The Worst Ideas. Updates every Monday!

Your weekly source for terrible ideas.

Category: Architecture

The FDA doesn’t want you do know about this amazing cure for reverse-seasonal-affective-disorder, which could totally be a real thing! Increase your home’s resale value by 0 or more percent with this amazing new “rain window” architectural innovation.

Background:

Although people usually prefer it to be sunny rather than rainy, there are locations in the world where it hardly ever rains. Plus, there are some people who prefer an occasional rainy day even when the weather is sunny and cheerful.

Besides, sometimes a sunny day doesn’t match the tone of the actual events going on in your house: for example, if you were indicted for tax fraud for setting up a fake goat-based charity, would it be metaphorically appropriate for it to be a nice and sunny day? No: you should learn the bad news while sitting at a huge mahogany desk while in front of a window with raindrops streaming down it.

The issue:

You can duplicate the “rainy day at any time” effect by attaching a sprinkler to a hose and pointing it at your window, but this has two disadvantages:

  1. You have to actually own the land right outside your window, so it won’t work at a high-rise apartment or zero-lot.
  2. It wastes a lot of water, and may be forbidden by local ordinances.

window-sun

Fig. 1: An unacceptably sunny day. We can fix this with TECHNOLOGY. (Or a sprinkler.)

Proposal:

The proposal is simple: a transparent LCD screen is attached to the window. This screen can be relatively bare-bones; it can be grayscale and low-resolution, since we’re only going to be displaying raindrops on it.

rain-overlay-with-frame

Fig. 2: Left: a bare window frame (with transparent glass in it). Right: a transparent LCD screen (shown darker than it normally would be—when it wasn’t in “rain” mode, the screen would be almost 100% transparent).

rain-window-install-process

Fig. 3: Left: the installation process is very simple—the screen sticks onto your existing window glass. Right: the final result. Rain on demand! Maybe combine it with a speaker system to get the full soothing-rain-sound experience.

PROS: No longer be at the mercy of the weather; now you can get a rainy day on demand.

CONS: Installation might complicated due to the lack of a “standard” window size.

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THE CITY GRINDER: The one relentless trick that will DRAMATICALLY CHANGE your property values! Read up before you buy property, or soon you will weep bitter tears of despair!

Background:

Modern cities face a number of issues due to old buildings. For example:

  • Housing that isn’t up to code
  • Abandoned buildings
  • Absentee owners who don’t maintain their property
  • Urban decay

Proposal:

Fortunately, with an amazing new idea, we can revitalize urban development and create guaranteed construction jobs.

Specifically, the proposal is as follows:

  1. Build an elevated circular track around City Hall (or some other centrally located building).
  2. Next, build an enormous miles-long spiked roller that rests on this track (Fig 1). The outer edge of this “city grinder” should reach to the farthest extent of the city.
  3. The city grinder will now make a slow revolution around the city, consuming everything in its path.

city-grinder

Fig 1: The “city grinder” is a giant spiked roller (left) that levels everything in its path. It is mounted on an elevated circular track that is centered on city hall (right; the building with a yellow roof). In this example, the roller is traveling counter-clockwise (see arrow). Not shown: the roller should actually be rotating quickly in order to grind the buildings it encounters.

The actual time required for a full rotation could be set based on the circumstances of the specific city. Perhaps 100 years for a full rotation would be reasonable.

Although this idea may seem unorthodox, it isn’t without precedent: some places have 99-year leases or even 999-year leases instead of permanent ownership.

Thus, the “city grinder” is just a strong formalization of the 99 year lease—except a property won’t just revert to government ownership after 99 years, but instead will be ground into dust.

city-map

Fig 2: An example of city grinder transit over a 100 year period (as indicated by the numbers; note that the grinder is in the top-right corner of the map in both 1900 and 2000). The star indicates the city hall (or other “center” location). At 100 years for a complete revolution, the city grinder will only need to cut through 3.6 degrees of the city per year. For a circular city that is 10 miles across, the outermost (fastest) point on the city grinder would be traveling at a mere 4.5 feet per day (or 1.4 meters / day). (City circumference = π × 10 miles = 31.4 miles. 31.4 miles / 100 years = 4.5 feet per day).

The only remaining logistical question is: how does traffic pass through the region being ground up? Luckily, this can be easily solved by breaking up the roller into many independent-operating sections that can be elevated. So only a small portion of the city grinder would be blocking traffic at a given time, and this segment could easily be driven around. This wouldn’t be any more difficult than dealing with railroad crossings, which all cities already handle.

PROS: Prevents accumulation of obsolete and decaying buildings in a city. Improves urban beautification. Architects and construction workers will have guaranteed employment.

CONS: The roller may be expensive to operate and maintain.

Exercise self-control and never wantonly snack again with this amazing new home design tip! Your kitchen will thank you.

Background:

When a fully-stocked kitchen is just one room away from you, it’s really easy to constantly snack at non-officially-sanctioned mealtimes.

The issue:

But the tyranny of prescribed mealtimes must be obeyed if one is to avoid eventually becoming completely spherical (due to being completely full of delicious snacks).

cake

Fig 1: A delicious snack in your kitchen. Devour it like a wild beast!!!!!!!

In ancient times, our ancestors had no trouble avoiding constantly eating delicious snacks, because 1) snacks did not exist and 2) they would have to kill a woolly mammoth or something if they wanted to eat mammoth jerky. That isn’t something you can just go one room over and do (unless you’re an unusually successful stone age tribal chieftain.)

But how to we keep from constant snacking in the modern era?

Proposal:

By simply making it more difficult to access the kitchen, we can prevent casual snacking at minimal cost. For less than the cost of a hundred cakes, a custom door can be fitted to one’s kitchen door.

Here, we will run through the options:

door-blank

Fig 2a: A very heavy kitchen door with an auto-closing mechanism (not pictured). This is the “base model” door with no bells or whistles. Since it is slightly annoying to open (and it closes automatically), it may discourage extremely casual snacking. But it can be improved upon, as seen in Fig 2b.

door-rotary

Fig 2b: This door has a nautical-style rotary opening mechanism, with a twist—in order to open the kitchen door, the kitchen-accessing individual must turn the handle one hundred times. This will give the person a good forearm workout and discourage unnecessary trips to the kitchen.

door-pull-up-bar

Fig 2c: As an alternative to the rotary opener, this pull-up bar door requires the user to perform at least 10 pull-ups before they can go into the kitchen. A door could also include both the rotary mechanism and the pull-up bar.

door-puzzle-from-the-witness

Fig 2d: Finally, this door features a complicated maze puzzle that the user must solve before it opens. Although this does not improve physical fitness, it still creates a mentally taxing obstacle to the delicious foods that reside in the kitchen. (This specific style of puzzle is from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Witness_(2016_video_game) )

Conclusion:

This is a low-cost method of encouraging healthy eating habits. Talk to your architect and/or interior designer about it today!

PROS: Improves physical fitness / mental acuity with minimal effort on the user’s part.

CONS: Since it is so difficult to access the fridge, an individual might take out a bunch of food at once, leave it unrefrigerated for a while, and then eat the spoiled food (which otherwise, in absence of this door, would have been properly refrigerated).

 

Regain hours of your life every day with this one weird anti-procrastination tip that may involve horrifying injury! You’ll never believe what happened next.

Background:

Sometimes, a difficult task or obligation hangs over a person, and is said to be “heavy” or “crushing.”

The issue:

However, until now, there has been no way to properly represent a person’s currently unresolved obligations in a three-dimensional space.

Proposal:

In order to reduce procrastination and make it easier for a person to determine how far they are along in resolving their current to-do list, the proposal is as follows:

  • In certain important rooms of the user’s house, or potentially in their workplace, a huge metal plate is installed on one end of the room, immediately in front of a wall. (Ideally, this location would also be directly across from a door on the opposing wall, although this is not mandatory.)
  • This metal plate is attached to a telescoping arm that can push the plate away from the wall and into the main space of the room.
  • In this fashion, the metal plate can take up as much of the room as needed, partitioning it into a “still usable” space and a “hidden behind the crushing wall” space.
  • The crushing wall would be linked the user’s email and calendar programs. If the user has many un-resolved email messages from days ago, and a large number of outstanding obligations (for example, “do taxes” or “repaint living room”), the wall will extend to take up a large amount of space in the room.
  • When the user resolves these tasks, the wall will retract back towards its origin. For example, if the user only has a few minor tasks to do (e.g. “go shopping for bread”), the wall will retract so that it only takes up a few inches along the wall.

wall-3d

Fig 1: In this figure, the crushing wall is mounted on the left wall. The remaining usable space in the room (right side) has only a table and door in it. Judging from the position of this wall, the user has a large number of currently outstanding tasks that they need to resolve if they want the crushing wall to retract.

crushing-wall

Fig 2: Side view of a room similar to the one above. Blue area (left): a heavy-duty mounting bracket to attach the crushing wall to the floor and ceiling. Green: a telescoping hydraulic arm to allow the wall to move. Yellow: the crushing wall. In this diagram, the wall is taking up approximately two-thirds of the room.

Conclusion:

This new room furnishing will make it easy for a person to visualize how many un-resolved tasks they need to work on, and will provide a satisfying sense of accomplishment when a task is complete and the wall retracts a few inches.

PROS: Provides sense of accomplishment. Reinvents the classic to-do list in three-dimensional form.

CONS: May result in injury, especially if the crushing wall is installed in a fashion such that there is no door on the opposing wall. More details, including a video re-enactment of this scenario, can be found by doing an Internet search for the term “Death Star trash compactor.”

Increase downtown property values by developing un-used space above the roadway, an amazing weird trick from an unlicensed city planner with extensive SimCity experience

Background:

Many cities have serious shortages of buildable space in the most desirable areas—most land that is available for development has already been taken.

Proposal: Allow building of a “second level” of city on the un-used space above the streets

Fortunately, there actually is a large amount of unused space in each city (generally, approximately 5–10% of the total area in question). And it’s not even privately owned!

Specifically, it is the area above the sidewalks and public streets. (See Figure 2 for an example of a four-way intersection.)

All we have to do is allow structures to be built on stilts on top of the roadway. This will shield pedestrians and cars from rain, snow, and hail, and will keep the roadway comfortable and cool even on the hottest days. Additionally, it will increase the number of structures built in the city, which will help fund public education via property taxes.

This idea has extensive historical support in dystopian and cyberpunk fiction, so presumably most of the details of it have already been worked out.

street-above-construction-side-view

Fig 1: Building a second layer of city above the roadway would be a great way to increase the tax base and allow people to live closer to their place of work.

A) are supports for the second level, which can be placed on the sidewalk just like telephone poles / utility poles. B) is the second level of the city and C) are the houses that are built on top of this platform. D) is the original roadway. E) shows the minimum clearance for the second level (in this example, the dashed line shows 30 feet from the roadway, although the specific heights may be different, depending on local requirements).

street-build-overhead

Fig 2: In this overhead view of a four-way intersection, there are buildings (dark gray) on all four corners and a sidewalk (light gray). There is significant un-built (but highly desirable) space being occupied by the roadway and sidewalks.

street-above-overhead-view

Fig 3: In this terrible diagram, we see the elevated area (blue) above the street (white). Sidewalks are in green for some reason. Features of interest: A) Staircase leading from the upper level to the ground-level sidewalk. B and C) Elevators. D and E: a skybridge connecting the buildings at near points D and E. F: a skybridge connecting the upper-level buildings directly to the building at F (perhaps it is a shopping center). Who made this diagram anyway, it is awful. Oh well!

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PROS: Makes the city more like a cyberpunk dystopia. Adds new buildings that will pay property tax, increasing city revenue. By increasing population density and decreasing commute distance, we create a more eco-friendly city.

CONS: Doesn’t work in areas with significant over-the-road infrastructure. Also, this idea never seems to work out in works of fiction.

One weird unfunded mandate that exposes the disregard for handicapped accessibility in 8-bit video games… tip number 3 will shock you!

Background:

Old 8-bit video games typically do not adhere to modern standards of occupational safety or handicapped-accessibility.

The issue:

The issue we will deal with here is making an old game, in this case, Zelda II for the Nintendo Entertainment System, properly compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990.

Obviously this will be simplified, since we don’t have to worry about structural stability, proper materials, or material cross-section (or anything three-dimensional) in a game of this style.

ADA question

Fig 1: This is a screenshot from the late ’80s Nintendo game Zelda II. This is an entrance to specific palace in the game. There are two extremely large “steps” (approximately 3 feet high each) and a human-sized statue on top of a pedestal.

Note that the enormous steps leading up to the palace are not even remotely handicapped-accessible.

(Plus, such large steps are probably also forbidden by municipal building codes.)

Proposal:

As a publicly accessible building, the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act could potentially apply to this palace.

We will add a ramp (although alternative solutions exist, such as elevators).

For ADA compliance:

  • Ramps must have no greater than a 4.8° incline (1 foot of rise per 12 feet of distance)
  • An individual segment of ramp cannot be any longer than 30 feet. Longer segments must be broken up by landings.
  • Landings must be at least 5 feet wide.

In this case, for 6 feet of elevation gain, we will need two 30 foot ramps and one ~12 foot ramp. This will require two landings.

ADA ramp

Fig 2: With three ramps (and two landings) installed, the palace entrance is now handicapped accessible.

There is still one serious problem—although though the ramp has an acceptable incline and distance, we have created a new death trap for the palace due to the lack of handrails.

The handrail requirements that would apply to the 8-bit Zelda II world include:

  • Handrails must be 34–38 inches above ramp surfaces.
  • Handrails must end in a 12 inch “loop” beyond the ramp (see diagram).

ADA handrails

Fig 3: With proper ramps and handrails, this palace is now one step closer to being ADA accessible. The sprites themselves are all © Nintendo.

Conclusion:

It is important to realize that locations in video games may also be visited by characters who cannot jump 8 feet in the air from a standing start.

PROS: Significantly increases quality of life for individuals with mobility problems.

CONS: A classic “unfunded mandate”—imposes significant architectural demands without providing the money to actually perform the construction.

6 Baffling Apartment Arrangements You Won’t Believe Are Real* (* they are not real)

The issue:

Many modern apartments are extremely well-built structurally (or perhaps even over-built), but have terrible interior layouts.

Unfortunately, it is extremely expensive to reconfigure a floorplan, even if no load-bearing walls (or walls concealing wires or plumbing) need to be modified. For maximum cost-efficiency, a person interested in remodeling could potentially just take a sledgehammer to these walls, but the final result would be unlikely to be aesthetically appealing.

Sometimes, a floorplan would ideally change due to a change in the number of inhabitants of an apartment. For example, the optimal layout for a single individual is unlikely to be the same as the layout for two or three people. Or, perhaps a particular room is rarely used, and its space would be better applied toward extending another room.

Proposal:

One way to make apartment-reconfiguration simple would be to allow the walls to be moved. The method proposed below uses a number of independently-movable standard-sized wall panels and requires no tools to change the apartment configuration.

The general idea is:

  1. There is a track laid out in a grid pattern in the ceiling.
  2. A number of wall panels hang from this track. These wall panels can be slid and rotated along the track.
  3. The wall panels can mesh together to form a complete wall. See details below.

movable_walls_diagram

Fig 1: A movable wall panel.

Figure legend:

  • A (green): OVERHEAD ANCHOR: The wall is secured to the track overhead by a component that is too large to fall through the track (B).
  • B (orange): OVERHEAD TRACK: The entire ceiling is criss-crossed with a grid of tracks. Similar to track lighting, but these have to be much stronger since they are supporting the weight of the wall (and potentially anyone who leans on it / pushes it.
  • C (blue): SOUNDPROOFING / OPTIONAL WINDOW (TOP): To allow the wall to slide around, it must not be securely attached to the ceiling. Once the wall has been moved into place, the “soundproofing” component can be pivoted into place and secured flush against the ceiling, where it can apply upward pressure to secure the wall, as seen on the right side of the diagram.
  • D (red): SOUNDPROOFING / PRIVACY FLOOR PANEL (BOTTOM): Similar to “C,” except this component secures against the floor instead of ceiling. Aside from preventing a person’s feet from showing from under the wall, this component also helps securely anchor the wall panel to the floor by applying downward pressure.
  • E (purple & white) WALL PANEL: The movable wall panel itself.

Additionally:

  • Power outlets only exist on the immobile edge-of-floorplan walls and in a few ceiling / floor drops. This means there is no need to worry about wiring in the movable walls.
  • Overhead lights (if they even exist) are triggered wirelessly and can reconfigured to suit whatever room arrangement is desired. That way, light switches (which can also be wireless) can be reconfigured to match the actual lights in each room.

Meshing walls together:

The edges of each wall panel have yin-yang shaped “genderless” connectors that allow any panel to securely mesh with any other panel, regardless of orientation. (These is similar to the types of connectors used to link railroad cars, which can be attached regardless of orientation.) Note that no specific additional fasteners are necessary.

movable_walls_connectors

Fig 2: Overhead view of two wall panels meshing together. The connections can be made between any two panels, in any orientation (i.e. there is no “polarity” in the connectors).

The secret you never knew!

Layouts in practice:

The only real restrictions are the exterior walls, windows, and any “permanent” rooms (ones with plumbing or unusual electrical requirements). Additionally, due to the grid-like nature of the track and the connector types, walls will probably only fit together at 90° angles.

(It might be possible to design a track (and perhaps expandable walls) with a mechanism to allow arbitrary angles, but this is unlikely to be worthwhile in an apartment that is already bounded by rectangular external walls.)

movable_walls_layout_no_walls

Fig 3: A blank layout with two “fixed” rooms: the bathroom (“BATH”) and kitchen (“KIT.”). The red mark on the left side is the entry door from the shared apartment hallway. The blue region on the right side represents outward-facing windows in the apartment complex.

The kitchen and bathroom require plumbing and built-in features (and cannot be easily moved around), so they are assumed to be fixed. Despite these restrictions, this apartment could be reconfigured in many ways.

Several options are shown below. Bedrooms are numbered.

movable_walls_floorplan_ideas

Fig 4: Various layouts that are possible by moving the movable walls (indicated in brown) around on the overhead tracks. Bedrooms are numbered “1,” “2,” and “3.” Note that a one, two, or three bedroom configuration is possible. Blue = windows.

PROS: Would be amazing in every respect.

CONS: Might allow architects and interior designers to slack off if they can fix layout issues “in postproduction.” It would probably be a huge hassle to move a bunch of wall panels around in a furnished apartment.