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#368: A Rarely Accessed Source of Joy | Roman Mars

2021-08-02

Today’s episode is about finding joy, pleasure, interest, and even gratitude in a surprising source: everyday objects and infrastructure. 

Our guest Roman Mars is the host and creator of 99% Invisible, a radio show and podcast about design and architecture. It is one of the most popular podcasts in the world. Roman is also a bestselling author; he recently co-authored The 99% Invisible City: A Field Guide to the Hidden World of Everyday Design.

Roman talks to us about how he got interested in design, how the name “99% Invisible” came to be, his new book about the under-observed aspects of the built world, the importance of reading plaques and utility markers, design as coercion, and a shared love of 90s punk rock.

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Full Show notes: https://www.tenpercent.com/podcast-episode/roman-mars-368

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
From ABC this is the ten percent happier podcast, I'm Dyin Harris hello today. It's an episode about finding joy pleasure interest, even gratitude in a surprising source, everyday objects and infrastructure. The Zen episode from honest that I didn't think initial, with an obvious fit for the show, but one of our producers, the estimable, dj cashmere, made the case that this would work really. Well, I'm glad I listen to him because I did. I guess Roman, Mars who's, the host and creator of ninety nine percent, invisible, which is a radio show at a pod, cast about design and architecture. You probably heard of it it's one of the most popular protests in the war. The Roman is also about selling author. He recently co authored the ninety nine percent, invisible city, a field guide to the hidden world of everyday design, and this conversation we talk about her.
Roman, got interested in design by examining the delta between how boring things seem and how interesting they actually are. How the name ninety nine percent invisible came to be. We talked about Romans New book about the under observed aspects of the built world, talk about the importance of reading plaques and utility, Workers design as coercion and our shared love of obscure nineties, punk and Iraq our aid. Here we go now with roman Mars nice to meet you Roman, it's nice to meet you think so much for having me graduation is on the new book. No thanks pressure. I just curious: how did you get in? listed in the subject of design. I mean really, it started a re reporter. I love way people talking radios, reported and worked on every type of people Radio style show that ever existed. Link the history of the medium and
design came because I was also interested in architecture, and I was working at a radio station called Caille W in San Francisco and the american history of architects came to them with that idea like hey, would it be cool if we did like, architecture minute about a building in San Francisco the general manager met. Martin had said that you would What do you think about this and create a lotta shows republic? Radio? I was this rift in the news department there at the time, and I said I would love to figure simple got out, but I always wanted to expand it to kind of Monday. Said. He details a designer broad sense, not just buildings, and everyone is kind of on board for it, and then I started making it. What is interesting to you about this thing that we all habitually overlook? You know I just like the story behind things I always have is sort of like the way
that I get interested against the delta between how boring nothing seems and how interesting that really is he's like where I love to live, and I remember the first idea was curb cuts, the sort of ramp that goes from the street to the sidewalk, so that somebody with different mobility can get up there without having to step up, and I was so curious about it. I wasn't necessarily curious about it as a phenomenon like has a disciple, Would he writes phenomenon, although it's a huge part of that we read about in the book? I was kind of interests didn't like what is this. Mr Van angle on is that regulated like I've, just for a curious about every type of thing that somebody put a lot of thought in that most people don't think about it all and why we have to make those decisions in all its first off. It was like. I just thought I could spin forever on that as a subject in that's. Why centred on it. Even though I have an interest in kind of everything and when you're like a reporter
or you make a show, and one of the things that you are often trying to do is you're trying to make a focus. That's narrow enough, so that the show has meaning to people they can grab onto it, but broad enough. so that you can really talk about whatever you want. You can so that the secret to making a good show me you interested in for doing it for years, and this just seem like that space or I could just live for years, and it turned out to be true. I think by now it might be obvious, but can you explain the title of the show near so ninety nine percent, invisible was an aim for came up and a committee I was like gathering a bunch of like designers, are different types of landscape architecture. Traditional architects, structural engineer, logo, designer from designer. I was again what is it that you all do, they could describe your job without you, in word design, because I was
trying to avoid or design? I don't know why it had like an allergy to it in the title in the idea was floated that if we do our job, it's mostly invisible, we do our jobs right and so The idea of ninety nine percent invisible and it also comes from a call from careful or about the ninety nine percent invisible activity that shapes the world. I was really fascinated by the that good design is me, to be invisible? Your may just use it without noticing it and bad design is the thing you bang your head up against and you get really angry about bad design, the good is I'm like goes without you notice it, and I want something where people were could focus on the good design.
in their lives and realise how much of the world is designed well for them, and not just the stuff that irritates them. I haven't been much something about this, but as you're talking, I feel like two cops come to mind. One is organizational design like if you ve got a good hierarchical structure at work in everybody's roles are clear and then people might not notice it, particularly, but the organisation may thrive. Similarly, I'm thinking about like, like you, I write books and I spend so much time thinking about the structure of the boy and nobody pays any attention to tat narrative. It's like, I think about it, like a house, sometimes there's so much into a house, the structure, but everybody just looking at the paint, and we can also, though, paint in the book world. As you know, just a word, you pick her some aspect of an anecdote anyway said that that all lands for you,
they ate, reminds me of putting the other book itself. Zocor calls that is my co author on the book and the amount of spreadsheet work he did. Organizing like past worries and future stories and things like thoughts he had and putting them in together to make a flow of the book that I think is felt button is not necessarily observed, is astounding. How much work goes into that, and I think that that stuff is a fundamental truth about design and good design is that it is not there to be noticed, but it is extremely important. Nonetheless, and so you might think that you're, like you, transactional mind. Putting your book together is a wasted exercise, because nobody knows I think that people, nor is it without actually internalizing it and it makes all the difference in the world, but every once in a while that gets you about eighty four eighty five percent of the way there, but that ten or fifteen percent, where it is actually stymie new and actually causing your grief. You should let her go
That's a key to happiness when you creating anything. Is that a theme win essential idea. Gonna get you so far and the rest of it is the messy noise of life, and you should allow, for that mean alike, if you ever like making a radio show with a theme you know that's you'll, have a set of stories armed slot in really really nicely in theirs. I blast one. It is painful to put an end like it doesn't fit it all and unethical. Even if you just tell him well, it's fine doesn't fit and that's how most of life is Okay, so I thought you were going to say, oh, that one that doesn't fit just let it go like put it in the garbage you're saying I'll. Just do it and he'll allow for serendipity
I think you can go either way. Honestly, that's part of the message, as has sometimes it's perfectly acceptable to just let it go completely and keep her theme really tight, but also does not allow for the fact that if you have different things and you thought of them together, you can make a pivot. You can have people draw connections that are not spoken, there's all kinds of reasons to have things that are slightly discordant, that play off against each other and harmonise and interesting ways. I'm a big believer in that too, that if you create the right space for people inside of a show, they bring a lot to it, and even ass are left to do all the work. Since some of the new book was called the many members, inimitable city and its field, the world of everyday design and be Joe Conceit of it is like when you go into a city, here's the feel. Guy too. That said, it is like the field at every city and its a collection of stories
about a kind of the under observed aspects of the boat world, like instead of the prettiest skyscraper, the most engineer bridge. It's about maintenance covers than the traffic lights and the stripes on streets in the street graffiti to guide to the story behind those things in the design of those things. I want to go pretty deep on this, but just put a frame on at our audience here is interested in meditation. Mindfulness getting happier even if they dont meditate, and so I will. What do you see is the connection there between your work and you know, human flourishing things from the profound because of the way averted Mylife elegant- think I'm a wired to be a particularly optimistic person, but in the production of this over time, recognising that there was a designer who put care and thought into everyday things that we take for granted.
I feel like I'm in the warm embrace of people who are very smart and who are anticipating my needs before I know I have them and that in itself, like has really changed me like it, his rewired me be appreciative of thanks. So, for example, like we talk about infrastructure a lot because I love the concept of infrastructure, I love the fact that there are these engineering feats and massive things that One of us could do even money when one company could do like it takes a government attacks on people to do, and I love these actions in a like sewage systems and in fact, these amazing things that we build when we decide that we're gonna get together and make a thing. but if I'm driving- and I run across one in its being built-
Are you really irritated, like everybody else does, and after doing this, for so long part of me is like ok, so these things that you love they have to be built sometime. So maybe you should a chill the hell out and let them happen and that sort of the big things and then the little things are just like. While that is, if you notice them, you go left, has done really well and there's something about that. That's really really satisfied when you notice that the button that you push to get across the street triggers the light and can find ways out of the placebo ones that triggered a light to change, and, I think, the second One is just that I think the world is made better through rich stories in storytelling and, if you're paying attention to the information layer that
sitting on the bill world. You can find stories everywhere and it just makes life more fun. You notice gives you something to talk about the think about the thing about the people that came before you to know that you're on this continuum. That is, that he is constantly changing and that you have an effect on our some of the cross light, but is policy bus, really I mean been demonstrated. I think a few times that a few of them are policy was yes, that's diabolical. Take the time to build it with no purpose. I think They may mean weren't always and then they dont work, and then people don't bother to change the God anything in Ghana. That would be my guest or some.
It's really nasty out there, but interesting like to getting back to you- and I had this change this had on you. So it sounds to me like. Maybe you had a bit of a fretful view of the universe and then this kind of put you in more of like a gratitude mode. Exactly I think, before this I was defined by the things I didn't like by things I didn't participate in Some things are worse off than punk Rocco somebody a gravity to and loved, and I love the anger of it. I love the feeling of belonging in that, but a lot of it also rejection of every other part of society in ways that war is valuable to me had formed myself in ways I asked appreciate, however, the embrace of things and especially something that not many other for love. I guess it's almost caused similar thanks underground of music and loving amendments cover. It is not all that
like you, like the band like ten other people like and liking. The maintenance cover that no one recognizes as great as it might be a little bit of the same impulse, but it was just the key, more expansive now that it was about care in about passion, and there was somebody who's thought about this and really it occupied all their time in their job, for like a couple of weeks, time make something functional that nobody noticed in. I just love, I'm truly moved by yet because then you can start looking at the universe or that by at humanity or the world that humans have built, as in some ways knit together by carrying people, were holding you up in ways that are ninety nine percent. Invisible. Absolutely- and that's really how I see things like I do see the failures, and I do see that cities are also a collection of bad decisions, but I find recognizing those and reckon
I think that those are not necessarily inevitability, that you can enter into the world and notice that the city is this changing evolving thing that you have asked, bacon and you have agency to change it for the better. Also sort of gives me a great degree of comfort just got a punk rock for a second so cuz that was an obsession of mine. I mean starting at age fifteen, and to this day we know only fifty. So that's a long time being interested in underground rock I'll turn of rock and Iraq punk rock whatever you want to call, but I made a little less fretful. I mean I'm anxious, but I'm not a morose. I don't. so maybe I was drawn to you, know the replacement and amid a man, and you are drawn to dismiss the cure that be a no no, I I kind of like all those being under the law, but I really gravitate towards a group of Deasey punk bans for causing minor. Bread and forgot Ziyadi drawn by like mine or threat and Righteous Brandon Job Oxen and
four guys. In particular, I like the far from this of that as a scene, and I never gravitated towards punk nihilism, I was always like dead Kennedys like I was angry, because I felt so much and the scrutiny sort of like. U K, point nihilism was never my thing, but the Americans sort of, like activism, form of punk rock, was really meaningful to me. Random fact. I made it directed a music video for Job Box, nineteen. Eighty to when I was a film student at and why you with one it was for a song, they called cut off yeah. I made a four hundred fifty bucks on a separate camera and you can see it on Youtube. it's very bad. I mean, if you do me like so you know off is on novelty was one of my favorite islands of all time. I know that song I could sing for job OX reformed. I guess it's now been two years,
or something like that and I actually travel like I flew to Boston. I flew to allay to see them play again, because I just love advance how much we shot parts of it in my parents basement and then other parts at night, clubs in Boston and Rhode, island. I'm so excited by this incident. You ve no idea how much time I heard today, early nineties, India, Iraq, nerds, getting again great I'll say that during the pandemic I have actually found myself like going on. You too benches watching poorly made rocky memories of Eightys and Ninetys. You know Indira bands, I've why some comfort food for me
sense. To me I mean that was my gathering place for sure was was punk rock shows and so and that being a calling makes a ton of sense. When I get back to the subject at hand, because there's so much here, but you brought up community and it's such an important fact in human psychology. Is there a community aspect to this noticing that you're exhorting us to do? I think, So a rule, I didn't really put the thesis of the show front in centre when I made it originally. It's like the audience found it in the work, and I think that there is a community of people noticing and who care about the built world, but also that there is a community of people who, like little details and funding to their online. Like I feel EC design awareness is at an all time, high in the sense that, like people argue over the font on movie posters and they found each other online and
think TAT Ye combined those people who are like the kind of detail obsessive with their urbanists tools, like really in about equity and availability of resources in a city and combine all together. You really do form a community people who are thinking about where they are and thoughtful ways and I started calling them beautiful nurse. I mean the form from the show is even sort of community oriented. It was like the first public radio show to do a big Kickstarter campaign funded it, and it was a surprise to a lot of people in the public radio system that you could go to the audience. Directly and could fund show like mine and so there's. Always been a community aspect to it. Both creation and the discussion of the topics and I've always enjoy that. It's a huge part of what we do. so there's community in the kind of nursing out about a specific, an obsession as you called it before, not dissimilar to nursing.
about early nineties DC punk music, but there's also adjust calls back. Sending you said earlier, a somewhat abstract, but clearly meaning for feeling of community you ve derive from field. There's a whole, mostly invisible world of other human beings of, designed the world for you, so that you're not bump in your head, exactly anything designers or a certain type of worker or person that I find particularly interesting. It's a kind or with a purpose and viewing humanity through the lens of the things we build is something that I just enjoy. I like the story of people, but I kind of like it in this sort of sideways way like using these objects.
the land to tell the stories of people and our values and the whole book and endless show. The pike has in general is about examining those values through the what we make and build, and what we decide is important and You can often be uplifted by those decisions, and you can often be disappointed by this decisions, but the active note still makes me feel better. This active noticing that you described it mean that seems to be the biggest overlap in the Van diagram between your work in my work and when I say my work, but basically stealing everything from a guide known as the Buddha soap. So I really my work with your father. Yes,
you say my if you gotta be a thief but said the active noticing. You know you describe it as it feeling better than walking around and not knowing what the priorities are of the people who created this landscape, but there's also just sort of a waking up from the dream of the sleep walking that most of us are doing most of the time that is at least the Buddha would argue, and I would plus one him on this issue better than the alternative. The waking up is new in what I like about it. In the things that we do, who is that it's pretty easier do like theirs it in Mason Layer on the bill world. That is little words Might that you just can read like tax, even read streets, you can read sidewalk stamps, can read utility markings you can read and the like. I would say that the first step towards this kind of mindfulness is not anything that there's a lot of education or even knowing my show or knowing any of those things is just read what take a walk for fun.
Isn't it we'd everything that is in front a? U S, words and you will find a ton they're just in we have a mantra on the show. That's always read the black. and I'm a big believer and re impacts now, because plaques are true, often There are often more a story of who wrote them that what their written about, but there a good starting off point to show what other values the moment in time and place that you are an am. I find that to be really fascinating. So I think that the first sort of exercise- I am becoming more of a nine observers. Both anger is like read everything that available to you much more.
conversation with roman Mars, read after this, ten percent happier is brought by the capital when safer card with Sabre Yearn, unlimited, unlimited cash back going out or staying in that's unlimited, four percent cash back on dining at a restaurant or on take out at home four percent back on entertainment from the front row of a game or unpopular streaming from your couch and three percent back a grocery stores were you'll, find everything you need to make the meals that make their day so earn unlimited cash back with a Kapital one say regard but a one? What's in your wallet terms, apply see capital, one dot com for details? You may not be feeling down and out in depressed or like you're out a total loss. But if your stresses high your temper a shorter than usual, or even if you're, starting to feel strain in any of your relationships, you could probably use the chance to unload unload distress and get it out talk to someone who's completely unbiased about your life, someone who isn't going to jail
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eleven million piece of stimuli, that's coming you all the time in your brain is doing you a service by most of them out and only noticing the change, because the changes usually the tiger of its about to eat. and so one of the ones I really like our utility mark, and so, if you look down like anywhere any kind of populated plays at all towns that you, whatever you ll notice, these scrape markings on the street and They are the guide to all the pipes and conduits and tubes that are below the surface, and so, if there is a, a construction project. That's going to happen, has happened, the utility coming for some people out, don't lose all plans and also like some detecting devices like metal to doctors, to mark off with theirs, telecommunication line or a sewage line or electricity line and those breaking them on the surface. They use a different color coatings read his fur electricity oranges for telecom.
Visions and but an arrow in their direction, and if you know how to read them, you can have x ray vision. What does the cool thing in the world like one? I just kind of love and innovate self. That's awaited decode the world which it gives me some pleasure, but it also is hinges on his story. Fictitious tragedy that predated so like there was a construction project in Fourthly, on Venice Boulevard and dumb, some on winning construction worker cut through a petroleum pipeline. It caused huge explosion. This isn't eighteen. Seventy six and killed a number of people in this sort of like codified this idea like you were gonna color coded organised spreading across other countries, took it on, and so these things that seem kind of base.
They almost always have some kind of dramatic origin story to like push us into action and I'm sort of fastening by those stories as well. But if nothing else, if you don't know the story is just fund have like a decoder ring for the world like it just makes everything can a delightful. In my opinion, I was thinking about. The word delight in ages brings the world alive. I m I've spent zero percent of my life thinking about this. Until this conversation and now I m intrigues, and it's actually reminding me of a story, I had a great uncle jack and he had a candy store in Jersey City at one point and then there are some guys out front drilling jack, hammering him in the street doing something very get below there to do somehow: donor and Jack's. I was gonna, be bad for business, so he took a piece of chalk and whistled at the guy's, a walk down the street
drew a circle and said actually need to drill here, and they made it enterprise. Yes, Sudan's, think very kind way to put into effect so now there were all kind of on the how to Tipp. Here, I'd love didn't know or that what are the other things you recommend I mean just look down. I think that a lot of in space of architecture is taken up by the tallest buildings and the beautiful things, and I think the surface level. The street level is really fascinating, and You know, like I, have a real problem with asking people questions were enacting with people in the world. I basically created it John for myself. That forced me to talk to people which is like is almost universal to almost every reporter I know is like is in normal life if they don't have a reason to
engage and talk to people they never do. and so they have a job that forces them to and I'm exactly the same way, but under the sort of of doing the show, even if I'm not actively in the shower recording at our doing something. I find that the way I take and I said to you the way I interact with people when I'm interrogating it in this way- brings it out brings me out of my shell and gets people to talk about a thing That is a meaningful to them too. If he knows I'm gonna history or or something, and even if you don't find the actual story, bind that's like it's good to get you engaged and therefore, talking to people and if they are of a neutral thing, argue the centre on an objective normally asking other feelings or anything like that. He is like starting with something easy, and I like that. so if your inner city and your interacting with a local just to ask about you, know the building or when it was bill, TAT was built who built and for what reason.
Yeah that everything. If there's a person like in sort of some kind of authority, we think they might have the answer to it. But the other thing is like you know: that's gonna want I'm grown up in Memphis, Tennessee and it's your column, money brown. The aggregate that makes up the concrete on the asphalt can brownish anything it's because a historically council Missis. You know, there's lots of reasons I can make up for it, but one thing that was really funny is out: go to somebody Memphis, nothing why the streets can brownish another. the streets around the main asset, and it s a story that conversation, so they will have to have like knowledge They want to be teaching you anything it's something to engage with a kind of found over time. I've needed to engage with the world to get the most out of it to get the most out of myself when you can gonna. Do that, no matter if you're a journalist or not freely
yeah. Now then we are all thirsting, especially now for human connection, and I think, as we start to re, engage I'm guessing, but I think there's gonna be a room. Big wave of socialism Eddie and just learning you know. Maybe you having this is a little back pocket towards, whereas awaited start conversations with people Conner I agree. I also think that you know my neighborhood. I live in particular for now and for the past year, thereby more pedestrian in my neighborhood than I have ever seen before, and there already kind of engage with the world and things in a new way of seeing the house that never seen before, like a car, is the most horrible way to take in the built worlds. As far as I'm concerned, it's really just a conveyance, you can use it like You know of your exploring the young, the blue highways of America earthenware length as some use there, but for the most part it's pretty bad at it, but as a product.
In its great and, and I think that a lot of people are forced to be pedestrians, because it was the only way to get out, and so I think this potential for a great deal more engagement with your immediate environment over the past year than their husband before cause people been trapped inside. It could be a grateful for, out there. I definitely have a lot of social anxiety about what's going to happen next, when appropriate rely on my same thing, I couldn't get into the host mode and start asking people questions and- and I can easily escape by ok can we do what you're describing them in this? The books call ninety nine percent in while city, but what a few I moved out of New York City and live in the suburbs and or will I you know, maybe given the trajectory of my life, I'm an end up in the country, are all of these skills applicable. Elsewhere, absolutely invent the cities were. Monica is not really critical to the book itself. It starts with four of unnoticed things and tries to explain them. It does you're supposed to notice that an economist things out like the
architecture level. The throw geographic levels are like seeing the world where you'd see it from the window seat of a plane. You talked about syndrome, in other animals that thrive with humans, men, how we ve learned to interact with them in parks and in places so It really applies to the world in general. City was just kind of like someone up in organizing principle, but it's really anyplace sending troops. Those are like domesticated animals or animals, there are thriving because we're here and they can eat our food. The latter links. the raccoons, the pigeons, the rat, the things that I have tried in cities with us that have for selected themselves to do well, where we are abstaining myself, a challenge right now publicly to get the word sin and thrown into my next book a fanatic were I recommended Zander observe fastening people, love them like what I love about centre in particular. Is that there's a weird thing
between them and us, in terms of like when it comes to like raccoons, for example, they just- I ve. No, they have these criminal hands. They can open up things. You know they didn't. They can get into our food. The pretty cute you nobody, there have some danger to them and then there's things squirrels, which you may seem ability when it comes to parks, but squirrels deliberately introduced by people who on a more nature inside of our cities, and they failed numerous times until the design of parks with critical homestead with Central Park, providing the types of trees that squirrels can thrive with. It really took part designed to catch up who allow squirrels to be in our cities, and they were, I mean, like their dates like you can know them. My head, but we have listed them in the book, but it like we're like eighteen, sixty three, the first world was introduced in it. Park in Philadelphia. Like people wrote about it in the paper, and now we just think of Squirrels has been a thing that is just a part of the EU that
natural part of urban life and That was an act of design that we still live with today I mean that squirrels in New York City will mess you up. You get about a day, will catch you, but there were stories like in the paper. Wins rolls were introduced there. It is article written of people gathering around a tree to watch three squirrels and tree, and it was an event is like something meal spectacular in nature: the brought to a city and people marveled in it, and I in often think that if we weren't so used to squirrels, we will look at scrawls NGO. Those things have made their stunner a little creature services for they are delightful, I mean maybe familiarity breeding contempt or or lease breeding. You know blindness indifference for from having moved to the suburbs recently there's so much delight. I derived from your hearing foxes howl at night or active and on how they like shriek, or you know there are dear that he breaks
in our long every day and that dislike amazing. To me I don't know if those countless synod throats, but its awesome I think they do. They were occupied interstitial spaces. The syndrome in my neighborhood that I am most fervently buys a there. Are these wild turkey's that just dominate the streets and these traffic to stops for them. They walk across their super aggress. They do not care about your movement or time and their kind of the mascots of the city, and I find them pretty remarkable in your experience. What are the aspects of the built world that are most overlooked? Just that, An old notion that the bill world is a collection of choices instead of inevitable. It is so, I think about this. A lot uncovered happened and I was thinking about the city streets, so roads have been around for millennia and only in the past hundred years did we decide a roads for cars we
really just like went all in on roads been for cars, and before that they were for pedestrians. They were four horses. They were for a trolley cars. There were four vending lay wherefore, bicycles, and they were just a multimodal connecting point and then we ve found cars, found. They were too dangerous to exist with other things, and rather than limit their ability, we decided that we would just gonna clear the path and make them faster and easier for cars. And then covert, happens and then some reason like a priority changed and we need more outside space to interact with each other and be safe, and so people were beginning to over roads, by making it available for pedestrians, just walk in their clothes roads down, except for bigger main arteries or a close them off. So people could have the recital I cafes with it, because they could need inside and also the need of individual people and pedestrians outweigh the need of cars, and when I think that more
people overlook is the fact that the dominance of cars and rose was not ordained by anybody is, and I thing that we just have to accept. This was part of a continuum that we are part of. An people made a choice at one point, and we can make another choice now and I think that the All the nature of the organism of the city is the thing that people overlook the most is that you enter into the world as a sort of sobs testicular statistic: you think this is the world I enter into the world as it is or should be, and eating is really important. Recognise that it was changed before you got there.
it's gonna change after you got there and therefore you can change it. You can modify it and you can recognize those choices and make your own choices and that sort of mix of what creates a city from the different influences of people and that it is the city is always been. This conversation between top down design and bottom up intervention and recognising that that it is not static. Thing is probably the thing the people overlook. The most in the grandest sense is that they don't recognize how much it can change in church age, because our values change and therefore that he should change to reflect. Those now remember back when I lived on safety, ninth at nights in New York City and would be Langen need amusing. Before sleep and looking out at all the light, blinking lights in everything and thinking you know it's not fifty sixty seventy years ago, this was the where the scenes from mad men were playing route and so yeah.
I feel like those in absolute arising to the ego that can happen. This is the world because I'm here, but it's so many lives is so much change has happened right here, never mind the fact that there are indigenous people before we built any of this stuff absolutely, and I think I do find that comfortable like I find not being the centre of my own, have comfortable like like being a biological entering a biological world like being a pelagic life form that does not floats on the ocean. Sometimes I have moments where I effected in some moments. I can just exist with it, and I did that and I like that, change and think that it's important, and then there's moments written roll up their sleeves and be a part of it and there's rolled moments where you can affect it and you just like you, let it go it's important to let it go abstract by again to invoke the vandam
Graham, how much overlap there is between this quite specific area of focus and the contemplative meditative tradition that I come out of you to be so many things you're talking about letting go, taking yourself out of the centre of things, training, the muscle of ground, to enjoy seeing change. These are all at the central tenets of Buddhist, It's interesting. Have you draw their connection item I've always been aware of it being there. But I do think that when people connect to the show their connecting to those values below the time like it isn't that they have a particular fascination with, I don't know what, whatever it is, I'm talking about door, knobs or whatever it is that they have a connection to existing in this space. her, you are focusing on those things and you're, not necessarily centre of it, but you're extremes of it is so like there's a part of it
that runs counter to this. That, I think, is pretty fast mean too, which is like what we invite people to do on the show is too Its role value in the way taken the world so like a building, you can be told it's important, but it You feel bad or you're told that it's ugly, but if you find it- beautiful, like we put a lot of fun credence and they individual reaction of what people feel about a place and tat is so much part of its story as well so like, even though we our buildings and an architecture. I dont Hautala, architects telling you the truth. I often talk to the people that the building effects, and so does also part of this, and I think it's generally is the philosophy of it, not just sort of like we're moving your ego, but also centering it at some points and read is that it has a value and also offsetting like one of the great things about one of my favorite books that swerve inspired the show
and always called the design of everyday things. By dawn, Norman, it was released under the both the psychology of everyday things, because there is no like public consent the word design and one of things that he's is sort of like he gives you this ability to forgive you she's like if you have lived in this house for twenty years and you stoning to look up which knob effects, which burner that is not your fault, that is the designers fault, you're, not dumb, and so Jumping from that idea of this is not your fault union does matter that you are in a sea of things, are changing and having a light touch and jumping between them is. I think the way that I have chosen to live. My my is like this is where I matter. This is where my opinion really matters, as is where a dozen as it were in part, something this is why not part of something and as it were, a decision was made for me that I disagree with. This is where a decision was made for me that and benefits me in such a way that I feel great gratitude, All of those things observing all of those states simultaneously
is this one of ninety nine percent of visible way of being nothing would be correct to say kind of situated. You grounded you in some way. I think so because I mean you kind of way projects, your best self, into the person that analyzing these things, and then you try to be that stuff. You know I mean like the host of the show. Roman Mars. Is me But it's like a heightened version of me as I character, but is a choice as a choice to be aware- and I don't read every plant in my everyday life. I don't. I don't ask in several questions all the time. I don't sound qualities good. I sound because ten people have worked on a script that a meal in it. For me, you know like these are all things that I spire to be
so in a way. There's an aspirational aspect to the show, even if you're not like the host of the show that there's a like that mindfulness is a thing that you also like it's great to achieve, but you have to forgive your self. If you don T, you mean like some, those just to get stuff done and that's fair to link, but an oriental me yeah, I'm thinking about wife, comparing the version of me that shows up in this shows how I am at dinner: I'd, never water to discuss that publicly story, for you told me that I would forgive you of the delta between your table self in your books. Like you, thank you have solutions. You have brought something up a couple times I haven't really giving you the opportunity to expand on what I think is incredibly important, and it is another aspect in the overlap between you know my world than yours, and that is ethics, you'd and use that word you used values or equity and
I would imagine that if we were taking a walk with a ninety nine percent invisible view the world. We might notice that in some neighborhoods, while they don't have pharmacies here or the infrastructure seems not to be as well tended to etc, etc. Is that of focus for you? It is, and it actually sort of centres. The last section that we call urbanism- and it really is about that conversation that I was talking about about how the design is intended in the top down design. In the end, the bottom up, intervention and there's some that are really obvious. For example, I don't know if you've been in a city, there's like there's, been a surge in the past couple decades of spikes on the ground, so that people can't sleep outside. It's like there is often called
homeless. Spikes there's always aspect of coercion and design were a good design, is kind of a sort of narrow your choices so that their simple and easy and so there's cordon in our cities as well. A lot of those are pretty hostile to groups of people that other groups of people find undesirable and homeless. He's a big or does the home vagrancy or loitering. So, like you so there's homeless, bikes, you'll see those enable like spikes in their angry, and you know what they are when you see them but Also, things like that are more so like they'll, be like little decorative knobs on ledges that people can't sit down, because I don't want that to happen or armrests on venture. So armrests are you. if you want to rest your arms, but they also keep you from lying down on benches in, I think you ve probably felt, as you may know, felt as a park, because you might not be
a person who likeness lie down in a park but, like I think you felt it in an airport. It's like you, ve A long way over orders thing overnight, an airport or whatever it is they have these meal seats are really rigid like they can't lie down on them and are there to stop you from taking up too much, base and they really do modify your behavior, and you might feel at that moment wouldn't feel it in a park because you're, not necessarily someone would sleep an import, but it's trying to affect the people that are in so when you go through a city. Really interesting to notice those moments of coercion, because alive These decisions are made for you in some of things you might agree with, or you might like in London that there's a thing called Camden Bench and is this sort of banned there is meant to do all these things is Canada's big lumpy piece of concrete and it through slopes and whether you can sit on it. But you can't lie down on it. It doesn't have surfaces that risk
the porter can grind on had and has these little recesses, where you can put your purser handbag behind your legs so that somebody can come in and snatch it from you. It has no credit. Is that so many can hide drugs or any illicit substances is like his big anti object. That's meant to stop all these types of behaviors. In those me paviers you may like totally agree like I don't like drugs and think I don't use, em, don't dream. I dont like drug selling I don't want. You know that too an issue. I dont want people's doing purses, but you can still have you mean about this object and how those are manifest into this thing. That is meant to just course people how fervently you wanna enforced. Something is really representational, rob values as well, and and often we chose to enforce them on people that you know that we should have to make
before- and I think that's that's the way to taking the city as well. It's so interesting that you can view the built world, as you know it, depending on who you are you can view it as you're being held in this. It previously invisible way by beneficence, ancestors and designers, and you can see how, for some people, the build world is a physical manifestation of classes M races. whatever absolutely then. That is a lot of the project of the as well as to make us aware of those choices and when those choices are made for A certain group of people against another group of people- and I know Someone do your best to you. I said represent Yoda, try to change them and the type of guerrilla interventions that we talk about in the book often have to do with those types of things like people like deciding
they're gonna put form over the spikes or they are going to make things. our other interventions on top of the interventions, to make things a little bit better like that I am allay, who put up a half an exit sign to the five freeway he hung over and over bass and put it up and it studied the signs. He made a perfect replica over a Calvin, highway sign, but adopt ass though he would be able to see his exit and and then it was so good that the city they just get it up, and so you These types of interventions can be really extreme. Like that which are actually dangerous and probably should absolutely not be attempted, but they can be minor things like gum putting out a trash can somewhere that you see trash putting up in When somebody put up a Buddha on a little triangle, like untended sort of triangle, created by three Reed's coming together, and it was a pace that
like the trash and was neglected and Susie put a Buddha there. There was a kind of money fullness of this space and it became of people from bringing and other things, and there are lots of food. Is there and there like a little house for Buddha and that also afore, of coercion. You know like I find it to be. A very Nice unpleasant form of coercion, but it definitely is, and in those interventions are fascinating to me, because Do you think that they represent so much of our ethics and our values? While this interview for me has been a delight before I guide, if I could push you to shamelessly plug the book, the pie cast in anything else, you're doing for people we want to learn more about you in your work, for the show is called ninety nine percent of us, but you can get it wherever you listen upon cast in the book is called ninety nine percent, invisible city. I feel guide to the hidden world of everyday design and its co, authored by Kirk cost at who works on the show, You can find us online at nine p m dot org. You can find me
arrow and Mars, and the show at nine IP org on twitter, and you can find us uninstall diamond Facebook and all those things too well great job. With this scheme up the great works pleasure to meet you go discord, further to meet you. Do I'm gonna take so like Well, that was before Zack Brokers, the drummer. Adam Wade was the drummer drain novelty, so it's probably are you found, but I actually think Adam Wade was gone by the time they tortured and shot that video, because I believe Zack was in the band at that time as the new drummer. So I text was at all the time. He has a stationary shop in Brooklyn with his wife and he's a huge fan of the show when we met through, like him being found. The show me talking about how much I like drawbacks, so the document on the eye plays Finally, the EU, even proudly my parents, ass with the rest of development, is so hilarious to me. I can't believe it. I'm sure about that.
The thing you do not have enough, because that is our enthusiasm, Cortez minimise. Thank you so much. Thank you too enlargement can really enjoyed meeting him. I do before we go. Want to zoom in on the part of the interview where Roman talked about paying close attention to the city, paying close attention can be difficult, especially in our country. only distracted world, but it does illuminate the ways we care for one another as Roman described and paying attention is, as you may already know, the basis of my fulness practice. So if you want to practise paying close attention, I recommend the basics course over on the ten percent happier app its top by Joseph Goldstein, one of my favorite teachers, one of my favorite human beings, my personal teacher in the course I introduce you to the essentials of meditation in a series of guided interviews with yours, truly paired, with guided meditations all designed to help you develop your practice. You could try the basic,
for free. When you download the ten percent happier app wherever you get your apps, the show is made by Samuel Johns, Dj Cashmere Kim Bike, mom rearward challenge and plant get our. engineering by the good folks overhead ultraviolet audio. I also want to say we have special help on this particular episode from Kansas. Middle Khan and as always a big shot out to my friends see news Ryan casts Orange. Our co hand will see, while on Wednesday, but an exception
Transcript generated on 2021-08-02.