Hoverboards are Here! Design Floats Above Metal Surfaces


[ By Steph in Conceptual & Futuristic & Technology. ]

hendo hoverboard main

Twenty-five years after ‘Back to the Future’ convinced an entire generation that we’d soon be able to zoom around the city on wheel-less floating skateboards, it looks like we might finally get our wish: a working hoverboard actually exists. The Hendo Hoverboard, currently blazing past its funding goals on Kickstarter, features four disc-shaped hover engines that create a magnetic field to levitate the board off the ground.

Hendo Hoverboard 4

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Naturally, there’s a catch: it only works on certain metallic surfaces. The creators are currently using non-ferromagnetic conductor sheet metal, but are working on new compounds that could increase performance while minimizing cost. The magnetic field created by the board levitates it an inch above the ground, offering an ultra-smooth ride that you just can’t get on wheels.

Hendo Hoverboard 3

“While one day we expect to have hoverboards that can effortlessly float over any medium (even water!), our current technology requires special types of surfaces,” says Hendo. “Therefore, we need a hoverpark to go with our boards, and have been busy designing a park befitting the awesomeness of our technology.”

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In addition to snagging a ‘Whitebox’ developer kit that enables you to play around with the technology yourself, Kickstarter rewards include reserving a brick-sized piece of the eventual Hoverpark with your name engraved onto it. The first 10 production Hendo Hoverboards have already been snagged at $10,000 each.

gizmodo hoverboard gif

After all the hoaxes, it’s understandable that people are skeptical – but Gizmodo got to actually give it a try, confirming that it works. Check it out in the video above, and get all the technical details at Kickstarter.

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Chinese President Calls for End to “Weird Architecture” Trend


[ By WebUrbanist in Architecture & Public & Institutional. ]

oma strange shaped building

After years of both importing famous designers and copying strange structures from abroad, Xi Jinping, the leader of China’s Communist Party has declared an end to offbeat construction projects going forward. Translated from a two-hour speech on the subject, he was recently quoted as saying: “No more weird architecture.” As yet, it remains unclear whether this is a statement of official policy direction or a tacit warning to developers to play it safe.

headquaters china penis shaped

Iconic buildings in the country have been coming under attack for quite some time, but the phallic look of the 500-foot headquarters of the Chinese state newspaper, the People’s Daily, sparked particular outrage, likely leading to his more vocal objection. Crasser comparisons aside, various spheres, donuts and other shaped deemed odd by the party leader have also been critiqued both domestically and on the international social web.

donut shaped structure

bridges river china

Other designs prompting problems for the government in the press include the CCTV headquarters in Beijing by Rem Koolhaas. Still, the theme of genitalia shape comparisons in paritcular, as in the case of the bridges (above) in Chongqing, have caused state media to start censoring search results related to some projects. They are also not fans of advertising their surreal replicas or ghost cities, also unusual byproducts of the recent construction boom.

cctv tower headquarters

cctv tower china

Speaking recently, Xi maintained that Fine art works should be like sunshine from the blue sky and the breeze in spring that will inspire minds, warm hearts, cultivate taste and clean up undesirable work styles.” Sadly for some, his response comes at a time when architecture in China is also drawing a great deal of positive attention, some copycat scandals aside.

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Banksy Not Arrested: How 1 Man’s Viral Hoax Duped Millions


[ By WebUrbanist in Art & Street Art & Graffiti. ]

fake banksy spoof photo

By now you may know that the world’s most famous street artist has indeed not been detained by police and his identity remains secret, but how much do you know about the prankster who perpetrated this scandalous subterfuge? For those who missed the start of this affair: a supposedly anonymous author claimed Banksy was unmasked and taken into custody by London police a few days ago during an elaborate sting operation – the story spread like wildfire despite being easy (for those so inclined) to debunk.

free banksy fake identityt

Paul Horner, the man behind the National Report piece, fingered himself as the real Banksy. In reality, he is a serial hoaxer with a history of viral exploits (often involving his own identity) of which this is simply the latest. In many ways, he is a subversive and comedic artist in his own right, arguably not so unlike Banksy after all, who has himself been known to dupe fans for fun if not profit. One could argue that Horner’s artistic stunts simply take other shapes, like writing, coming out of a background of activism and comedy. He is also not the only one who has cleverly used Banksy’s own stunts for creative monetary gain.

banksy not revealed image

His fake story, titled Graffiti Artist Banksy Arrested In London; Identity Revealed, has been shared 3.5 million times on Facebook so far, despite being published on a website well known for reporting fictional (and frequently  hilariously improbable) news. Another early clue: the article’s thin sourcing is relatively transparent: a link to the BBC takes you to their homepage, not an article.

i am banksy tshirts

Beyond that, the article is riddled with inaccuracies, including inconsistent locations and names as well as an image of an arrest that took place years prior in an unrelated incident. Indeed, the further you read, the more ludicrous the entire thing looks, and yet it fooled millions of believers, too gullible or perhaps simply too eager to finish the piece before sharing it. Superficially, in defense of those duped, it has all of the trappings of a real breaking news piece, including seemingly-relevant pictures and videos peppered throughout.

As for Horner, he “has been alternately described as a media troll, a liar and a hack, but he sees his work in a different light: one part activism, one part fan fiction, and many parts subversive, absurdist comedy.” His exploits include (but are not limited to) claiming he was cast in The Big Lebowski 2 (a film that is not even in production) and the mastermind behind a plan to charge Facebook users for pro accounts. Some would call his pranks and pretensions cruel, but in the midst of the controversy, one has to wonder: what does the real Banksy think of all of this? Does he see a kindred spirit or simply someone using his name to turn a profit?

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Set Sail on Rail: Quirky Vehicles Explore Abandoned Tracks


[ By Steph in Technology & Vehicles & Mods. ]

abandoned railroad vehicles 1

Before the abandoned railroad tracks of Paris officially disappear – which is bound to happen, as cities realize the potential for reclamation as High Line-style parks – some intrepid locals are taking the opportunity to explore. “Train Project” by French design studio HeHe is a series of fun, quirky handmade vehicles that traverse the city on a line that most local residents never get to experience firsthand.

abandoned railroad vehicles 3

The autonomous vehicles include ‘Metronome’ and ‘M-Blem,’ two transparent, cylindrical solar-powered electric vehicles, and the sailboat-inspired ‘Radeau de Sauvetage.’ HeHe also developed additional vehicles made for train tracks in other cities, like an individual transport system to transfer objects from one place to another in Slovakia, and a one-person platform making use of the urban tracks in Istanbul.

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HeHe calls The Train Project “an ongoing body of speculative investigation into the language and aesthetics of transport culture,” proposing personal rail travel as “a temporary, imaginative solution to question our industrialized conscience in relation to locomotion.”

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The collective invited members of the public to travel on the vehicles, “journeying through space and time to experience the past and future of local transportation networks.” The idea is to take a picturesque trip through areas of the city that can’t be seen from the roads, reclaiming spaces that have been left to deteriorate until they’re inevitably integrated back into the functional urban landscape.


A similar project (above) explored sections of the 5,500-plus miles of abandoned railroad tracks in Mexico with the retro-futuristic SEFT-1, modeled after a midcentury vision of a spaceship.

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Subtle Street Art: 27 Easy-to-Overlook Urban Enhancements


[ By Steph in Art & Street Art & Graffiti. ]

subtle street art little people 1

Just knowing that these tiny urban art installations exist – ranging from tiny figures dangling from ATM machines to utility boxes painted to look like miniature skyscrapers – might just inspire you to look at the city around you in a new, more observant way. That’s the hope of the artists behind these 27 subtle works of street art, which are often so small and simple that they’re typically overlooked.

Beautiful Trompe L’oeil Windows in Istanbul
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A tiny intriguing window framed by oversized shutters draws you in for a closer look, until you realize that what you’re seeing isn’t in three dimensions at all – it’s an expertly painted illusion on a wall. Spanish artist Pejac brightened up blank surfaces throughout Instanbul with a series entitled ‘Lock, Poster and Shutters,‘ representing the “perception and illusion of freedom.”

The Little People Project
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Only the most observant passersby take notice of the miniature figures living out their lives in the big city, meticulously created and arranged by a street artist calling himself ‘Slinkachu.’ The Little People Project is an ongoing series of incredibly small installations placing human figures in humorous contexts, interacting with real-world objects like trash, dead insects and sidewalk weeds. The figures are left there to be observed or ignored, with the vast majority of people never even realizing they’re there.

Miniature Cities Within Cities by EVOL
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What looks like an image of a gritty, run-down urban neighborhood is actually a collection of electric power boxes on an urban rooftop. Berlin-based artist EVOL creates cities within cities, typically transforming urban surfaces with stencils. Any rectangular or square object can become a miniature skyscraper. But when the artist has a little more time and privacy to work, the illusion is uncanny.

Yarn-Bombing Sidewalk Cracks
subtle street art yarn cracks

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‘Project Pothole’ by artist Juliana Santacruz Herrera called attention to potholes in the streets of Paris, softening these trouble spots with installations of yarn. Filling the cracks with color, Herrera engages in a passive sort of protest while simultaneously brightening the urban landscape.

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35 Years in 60 Seconds: Evolution of Modern Computer Desks


[ By WebUrbanist in Technology & Vintage & Retro. ]

evolution of the computer

Almost everything we once kept at our desks is now packed into our personal computers, but rarely is this phenomena so brilliantly illustrated as in the beautiful video below.

evolution computer desk

This decades-long transition from the tangible to the digital is shown by the Harvard Innovation Lab as a migration of individual physical items into their corresponding virtual equivalents, desktop icons replacing their counterparts one by one, “demonstrating the steep shift from cork boards and fax machines to pinterest and PDFs.”

Lest you think it is all misdirection or illusion, “the scene is set with actual vintage items sourced by the team of photographers and entrepreneurs: the Macintosh classic, corded phone, fax machine, globe, corkboard, Polaroid camera, and Rolodex were all purchased through individual sellers on ebay, while the rest of the items were found abandoned an unused in basements and at garage sales. While some argue that technology has made our lives more complex, the video below demonstrates the current clarity from clutter, and the ways in which technology encourages productive and social behavior.”


Whether the conclusions match the experiment is subjective (some of us might miss our stuff), but what prompted this ambitious exploration of technological revolutions? The project creators “wondered what it would be like to recreate the desktop from the 1980s and then emulate its transformation through the computer age, to illustrate how technology has changed our world, un-cluttering our desks and simplifying our lives. While gradual change from year to year is often hard to perceive, a longer snapshot gives us a much more dramatic view of the technological progression we have experienced.” Photography by DougThomsen.tv with engineering by Anton Georgiev.

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Adapting Aging Architecture: Modern Plug-Ins for Beijing


[ By Steph in Architecture & Cities & Urbanism. ]

modular home beijing 1

Cold, dilapidated and lacking modern amenities like bathrooms, Beijing’s historic architecture in the Hutong districts becomes livable again with sleek modern plug-ins that make them more comfortable without significant alteration. People’s Architecture Office created a modular system called the Courtyard House Plugin that acts as a temporary solution to make the spaces more desirable, minus the trouble of renovation.

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These aging structures are typically built around small courtyards, and after centuries of habitation, have sometimes reached the point of being dangerous. Developers are often hesitant to take on significant renovation projects due to costs and the fact that some of these spaces are still inhabited.

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The new modular components slide into existing spaces, instantly updating them with modern amenities and clean, contemporary interiors. They can be assembled quickly with no more than a single hex wrench.

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The first prototype, ‘Courtyard 72,’ will be a live-in laboratory for researchers studying the living conditions in the region. Ultimately, this sort of plug-in modular solution could ensure that Beijing’s oldest and most culturally and historically important neighborhoods remain livable for local residents.

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Amphibious Architecture: 12 Flood-Proof Home Designs


[ By Steph in Architecture & Houses & Residential. ]

amphibious architecture affordable bamboo house 1

Instead of trying to beat back rising water levels, these innovative structures work with them, adapting from land-based to floating houses with the ease of an amphibian. From a DIY foam-based flotation system on a modest home in Louisiana to high-tech, self-sustaining disaster pods, these buildings are ready for whatever Mother Nature might throw their way – even 10-foot floodwaters.

The UK’s First Amphibious House
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Located on the Thames River, the UK’s first amphibious house is nearing completion. Baca Architects designed the home for a couple who wanted to live on a flood-prone island in the river, integrating a terraced landscape that acts as an early warning system that the waters are rising. The terraces will fill with water before the ‘wet dock’ under the house does, and then the home itself will gently rise to stay above the surface.

Foundations That Float Above Floods
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The Buoyant Foundation Project has come up with a solution to retrofit existing homes in post-Katrina New Orleans in anticipation of future storms and floods, allowing the structures to lift off the ground in an emergency. Buoyancy blocks would be installed beneath the sub-frame of the home, while four corner guideposts keep the building in place as it rises with the water.

Amphibious Communities for Thailand
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Flooding in Thailand gets worse with each passing year, now occurring in off-seasons and in areas that haven’t historically been flood-prone. Site-Specific looks to the nation’s past for an answer, in the form of homes that were built as rafts. This idea can be adapted even to communities that aren’t built directly on the water in the form of amphibious homes built over trenches, which fill with water first, raising the structures as the water rises. The entire prefabricated steel flotation system is hidden in the trench beneath the house during the dry seasons.

New Orleans Home Will Break Free & Float in Case of Flooding
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New Orleans design firm Morphosis, which has designed many of the city’s most innovative post-Katrina architecture, came up with a home that will rise up on the surface of the water in the event of flooding but remain tethered to vertical guides. Sponsored by Brad Pitt’s Make it Right Foundation, the house uses the region’s classic narrow shotgun house typology and adapts it for the realities of the present time.

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3D-Printed Columns Use Ancient Technique Against Earthquakes


[ By WebUrbanist in Conceptual & Futuristic & Technology. ]

quake column design detail

Bringing together cutting-edge technologies and an ancient approach to resisting earthquake damage, the so-called Quake Column marries tradition and high-tech to create a bold new structural solution needing no mortar nor rebar to reinforce it.

3d printed column interlocking

Incan masons historically interlocked complex three-dimensional stone shapes in order to allow movement during earthquakes while preventing buildings from becoming structurally compromised in the process. The puzzle-like interlinking of the constituent parts helps structures resist seismic shocks, keeping them from becoming detached either horizontally or vertically.


A modern-day company in California, Emerging Objects, has taken this page out of history and reapplied it with 3D printing, allowing their new variants of these old blocks to be fabricated quickly, easily and cost-effectively. Unlike their heavy stone predecessors, these new versions are can be lightweight, modular and made on demand, including built-in handles for carrying printed-on instructions showing builders how to assemble them into columns.

quake column mortar free

3d printed material exterior

These contemporary equivalents are designed to be load-bearing, code-compliant materials that could be used in actual architectural applications of all kinds, all without steel reinforcement or mortar cementing the connections. More on the structural physics at work via Inhabitat: “the absence of resonant frequencies and stress concentration points made the structures more earthquake resistant. During earthquakes, the dry-stone walls built by the Incas would move slightly and resettle without any damage. Rounded corners and an incline of three to five degrees contributed to their stability.”

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Lost Soles: 10 Abandoned & De-Feeted Shoe Repair Stores


[ By Steve in Abandoned Places & Architecture. ]

8 Cents shoe repair store Peoria 1
Abandoned shoe repair stores, once ubiquitous elements of the urban tapestry, epitomize small Mom & Pop stores that “progress” has kicked to the curb. Here’s one shoe repair store that won’t play in Peoria, even at the bargain rate of eight cents. Not that shoe repair ever was an expensive chore, this shop had to be abandoned a LONG time when Flickr user Smitty-Snaps chanced upon it on January 23rd of 2009.

8 Cents shoe repair store Peoria 2

A little over two years after Smitty-Snaps snapped the abandoned 8 Cents Shoe Repair (if that actually was its original name, and that’s doubtful), another Flickr user, David Sebben, couldn’t pass on the opportunity to photo-document the peeling green patina on the abandoned storefront. The shop lost its “1209” street number in the meantime but an extra couple of years haven’t noticeably aged this already well-weathered denizen of a long-passed Peoria.

No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service

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“Complete Shoe Service While You Wait”? Ain’t nobody got time for that these days! The former Militello’s Shoe Repair located on Government Street in downtown Baton Rouge, LA, was visited in August of 2007 by the delightful Colleen Kane from the Abandoned Baton Rouge blog. Could that be a reflection of her sandal-clad tootsies in the lower left corner of the third image above? If not, Militello’s is way creepier than we thought.

“This Pizza’s Tougher’n Boot Leather”

Boot & Shoe Repair in McAlester OK

If the external architecture of the eerily lit Boot & Shoe Repair shop in McAlester, Oklahoma looks a little familiar, you just might be hankering for some pizza & birch beer. Yes indeed, this used to be a Pizza Hut restaurant back in the day and as the author of the Used to Be a Pizza Hut blog states, the store “pretty much looks abandoned but is apparently a boot & shoe repair place, which is actually harder to believe would be in business than the original Pizza Hut that it replaced. When is the last time you took a shoe in to be repaired?” Harsh.

From Re-Soled to Re-Sold

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“Cordonnerie” is French for Shoe Repair and J. M. Dostie’s shop on Avenue De La Salle in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, Montreal, was legendary amongst the shoe-repairing cognoscenti. Although Dostie’s Cordonnerie had managed to build up an appreciative clientele among the Canadian city’s rock-climbing community, rising rents amidst gentrification in the neighborhood delivered an effective coup de grace to the store in early 2011. Kudos to The Milkman at Vanishing Montreal for the above before & after images.

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