermore, communist symbols are very pervasive in the built environment – they can be found on buildings, bridges and other infrastructure. Ukraine’s current government, led by Petro Poroshenko, decided to make the removal of Lenin statues into state policy. Ukraine’s parliament passed a package of bills called “decommunization laws.” Local authorities had a year to get rid of their Lenin statues. If their town or streets had communist names, those had to be changed, too. The Falling of the Lenins Live shows! Los Angeles with Helen Zaltzman April 14, Arts for LA West Coast Tour May 8-12 Radiotopia Live

251- Negative Space: Logo Design with Michael Bierut  

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. Logo redesigns, in particular, attract a lot of hyperbolic vitriol. I was wondering what this felt like to a designer, so I talked to one of my favorites. Michael Bierut is an AIGA Medalist and partner at the international design consultancy Pentagram, where his work includes brand identity, logos, book design, and packaging. Michael says that for a very long time, no one understood what his job as a graphic designer really meant, but recently that’s changed. Negative Space: Logo Design with Michael Bierut Live shows! Los Angeles with Helen Zaltzman April 14, Arts for LA West Coast Tour May 8-12 Radiotopia Live

250- State (Sanctuary, Part 2)  

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? Listen to the previous episode.] In response to this mass migration, a network of churches across the country declared themselves “sanctuaries,” offering shelter to Central Americans who were threatened with deportation and in some cases helping to smuggle people across the border. Leaders and members of these sanctuary churches believed they had a religious imperative to help people fleeing persecution. The government, however, wasn’t swayed by the religious motivations of participating churches. In 1984, the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service), a predecessor to ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), launched a full-scale investigation into the sanctuary movement. State (Sanctuary, Part 2)

249- Church (Sanctuary, Part 1)  

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 movement based on the ancient religious concept of “sanctuary,” the idea that churches have a duty to shelter people fleeing persecution. There’s been a lot of talk about “sanctuary” in the news recently and the modern movement in the U.S can trace its roots back to Fife. Church (Sanctuary, Part 1)

248- Atom in the Garden of Eden  

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, governments and scientists hoped this powerful technology held promise for peaceful applications as well. As part of the “Atoms For Peace” efforts, experts would be mobilized to apply atomic science to the fields of energy, medicine, and agriculture. One of the products of these initiatives were the atomic gardens of the 1950s and 60s—experiments that used radioactive material to genetically alter plants into what they hoped would be better, stronger breeds. And the legacies of these largely forgotten experiments are still around today in the form of fruits, vegetables, and grains that can be found in grocery stores and markets the world over. Atom in the Garden of Eden

247- Usonia the Beautiful  

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. Central to that plan was a philosophy and associated building system he called Usonia. This is part 2/2 in Avery Trufelman’s Usonia series. Usonia the Beautiful Listen to part 1 here.

246- Usonia 1  

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 house. This modest home would go on to shape the way working- and middle-class Americans live to this day. And it all started with a journalist from Milwaukee. Usonia 1

245- The Eponymist  

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 came to be named after a specific person. In this double-feature episode, Helen Zaltzman of The Allusionist speaks with Roman Mars about his fixation with eponyms. The Eponymist

244- The Revolutionary Post  

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 under one flag, and in doing so, she believes the post office actually created the United States of America. The Revolutionary Post

243- Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle  

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. The officers approached her, and Love allegedly threatened them with a knife. They fired twelve times and killed her. The killing led the department to research non-lethal weapons to see if there was some alternative that would reduce the LAPD’s reliance on guns. Daryl Gates, the Police Chief at the time, told the L.A. Times, “What we need is that thing used in Buck Rogers… to zap’em, freeze’em, stop’em.” After several years of development, an engineer named Jack Cover invented a weapon to do just that, one he designed to be non-lethal. He named it after a science fiction novel from his childhood called “Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle.”

242- Mini-Stories: Volume 2  

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 anyway. Roman talks backwards flags, Katie appreciates an appreciation for Byker, Sharif finds paper towns, Kurt opens our eyes to Knox boxes, and Avery opens our eyes to the chart we all know, but know little about. Mini-Stories: Volume 2

241- Mini-Stories: Volume 1  

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. Roman talks concrete arrows, Sam squares Circleville, Kurt teaches us how to get out of a car, Emmett discovers the Big Zero, and Delaney listens for a little chirp. Mini-Stories: Volume 1 Leave a comment on Mini-Stories page if you have any suggestions for Volume 2.

240- Plat of Zion  

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,” for example, means three blocks south and 21 blocks east of Temple Square. But the most striking thing about Salt Lake’s grid is the scale. Blocks are 660 feet on each side. That means walking the length of two football fields from one intersection to the next. By comparison, nine Portland, Oregon city blocks can fit inside one Salt Lake block. Plat of Zion

239- Guano Island  

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 underwater mining. The preserve is nowhere near the mainland United States nor is it all in close range to Hawaii. Still, President Obama was able to protect this piece of ocean in the name of the United States. To understand how the U.S. has jurisdiction over these waters in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, one has to look back to the 19th Century when, for a brief period, the U.S. scoured the oceans looking for rock islands covered in guano. That is: seabird poop. Guano Mania

238- NBC Chimes  

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 100 have ended up being accepted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office — and NBC’s iconic chimes were the first. This story from the new podcast Twenty Thousand Hertz features the last person to play the NBC chimes on the NBC radio network, broadcaster Rick Greenhut, as well as radio historian John Schneider. Twenty Thousand Hertz is an audio program that tells “the stories behind the world’s most recognizable and interesting sounds.” NBC Chimes

237- Dollar Store Town  

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. A market in China, called the International Trade Market, or: the Futian market. Dollar Store Town

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