You Can Thank 1950s Suburban Architecture for ‘The Floor Is Lava’

David Franzen, Library of Congress
David Franzen, Library of Congress

No one knows who, exactly, was the first kid to play "The Floor Is Lava," the simple childhood game that has only one rule: You can’t touch the floor. But as Quartz reports, a new paper contends that the game wouldn't have come about if it weren’t for the rise of American suburbs.

Published in the Social Science Research Network, the analysis by Tim Hwang of the MIT Media Laboratory argues that architecture was a vital factor in the spread of the folk game.

In the new suburban housing developments of postwar America, builders began to market the relatively new idea of the family room, an informal room designed for the social needs of the whole family. This room was separate from the formal living room and dining room, both of which were more likely to contain the inhabitants’ good furniture and fancy china. In building plans popular in the 1950s and 1960s, they were also set apart from the kitchen. One 1965 poll found that seven of 10 new houses built that year contained a family room.

And these factors, Hwang argues, are integral to playing The Floor is Lava. Family rooms provide big couches, coffee tables, and other furniture that kids can move around, climb on, and use as props for the game. Bedrooms would be too small, and formal living and dining rooms too full of potentially fragile items that Mom and Dad would be livid to find disturbed. And kitchens were seen as a mother’s domain, meaning that she would likely be there to put a stop to any shenanigans.

"What is unique about the family room space is both the quantity of space and permission that it affords to the play of The Floor is Lava,” Hwang writes.

However, this is just a hypothesis, and no one can really identify who started playing the game first. Kids in urban apartments can also theoretically jump all over their parents’ living room furniture, if allowed. During my childhood, the game typically took place on a playground rather than inside, requiring players to avoid the ground rather than the family room floor. There are games that originated elsewhere in the world that also revolve around avoiding the floor—Hwang notes examples from Kenya and the UK. But given how the spread of suburbs in the U.S. during the postwar period affected home design, it makes sense that a game might arise from the new spaces children lived in. We may never truly know how The Floor Is Lava was invented, but architecture seems like a good clue.

[h/t Quartz]

Europe's First Underwater Restaurant Is Now Taking Reservations

MIR, Snøhetta
MIR, Snøhetta

The choppy waters off Norway's coast may not seem like the most relaxing dining atmosphere, but thanks to the work of the architecture firm Snøhetta, the North Sea is now home to the region's hottest new restaurant. Under, Europe first underwater restaurant (and the world's largest), opens next year, as Forbes reports—and reservations are already filling up fast.

From the shore, Under looks like some sort of toppled ruin jutting out of the water. Guests enter at sea-level, then descend to the champagne bar and finally to the 100-person dining room, which is submerged 18 feet beneath the ocean's surface. From their seats, diners can gaze through the restaurant's 36-foot-by-13-foot panoramic window. Lighting installed both inside the room and along the seabed outside illuminates nearby marine life, providing a stunning underwater show any time of day or night.

A rendering of the top of Under jutting out of the ocean
MIR, Snøhetta

In addition to designing Under to be a breathtaking experience, Snøhetta built the restaurant to durable. The building's 3-foot thick walls protect guests and staff from water pressure and violent tides. The architects were so sure of the restaurant's safety that they intentionally built it in notoriously rough waters near the town of Båly off Norway's southern coast. According to Snøhetta's senior architect Rune Grasdal, a storm is the best time to dine if guests want a truly dramatic view.

A rendering of the exterior of the underwater restaurant
MIR, Snøhetta

The over-the-top atmosphere will be accompanied by a world-class meal. The seasonal menu comes from Danish chef Nicolai Ellitsgaard and dishes are served over the course of three-and-a-half to four hours.

Under doesn't open to the public until April 2019, but the restaurant is already taking reservations. Adventurous diners can attempt to book a table here, or, for parties larger than eight, email the restaurant.

[h/t Forbes]

David Hockney Designed Westminster Abbey's Newest Stained Glass Window—on an iPad

Westminster Abbey, YouTube
Westminster Abbey, YouTube

Westminster Abbey just got a new stained glass window whose colorful depiction of a country path contrasts starkly with the surrounding Gothic architecture. As The Guardian reports, famed 81-year-old British pop artist David Hockney sketched the scene of blossoming hawthorn on his iPad, then a 10-person team from Barley Studio in York, England installed the stained glass and brought his vision to life. The window, which replaced a section of "mostly blank" glass, is over 27 feet tall and nearly 11.5 feet wide.

It is called the Queen's Window, having been commissioned to celebrate the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. As for Her Majesty, no word yet on whether or not she likes it. "The Queen very often doesn't give you a very strong reaction," John Hall, the Dean of Westminster, told The Guardian. But Hall praised the newest addition to the church for having "an amazing brightness and clarity" and being a celebration of something the Queen has long loved: the countryside.

"It is wonderful to have something which is utterly contemporary from one of the greatest artists of the Queen's reign," Hall said.

It was certainly a bold choice, and as with much pop art, not everyone loves the end result. Dr. James Alexander Cameron, a freelance art and architectural historian who runs the blog Stained Glass Attitudes, wrote on Twitter, "I mean it depends on the quality of the actual glass but I think David Hockney might have topped Hugh Easton for 'worst window in Westminster Abbey.'"

Easton, the late artist Cameron is referring to, created six stained glass windows for Westminster Abbey. One window, dedicated in 1947, pays tribute to soldiers who fought in the Battle of Britain seven years prior. Two others, in a section called Cheyneygates, depict a wreath of roses and famed ballerina Dame Margot Fonteyn.

This marks the first time in Hockney's nearly 60-year career that one his artworks has been rendered on stained glass. He's considered one of the most influential British artists of the past century, and, according to The New York Times, if a scheduled Christie's auction next month of one of his 1972 works sells for its $80 million estimate, he'll become the world's most expensive living artist.

[h/t The Guardian]

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