A Daily History of Holes, Dots, Lines, Science, History, Math, the Unintentional Absurd & Nothing |1.6 million words, 7500 images, 4 million hits| Press & appearances in The Times, Le Figaro, MENSA, The Economist, The Guardian, Discovery News, Slate, Le Monde, Sci American Blogs, Le Point, and many other places... 4,200+ total posts
Squidward Tentacles once had a dream of the future--I mean, a dream with the future in it--in which everything in the sea was chrome plated, except of course for the water. His vision (which he liked at first for its shineyness and then hated soon afterwards for it shineyness) of the future may have involved a vision of the past as well as someone else's vision of the future. Anyway it is my mentality that pulls up Spongebob when looking through this fine 1937 pamphlet1 on architectural/design uses of stainless steel, where there was so much shining and shimering matteness constructed using steel and chromium, which comes a little close to Squidward's chrome seabed. But not really. In any event, these are lovely creations, best served up in glorious black & white.
JF Ptak Science Books LLC Post #115 (from 2008, extended a little)
Buckminster Fuller had a lot of good ideas but I’m not so sure that this is one of them. I don’t have much doubt that versions of domed cities will exist in the not-dim future, though I do have doubts that they would be constructed to preserve the bones of antiquated ideas. It seems logical to me that the retrofit of untold millions of cubic feet of city life just couldn’t make sense, even if the square footage was in Manhattan.
Domed cities pop up here and there in speculative/science fiction in the 1960's (though there is a far-deep reference to one from the 1860's, though that one is under water), and there are many that are sprinkled like seasoning here and there in more modern formats, as with Stephen King's Under the Dome made into a slappingly-silly tv show of the same name and The Simpson's movie that Borrows Very Heavily from King. There are others to be sure, though I am more interested in miniature domed underground cities or Lego-made Dyson sphere within a Domed Galaxy.
Fuller’s idea (working with Shoji Sadao) is multiple orders of magnitude removed from the original idea of the arcade (like the passage Choiseul, located in the second arrondissement of Paris), envisioning the construction of a dome to encapsulate NYC from the East River to the Hudson along 42nd St, and from 64th to 22nd St: that is two miles in diameter and, plus at least a half-mile high (or about 2.5 Empire State Buildings pile one on top of the other at zenith sector). I’m not so sure how this would be built, or how things would be heated or (especially) cooled, or what the construction material was for the skin of the dome, or how people get in and out, or how you deal with heating and cooling, or how any noxious chemicals are expelled—but Mr. Fuller thought that the savings alone from snow removal from NYC streets would pay for the dome in ten years. (That would maybe work out--the snow-removal analogy--if someone had asked Mr. Fuller exactly how much snow he was talking about...)
Mr. Fuller also thought that the dome would protect the city (or this part f the city) from radiation fallout. That could be true, assuming that of all the hundreds of nuclear warheads that the Soviets would’ve launched against NYC alone none of them would’ve found their target, except perhaps for the Ridgways or Staten Island, where the shock wave or winds produced by ensuing firestorms would not have disturbed the dome. Of course if a warhead actually came close—or actually hit—the dome, the protection from radiation would be moot.
Source: Buckminster Fuller in Think magazine, vol 34, Jan/Feb 1968. AND of course the lovely work by Alison and Sky Michele Stone, Unbuilt America, McGraw Hill, 1976, pg. 99.
JF Ptak Science Books (Archive Post 1303, expanded)
“There’s nothing so perfect as imperfection.”–Somebody.
“The great unconquerables in the geography of human thoughts and ideas are the bad ones.”–Nobody.
[The captions for the images in this pamphlet are mostly facetious--the author/s were conservationists of sorts, interested in the landscape and visual culture of their state. They tried to make their case in some instances with sarcasm.]
Bad ideas don’t so much go away as they get recycled. They can be replaced by good ideas or bad, but the ”original” bad ideas seem to linger on and on. They are perhaps the indomitable inheritance of society, real and imagined.
Bad human-produced landscapes are an outgrowth of bad ideas, calamities large and small that come and go, the old replaced by something new that is good or bad or indifferent. With the landscape, the original landscape itself--apart from the idea that brought it about--is generally lost forever once it has been replaced. There is no Bad Idea Spirit that brings it back whole again, unlike the generic Bad Idea, which can live on and on, unencumbered by history, like a Greek play or some deeper mythology.
Theoretically society is supposed to learn from recognized bad ideas, so as to not repeat them etc., which is one reason why we keep track of them, in the vain hope that someday someone somewhere in the history of our future will kill particular bad ideas off one by one.
In the meantime we can dwell on what we have, though with the removed bad idea landscape, it is more difficult. That’s why it is important every now and then to familiarize ourselves with them when the opportunity arises, which is just what happened with this innocuous-sounding pamphlet, The Roadsides of California, a Survey1 (1932) Its not like it’s Pandora’s box–we can open this one and just a few, limited baddies come out, and fall limply to the floor. But what we see is interesting, a slice of our memory of the horizon–a part of our “progress” that we’ve tried to excise–and what we can see now are the removed and forgotten things.
1. This is actually an interesting pamphlet, an early attempt at removing the quickly generated ugliness that was cluttering new roads for the explosion of automobile travelers. As quickly as cars were made in the new decade of the automobile, billboards and roadside attractions followed. This pamphlet identified this phenomenon as a problem.
There's just something very simple and calming in the arrangement of the colors in these photos--and of course something very different from what one comes to expect in interior design. This is so much so that I think it would be possible to take an entire two-day vacation in a house that is decorated in just this fashion. Your brain would be relieved of the expected and introduced to the soft exceptional with a color palette equivalent of an all-white-food carbo breakfast that one could slide under a bathroom door. I think you would take a seat with a good book, and then fall immediately to sleep--not from boredom, but from the unexpected luxury of color-unusualness and perhaps a little whiff of the grandparent's house, the colors surrounding you having the optical qualities of the heat from a good fire. If we were seeing movies of folks gathered around the radio and listening to the end-of-the-war stories in 1945 in a set like the images below, we wouldn't picture the black-and-whiteness to purge itself into this allotment of soft color.
The images come from an innocent-sounding pamphlet published by Pittsburgh Paints: Pittsburgh Color Dynamics for Offices, Hotels and Restaurants and published in Pug in 1945. The cover gives it all away, and then once inside you are immediately invited to the design equivalent of a happy version of Nemo in Slumberland. For example, a living room, begging for someone to sit in and enjoy a cup of coffee while wondering when Joe DiMaggio would be back in pinstripes, and where the smokes were, and what happened to all of the missing artwork:
Of course if you spilled coffee on the rug (the color of Ronald Reagan's shoes) no one would ever notice.
You could retire for the night after waking up from your color overdose/withdrawal here, a bedroom whdreams are dreamt and things are thunk, and sleep is the biggest thing made:
[The image cropping is at is appears in the original.]
This all just seems so terribly suave, so above distinction and yet below it. The "rediscovered" blue ("cascade blue") that I forced into the title is found here, in one of the pages of color swatches:
This is one of four images from the May 25, 1895 issue of Harper's Weekly, and they show eight different views of before-and-after photos of filthy city street cleaned up and maintained by the Civil War vet Colonel George E. Waring. Waring (1833-1898) was also an engineer and a sewer pioneer, and was responsible for instituting a real department of sanitation in New York City. To that end he hired some 2000 men and put them in white uniforms to perform their functions--the uniforms gave the workforce a dignity and also made the population at large aware that there was a serious and dedicated effort to clean the city--it was a brilliant success.
This story is told in the six pages (located below) from the great social observational/photo-documentarian Jacob Riis' The Battle with the Slum (1902) describing Col. Waring's efforts to clean the streets of Lower Manhattan. Riis is vicious with his treatment of the Tammany political machine for not undertaking any real effort to reduce the amount of street waste/filth, and heaped much praise on Waring, who he declared as the first to open the slums up to the light. That is just about right, and probably understates the case somewhat, as he was responsible through these efforts in saving the lives of thousands of people and improving the living condition for most of the city, in general.
Evidently the photos from Harper's are sometimes credited to Riis, though evidently it seems that the experts say he only used these images made by someone else for his 1902 book. No matter--Riis did much else.
There were two images that I came across tonight in the studio as I was chasing Pooches the Cat/Dog--they're not quite on the opposite ends of themselves on the compass rose, but they are certainly in the neighborhood. I like it though that they came to me by chance, one after the other. One is very, very flat; the other is very "full", and has a large sense of dimensionality. The first is a 1832 woodcut of a 1648 rendering of Ponterfract Castle. Although perspective had been discovered (or rediscovered at 250 years earlier, the image has a Medieval taste to it, as we see both two- and three-dimensional representations together in the same image. I think that most of that was done by design and the print was dual-purposed--first to show the plan of the castle and then secondly to show the fortifications and some buildings in elevation. The overall effect I think portrays more flatness than not.
The second perspective is something that I've always thought had a deep depth for a piece of paper. My copy is simply a loose engraving, bought years ago at Pageant Book Shop in Manhattan--a stray bit in a "sciences" bin or some such, and I've had it ever since. Again I'm not sure of its origin but my guess is that is is English from a popular science dictionary or geological text 1825-1850. It just has a great perspective--plus it also looks as though we've just surprised it, a little. It is a Megatherium ("giant/beast") and was discovered first in 1788 by Manuel Torres and then assembled in the next year by Juan Bautista Bru, who evidently made the first illustrations of it. An engraving of the magnificent mammal appeared in the second edition of Georges Cuvier’s Recherches sur les ossemens fossiles, (1812)which was a justifiably iconic image, though I like this little and odd-perspective one from above better.
This was about as high as one could be in a ground-based structure in Manhattan--at the top of one of the granite towers of the Brooklyn Bridge, 277' (plus whatever wooden structure has been built on the top of the bridge, plus the height of a person). The image is found in Scientific American for August 16, 1877, and shows a bit of the bridge which was still six years away from completion, with workers looking out and down at the rest of the city. It is an unusual perspective, looking south, and seemingly far higher than what must be Trinity Church (the present version completed in 1846)--Trinity's sp[ire was actually seven feet taller than the finished bridge (at 284'), though from this angle it is dwarfed by the new structure. There wouldn't be a building higher than 400' until the very early 20th century. In any event, I thought to share this view for its unexpected nature.
I've encountered a few items like this in the massive pamphlet collection I purchased years ago--works on building and design in Fascist Italy that happen to be very, well, "lonely". The few examples I've noticed have had a definite definite Rene Magritte qualities--mostly absent of people, spare human touches, and a sense of fear and foreboding. It is hard to imagine that a pamphlet like tonight's entry--La Paviemntazione delle Palestre (Gym Flooring/Pavement) could excite such a variety of observation and emotion, but it does. The cover pretty much confirms this--it is striking, and dark, and maybe even a little vengeful--and all they are talking about is equipping gym floors with linoleum:
John Russell Pope (1874-1937) was a "classical" Neo-classical architect whose designs had a profound impact on the way that people experience the U.S. past in Washington, D.C. He created the Jefferson Memorial, the National Gallery of Art, and the National Archives, buildings which have that particular beautiful geometry of Roman/Greek essence. The designs that Pope submitted for the Lincoln Memorial, however, are quite a different story. They were magnificent, and gigantic, and in some ways very appropriate given the enormous nature of Lincoln.
The plans were far too large--and unlike the other buildings, this one would have made Lincoln far more removed, and unreachable, than is worth the nature of the man. For example, in one of his proposals (just below) we see a Pantheon-like structure sitting at the top of stairs with probably 150 steps (if not more). It is true that there are a lot of steps at Henry Bacon's Lincoln Memorial today--58 to the pavement) but that seems just about right, as they give a little time for the statue of Lincoln to reverse-emerge at the top of the stairs. Doubling the number of steps would be bad; nearly tripling them would have been terrible.
I wrote earlier in this blog about a wonderful stadium-seating vision of New York City (here http://longstreet.typepad.com/thesciencebookstore/2016/02/history-of-the-future-of-massiveness-stadium-seating-skyscrapers-nyc-1938.html) produced by Con Ed for the 1939 World's Fair. What I didn't realize was that this was a drawing of what was to be a 5,000 square foot model of the buildings of Manhattan, all made to fit on a single block. The breakthrough for me came in a browse of the September 1938 issue of Popular Mechanics, where I saw a short article with a photo of NYC building models that looked very much like the jam-packed visionary cityscape of ConEd:
Here's one of the images I posted earlier:
It turns out that the first images that I posted were drawings for the models that were part of the Consolidated Edison "City of Light" pavilion at the fair, and which constituted the world's largest diorama. Here's an interesting photo showing the scale of the project:
[Source for the image directly above from Architecturalogy which hosts a number of other interesting photos, here: http://architecturalogy.com/new-york-diorama-the-city-of-light/]
While browsing a volume of the Scientific American (Scientific American Supplement #1453, November 7, 1903) I came across a picture of the Columbarium of the Villa Codini, Licinian Gardens, Rome, and then within a minute I came upon a similar scene just dozens of pages away--a striking likeness, though this time the sculpted openings were for the living. It showed a lecture being delivered to inmates of a criminal sanatorium, hearing about the evils of alcohol, each prisoner stored away in his own little box. "Columbarium" comes from the Latin word ("columba") for "dove-cote", and it is easy to see the similarity between the sepulchral images.
There is another image that I've saved but which has no reference for origin. It depicts prisoners in a European institution attending a Sunday service:
Imaginary New York City Landscapes from CON-ED, 1938
JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post
These lovely images are found in a long, shining and slightly darkroom-scented The City of Light, which was a pamphlet made for the Consolidated Edison exhibition at the New York City World's Fair of 1939. Con Ed I think just wanted to get the point across that they saw into the future and were getting ready for it, NYC being stuffed to the gills with buildings and each window stuffed and outlined in Con Ed-supplied electric light. The vision is vaguely threatening to me, though, the buildings are drawn in a very odd perspective giving the city a stadium-seating arrangement that is unsettling, like they're part of our robot-overlord future--someone or something must be living in those room filled with Con Ed light, though...
And here's the version of the map above with text removed--given that it looks as though it is a chromed-over Manhattan of some sort of future:
1935 was not a particularly good year for Austria. The country was fighting off the threat of Anschluss--the occupation of Austria by Nazi Germany--for several years, the cause hurt by the infamous assassination of the federal chancellor Englebert Dollfus in July 1934. When this pamphlet was printed in 1935, the threat to Austria from Germany was real and advanced. This publication, Luftschutz durch Selbstschutz ("Self Protection by Anti-Aircraft Defense" or so) addressed part of this issue. It sounds more militarily-based than it is; the story though is that the pamphlet was intended as a sort of civilian defense piece, for example, asking people to join an air defense club ("hinein in dem Luftschutverein") for the protection of all ("Schutz fuer jedermann") and to be general aware and prepared for the possibility of air raids.
What attracted me from the outset was the cover design which at first doesn't actually appear to be a map, though it is--and an effective one at that. In the middle of the circle is a red Austria with a white bar; on top of that, in yellow, is a bomb in a triangle; and surrounding Austria in a blue circle are the possible approaching/attacking/threatening air forces of its neighbors. Inside the pamphlet is another, more detailed map (below) showing the disposition of opposing air forces. It is interesting to note here that Germany is shown as having zero aircraft as dictated by the Treaty of Versailles, though it was in February of this year (1935) that the Luftwaffe was organized thus disbanding part of the treaty--at this point in 1935 the threat from Germany was not presently from the air.
The pamphlet runs 64 pages and contains information for Austrians in preparing for aerial assault, in general: what to do when the bombs fall, how to prepare, what sort of supplies are needed to survive a sustained attack, and the like--plus ads for gas masks, survival goods, and such.
In the end, Germany did not bomb Austria--it disappeared as part of the Reich in March 1938 as a result of intimidation, embargo, political subterfuge, and finally the threat of war.
For many years the steeple of Trinity Church was the tallest object in Manhattan, but by 1907 when the city was entrenched or engulfed in a skyscraper building adventure the future of massiveness and of height knew no bounds, especially when the limits of those boundaries were attainable. And so this enormous structure grew around the church, with room-enough-for-steeple, built among the clouds. It turns out that the 284' spire was the tallest thing in Manhattan until 1890, when the World Building was completed (17 years before the publication of this engraving) raising the new highest heights ceiling to 348'. If you iterated the scale of Trinity (below) to the rest of the imaginary building, the new structure would be about 750' tall--the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower would come close to that in another two years (and be the tallest building in the world until 1913), so the building shown below would have been probably the world's largest in 1907, and easily the most massive.
[Source: Puck magazine, March 6, 1907, wood engraving by Albert Levering]
This reminds me somewhat of an earlier vision of an engulfed Trinity--Thomas Nast's future Manhattan skyline of 1881 for Harpers Weekly, where the church is visible still but crowded out almost entirely by enormous structures which were still/only decades away:
[Source: an earlier post on this blog http://longstreet.typepad.com/thesciencebookstore/2009/12/the-history-of-the-future-of-skyscrapers-thomas-nast-1881.html]
[Source: Scientific American Supplement #842, February 22, 1892]
Browsing through the Columbian year of 1892 in the Scientific American Supplement I came across this interesting social-architectural cross section and story of poor relief (for men) in Paris. It was seen as a great of comfort for men who had none, and model for how men of no means could be accommodated and assisted. The poor refuge at Quai Valmy would be the nighttime home of 200 men for three consecutive nights every two months. They were provided with a bed, clean bedclothing while their own clothing was disinfected and washed, dinner, and a breakfast, and then sent again on their way.
The description of the experience follows (the bold numbers refer to the numbers in the cutaway view):