Tuesday 27 October 2015

Reinventions, Inventions, Disinventions 8

Say goodbye to wobbly tables

city squares with central gardens
grid plans for cities

round windows

moon gate
(circular door) between rooms

French-style house or flat layout:
rooms that open off each other with a big glass door (no space wasted on dark, cramped corridors)

obvious entrances "Any public building that has to tell you where the entrance is has failed immediately." (Tom Dyckhoff quoting manchesterconfidential.co.uk)

arbours and bowers in gardens (seats surrounded and shaded by shrubs)
cosy corners in sitting rooms – the same idea, but with a comfy sofa and curtains

nurses’ hostels, on the hospital site
hostels for people who can't afford flats of their own (They used to exist as private clubs.)
farm cottages, estate cottages, factory towns (Want workers? Build them somewhere to live.)
houses right on the street (Thanks to quiet, clean electric cars they will become desirable again.)
little parades of shops (build them in – flats over shops, shops under flats)

stay-at-home mums
loos and cafés at tube stations

WI free cooking classes

staff canteens

canteens that cooked basic British food on the spot. They’ve been replaced by franchises that sell plastic-wrapped stale sandwiches and baguettes; or over-expensive, over-grand restaurants.

cows or sheep in parks to nosh the grass
Indian step wells
Grow Food, Not Lawns
Humphrey Repton
(to create picturesque gardens for the rich)
kitchen tables (rescue them from hipster cafes and put them back in kitchens)
dining cars on trains
blinds and curtains in trains
(They were really useful, even if they were made of orange nylon.)

threading and message numbers
for Facebook (like usenet in the 80s)

ergonomics (After all the fuss about repetitive strain injury, workers are now hunched over a tiny screen, a tinny keyboard and a slow, slow, slow trackpad.)

women’s magazines that are all recipes and patterns (cooking and craft really are back)

banquettes lining the walls of cafés

barefoot doctors BBC Breakfast says barbers, bookies, barmaids may pass on public-health messages. (They could put up posters saying Coughs and Sneezes Spread Diseases too.)

Dalcroze eurythmy (to replace Morris dancing)

the Italian passeggiata (On a warm night, everybody wanders the streets, buying stuff at the shops which stay open late.)

plate rails above your sink

Help pages and manuals. FAQs and forums are just not the same.

In the days of tape recording, playback/transcription machines rewound the tape slightly every time you pressed the pedal, so that you knew you were in the right place and hadn’t missed anything. You can’t do that with mp3s. But why not?

In Japan’s ubiquitous konbini, or convenience stores, you can pay your gas bill, buy concert tickets and have your suitcase sent ahead to the airport while stocking up on everything from bananas and batteries to pink Pepsi. (Times Dec 2014)

What to do with beautiful old brooches you never wear (because it’s hard to pin them on today’s stretchy clothes – they’re designed for layers of tailoring, or a corset)? Pin one onto a wide velvet ribbon and wear it as a choker.
If Milton Keynes’ experimental houses wouldn’t look out of place today, why not just build copies? Weren’t they intended to be templates?


Anything designed by men for men: microphones (the power pack clips onto your trousers at the back. Toilets: we need twice as many as you do. CDs: they’re JUST too big for our hands. Aircon: you like a colder temperature, and you want to be able to keep your jackets on; we freeze. Unexpected item in bagging area: I need to put my handbag down somewhere while I get my money out. Ringtones: I need to be able to hear my phone which is in my handbag in another room, not in my jacket pocket because I’m not wearing a jacket, so I can’t feel it vibrate. And by the time I answer it, it’s gone to voicemail. (Oh, and take the tax off tampons.)


nap pods have been introduced at the Uni of Michigan library

badges reading I’M PREGNANT AND I NEED TO SIT DOWN are available (This is the best – most of the others are either twee or crude. Sometimes I wish I was French.)

Someone’s invented a slipper with a clip-on rubber sole.

Rivers are being returned to their original meanders after 19th century straightening, to fight floods.

There’s a charity turning Victorian drinking fountains – back into drinking fountains. (We could even build modern versions.)

They're going to abandon London's sealed-bus experiment and put opening windows in the New Routemasters. Like everyone told them to, including the designer. (Hugh Pearman)

Gordon Cullen was right: what the South Bank needed was bustle and awnings. #Better64YearsLateThanNever (Barnabas Calder ‏@BrutalConcrete) (I remember reading in the 80s that 60s shopping precincts needed market stalls. For a long time, all they got was Victorian “style” lamp posts.)

sons, as well as daughters, of the great and good to be invited to the Queen’s Garden Parties – oh, they are! When did that happen? Between 19 and 26, unmarried.

volunteer gleaners to pick crops not pretty enough for supermarket, and give to poor

glass-domed railway carriages on scenic routes (on Indian Railways)

Royal Mail to deliver parcels on Sundays, parcel offices to open on Sunday afternoons.

turn redundant phone boxes into solar powered phone-charging stations and cash machines

apprenticeships (Moves to revive them were around for 40 years, but apparently they're being misused, and apprentices are being made to sweep floors and make tea without being taught anything.)

Moats are being dug to protect buildings against flash floods.

Liverpool architects notice that people use front gardens for parking cars and storing bins – so they build new houses with a parking space and bin shed out front.

pressure group for single people
tax on empty homes
lipstick that matches an orange face

double-sided curtains
self-cleaning floor/pavements

fizzy drinks with half the sugar
spider-legged all-terrain “wheel” chairs
a “no work without pay” act
that fit energy saving bulbs

sprinkler drones to clean pavements (combined with industrial quality Roombas)

sun reflectors (they reflect light into your room) – as good as enlarging windows, says ad. (If the windows had been large enough in the first place... And why not enlarge the windows?)

subtitles for radio (and pictures) And if you had a picture/radio channel you could have a real-time signer for the deaf as well.

pod capsule dwellings and studio flats designed by the people who design motorhomes – stop wasting space on useless halls, or full-size kitchens a single person doesn't need. (Thanks to Don Constance.)

hose down
the West End every night
pave all “paths of desire”

Tell closed groups about each other. So you think you have a monopoly on the truth and that everybody hates you? Meet Fred – you have a lot in common.

Oblige the staff and students of universities in the Southern States of America to have dinner together once a week, at circular tables. You must sit next to someone you’ve never met before. Have a speaker, or a discussion topic, or an activity – or conversation cards!

Open Buckingham Palace to the public year round to pay for its restoration.

Why has nobody yet invented GPS chips for children's clothes? (Sam Leith ‏@questingvole)

Turn redundant fireplaces into bookcases.

Let grass in graveyards grow to encourage wildflowers and wildlife.

We can put a man on the moon but we haven’t got a proofreading machine (that could at least compare two pieces of text).

Organise a mass trespass of first class carriages on trains.

Find a huge redundant church in London and lend it to the Russian Orthodox (who can’t build a cathedral to fit all their community because of some silly quarrel between different monasteries, or something).

tiny windows
window frames below a certain size
tiny type
giant books
circular beds
corner baths 

instant gambling machines
(and oboe practice)

large wine glasses
(At the same time, water the workers’ beer as in WWI, bring down alcohol content of wine, ban high-alcohol Buckfast, Special Brew etc.)

the acid used in acid attacks, and those stoves that “accidentally” burn brides to death. And dowries. Oh, and the caste system.

(Well done, Catalonia.)

wobbly tables, latte glasses that don’t fit the saucers, teaspoons that don’t reach the bottom of the glass, glasses with tiny handles

modernist cladding on Victorian buildings, pomo claddings on modernist buildings (except where it’s an improvement), 70s cladding on 30s buildings, faux brick cladding for your computer-generated eyesore (Now comes in "antique", with different coloured bricks. We are not fooled.)

Tesco coupons (Some just earn you more points when you buy Tesco’s finest something-or-other. You can use the points to earn more points.) A Tesco card should work like a Boots card, where the points are money.

They can put a man on the moon but we still send each other Xmas cards “from Brian and Sue”, with no surname, address or email.

With something like the "streets in the sky" concept, the aim was to keep the "solidarity of the street and face-to-face interaction", says Prof Michael Hebbert, professor of town planning at UCL. "It didn't work, but you can understand the underlying logic of it." BBC online (They were designed to be wide enough for milk floats.)

More here, and links to the rest.

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