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

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

236- Reverb  

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. We can make churches sound like clubs and clubs sound like opera houses. This degree of acoustic control, however, is a relatively recent phenomenon. Up until the early 1900s, designers and engineers knew very little about the effects of architecture on sound. Architectural acoustics were pretty much a roll of the dice in any given project. Until Wallace Sabine. Reverb

235- Ten Letters for the President  

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 sometimes that person is Fiona Reeves, Director of Presidential Correspondence at the White House. She and a group of 45 staffers, 35 interns, and 300 rotating volunteers read thousands of letters sent to Barack Obama, who has specifically requested to receive ten letters to read every night. Ten Letters for the President A version of this piece originally aired on Slate’s Working podcast as part of a series on White House jobs produced by Jacob Brogan and Mickey Capper.

234- The Shift  

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, teams tried to to stop Shaquille O’Neil by immediately fouling him (the “hack-a-shaq” strategy); in soccer, opposing teams continuously foul the great Argentinean player, Leo Messi, before he can dribble through the defense. But in baseball, the solution for stopping the greatest hitter of all time was to actually redesign the game itself. And it started in the 1940s with Ted Williams. The solution was “The Shift.” 99% Invisible was a collaboration this week with FiveThirtyEight — the Data Journalism site owned by ESPN.

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!

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