In 1933, a group of architects boarded a ship and set sail from Marseille, France to Athens, Greece. On board were several of the world’s most famous modernist architects and artists, including Erno Goldfinger, Le Corbusier, Alvar Alto, and dozens of others. There was a silent film made of the voyage that shows the architects on the deck in short-sleeved white shirts and sunglasses. The cruise was the setting for the International Congress of Modern Architecture, commonly known by its French acronym, CIAM. Ville Radieuse plan by Le Corbusier The subject of this particular congress was city-planning. The members of CIAM thought that cities were too congested, noisy, polluted and chaotic. And they believed some of these problems could be solved by separating out the functions of a city into distinct zones for housing, working, recreation, and traffic. Zoning wasn’t a new idea, but the architects from CIAM wanted to take it farther. The living spaces would be in high-rise apartments so that the ground-level was open for recreation and collective spaces—live in the sky, play on the ground. Cars would even drive on elevated roads so that pedestrians could have the space below all to themselves. There would also […]
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.
Le Corbusier was a painter, writer, architect and planner, but he was also an adept promoter of novel designs and theories. So when he debuted his Maison Dom-Ino concept home, it boasted a light and elegant form, but was also cleverly named — its title referenced the look and modularity of gaming “dominoes” (with dots extruded to form columns) as well as “domus,” the Latin word for house. Maison Dom-Ino by Le Corbusier In this project, Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, better known as Le Corbusier (or simply: Corbu), synthesized prefabrication, flexibility and minimalism. The design featured thin reinforced concrete floors supported by slim concrete columns. He described his solution as “a juxtaposable system of construction according to an infinite number of combinations of plans” to allow for “the construction of the dividing walls at any point on the facade or the interior.” At a time when load-bearing walls and masonry construction were the norm, this was an unusual approach to structural engineering. It would go on to inform much of his life’s work. Corbu also had radical ideas when it came to architectural ornamentation, rejecting decorative traditions as outdated in the Machine Age. Critiquing the 1925 Exposition of Decorative Arts in Paris, […]
From New York to San Francisco, often in remote locations, the remains of a series of huge concrete Transcontinental Airway System arrows can be found. Here’s how to get to one of the rarest examples — a paired arrow set pointing in two different directions, each with a tail and a head jutting out from a shared center. But first: the backstory. Click to enlarge: rare Bay Area ‘double arrow’ configuration, images by Kurt Kohlstedt & Michelle Loeffler Installed in the 1920s alongside fifty-foot beacon towers, these arrows originally directed airmail planes across the United States. They became obsolete with advances in radar and radio communications, but, for a brief time, they guided night flights from coast to coast. The towers are largely gone, stripped for steel during wartime, but many arrows remain, including a particularly fascinating ‘double arrow’ configuration near Oakland, California. And it is open to the public. Getting to this Walnut Creek arrow located along Alcanes Ridge is not as easy as it looks — follow online map directions and a would-be visitor will wind up on the wrong side of a steep incline. Drive, bike or walk to the end of Bacon Way in Walnut Creek, […]
The Chase logo was introduced in 1961, when the Chase National Bank and the Bank of the Manhattan Company merged to form the Chase Manhattan Bank. At the time, few American corporations used abstract symbols for their identification. Seen as radical in that context, the Chase symbol has survived a number of subsequent mergers and has become one of the world’s most recognizable trademarks. Old Chase Manhattan logo (left) and redesign by Tom Geismar (right) Its graphic designer, Tom Geismar, had set out to create “something bold something would stand out … that could be reproduced in various materials [and] that could work at a small size.” It had to work in black-and-white as well, to be printed in newspapers. He came up with the octagonal shape still in use by JPMorgan Chase & Co today. Initially, not everyone at the bank loved the new logo, but within months, higher-ups who had once been skeptical were wearing it on ties and cuff links. “So it was a great lesson to us,” recalls Geismar, “because suddenly someone who couldn’t understand it as an abstract design now really accepted” it as a representation of their company. A founding partner of Chermayeff & […]
To a casual observer, the difference between a squircle and a rounded square can appear negligible and sound semantic. But Mark Stanton, a product and industrial designer, is attuned to the squircular shape’s potential. He says “once you know how to spot it on products, you’re likely to start seeing it (or more likely the lack of it) all around you.” Non-Apple versus Apple hardware, image via Mark Stanton A squircle is a mathematical intermediate between a square and a circle (and a portmanteau of the words ‘square’ and ‘circle’). One “secret” of Apple’s physical products, Stanton explains, “is that they avoid tangency (where a radius meets a line at a single point), and craft their surfaces with what’s called curvature continuity.” In side-by-side hardware shots, it is easy to see how the dynamic approach informs shapes and eliminates sharp transitions between flats and curves. Difference between a rounded rectangle and squircle, image via Mark Stanton The distinction is reflected in Apple’s software as well, where iOS icons have gone from being rounded rectangles (or: roundrects) to squircles. It doesn’t really make much of an on-screen difference, but it does bring hardware and software designs into alignment. In turn, this […]