Book Review: The 99% Invisible City by Roman Mars and Kurt Kohlstedt


Author: Roman Mars and Kurt Kohlstedt
Title: The 99% Invisible City
Publication Info: Boston : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, [2020]
Summary/Review:
99% Invisible is one of my absolute favorite podcasts series. It focuses on “the unnoticed architecture and design that shape our world,” which sounds like a highly specific thing but actually leads to a wide diversity of fascinating topics. This book is a hand “field guide” to the little secrets of design you find in cities around the world. It includes many of the stories previously covered in podcast episodes as well as a lot of new material. You can read it straight through like I did, hop around the book at your leisure, or even just refer to it as a reference book.

Oddly fascinating topics you can learn about include:

  • decoding the spray paint markings on pavement made by utility companies
  • electrical substations disguised as ordinary houses
  • seemingly useless architecture that is nevertheless maintained, known as “Thomassons”
  • municipal flag design
  • the Olympic history of those inflatable figures that dance outside of car washes
  • the mysteries of rotaries/traffic circles
  • boxes on the exterior of many buildings with emergency information for first responders
  • an island named for Busta Rhymes
  • synanthropes, or the animals who live among us (squirrels, fish, pigeons, racoons, etc.)
  • hostile design the specifically targets “undesirable” people
  • the story of a Buddha statue placed in an intersection to prevent littering that became a local shrine

All of this and more in this fascinating volume!


Recommended books:

 

 

Rating: *****

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