UK Holocaust Museum competition

There’s been a recent competition for the architectural design of a UK Holocaust Memorial. It’s down to the short list.

On seeing the proposals, my first reaction was that nobody could top the concept by Anish Kapoor and Zaha Hadid Architects in the big photo at the top of the article on Design Boom. Its impact is immediate, visceral and brilliant.

But as you watch the short videos from each firm, you see the depth of thinking that went into these designs. And the blandest presentation is actually one of the coolest ideas. It’s absolutely worth checking them all out.

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The elegant design of human towers

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In Catalonia, Spain (where my wife’s family is from, coincidentally), they have a tradition of creating massive towers of human beings. They stand on each other’s shoulders and rise into the sky, like living sandcastles, only to collapse again from gravity and — I assume — exhaustion.

But photography has captured those elusive moments in some breathtaking images, showing off the careful symmetrical design and engineering of these temporary bio structures. Check it out.

 

Breathing buildings and scented handkerchiefs

Pneumatic tube array at Marshall Fields in Chicago.

Thanks to chuckmanchicagonostalgia.wordpress-dot-com

When Alaskan Senator Ted Stevens described modern communication systems as “a series of tubes” he was partly right. Just 100 years too late.

Before the invention of phones and fax machines, people in cities sent messages through a huge system of underground tubes filled with compressed air. You can see them today in large grocery stores, warehouse stores like Costco or hospitals where they’re still very much in use. But in the late 19th Century, every financial center on every continent had networks of steam-driven, air-powered tubes running throughout the city. And Paris’s was the largest and most intricate.

You’d write your note or letter and take it to your local tubiste, who would place it in a little metal canister that looked something like a miniature rocket ship. He’d insert the canister into a tube, and it would magically shoot off under the city streets. Then he’d push a button to signal the destination tubiste that a delivery was about to arrive. Within moments, your note or letter would land with a solid clunk miles away. Steampunk teleportation!

You might send a contract, a payment — or even a small object like a scented handkerchief to your lover across town. Très romantique!

Pneumatic tubes are the topic of the first show of the new season of 99% Invisible, one of the best audio experiences you can treat your ears to. Producer and host Roman Mars has managed to create a series of short journeys into an array of design- and architecture-related subjects that are fascinating and inspiring.

To learn more, check out the newest episode, plus cool videos and notes here — or subscribe in iTunes and listen all of these amazing shows. They’re like beautiful little objects delivered straight to your brain via pneumatic tube.

Teeny tiny house. Big idea.

One Square Meter HouseAs the world becomes more crowded and housing prices go back up, you have to wonder: how much space do we really need? Architect Van Bo Le-Mentzel has created a lovely little riff on that very idea by building the world’s smallest house.

Just one meter square, it’s a thought-provoking piece of design. Visually enticing, iconic and, yeah, pretty cramped. But having spent years himself as a refugee gives Le-Mentzel a different perspective on shelter. Take a look, leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you.

The power of design

Non-designers so often think of design as “decorating”. We designers strive to help them understand otherwise.

A wonderful example of how design can change lives appeared this morning in the L.A. Times. The big story is one about architecture and the challenges of designing for the homeless.

But there’s a smaller article, too.

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