Ponte City Tower

Ponte City Tower, the brutalist cylindrical high-rise that towers over Johannesburg, has gone from a symbol of white opulence to something far more complex. It’s gone through very tough times, but also it’s hopeful. It’s a microcosm of the South Africa’s history, but it’s also a place that moves on. And to this day, this strange concrete tube at the center of Johannesburg’s skyline continues to play the same role for newcomers that it has for decades: serving as the diverse entry point to the city.

99% Invisible

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Squatters of the Lower East Side

In the 1960s and 70s New York City was going through an economic downturn and many people with means moved to the suburbs. By the 1980s there were empty buildings everywhere throughout the Lower East Side that squatters eventually took over. They set about fixing up their decrepit buildings, clearing rubble, building stairs, reinforcing walls, and replacing windows. These squatters would resist eviction by the city for almost two decades and in 2002 they finally achieved legalization and were allowed to stay.

99% Invisible

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Usonia 1 – Budget Housing Proposition by Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright was a bombastic character that ultimately changed the field of architecture, and not just through his big, famous buildings. Before designing many of his most well-known works, Wright created a small and inexpensive yet beautiful house. This modest home would go on to shape the way working- and middle-class Americans live to this day. And it all started with a journalist from Milwaukee.

99% Invisible | 7th February 2017

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Guano Mania

In 2014, President Obama closed 490,000 square miles of largely undisturbed ocean to commercial fishing and underwater mining, and expanded the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, making it the largest marine preserve in the world at the time.
The preserve is nowhere near the mainland United States nor is it all in close range to Hawaii. Still, President Obama was able to protect this piece of ocean in the name of the United States.
To understand how the U.S. has jurisdiction over these waters in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, one has to look back to the 19th Century when, for a brief period, the U.S. scoured the oceans looking for rock islands covered in guano. That is: seabird poop.

99% Invisible | 6th December 2016

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Longbox

longboxIn 1990, a Federal district judge in South Florida ruled that the rap group 2 Live Crew’s album “As Nasty As They Wanna Be” was so obscene that it couldn’t be sold or performed within his jurisdiction in South Florida. Three days after the ruling, 2 Live Crew played a show in a county within his jurisdiction, and afterwards two members of the group got arrested.

When Jeff Ayeroff, an executive at Virgin Records, watched this all play out on TV, he felt offended. Not by the raunchy lyrics or the twerking on stage, but by the arrests and the blatant censorship of the artists’ work. Shortly thereafter, he got the idea for “Rock the Vote.”

The idea behind Rock the Vote was simple: get young people to vote for politicians who wouldn’t censor music. Ayeroff got about sixty people together in a Los Angeles hotel to talk about launching Rock The Vote. Frank Zappa was there, past and present California Governor Jerry Brown was there, as well as a bunch of record executives.

Illustration: Front of R.E.M.’s Out of Time

99% Invisible | 27th September 2016

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On Average

on-average-2In many ways, the built world was not designed for you. It was designed for the average person. Standardized tests, building codes, insurance rates, clothing sizes, The Dow Jones – all these measurements are based around the concept of an “average.”
Todd Rose wants us to re-examine our concept of the average and find new ways to accommodate all the people who aren’t average, which, it turns out, is everyone.

99% Invisible | 24th August 2016

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H-day

215-h-daySeptember 3rd, 1967, also known as H-Day, is etched in the collective memory of Sweden. That morning, millions of Swedes switched from driving on the left side of the road to driving on the right. The changeover was an unprecedented undertaking, involving national infrastructural overhauls, extensive educational campaigns, and pop music.

99% Invisible | 7th June 2016

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