Why Cul-de-Sacs Are Bad for Your Health
Award-winning Canadian journalist Charles Montgomery's fascinating new book Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design examines how lessons from psychology, neuroscience and design activism can help us fix broken cities and improve our quality of life in an increasingly urban-centered world. Here at the Eye, Montgomery shares an excerpt from the book.
Of every 100 American commuters, five take public transit, three walk, and only one rides a bicycle to work or school. If walking and cycling are so pleasurable, why don’t more people choose to cycle or walk to work? Why do most people fail to walk even the 10,000 daily steps needed to stay healthy? Why do we avoid public transit?
The World's Most Design-Forward Treehouse Hotel
'Tis the season when many dream of escaping to a remote fantasy location to avoid the obligatory tyranny of the holidays. Some pine for deserted beaches. But one look at photos of the magical Treehotel in Harads in the north of Sweden and I know where I am going (in my head).
Is Thomas Heatherwick’s Garden Bridge London’s Answer to the High Line?
British designer Thomas Heatherwick has a knack for reinventing iconic designs. See, for example, his modern take on a midcentury double-decker bus or his 2012 Olympic cauldron, made of 204 copper petals representing participating nations. Heatherwick is also known for whimsical inventions like his 2004 rolling bridge, which curls up on itself to let boats pass beneath it.
The latest proposal from Heatherwick, the man that mentor Terence Conran branded a modern-day Leonardo da Vinci, is a nature-inspired walkway across the Thames: The Garden Bridge.
Can Digital Updates on Emergency Room Wait Times Reduce Patient Rage?
A new emergency room design intervention tested at London and Southampton hospitals over the past year has been a miracle cure for the outbreaks of aggressive patient behavior that often erupt in that unpredictable, high-stress environment.
Called A Better A&E (or accident & emergency, which is what ERs are called in the U.K.), the project by London-based design firm PearsonLloyd for Britain's National Health Service includes clearly designed flowcharts posted in various areas of the waiting room to inform patients about how the department works and the steps they can expect while being processed and treated.
But the most striking feature is the introduction of digital bus stop–style wait time screens. Monitors in the waiting room show live estimated wait times for "resuscitation," "major injuries," "minor injuries," and "see & treat" consultations. The designers have proposed creating a smartphone app that would serve the same purpose, allowing patients to check local hospitals before heading in to see where they might get treated soonest. The idea is that these sorts of low-cost, high-impact design solutions could be easily implemented across Britain to improve patient experience.
How to Build a Spacesuit at Home
By far the best design podcast around—and one of the best podcasts, period—is Roman Mars’ 99% Invisible. On it he covers design questions large and small, from his fascination with rebar to the history of slot machines to the great Los Angeles Red Car conspiracy. Here at The Eye, we will be cross-posting his new episodes so you can check them out, and we’ll also host excerpts from his podcast’s terrific blog, which offers complementary visuals for each episode.
His most recent show—about DIY spacesuits—can be played below. Or keep reading to learn more.
City Maps That Orient You Better Than Google Can
Archie Archambault was a philosophy major who moved to Portland, Ore., in 2009 after college and found himself getting lost. For all their practical uses, Google maps didn’t seem to really give him a local’s sense of neighborhoods, or how to navigate the city as a whole, or reflect his perceptions of how long it took to get from point A to point B. “I was super absorbed in the GPS,” he told me. “But a Google map has a scientific feel. I wanted to communicate the idea of a city on paper.”
So he drew a circle with a cross hair in it, dividing it into quadrants. Then he started exploring streets and neighborhoods by all means of transportation possible, getting an on-the-ground feel for the urban landscape. That first sketch led him to create his first map of Portland and became the genesis of a quirky map-making process that he still uses today.
What's That Thing? Thanksgiving Airplane Travel Edition
It’s a bird, it's a plane, it’s … an air travel–themed, Thanksgiving double edition of What’s That Thing, Slate's column examining mysterious or overlooked objects in our visual landscape. (If instead you’re traveling by car this Thanksgiving, click here, here, and here for roadworthy previous installments.) To submit suggestions and pics for future columns, email us.
Flying home for Thanksgiving? If it feels like there must be 25 million other people doing the same thing, then you’re good with numbers: That’s the estimated number of travelers expected to get airborne around the holiday this year, a 1.5 percent increase over 2012.
Busy skies also mean human gridlock on jet bridges from the terminal down to the aircraft door. While you're waiting to board, you might have time to contemplate the purpose of the jauntily angled strip of metal above the door of most commercial aircraft.
Vancouver Bans Doorknobs
In a move to make housing more universally accessible, the city of Vancouver has banned doorknobs in private homes and apartment buildings. Starting in March of 2014, the doors of new buildings will be equipped instead with more ergonomically friendly, easier-to-use lever handles, the Vancouver Sun reports. It notes that while the bylaw passed in September is not retroactive, City Hall has set an example by replacing its Art Deco brass doorknobs, which date from 1936.
As University of British Columbia professor Tim Stainton explained in the article, the doorknob ban is in the spirit of a concept known as universal design, which holds that environment should be built to be usable by a majority of people regardless of age or capacity, rather than adapted to meet the needs of the elderly or disabled.
Design that makes everyday things easy to use even for those with physical challenges is the same principle that IDEO designers used when redesigning an OXO GoodGrips potato peeler that would be easier to use for arthritics. The designers noted that the human-centered design exercise “solved a specific problem for a specific group: Namely, helping people with reduced grip strength to peel things easier. Turned out, it offered a benefit to everyone.”
A New Documentary Reveals Why Sitting on the Couch Really Can Kill You
Picking out the right couch is such a daunting task for most people that they don’t stop to think much beyond size, shape, color and comfort level to wonder what design flaws might be lurking on the inside.
Thanks to an unsettling new documentary, you will never look at another piece of American-made polyurethane foam-based furniture the same way again. Toxic Hot Seat, which airs Monday, Nov. 25 on HBO, looks at the chemical flame retardants embedded in home furnishings (not to mention strollers and baby car seats) that do a better job at causing birth defects and cancers than protecting us from fires.
Interaction Design Lessons from Science Fiction Movies
By far the best design podcast around—and one of the best podcasts, period—is Roman Mars’ 99% Invisible. On it he covers design questions large and small, from his fascination with rebar to the history of slot machines to the great Los Angeles Red Car conspiracy. Here at the Eye, we will be cross-posting his new episodes so you can check them out, and we’ll also host excerpts from his podcast’s terrific blog, which offers complementary visuals for each episode.
His most recent show—about the design lessons in science fiction movies—can be played below. Or keep reading to learn more.