Roman Mars [00:00:01] If you listen closely, you can hear it–that sizzle–that sizzle that can only mean one thing: Applebee’s Sizzlin’ Skillets. We did a whole story about these Sizzlin’ Skillets once. When a server walks through the restaurant with one, the effect is incredible. It just works on all your senses, and your brain goes, “I need that Sizzlin’ Skillet in my face right now.” Applebee’s has new skillets, like chicken and shrimp scampi and garlic parmesan sirloin. Picking which one is probably the hardest decision you’ll make because deciding to get one is a no-brainer because they start at just $10.99. If all this talk is making you hungry, just follow the sizzle to your nearest Applebee’s and enjoy this sizzlin’ hot deal. But be sure to do it soon because they won’t be there forever. Limited time price participation and selection may vary. Tax and gratuity excluded. That means you need to remember to tip your Applebee’s server. They’re carrying sizzling food to your face; you’ve got to take care of them. We often refer to the past as simpler times. But was it really? Getting your business online is a game changer and Squarespace is the all-in-one service to do it the right way. Use Squarespace customizable templates to grab customers attention and then grow, grow, grow with the tools available to you, like Squarespace Analytics, Integrated SEO features, email campaigns, and much, much more. Head to squarespace.com/invisible for a free trial, and when you’re ready to launch, use the promo code “invisible” to save 10% off your first purchase of a website or domain. This is 99% Invisible. I’m Roman Mars. I fell in love with architecture in Chicago, a city known for its pioneering, stunning skyscrapers. Every good thing you hear about Chicago architecture is true. And whenever anyone I know takes a trip to Chicago, I tell them the one thing that you have to do is go on the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s Center Boat Tour. From the river, you can take in all these amazing buildings while a whip smart, passionate docent tells you story after story of grand ambitions and visionary architects. But it’s important to note that only a small percentage of structures are designed by architects. And while an iconic building along the skyline might be the best way to identify a city at a distance. Up close, it’s the subtle cues and vernacular design that make the city what it is. If someone were to blindfold me, spin me around, and drop me in one of Chicago’s 1900 miles worth of alleyways, I would know what city I was in instantly–not because I could see the Sears Tower, but because from almost any alley you can see these heavy, robust, wooden fire escapes climbing up the backs of two, three, and four-story brick apartment buildings. To call it a fire escape is almost a misnomer. They usually have a substantial landing on each floor, so they serve as a de facto porch–a place to store things and hang out with a few friends, grill up some steaks, and meet the neighbors down in the alley below. These wooden steps and porches started popping up in the early 1900s, bolted onto buildings as a means of emergency escape because of Chicago’s very justified fear of fire. They were utilitarian affairs that became so much more. It’s safe to say that the vast majority of these were not designed by architects. The one on the back of my apartment building in Logan Square was so structurally unsound, I don’t think it was designed at all. This week, 99% Invisible producers and friends of the show will be sharing more stories about vernacular architecture we love from our hometowns, but with an emphasis on examples that may be a bit shaggier and have somewhat more functional origins. They may not be the first things people call beautiful, but they’re beautiful to us, and they are essential parts of the places they’re built. Up first is producer Emmett FitzGerald.
Emmett FitzGerald [00:04:17] I grew up in central Vermont in an old house on a hill. It was built in the 1840s–a little farmhouse from a time when most people were farmers. Over the years, the house grew as my parents tacked on a room here and a room there. But in the kitchen, you can still see the original spruce beams with tiny curlicue tunnels carved by 19th century bugs. There are a lot of old farmhouses like mine along the dirt roads of Vermont. Most of them were not designed by architects but local carpenters who followed a few different traditional styles. And like mine, most of these houses have grown and changed over the centuries, adapting to the needs of new generations. As a result, the farmhouses of Vermont don’t have a single consistent look. But there is one bizarre architectural feature that you will find on lots of them: windows that have been turned 45 degrees. They’re just like regular windows, but cockeyed–tilted so that they run on a diagonal parallel with the roofline rather than straight up and down. Growing up, I would see these windows all the time. Usually, you’d spot them on an old looking farmhouse that might have an even older-looking barn little thing in the field out back. They always looked kind of otherworldly to me, like little glitches in the matrix. But to be honest, I didn’t think that much about them. They were all over Vermont, and I kind of assumed that they were all over other places, too.
Alice [00:05:47] It did not feel strange to me at all.
Emmett FitzGerald [00:05:49] My friend Alice actually had one of these windows in her bedroom growing up. And on a recent visit home from Chicago, she posted a few pictures of her childhood house to Instagram.
Alice [00:05:58] Like everybody here–to a T–was commenting like, “That window is crazy! That’s a crazy window!” And I was like, “Is it?” Like, in my mind, I was like, “Oh, I just grew up with this window. I didn’t realize it was crazy.”
Emmett FitzGerald [00:06:12] It turns out that these crooked windows are found almost entirely in Vermont. They go by a few different names but are probably most commonly referred to as “witch windows.” Legend has it. The windows were tilted on a diagonal in order to prevent witches from flying into the house on their broomsticks–a sort of architectural defense strategy.
Alice [00:06:36] And I grew up thinking it’s called a witch window because witches can’t fly in it. So, I was safe from witches.
Emmett FitzGerald [00:06:45] Why exactly a competent witch would be thwarted by a diagonal window is never quite explained.
Alice [00:06:51] Because they can only fly straight, I guess.
Emmett FitzGerald [00:06:54] But there you go. Did that bring you a peace of mind?
Alice [00:06:58] Honestly, yes. I grew up a very fearful child of paranormal things. And the surroundings of my house are kind of spooky, too–like dark woods, and you don’t know what’s in there. So, like, yeah, really any sort of extra protection–help. That’s ridiculous to think about now, but it’s true.
Emmett FitzGerald [00:07:24] And like I said, these tilted windows, which you see all over Vermont, have a few different names. Did you ever hear them referred to as “coffin windows?”.
Alice [00:07:33] No. Wait. Why were they called coffin windows?
Emmett FitzGerald [00:07:36] Okay, so this one makes even less sense in my opinion. But the story goes that they were called coffin windows because they enabled people to slide a coffin out of a second story window if someone happened to die upstairs. I don’t really understand how that would work physically or why you would bring the coffin upstairs rather than just bring the body downstairs. But the name has stuck around and added another layer of general spookiness to these windows. Now, I had fully assumed that Alice’s witch window (or coffin window) had been a part of the house’s original construction or maybe some 19th century renovation. Their house was definitely old–from the same era as my parents. And people aren’t exactly out there installing new witch windows. At least that’s what I thought.
Alice [00:08:24] I actually asked my mom about it, and she said that there used to be, like, a smaller window in there, and then I was born, and they wanted to have a window that a person could fit through just in case of emergencies. So, she had it put in.
Emmett FitzGerald [00:08:42] Which means that Alice’s witch window was only a few decades old and was installed not to prevent witches from entering the house or to get coffins out–but to give little Alice an emergency exit in case of a fire.
Alice [00:08:54] Yeah, she put it in.
Emmett FitzGerald [00:08:55] That’s so interesting. Maybe I should call your mom.
Alice [00:08:58] Yeah, you probably should. I’m sorry I’m not helpful at all. Call my mom!
Nancy [00:09:10] Emmett?
Emmett FitzGerald [00:09:11] Hey, Nancy.
Nancy [00:09:11] Hi.
Emmett FitzGerald [00:09:11] How are you?
Nancy [00:09:12] I’m good. How are you?
Emmett FitzGerald [00:09:14] This is Nancy, mother of Alice–and as I learned in this conversation–the former architectural historian of the state of Vermont. So, yeah, I probably should have just called her first.
Alice [00:09:25] So Alice may have told you that I put in that window. That’s not original.
Emmett FitzGerald [00:09:30] Nancy confirmed that she wanted to install the window to give Alice an escape route out the bedroom. But there was a problem–there just wasn’t enough room. Like a lot of old farmhouses in Vermont, the main part of the house is only one and a half stories tall. And then there’s a back wing that’s even shorter. And so, Alice’s second floor room was tucked under the slope of the gable roof, and there just wasn’t enough space for a regular vertical window. But, Nancy, being an expert in the historical architecture of Vermont, had an idea.
Alice [00:10:00] I thought, “Well, I’ll just use the old Vermont solution, which is to put in a window at an angle like that.” I asked the carpenters to put it in. They thought I was a little bit crazy.
Emmett FitzGerald [00:10:14] Nancy says that this is the real reason these crooked windows exist in the first place. It has nothing to do with witches or coffins. It was just a clever architectural workaround–a simple, cheap solution for how to get a window into a space where one doesn’t naturally fit. You could build a dormer, but that’s expensive. And so, at some point, some clever carpenter in Vermont had the idea to just salvage a regular window and turn it on an angle.
Alice [00:10:42] And then the idea just spread as a practical solution. So, you know, it wasn’t like it was a decorative feature of old houses. It was, I think, a very practical old Yankee solution to getting light and air into that room that otherwise doesn’t have enough wall space to put a window to the outside.
Emmett FitzGerald [00:11:12] There’s actually one more name that these windows sometimes go by: “Vermont windows.” It might not sound as cool as witch windows, but I think it’s a pretty good name for an architectural feature that emerged from the collective genius of a bunch of anonymous Vermonters.
Roman Mars [00:11:45] For our multi-part 500 Episode Milestone Vernacular Spectacular, a lot of the staff have done stories that have focused on residential and personal architecture that’s affected them. But friend of the show and longtime contributor Katie Thornton is here to talk about the thing that she loves in her neighborhood in Minneapolis that is not residential at all. It is industrial. In fact, it is, like, aggressively industrial.
Katie Thornton [00:12:08] Yeah, “aggressively industrial” is the perfect description. And certainly, it is the architectural feature that dominates my neighborhood, stretches above homes–above trees. And I’m talking about these huge concrete towers that we know as “grain silos.”
Roman Mars [00:12:28] When I think a lot of people picture grain silos, they’re like driving on a highway in the Midwest and they see one in the distance–this lone tower. But this is not what is going on in your neighborhood. This is something a little bit more massive.
Katie Thornton [00:12:42] Right. Yes. So, I live in Minneapolis. And so, if you can imagine, like, one of those towers–but they usually are sort of domed if you see it out on a farm–chop off the dome and just bunch them all together, like, rows and rows side by side. They’re these sort of massive concrete compounds that just are used to store tons and tons of grain, and stretching for blocks and blocks and blocks.
Roman Mars [00:13:07] And you currently live under the shadow of one. What is that like?
Katie Thornton [00:13:10] Yeah, I love it. I’ve lived here for a number of years now. It means that my garden is always a little bit pitiful. I’m robbed of some, like, pretty precious hours of sunlight every day. But it is still very much worth it. And the silos–they’re kind of funny, you know? They, like, almost apologize for, like, “Oh, sorry, your garden sucks.” It’s like, “Here. We spilled a bunch of grain all over the train tracks that are adjacent to the silos.” So, you have this, like, annoyingly idyllic surplus of bunnies and other little critters. And then in turn, that means there’s red tailed hawks and falcons who live up in the crevices–in the cracks–of the silos. And they’re just eating very well.
Roman Mars [00:13:51] You know, I think I picture you living near an abandoned silo for some reason. And there are tons of abandoned ones. But yours is full of grain. That’s actually really cool. So why are there so many grain silos in Minneapolis? What was going on when their boom happened?
Katie Thornton [00:14:06] I think that really gets to one of the reasons why I like the silos is that it’s this big visual reminder of why the city grew in the first place. The area has been home to indigenous people for millennia–since long before white colonists settled here. But starting in the 1800s, this burgeoning city of Minneapolis was built on the Mississippi River–on the area where there’s only sort of significant natural waterfall on the entirety of the Mississippi. And eventually they were able to use the power of that waterfall to power flour mills, where they ground up wheat, which was grown in the area nearby. So, milling became the city’s biggest industry really quickly. And as the railroads were built, more and more unprocessed grain could come in from farms from throughout the region, and get processed by the mills in the city, and then be stored in silos like the one near me, or shipped down the river, or shipped out by train. So, there’s this sort of interconnected, manmade and natural systems that all sort of converge and coincide right here.
Roman Mars [00:15:14] And then you add to it that these crops are seasonal, so you get a whole bunch at once and you have to deal with it. So, you have to find a way to store it somehow.
Katie Thornton [00:15:25] Yeah. And so, in order to sort of solve this problem of storing grain, farmers for a long, long time would just store it on their property. For the most part–since the 1800s–the buildings that held the grain were wooden and square, like many buildings, as you may be aware, are built. But there was sort of this problem, which is that, like, when they were filled, there would be these air pockets in the corners. They wouldn’t just fill out, you know, like a cat fills out every corner of a cardboard box. It would just, like, not reach into the corners, and then this little bit of air would lead to all of this grain rot. And so that was sort of a problem for farmers; it was a problem for grain merchants. And also, wooden silos were just super prone to catching on fire. So, this grain merchant–Frank Peavey–sick of losing his grain to rot, didn’t want to pay these high fire insurance premiums. And so, he wanted to figure out how to store the grain in a different way. And so, he brought along this contractor named Charles Haglin, and they wanted to try something different. “Well, what is flammable? Let’s try concrete,” which hadn’t been done before. And also, you know, “This whole square building thing–it isn’t really working. The corners are the problem. Let’s just make it round.” And so, in the late 1800s, they decided to build up a prototype of a cylindrical, concrete grain silo to sort of prove that their idea could work.
Roman Mars [00:16:48] You know, the typology of a cylinder makes so much sense. It’s almost surprising that they didn’t come up with it sooner.
Alice [00:16:56] Yeah.
Katie Thornton [00:16:57] But I think you’re right. It did surprise me that it didn’t come up sooner. And honestly, what surprised me even more is that, like, even when they came up with this idea at the tail end of the 1800s, everyone was like, “Terrible idea. It’s going to be an absolute flop. What are you thinking?” They started to build this structure, and before they could even finish the prototype, people had dubbed it “Peavey’s Folly,” which is just, like, a very cruel thing to do. It’s not like it had failed. He just literally wasn’t done. So, people just were like, “This is a stupid idea; this is never going to work.” And they thought that either the cement wouldn’t be strong enough–like the sheer volume of the grain that was pushing out on the silo from the inside would just be enough to force it to crack or burst, which, you know, I guess valid concern. I would probably have similar concerns about wood. Also, they thought that this airtight tower is going to create a vacuum. And so, when you open a door at the bottom and let the grain spill out, which is how you get the grain out, it’s just going to implode–it’s just going to collapse. People thought it was a terrible idea.
Roman Mars [00:18:03] Okay. So, they build their prototype, and people are skeptical. What happens next?
Katie Thornton [00:18:08] Well, as you can probably imagine based on how grain silos look today, Peavey proved them all wrong. There was a day set where they were going to fill their demonstration piece. And hundreds of people gathered to watch this drama because this is, like, the big news of the day. The silo is going to explode, it’s going to collapse, it’s going to whatever. So, they cordoned people off from the supposed blast zone. It was a whole to-do. The New York Times even sent a reporter out. And then… what are you going to report on? It went off without a hitch.
Roman Mars [00:18:40] And then they began to crop up everywhere.
Katie Thornton [00:18:44] Everywhere. So, the silos near me were sort of built shortly after this very first concrete, cylindrical grain silo. And, you know, they were really built to last. They were not built with any consideration for people’s aesthetic desires necessarily, but they were definitely built to last–hence still living behind them.
Roman Mars [00:19:04] But as you mentioned, milling is no longer the primary source of industrial income when it comes to Minneapolis.
Katie Thornton [00:19:12] Right.
Roman Mars [00:19:12] So what happens when you have this robust piece of industrial infrastructure that can last, you know, 110 years when there is no longer grain to be milled?
Katie Thornton [00:19:25] So, you know, for those silos that are still operational–they’re one of the rare pieces of industrial design that still operates as intended, like 100 plus years later, which is pretty darn remarkable. But for those that aren’t operational, they’ve proven really difficult to repurpose. I love to see the silos that have been repurposed across the country. Some have been retrofitted as hotels. There are brewery facilities. There’s some condos. There’s even some condos here in Minneapolis. You don’t even recognize it when you walk past. I biked past this one building that was a retrofitted grain silo that is now condos for years and years of my childhood. And it took me until this year–this story–to be like, “Oh, that’s a silo.”
Roman Mars [00:20:07] Oh, wow.
Katie Thornton [00:20:08] You know–I’ve heard it said on this show–good design is 99% invisible, and I could not agree more. But I just kind of happened to live at one of those junctures where it’s just unavoidably visible.
Roman Mars [00:20:19] Yeah.
Katie Thornton [00:20:20] And it’s sort of this, like, relay station in this big urban design where, like, our infrastructure has to come up for air–it has to be seen. And personally, I kind of like to get a little look behind the scenes at what makes a city tick or even just what used to make a city tick.
Roman Mars [00:20:37] Well, thank you so much for talking with us and sharing your love of grain silos.
Katie Thornton [00:20:41] Thanks, Roman. Thanks for having me on. And congratulations on a 500 and 501st episode.
Roman Mars [00:20:46] Thank you. I’m amazed myself.
Katie Thornton [00:20:51] It’s amazing.
Roman Mars [00:20:51] The global appetite for talking about grain silos and maintenance coal covers was stronger than I thought.
Katie Thornton [00:20:58] Well, I’m honored to be a small part of it.
Roman Mars [00:21:10] We’re going to shout at the sky with Jayson De Leon after this. Did you know life insurance through your workplace may not offer enough protection for your family’s needs? Policygenius gives you a smarter way to find and buy the right coverage. Policygenius was built to modernize the life insurance industry. Their technology makes it easy to compare life insurance quotes from top companies like AIG and Prudential–in just a few clicks–to find your lowest price. With Policygenius you can find life insurance policies that start at just $17 per month per $500,000 of coverage. And Policygenius has licensed agents that can help you find options that offer coverage in as little as a week and avoid unnecessary medical exams. They’re not incentivized to recommend one insurer over another, so you can trust their guidance. There are no added fees, and your personal info is private. No wonder Policygenius has thousands of five-star reviews on Google and Trustpilot. Your loved ones deserve a financial safety net; you deserve a smarter way to find and buy it. Head to policygenius.com and click the link in the description to get your free life insurance quotes and see how much you could save. That’s policygenius.com. Everyone loves finding great deals, and there’s some amazing deals at T-Mobile. T-Mobile believes customers deserve even more without paying more. They’re always looking for ways to give customers more bang for their buck. Their plans are packed with incredible perks. T-Mobile customers get over $225 of value and benefits every single month on their max family plans. They have so many great things like travel benefits and streaming services, like Netflix, all included. And with Netflix, you can check out Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, airing this December. Check out the amazing trailer. Get more for the holidays now at T-Mobile with over $225 worth of benefits every single month, including Netflix. This holiday season, get used to getting even more at T-Mobile. $225 based on retail value of available monthly benefits with max family plans, like Netflix standard 2-screen with up to $15.49 value per month. See details at t-mobile.com/plans. The show is sponsored by BetterHelp. Life doesn’t come with a user manual. So, when it’s not working for you, it’s normal to feel stuck. And even if there was a manual, every situation is different, which is why you need a qualified, caring person to help you figure yourself out. Therapists are trained to help you figure out the cause of challenging emotions and learn productive coping skills. It’s the closest thing to a guided tour of the complex engine called “you.” BetterHelp offers all the benefits of in-person therapy. Plus, it’s more convenient, more accessible, and more affordable. As the world’s largest therapy service, BetterHelp has matched 3 million people with professionally licensed and vetted therapists available 100% online. Plus, it’s affordable. Just fill out a brief questionnaire to match with a therapist. If things aren’t clicking, you can easily switch to a new therapist any time. It couldn’t be simpler. No waiting rooms, no traffic, no endless searching for the right therapist. Learn more and save 10% off your first month at betterhelp.com/invisible. That’s betterhelp.com/invisible. Just because we spend most of our time unconscious–and quite possibly drooling in our bedrooms–doesn’t mean we can’t do it in style. Article has everything you need to turn your bedroom into your best friend–all for a great price. Article offers cozy beds, swanky headboards, and tons of lighting options to help you set the tone. Article combines the curation of a boutique furniture store with the comfort and simplicity of shopping online. Article’s team of designers are dedicated to a modern aesthetic of mid-century, Scandinavian, industrial, and bohemian designs. Fast affordable shipping is available across the USA and Canada and is free on orders over $999. All in-stock items are delivered in two weeks or less. Article cuts out the middleman and sells directly to you. There’s no showrooms. There’s no salespeople. There’s no retail markups. So, you can save up to 30% over traditional prices. A couple of days ago, I had coffee with our intern, Sarah Baik, and her partner, and he asked me–point-blank–he’s like, “Do you really have all that Article furniture?” I absolutely do. It’s all over the house–including… I sleep on an article bed. So, you should get one, too. Article is offering our listeners $50 off your first purchase of $100 or more. To claim, visit article.com/99, and a discount will automatically be applied at checkout. That’s article.com/99 for $50 off your first purchase of $100 or more. Here’s producer Jayson De Leon.
Jayson De Leon [00:26:14] A few weeks back, my dad texted me this video that he shot on his phone. Another five o’clock summer storm is ripping through the east side of Orlando. And my dad–well–he opened up a bottle of wine a bit early. I can hear it in his voice. Two octaves up, yelling commands at the wind. I love when my dad sends me these weather updates, partly because they’re incredible to watch. Rain coming down like an open faucet, palm trees bending till they nearly break. But also, partly because of where he is when he films his videos. He’s almost always out back on what most people might call the screened-in porch. But down in Florida, we take the screened-in porch to a whole new level. We have lanais. I grew up around lanais, bouncing from one to the next the way some kids jump from backyard to backyard or basement to basement. That’s because in Florida, especially in the newly developed areas, you can find lanais everywhere. Fly into the Orlando International Airport, and as you descend–yes–you’ll see some of the worst urban sprawl America has to offer but also lanais. This space that’s both inside and outside, where you can invite the elements into your home or keep nature at bay. And maybe you’ve never come across one yourself or only heard the word thrown around on an episode of Golden Girls.
Man #1 [00:27:58] Is Dorothy around?
Blanche Devereaux [00:27:59] She’s out on the lanai.
Man #2 [00:28:00] I suppose you’re wondering why a man like Sonny–
Blanche Devereaux [00:28:03] Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. On the lanai.
Jayson De Leon [00:28:07] But to me–and apparently to Blanche–the Florida lanai is quintessential to the whole Sunshine State experience. If you’ve never seen a Florida lanai, you might think it sounds kind of fancy or exotic. But really, the structure is simple. It’s an outdoor living space that’s typically box-shaped and has this mesh screen enclosure separating the home from the yard. On the outside, it sort of looks like a baseball batting cage. But on the inside, it gives off this vibe of a living room wearing both shoes. Aesthetics aside, the lanai is a solution to some common Florida problems. For instance, that screen enclosure–it’s there to keep the mosquitoes off you. Not to mention all the other bugs and animals you probably don’t want around–armadillos, lizards, snakes, and gators. In some of the newer constructions from the housing boom of the early 2000s, you’ll see lanais with in-ground pools built inside the screen enclosure. This helps keep your pool from becoming just another Florida swamp. And if you have a little bit more change in your pocket, you’ll see lanais that are fully souped-up, equipped with outdoor kitchens and enough space to host gigantic dinner parties. So, depending on your tax bracket, it can be a modest chair or two with a table in the back corner of your home or a Miami Vice-style extravaganza. When I think of lanai, I think of my parents’ Florida lanai. But for Dean Sakamoto–who studied the history of the structure–he takes it back to its indigenous roots.
Dean Sakamoto [00:29:43] The lanai, as you saw–as you know–it’s a native Hawaiian word. It’s really a basic, primal structure–like a four-postage structure–just with enough cover to keep the sun out.
Jayson De Leon [00:29:55] Dean co authored a book about one of Hawaii’s most renowned architects, Vladimir Ossipoff. He says Ossipoff helped modernize and popularize the lanai throughout the mid-twentieth century.
Dean Sakamoto [00:30:05] Mr. Ossipoff–although he’s Russian by birth–he grew up in Japan. And so, he grew up in a Japanese-style home. And if you look at Japanese architecture–the domestic Japanese house–there’s a space called the engawa.
Jayson De Leon [00:30:20] The engawa is a sort of precursor to the lanai. It’s a narrow-covered hallway built in between the interior rooms of an old Japanese home and the garden. Left open, the engawa allows for natural light and air to circulate. The space has this incentive to coexist with nature not resist it–an idea Ossipoff used for his lanais on the islands.
Dean Sakamoto [00:30:41] When he came to Hawaii, he realized that the Japanese house was perhaps more appropriate in Hawaii than Japan because of the climate. You know, in Japan it gets cold.
Jayson De Leon [00:30:53] Ossipoff designed hundreds of luxury homes in Hawaii. In almost all of them, the lanai is the crown jewel of the house–his canvas to showcase a new style of tropical modernism. Ossipoff made his imprint on Hawaiian architecture throughout the 1950s and 60s. During that time, Hawaii itself was changing, turning from an American territory with an economy based on agriculture to a state with a booming tourism industry. And with that tourism came large scale developments. Famously at a press conference, Ossipoff announced the, quote, “war on ugliness” when he saw cheap cookie cutter-style housing creeping onto the shores of Honolulu. For locals trying to attract mainland travelers, the lanai was a defining feature of the state’s architectural identity. It was unique–a space that embodied the virtues of island life. Around the same time of Hawaii’s transformation, mentions of a tropical room borrowed from Pacific Islanders appeared in newspapers around Florida. One article from 1964 raves about the lanai. It says it’s the most exciting concept in indoor-outdoor living ever presented to the central Florida new homebuyer. Another highlights it as a way to, quote, “plan for happy living.” You can see how the idea is exciting and new, but you can also see how it differs from an Ossipoff lanai. While Ossipoff’s lanais were highbrow, custom-made, and built to take into account the cooling trade winds and stormy Kona winds of Hawaii, the Florida lanai was a completely different species–more rudimentary and undefined. Much like Hawaii, Florida was going through its own transformation with its own housing boom. In some of the floor plans from the 60s and 70s, you can feel the developer’s hand of excitement, trying to see just where a lanai can be squeezed in. Today, builders have taken it a step further, more or less standardizing the placement and look of a lanai so that each one is nearly indistinguishable from the next. And the homes are packed together so tightly that the lanai has become a way to effectively offer an outdoor space without giving the home an actual yard. If Ossipoff’s war on ugliness and cookie cutter housing started in Hawaii, it ended in defeat in Orlando. But still, I can’t quite shake this fondness for this strange Floridian architectural creature. Objectively, the typical Florida lanai is kind of bulky, and ugly, and batting-cagey. But I have this very don’t-make-fun-of-my-ugly-puppy feeling about them. In Florida–a place where most people move to unabashedly have more–the lanai feels like the most appropriate place to indulge in that excess. And in my family, there’s a spirit to the space. It’s where we gather at the end of a long day to collectively shake ourselves loose. It’s where we sit around for hours on end, playing dominoes for dollars, listening to bachata and merengue, while others sit around and tell stories about people long gone, drinking Coronas and Mama Juana until we’re fresh out. Even now, when I go home to visit the long talks with my mom, where I finally get to sit her down and ask her, “Hey, how are you?” and tell my dad that I’m doing okay, that I’m figuring it out, that I’m excited about this little life I’m starting–those talks do not happen at the dinner table. They happen in the lanai. And yes, even though I only get down to visit a few times a year, I still love to watch a storm roll in–to feel the temperature in the air drop as the rain hits the hot pavement, counting the time between the cracks of thunder and streaks of lightning, wondering if that last one touched the ground. And probably my favorite part of all–it’s the lanai where I get to sit and watch as the clouds clear and give way again to that beautiful, grapefruit-colored Florida sky.
Roman Mars [00:35:08] We have one more episode in this series celebrating 500 episodes next week. If you could continue to spread the word and encourage people to listen to this or any episode of 99% Invisible or write a review, I’d be so grateful. Thanks. 99% Invisible was produced this week by Emmet FitzGerald, Jayson De Leon, and Kurt Kohlstedt. Mix and tech production by Martín Gonzalez. Original music by our director of Sound, Swan Real–with additional music from APM. Fact-checking by Graham Hacia. Delaney Hall is the executive producer. The rest of the team is Vivian Le, Christopher Johnson, Chris Berube, Lasha Madan, Sofia Klatzker, Joe Rosenberg, intern Sarah Baik, and Me, Roman Mars. We are part of the Stitcher and SiriusXM podcast family, now headquartered six blocks north in the Pandora building… in beautiful… uptown… Oakland, California. You can find the show and join discussions about the show on Facebook You can tweet at me @romanmars and the show @99piorg. We’re on Instagram and Reddit, too. You can find links to other Stitcher shows I love as well as every past episode of 99PI at 99pi.org. Stitcher. Sirius. Home should be where you and your family feel safest, especially over the holidays. This season, give yourself and your family the gift of peace and protection with the #1-rated home security system, SimpliSafe. They’re now offering our listeners 40% off on a new security system. SimpliSafe was named the best home security system for 2022 by U.S. News and World Report a third year in a row. And emergency 24/7 professional monitoring agents use Fast Protect Technology, exclusively from SimpliSafe, to capture critical evidence and verify that the threat is real so you can get higher priority police response. SimpliSafe is whole home security with advanced sensors in every room, window, and door. Plus, 24/7 professional monitoring service costs less than $1 a day. Plus, with the top-rated SimpliSafe app, you can arm or disarm, unlock for a guest, access your cameras, and adjust system settings. That’s one of the greatest things about SimpliSafe is it’s really easy to set up, and also it has the most advanced stuff that you can do all from your app. Don’t miss your chance to save big on this highly recommended security system. Get 40% off any new system at simplisafe.com/invisible today. That’s simplisafe.com/invisible. There’s no safe like SimpliSafe.