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Blending architecture, design, and technology, a visual tour through futures past via the objects we have replaced, left behind, and forgotten.
So-called extinct objects are those that were imagined but were never in use, or that existed but are now unused—superseded, unfashionable, or simply forgotten. Extinct gathers together an exceptional range of artists, curators, architects, critics, and academics, including Hal Foster, Barry Bergdoll, Deyan Sudjic, Tacita Dean, Emily Orr, Richard Wentworth, and many more. In eighty-five essays, contributors nominate “extinct” objects and address them in a series of short, vivid, sometimes personal accounts, speaking not only of obsolete technologies, but of other ways of thinking, making, and interacting with the world. Extinct is filled with curious, half-remembered objects, each one evoking a future that never came to pass. It is also a visual treat, full of interest and delight.
About the Author
Barbara Penner is professor of architectural humanities at the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London. She is a contributing editor of Places Journal.
Adrian Forty is professor emeritus of architectural history at the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London. He is the author of many books.
Olivia Horsfall Turner is a historian of architecture and design, and senior curator of designs at the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Miranda Critchley is completing her PhD at the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London, on railways and colonial narratives of progress.
"A fascinating and curious read. It is host to accounts, conclusions, and warnings from the ghosts of deceased inventions and their often-haunting lives that float on beyond the grave. The authors use natural selection and evolution as an analogy to the birth, death, mutation, and rebirth of designed or ideated objects as they cycle through their usefulness and ultimate obsolescence."
"Remember audio cassettes, paper airline tickets, Polaroid cameras and fountain pens? Extinct is a wonderful compendium of objects that are past their prime, but evoke nostalgia not derision. The four editors discuss eighty-five objects and the visions that drove them. The book leaves you wondering which of the objects we use today will be part of a book like this in the near future."
— The Hard Copy
"The Clapper, literal snail mail, anti-gravity underwear—there are reasons why all of these objects are extinct. But now, a new book is exhuming them from the trash heap of history. In Extinct: A Compendium of Obsolete Objects, a team of professors, historians, artists, and curators seeks to understand why various objects became 'obsolete,' and what this tells us about the worlds they existed in. Modern technology now moves at a lightning pace, with endless updates to phones, cameras, and other gadgets. But the book's authors hope to challenge the assumption that things disappear due to 'inadequacy' or 'unsuitedness to their conditions.' From the defunct to the superseded, from the failed to the visionary, there can be many reasons why an invention no longer serves a purpose."
— CNN Style
"An innovation that seemed life changing in one era might seem ridiculous or useless—or even deadly—in another. This illustrated cavalcade of inventions highlights the rise (and fall) of such things as the Concorde, arsenic wallpaper, pneumatic tubes, and flying cars."
— MIT Technology Review
“A truly fascinating and consistently unexpected account of a forgotten landscape of lost futures. This richly original work chronicles the designed world of the undead and, at the same time, challenges today’s easy consensus of progress and modernization. Entertaining, jolting, and scholarly, it is a superb counterblast to our own age of relentless upgrades and product improvements.”
— Tristram Hunt, director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London
“Objects have come and gone from our lives throughout history, mostly because something new has been designed to fulfill their functions more efficiently, appealingly, economically, or sustainably. Never before has this happened with such speed or on the same scale as in the digital age. Extinct is both a thoughtful and incisive analysis of the phenomenon and an engaging tribute to some of the intriguing or eccentric objects we have lost in design’s equivalent of natural selection.”
— Alice Rawsthorn, author of "Design as an Attitude"
“This is a wonderfully curious book about how the ghosts of extinct inventions live on, not just in our minds but in the world around us. It is strangely addictive to discover how the epitaphs of these technologies form the blueprints of our future.”
— Mark Miodownik, author of "Stuff Matters: The Strange Stories of the Marvellous Materials that Shape Our Man-made World"
"Extinct is an intoxicating exploration of a host of objects, systems, and protocols that are no longer in use or never made it. They are design ghosts, actively haunting the present and conjuring up alternative nested futures. Each short story becomes epic. This brilliant book is a survey of the future rather than of the past."
— Beatriz Colomina, Howard Crosby Butler Professor of the History of Architecture, Princeton University, and author of "Are We Human?: Notes on an Archaeology of Design"