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.


233- Space Trash, Space Treasure  

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 fragments of useless space junk. Some of these pieces were pulled into the atmosphere where they burned up but around 200 of them are still up and orbiting today. At the time, people were not all that concerned about a few bits of metal floating around in the vastness of space. But like the ocean and other frontiers, space isn’t endless as it first appears. Space Trash, Space Treasure THIS IS IT: SUPPORT RADIOTOPIA TODAY! DRIVE ENDS 10/28

232- McMansion Hell  

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 or interact with their environment. Kate Wagner, architecture critic and creator of McMansion Hell, is on a mission to illustrate just why these buildings are so terrible. McMansion Hell: The Devil is in the Details Support 99pi and Radiotopia today! Be part of the 5000 backer FreshBooks challenge: FreshBooks will donate $40,000 to Radiotopia if we get 5000 total new donations during this drive. FreshBooks makes intuitive and beautiful cloud accounting software for small businesses.

231- Half a House  

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 town. By the time it was over, more than 500 people were dead, and about 80% of the Constitución’s buildings were ruined. As part of the relief effort, an architecture firm called Elemental was hired to create a master plan for the city, which included new housing for people displaced in the disaster. But the structures that Elemental delivered were a radical and controversial approach toward housing. They gave people half a house. Support the Radiotopia annual drive today!

230- Project Cybersyn  

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, General Augusto Pinochet took power and ruled Chile as a dictator until 1990. The military regime dissolved the congress, took control of the media and went about dismantling the socialist and democratic institutions that Allende’s government had built. In the midst of this takeover, the military discovered a strange room in a nondescript office building in downtown Santiago. The room was hexagonal in shape with seven white fiberglass chairs arranged in an inward facing circle. This “operations room” (or: opsroom) was the physical interface for a complex system called Cybersyn.

124- Longbox  

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  

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 there’s bottom-up - where street photographers hunt down grassroots ways that people are wearing clothes, which then comes to influence popular fashion. But these two methods are for the relatively cutting-edge. For the mass market, for retailers, designers, and marketers working in major clothing chains, there’s a middle path to determine what’s “in.” And often times, it is through a company called WGSN. The Trend Forecast

228- Making Up Ground  

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 of land. The most extraordinary example of land reclamation and manufacture may be the Netherlands. As early as the 9th century A.D., the Dutch began building dykes and pumping systems to create new land in places that were actually below sea level. But the historic scale of land manufacture is minuscule compared to the rate at which it is taking place today. Making Up Ground Sponsors Squarespace Casper MailChimp

227- Public Works  

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. As Henry Petroski documents in The Road Taken: The History and Future of America's Infrastructure, physical infrastructure in the United States is in an ongoing state of crisis. Using roads as the example, Petroski talks through some of the challenges of getting our infrastructure back on track. Public Works

226- On Average  

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 "average." Todd Rose wants us to re-examine our concept of the average and find new ways to accommodate all the people who aren't average, which, it turns out, is everyone. On Average Sponsors Slack Automatic (use code "99PI" at checkout) MailChimp

225- Photo Credit  

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, creating functional things that could be mass-produced for the betterment of society. It was a nexus of creativity in the early 20th century. Many now-famous designers and artists who were in Europe during the 1920s and '30s spent time at the Bauhaus. The popularity and influence of the Bauhaus beyond Germany, however, owes a great deal to a lesser-known photographer: Lucia Moholy. Her photographs are some of the finest documents of the Bauhaus's architecture and its products, but when she lost control of her negatives during the war she was written out of the history. Photo Credit Special bonus appearance by The McElroy Brothers of My Brother, My Brother, and Me, using episode #316 of MBMBaM. Take the 99pi Survey

224- A Sea Worth its Salt  

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. The water is about twice as salty as the Pacific Ocean. The ground beneath the southern end of the sea is volcanic and water bubbles to the surface in muddy pools. The only fish that can live in Salton Sea are tilapia, but even they struggle to survive. This sea—this gurgling, sometimes stinky, accident of a sea—is actually in danger of drying up and disappearing. And you may be thinking: "good riddance! It doesn’t sound all that nice." But the Salton Sea needs us. And we need it. A Sea Worth its Salt

223- The Magic Bureaucrat  

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 paycheck, not a welfare check .... Today, we are ending welfare as we know it." Many of the key components implemented by Clinton can be traced back to a bureaucrat named Larry Townsend and a pilot program he operated in California called GAIN (Greater Avenues for Independence). Head of the welfare office in Riverside County, Townsend focus on a singular mission: get people into jobs as fast as possible. Krissy Clark from Marketplace's The Uncertain Hour has the story. The Magic Bureaucrat and His Riverside Miracle Get P.O.S "Wearing a Bear" on iTunes and Soundcloud

222- Combat Hearing Loss  

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. But there’s a problem with earplugs on the battlefield. Soldiers won’t wear them. If they do wear them, they may miss other important (softer) noises happening around them. The result is lots of service members coming home from battle with tinnitus or hearing loss. In fact, for as long as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has reported such statistics, tinnitus and hearing loss have remained the number one and two most common injuries of service members. Mary Roach, author of Grunt, has the story. Combat Hearing Loss

221- America’s Last Top Model  

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 States, rendered to a 1/2000 horizontal scale, spanning more than 200 acres. It was so big that the only way to see all of it as once was from a four-story observation tower. Ryan Kailath paid it a visit. America's Last Top Model Snag one of the last 99pi Challenge Coins!

220- The Mind of an Architect  

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 (including scientists and mathematicians) as well as artistic creatives (including painters and writers). At the intersection, there was a hybrid type: architects were seen as representing both groups. The hope was that studying architects and their creative habits could yield lessons applicable across a variety of creative fields. The researchers recorded the conversations of some of the most prominent architects of the era. This is the first time these recordings have been heard publicly. The Mind of an Architect Sponsors Slack Casper MailChimp freddieand.co

219- Unpleasant Design  

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, indeed provide spaces to rest arms, but they also prevent people from lying down or sitting in anything but a prescribed position. This type of design strategy is sometimes classified as "hostile architecture," or simply: "unpleasant design." Gordan Savičić and Selena Savić, co-editors of the book Unpleasant Design, are quick to point out that unpleasant designs are not failed designs, but rather successful ones in the sense that they deter certain activities by design. Sponsors Sign up to win a "Beautiful Nerd" poster from Amy's Freshbooks MailChimp

218- Remembering Stonewall  

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 to protect them. But one night, in this place called the Stonewall Inn, when the police stormed in to continue their abuse, the clientele fought back. "Remembering Stonewall," produced by Dave Isay of Sound Portraits and StoryCorps, was was first broadcast in 1989, on the 20th anniversary of the uprising. It was the first documentary, in any medium, to explore what happened that night, and it weaves together the perspectives of survivors, historians, and people who were deeply affected by the events that night.

217- Home on Lagrange  

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, the group came to be known as the Club of Rome and it grew to include politicians, scientists, economists and business leaders from around the world. Together with a group of MIT researchers doing computer modeling, The Club of Rome concluded that sometime in the 21st century, earth would reach its carrying capacity—that resources would not keep up with population—and there would be a massive collapse of global society. In 1972, the Club of Rome published a book outlining their findings called The Limits to Growth. The book became a bestseller and was translated into more than two dozen languages. It had its critics and detractors, but overall The Limits to Growth was incredibly influential, shaping environmental politics and pop culture for years to come. There was a growing sense that limits would need to be put in place in order to regulate populations and economic growth. But in the midst of the debate, a physicist named Gerard (Gerry) O’Neill suggested a solution—one that would ask us to look beyond planet earth and into outer space. Home on Lagrange

216- The Blazer Experiment  

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. Cizanckas made a number of changes to improve the department’s image. One of the most ground-breaking and controversial was the new blazer-style uniform he implemented. The Blazer Experiment

215- H-Day  

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 undertaking, involving national infrastructural overhauls, extensive educational campaigns, and pop music.

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