The 99% Invisible City

By Roman Mars, Kurt Kohlstedt,

Book cover of The 99% Invisible City: A Field Guide to the Hidden World of Everyday Design

Book description

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Out now: The most entertaining and fascinating book about architecture and design, from the wildly popular podcast 99% Invisible.
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A New York Times Bestseller

'Full of surprises and quirky information . . . a fascinating journey through the over-familiar.' - Financial Times, Best Books of 2020

'[A] diverse…


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Why read it?

3 authors picked The 99% Invisible City as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Read away, but the best way to understand cities is to go out and see them for yourself! This fun-to-read book is an excellent ‘travel guide’ for seeing all the different elements of cities that surround us on our everyday walks. From bollards and street lamps to entire street grids, cellphone systems, and even the names of the places we live and visit—all these parts and dimensions of our cities are the result of conscious decisions and debates. The authors vividly describe the back story of many urban objects and systems we often just take for granted, and they provide…

From Conrad's list on the exciting life of cities.

I’ve long been a fan of the podcast on which this book is based. By celebrating “the overlooked and the ordinary,” the authors remind us “that the world is full of amazing things.” Even the most mundane objects – locks, manhole covers, elevators, those inflatable dancing figures in front of car dealerships – were “designed,” a word signifying intent, inspiration, a desire to problem solve. For instance: the idea of painting center lanes on streets came to a Detroit man after driving on a country road behind a milk truck that was leaking its cargo. Stories like this make me…

Based on his blockbuster podcast “99% Invisible” Mars investigates both the mundane and the bizarre. Presented in short snippets he unearths the history and mystery behind telephone poles, street grids, fire hydrants, boulevard trees, and dozens of other seemingly ho-hum objects. Mars uses a broad definition of “design”, at times bringing an engineer sensibility to his investigations, at other times that of a late night comedian. Total trivia: Ancient Beijing was illuminated at night by volcanic gasses channeled through bamboo pipes. 

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