The 99% Invisible City
eBook - ePub

The 99% Invisible City

A Field Guide to the Hidden World of Everyday Design

Roman Mars,Kurt Kohlstedt

  1. 400 Seiten
  2. English
  3. ePUB (handyfreundlich)
  4. Über iOS und Android verfĂŒgbar
eBook - ePub

The 99% Invisible City

A Field Guide to the Hidden World of Everyday Design

Roman Mars,Kurt Kohlstedt

Angaben zum Buch

Über dieses Buch

A NEW YORK TIMES, WASHINGTON POST, USA TODAY, AND PUBLISHERS WEEKLY BESTSELLER "[A] diverse and enlightening book... The 99% Invisible City is altogether fresh and imaginative when it comes to thinking about urban spaces."
— The New York Times Book Review "Here is a field guide, a boon, a bible, for the urban curious. Yourcity's secret anatomy laid bare—a hundred things you look at but don't see, see but don't know. Each entry is a compact, surprising story, a thought piece, an invitation to marvel. Together, they are almost transformative. To know why things are as theyare adds a satisfying richness to daily existence. This book is terrific, just terrific."
—Mary Roach, New York Times bestselling author of Stiff, Grunt, and Gulp " The 99% Invisible City brings into view the fascinating but often unnoticed worlds we walk and drive through every day, and to read it is to feel newly alive and aware of your place in the world. This book made me laugh, and it made me cry, and it reminded me to always read the plaque."
—John Green, New York Times bestselling author of The Fault in Our Stars and Turtles All The Way Down A beautifully designed guidebook to the unnoticed yet essential elements of our cities, from the creators of the wildly popular 99% Invisible podcast Have you ever wondered what those bright, squiggly graffiti marks on the sidewalk mean? Or stopped to consider why you don't see metal fire escapes on new buildings? Or pondered the story behind those dancinginflatable figures in car dealerships? 99% Invisible is a big-ideas podcast about small-seeming things, revealing stories baked into the buildings we inhabit, the streets we drive, and the sidewalks we traverse. The show celebrates design and architecture in all of its functional glory and accidental absurdity, with intriguing tales of both designers and the people impacted by their designs. Now, in The 99% Invisible City: A Field Guide to Hidden Worldof Everyday Design, host Roman Mars and coauthor Kurt Kohlstedt zoom in on the various elements that make our cities work, exploring the origins and other fascinating stories behind everything from power grids and fire escapes to drinking fountains and street signs. With deeply researched entries and beautiful line drawings throughout, The 99% Invisible City will captivate devoted fans of the show and anyone curious about design, urban environments, and the unsung marvels of the world around them.

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Chapter 1


There is a hidden world of design all around you if you look closely enough, but the cacophony of visual noise in our cities can make it hard to notice key details. There are street markings that protect you from being blown to bits, tiny safes affixed to building exteriors that can help save occupants in a fire, and ornamental flourishes that may seem like mere decoration but actually work to hold entire brick buildings together. Amid all of this, there are also myriad incremental odds and ends that simply accumulate through people forever reshaping a city to fit their needs. Decoding these more subtle aspects of the cityscape can also help you gain insight into the people who make cities what they are, most of whom are just trying to live their lives, but some of whom are actively trying to save yours.
Sidewalk markers, a breakaway post, and emergency access box


Once you start to see them, you’ll never understand how you hadn’t noticed them before. On any given city street, there are design details scattered everywhere that are meant to establish boundaries or protect you on an everyday basis and in cases of emergency. Even obscure notations created and used by specialists contain layers of information written onto the built world that can be read by anyone who knows how to decipher them.

Official Graffiti

Utility Codes

Careless or uninformed digging around cables and pipes can cause everything from major utility outages to gas leaks—or, as in the case of a 1976 incident in California, a gigantic explosion that leveled half a city block. One fateful day in June of that year, workers were excavating a stretch of Venice Boulevard in Los Angeles when someone accidentally cut into a hidden petroleum pipeline. The pipe ruptured, and pressurized gas ignited into a fireball that engulfed passing cars and adjacent businesses. More than two dozen people were killed or injured as a result of this error. This wasn’t the first or last tragedy of its kind, but the enormity of this particular disaster helped catalyze the codification of critical color-coded utility markings that are so omnipresent today. If you are in a US city, look down and you will see colorful official street graffiti everywhere; these markings are a guide to the networks of pipes, wires, and tubes crisscrossing below you.
  • RED: electric power lines, cables, and conduit
  • ORANGE: telecommunications, alarm and signal lines
  • YELLOW: gaseous or combustive materials including natural gas, oil, petroleum, and steam
  • GREEN: sewers and drain lines
  • BLUE: potable water
  • PURPLE: reclaimed water, irrigation, or slurry lines
  • PINK: temporary markings, unidentified facilities, or known unknowns
  • WHITE: proposed excavation areas, limits, or routes

Initialed Impressions

Sidewalk Markings

As the country’s original capital and the backdrop for many key moments of American history, the city of Philadelphia is lousy with important era-defining monuments and plaques, whose grandeur can make subtler and less dramatic markers easy to miss. Amid the many statues standing in squares and tablets affixed to buildings are a series of enigmatic plaques embedded in sidewalks. The etched or embossed messages on these metal plaques read like abstract spatial koans or urban poems advising pedestrians that “Space within building lines not dedicated” or “Property behind this plaque not dedicated.”


  1. Title Page
  2. Contents
  3. The 99% Invisible Field Guide to the Cover
  4. Dedication
  5. Copyright
  6. Introduction
  7. Chapter 1: Inconspicuous
  8. Ubiquitous
  9. Camouflage
  10. Accretions
  11. Chapter 2: Conspicuous
  12. Identity
  13. Safety
  14. Signage
  15. Chapter 3: Infrastructure
  16. Civic
  17. Water
  18. Technology
  19. Roadways
  20. Public
  21. Chapter 4: Architecture
  22. Liminal
  23. Materials
  24. Regulations
  25. Towers
  26. Foundations
  27. Heritage
  28. Chapter 5: Geography
  29. Delineations
  30. Configurations
  31. Designations
  32. Landscapes
  33. Synanthropes
  34. Chapter 6: Urbanism
  35. Hostilities
  36. Interventions
  37. Catalysts
  38. Outro
  39. Acknowledgments
  40. Bibliography
  41. Index
  42. About the Authors
  43. Connect on Social Media