Bolt Half, Kama Jania, Finland, 2015. Waterproof plastic, aluminum, PVC, Mylar.
Bolt Half, Kama Jania, Finland, 2015. Waterproof plastic, aluminum, PVC, Mylar.
Karol Pałka, Kama Jania

7 Weird, Beautiful Tents We'd Love to Take Camping

Bolt Half, Kama Jania, Finland, 2015. Waterproof plastic, aluminum, PVC, Mylar.
Bolt Half, Kama Jania, Finland, 2015. Waterproof plastic, aluminum, PVC, Mylar.
Karol Pałka, Kama Jania

When you go camping, you’re usually looking for much more than aesthetics from your tent. You want it to be easy to set up and sturdily weatherproof. Mostly, you want it to be super portable. But some tents are truly beautiful. A recently published book called Mobitecture: Architecture on the Move by Rebecca Roke (Phaidon, $25) highlights the best designs in portable architecture, tents included. Here are seven super-cool (if not entirely pragmatic) tents featured in the book.

1. BOLT HALF

Created as part of a 2015 thesis project by industrial designer Kama Jania, the Bolt Half tent (above) gives you peace of mind in a thunderstorm. It has a custom-designed locking frame with copper wiring that discharges electrical currents to the ground if the tent is struck by lightning. It’s waterproof, fits one to two people, and weighs just 2 pounds.

2. UMBRELLA HOUSE

A white structure made of umbrellas sits in a park with a single white umbrella opened in front of it.
Umbrella House, Kengo Kuma, Italy, 2008. Umbrellas, waterproof zippers, timber base.
Yoshie Nishikawa

In 2008, Japanese architect Kengo Kuma turned white umbrellas into a temporary sun or rain shelter. Kuma added zippers to connect the umbrellas, but used the trusses already built into the umbrella to support the structure. It’s a moveable pavilion meant to turn the individual protection provided by an umbrella into a group shelter.

3. HABITENT

A shiny silver tent is topped with a sweatshirt-style hood.
Habitent, Lucy Orta, UK, 1992. Aluminum-coated polyamide, polar fleece, telescopic aluminum poles, whistle, lantern, compass.
Pierre Leguillon

Mobitecture calls this one-person tent from British artist Lucy Orta a piece “somewhere between art, architecture, and social protest.” The Habitent takes a waterproof poncho, created from aluminum material similar to what’s used in emergency space blankets, and turns it into a home for the wearer.

4. THE WEDGE

A blue tent illuminated from the inside sits on the edge of a rocky beach.
The Wedge, Heimplanet, Germany, 2013. Inflatable thermoplastic urethane, high tensile polyester fabric.
Stefan Leitner

This two-man tent from the German outfitter Heimplanet is designed to minimize the time you have to spend setting up your tent. Its interconnected inflatable poles fill up with the same pump. It goes up fast, and when you’re done, you can deflate the tent and fold it back up into your pack. It is not, however, cheap: You can buy it for $600.

5. GLASTONBURY SOLAR CONCEPT TENT

A rendering shows a rounded tent with solar panels on it set up in a grassy field.
Glastonbury Solar Concept Tent, Kaleidoscope and Orange, UK, 2009. Photovoltaic fabric, solar threads, Plexiglas, plastic.
Kaleidoscope Design

Designed for the Glastonbury music festival in the UK, this tent is woven with photovoltaic threads and covered with adjustable solar panels so that it can store up power to charge festival-goers’s devices overnight. (It was designed for the cell phone provider Orange.) At night, the panels emit light to make the tent glow. It’s just a concept design, but we very much wish it was real.

6. THE CATERPILLAR

A giant inflatable arch structure sits inside a park.
Caterpillar, Lambert Kamps, The Netherlands, 2007. PVC, steel cables.
Lambert Kamps

This tent designed by Dutch artist Lambert Kamps isn’t for camping—it’s for movies. The inflatable theater can be set up in parks to house up to 30 moviegoers, with a large film screen at the end of the tube. It’s made of PVC foil and designed to remain cool and dry even in wet summer weather.

7. KAMPER KART

A brown canvas camper pops up from inside a store shopping cart.
Camper Kart, Kevin Cyr, USA, 2009. Steel shopping cart, chipboard, nylon, canvas.
Kevin Cyr

If you think tiny houses are small, check out the Kamper Kart, which takes an ordinary shopping cart and turns it into a petite mobile home. Designed by Maine-based artist Kevin Cyr, it folds and unfolds to turn a cart full of wood and canvas into a home. A crank raises the roof of the structure, and the retractable bed extends into the sleeping position.

A yellow book cover reads “Mobitecture: Architecture on the Move.”
Phaidon

You can get the book for $16 on Amazon.

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Bolt Half, Kama Jania, Finland, 2015. Waterproof plastic, aluminum, PVC, Mylar.
iStock
Do 'Close Door' Buttons in Elevators Actually Do Anything?
iStock
iStock

When you’re running late for work, one small comfort is finding an empty elevator waiting for you at your office building. You scurry inside, and since no one else is waiting to enter, you jab the 'close door' button. The doors comply, the elevator starts moving, and you breathe a sigh of relief.

This is a familiar scenario for many, but it’s also a big fat lie. That’s because most of the door-close buttons in U.S. elevators don’t actually work. In fact, they’re programmed that way.

But before you get ready to send off a strongly worded email to your office building’s elevator manufacturer, you may want to hear why this is the case. When the Americans With Disabilities Act was first passed in 1990, certain requirements for elevators were outlined, such as the installation of raised buttons, braille signs, and audible signals.

The act ensured that someone with a disability would have enough time to get inside, stipulating that elevator doors must remain fully open for at least three seconds and thereby preventing the button from cutting that time short. Some elevator manufacturers took it one step further by deactivating the button entirely.

Since the life span of an elevator is about 25 years and the Disabilities Act has been around for 28 years, it’s safe to assume that most of the elevators in operation today do not have a functioning 'close door' button, The New York Times reports. Only firefighters are able to close elevator doors manually through the use of a key.

It's important to note that there are exceptions to this rule, though. As the New York Daily News noted, New York City elevators are required by law to have working 'close door' buttons, even though some operate on a long delay (so long, in fact, that it calls the button's usefulness into question).

However, you’re in luck if you’re taking a lift (which, of course, is British for “elevator”). 'Close door' buttons are fully functional in most elevators in the UK, according to The Telegraph. A spokesman for the Lift and Escalator Industry Association told the newspaper that not all elevators have the button, but when they’re present, they do work. Again, the time it takes for the doors to shut after pressing the button varies from lift to lift.

While U.S. elevator manufacturers have a seemingly good reason for disabling the 'close door' button, some may question the point of propagating the myth and installing a button that serves no purpose in the first place. In response, some would argue that placebo buttons serve an important psychological function in society.

"Perceived control is very important," Harvard psychologist Ellen J. Langer told The New York Times. "It diminishes stress and promotes well-being."

That’s right: By believing that you’re in control of your fate—or at least how quickly you can make it up to the sixth floor—you’re better off. It doesn’t end with elevators, either. Buttons placed at city crosswalks are often disabled, and the thermostats in many office buildings are rigged so that the temperature can’t be altered (even if the numbers appear to change).

Some might swear up and down that elevator 'close door' buttons work, but this, too, could be your brain deceiving you. As author David McRaney wrote in an essay: “If you happen to find yourself pressing a nonfunctional close-door button, and later the doors close, you’ll probably never notice because a little spurt of happiness will cascade through your brain once you see what you believe is a response to your action. Your behavior was just reinforced. You will keep pressing the button in the future.”

According to The New Yorker, these buttons are designed to alleviate some of the subconscious anxiety that comes from stepping inside a tiny box that's hoisted up some 20 or 40 or 80 floors by a cable: “Elevator design is rooted in deception—to disguise not only the bare fact of the box hanging by ropes but also the tethering of tenants to a system over which they have no command."

So now you know: Next time you’re running late to work, take comfort in the fact that those few extra seconds you would’ve saved by pressing a functioning 'close door' button aren’t worth all that much in the long run.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Bolt Half, Kama Jania, Finland, 2015. Waterproof plastic, aluminum, PVC, Mylar.
George Barratt-Jones, Vimeo
This Crafty Bicycle Can Knit a Scarf in 5 Minutes
George Barratt-Jones, Vimeo
George Barratt-Jones, Vimeo

Knitting can be a time-consuming, meticulous task, but it doesn’t need to be. At least not if you’re George Barratt-Jones. As The Morning News spotted, the Dutch designer recently created a human-powered automated knitting machine that can make a scarf while you wait for your train to arrive.

The Cyclo-Knitter is essentially a bicycle-powered loom. As you pedal a stationary bike, the spinning front wheel powers a knitting machine placed on top of a wooden tower. The freshly knitted fabric descends from the top of the tower as the machine works, lowering your brand-new scarf.

Cyclo Knitter by George Barratt-Jones from George Barratt-Jones on Vimeo.

“Imagine it’s the midst of winter,” Barratt-Jones, who founded an online skill-sharing platform called Kraftz, writes of the product on Imgur. “You are cold and bored waiting for your train at the station. This pedal powered machine gets you warm by moving, you are making something while you wait, and in the end, you are left with a free scarf!”

Seems like a pretty good use of your commute down-time, right?

If you're a fan of more traditional knitting methods, check out these knitting projects that can put your needles to work, no bicycle required.

[h/t The Morning News]

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