Weird Decor: What Are Thomassons?

Weird Decor: What Are Thomassons?

Jennifer Hunter
Sep 10, 2014
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

A stairway to nowhere, a path that goes in a circle or a pipe connected to nothing — they're architectural quirks, remnants of projects long abandoned and they're called Thomassons (more on why a little later). Once you know what they are, you'll start seeing these oddities everywhere.

Japanese artist Genpei Akasegawa needed a way to discuss the "useless and defunct objects attached to someone's property and aesthetically maintained," so he turned to another defunct oddity, American baseball player Gary Thomasson. In the 1980's, Thomasson was hired (at an exorbitant price) by the Yomiuri Giants in Tokyo only to set an all-time strikeout record and be benched for most of his two-year contract — the original defunct yet expensively maintained commodity, according to Akasegawa.

Akasegawa's been interested in Thomassons since the 70's when he became fascinated by the lonely staircase below because he couldn't figure out why its railing had been repaired when it clearly wasn't in use. He began to seek out other leftover architectural details that were inexplicably kept up even though they were useless and, in 1985, he published a book in Japanese about the subject called "Hyperart: Thomasson," and in 2009 it was translated into English.

Thomassons are trending thanks to Roman Mars' fascinating 99% Invisible podcast which you can listen to below, or check out some of the fantastic submitted examples on Hyperart: Thomasson Tumblr. It just goes to show that there's always room for quirky, new design terms.

Photo by Niklas F via Hyperart: Thomasson
(Image credit: Niklas F.viaHyperart: Thomasson)

Have you noticed any Thomassons lately? Tell us!

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