Sometimes it’s hard to figure out if builders were thinking logically when looking at buildings from the past. Otherwise why would some apartments end up having garbage chutes right inside the apartment or why would there be diagonal windows that don’t make any sense at first glance? Sometimes there’s an actual good idea behind each strange architectural and household decision and some of these strange things even turn out to be useful.
Bright Side compiled a list of architectural details from all over the world and we’re going to show you 14 examples of how builders find solutions to some complex situations.
1. “Microwave oven” from the beginning of the 20th century, Europe
Dual-use radiators were popular in Europe at the beginning of the 20th century. These radiators allowed people to heat food and dry shoes. Today, these ’boxes’ can hardly be found anywhere because they have been phased out by more modern technology. Present-day houses are heated with electricity as the former option to heat with hot water and steam became very energy-consuming.
2. “Khrushchev’s fridge,” USSR
The houses built in the 60s, that Russian people are used to calling Khrushchev’s houses, can brag about having a seasonal fridge. The thick walls of the houses allowed the architects to design a special niche where residents could keep perishable and canned products during the winter season.
3. Blocked-up windows, Great Britain
Blocked up windows in the old buildings of Great Britain are a good example of how ridiculous laws have affected a culture. In the 17th century, the British and the Scots paid taxes for the number of windows they had in their houses. At those times, only rich people could afford to have all their windows be glass. It can be compared with having yachts and private jets in modern times. This all happened because it was extremely expensive and difficult to produce glass.
If people didn’t want to pay the tax, they had to block up windows with bricks. Poor people, in turn, didn’t have any windows at all and had to live in complete darkness for generations.
4. Phoenix bird, Stockholm (Sweden)
There is a symbol of a Phoenix bird that hangs over the doors of some buildings in the historical center of Stockholm. This medallion used to cost a fortune in the 18th century. It started because houses in the old city were built so close to each other, that whenever there was a fire, it had the potential to destroy the whole block or even district. Firefighters first extinguished the houses with this distinctive medallion on the façade, while the houses of poor people were tended to later.
The medallion with the Phoenix bird was like fire insurance. And here is an interesting fact about the consistency of the Swiss people — the fire insurance company that used to sell these medallions back then is still in business today.
5. Manhole, Wiesbaden (Germany)
The lid of this manhole in Wiesbaden, Germany resembles the ’Millennium Falcon’ spaceship from Star Wars. In reality, it’s the entrance to the dungeon of the Salzbach canal. Initially, the construction served as a canal, but now it’s used for excursions.
6. Doors to saloons, Western United States
The feature of any respected saloon in the Wild West is a hinged door that can freely open to both sides. At first glance, it might seem to be a completely impractical construction. However, this door device has a few very direct purposes.
The first most obvious one is ventilation. The second one is puritan in nature, it was to protect the gazes of the pious inhabitants of western towns from the indecency inside the saloon. At the same time, frequent saloon-goers could see the light from afar and knew that the bar was open. The third reason has a more commercial meaning, the shape of doors, called “bat wings,” made saloons recognizable even without a sign.
7. Garbage chute, former USSR
How does one turn a cool idea into a nightmare? It’s very simple — create a garbage chute. The instant waste disposal device was first designed for a house in Vladivostok back in 1938. At first, the chute outlets were located inside of the actual apartments, but later they were moved to be in a central location on each floor of the apartment block for sanitary purposes. However, that didn’t help either. Today, residents of apartment buildings ask management organizations to weld waste chutes closed because of the unsanitary conditions they create.
8. The absence of windowsills, Montenegro and Bulgaria
It’s not customary to build window sills inside rooms in Bulgaria and Montenegro. It might seem impractical for people who move to Bulgaria for work, but it’s all because of the walls in Bulgarian and Montenegrin homes. They are thin because of the climate and there’s really no space left for a windowsill. Additionally, the Montenegrin language doesn’t even have a word for “windowsill.”
9. A window between the bathroom and the kitchen, USSR
A window between the bathroom and the kitchen is a design feature of a Khrushchev house. People living in these houses have wondered why these were there for many generations. First of all, this window visually expands the space — a standard bathroom in a panel house is pretty small. The second reason is that this window provides extra light. This architectural solution is not used in new houses anymore.
10. Pull-string light switches, Great Britain
Bathrooms in old British houses still have pull-string light switches. They are there for safety reasons because humidity and electricity are a dangerous mixture. Standard light switches were not used in bathrooms because residents were afraid that they might be in danger of electric shock. This switch could’ve been placed just outside the bathrooms, but British people decided to solve it this way and now a pull-string light switch is an outstanding feature of English houses.
11. Milk doors, USA and Great Britain
Buying milk is not an issue for us in the modern world — there are numerous types of milk products in stores. However, until the middle of the 20th century, milkmen used to deliver our milk. And the walls of some houses prove it with these tiny milk doors. Milkmen would open this door and leave a bottle with milk right between the walls.
12. Witch windows, Vermont
Diagonal windows are a feature of the old houses of Vermont. But why are they called “witch” windows? An old legend says that due to unknown reasons, witches can’t enter diagonal windows on their flying brooms.
However, there’s a more realistic explanation too — it’s difficult to figure out where to install a normal window in an attic. So, they had to find a way out by turning the windows by 45º. Windows in an attic provide better lighting and much needed ventilation.
13. Well-yards, Saint Petersburg (Russia)
Courtyards (or well-yards) are a symbol of the Northern capital of Russia. But whose idea was it to start building houses this way? According to one of the legends, Peter the Great ordered the construction of buildings in the Dutch style so the old buildings looked beautiful from all sides.
According to another version, it’s all because of the ground water. It was pretty expensive to prepare the soil for construction and, therefore, each foot of the land was to be used for building. Another reason had to do with the price of property — many people from all over the country used to come to the Northern capital and each person needed a place to live. That’s perhaps how these multi-story courtyards appeared.
You can find the addresses and photos of all the well-yards in Saint Petersburg here.
14. American toilet
The drainage system in American toilets might scare a European person. The fact that the toilet is filled with water gives the impression that the drain is clogged. However, this is not true. The high level of water protects the bowl’s walls from getting dirty. It enables Americans to not have to use brushes as often. Also, some urinals in the USA don’t have an actual bowl.
Are there any strange features in the houses in your neck of the woods? We would love to read about them in the comments!
Oakland teachers strike: Union calls strike for pay, smaller classes
Teacher frustration keeps spreading.
Public school teachers in Oakland, California, said they will strike on Thursday, following 18 months of tense negotiations with district officials over pay raises and classroom sizes.
“We have had it. Enough is enough, bargaining with our school district has not worked,” said Keith Brown, a middle school teacher and president of the Oakland Education Association, during a press conference on Saturday. “Our schools have been starved of resources for years.”
If they don’t reach a deal before Thursday, about 3,000 teachers won’t show up to work in one of the state’s largest school districts, which has struggled from years of budget cuts and poor student performance.
Teachers say the lack of investment in city schools is hurting student performance. The cost of living in Oakland has also skyrocketed in recent years, due to an influx of high-skilled workers unable to afford housing across the bay in San Francisco, making it impossible for teachers to live there on their current salaries, Keith said. Teachers want a pay raise, smaller class sizes, and more counselors and nurses.
The strike in Oakland would come a month after teachers in Los Angeles walked off the job with similar demands — and ended up getting a lot of what they wanted. At the time, LA officials said the same thing Oakland officials are now saying: We just don’t have the money.
Oakland schools are facing a $56 million budget deficit in the next two years, so the school board wants to cut school spending, not increase it. School officials are trying to get more money from the state, but teachers are ready to walk out. And they know they have leverage.
It’s just the latest strike in what’s becoming a national trend. More than 100,000 public school teachers in six states have walked out of class in the past year, rebelling from years of stagnant wages, crumbling infrastructure, and deep budget cuts to education. The strikes in Arizona, West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, California, and Colorado had broad public support, forcing state lawmakers to raise pay and fueling a national movement to boost investment in public education.
So far, that momentum shows no signs of slowing down.
Funding for public schools in California is a mess
Oakland teachers share a lot of the same frustrations that led LA teachers to walk out of class in January. They say school districts are spending too much money on privately run charter schools that have little public oversight. They also believe they are paid too little working in a state with much wealth.
California is among states spending the least on each student (adjusted for the cost of living), largely because of the state’s strict limits on property tax rates.
The Oakland Education Association, a labor union representing 3,000 educators, has been trying to negotiate a new contract since the last one expired in 2017. Teachers want a 12 percent pay raise over three years, smaller classes, and more support staff. One school counselor for every 600 students is not conducive to a student’s success, says Keith Brown, the group’s president.
The district has offered a 5 percent raise over three years.
Teachers rejected the offer.
“Unless there are dramatic changes to the district’s approach, including spending more money on students and for nurses and counselors, lower class size, and a living wage that will keep Oakland teachers in the classrooms, we will strike,” Brown said.
The school district has said it is willing to keep negotiating for a better deal to avert the strike, and would consider some recommendations from an independent panel, which found that low teacher pay, large class sizes, and school privatization were hurting Oakland schools. The report also acknowledges the state’s “complicated, flawed” system for funding public education.
“Despite our challenges, we are prepared with a comprehensive proposal to reach an agreement. If both sides are committed to settling the contract before a strike occurs —and we are — an agreement can certainly be reached without disrupting the educational experience for students, families and staff,” Oakland Schools Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell said in a statement Saturday.
They have three days to try and reach a deal.
Teachers are leading a national workers revolt
A record number of US workers went on strike or stopped working in 2018 because of labor disputes with employers, according to new data released last week by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. A total of 485,000 employees were involved in major work stoppages last year — the highest number since 1986, when flight attendants, garbage collectors, and steelworkers walked off the job.
Frustrated public school teachers were behind the year’s largest walkouts, but hotel housekeepers and steelworkers also organized strikes that lasted for days.
There are no signs that worker angst has subsided. So far, in 2019, teachers in two major cities have launched their own strikes. And in January, the Los Angeles teachers strike shut down the nation’s second-largest school district for more than a week.
As part of their deal with city officials, teachers agreed to a 6 percent raise and slightly fewer students in each classroom, according to Alex Caputo-Pearl, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, a labor union that represents about 34,000 public school teachers, nurses, librarians, and support staff in the city.
Last week, more than 2,000 teachers in Denver went on strike for three days. The school district ended up giving educators and extra $23 million in pay and agreed to overhaul the compensation system, which relied heavily on annual bonuses.
Now Oakland teachers are prepared to walk out, and Sacramento teachers may follow.
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Kamala Harris’s 2020 presidential campaign: news and updates
The longtime lawmaker announced her candidacy at a rally in Oakland, California, on January 27.
Kamala Harris, a California lawmaker and longtime prosecutor, is running for the Democratic nomination for president. She made her announcement during an appearance on ABC’s Good Morning America on Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2019.
Harris is only the second African-American woman to serve in the Senate, and her entry into the 2020 race is potentially historic: If she secures the nomination, she’d be the first African-American woman and the first Asian-American woman to become a major-party nominee.
The lawmaker has a long record of public service. She served as California attorney general and San Francisco district attorney for a combined 12 years before she was elected to the Senate in 2016, and buzz about her potential presidential run has been building ever since. She’s considered a prominent champion for racial equality, though some have questioned her past approach to criminal justice. She has backed some progressive policies within the Democratic Party, including Medicare-for-all and marijuana legalization.
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