Archive for the ‘Modern Folly’ Category

Follies have been a bit thin on the ground lately but now comes news of one designed to cheer up folly builders everywhere. Forget the euro and feast your eyes on this:




Heinz Schönewolf, a retired bricklayer and his wife Hildegard from Dudweiler, Germany, have spent the last 37 years building a 350 square-foot fairy tale castle, right in their own backyard. The 15-meter-high and 15-meter-wide Schönewolf Castle features towers, battlements, narrow pathways, a charming Rapunzel room and even an 18,000 litre aquarium in the basement. Note too the many gnomes scattered liberally around the ramparts.

Like all the best follies, it started small but then took on a life of its own. Schönewolf told German newspaper Bild that his beautiful backyard castle started out as a simple retaining wall that he simply kept embellishing over the years. The German couple estimate they’ve spent about €50,000 on the castle so far

Ever since he started work on it, in 1975, Heinz has spent every single day making his castle better, and his wife Hildegard says they never even went on a holiday, only to visit her husband’s mother, in Hessen. Well a man needs a hobby after all.

Although he says the backyard castle will never really be finished, because he always wants to add new things, Heinz has already opened it up for public visits, free of charge.

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It’s quite surprising how many people harbour a design to build an upside house. Sometimes it’s a statement on modern life and the builder even puts in the furniture upside down: visitors frequently report feeling seasick. But some topsy-turvy builders just want to turn their life on its head and even live in their creations.




Here is a selection of upside down houses, if you recognise one and even better have visited one, let us know what it is called and what it was like inside.












Meanwhile here is a video of the interior of an upside down house in Poland, its business man owner apparently built it as  his personal take on modern values. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1CrLXEE_y_Y


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A new folly in London popped up, literally, in London, this summer, under a freeway flyover.   Originally planned to last for six weeks from June 2011, Folly for a Flyover  under a busy freeway junction in North London,  turned out to be so popular that its life was extended to the end of August and it  won the Bank of America Merrill-Lynch 2011  Create Art Award.

And here it is.

Folly for a  Flyover was built in under four weeks, at a cost of  £20,000. The location was pretty unprepossessing  –  under two concrete road bridges, carrying the eastbound and westbound A12  traffic in London over the  Hackney Cut. This is a man-made addition to the River Lea which flows nearby. The location is in  Hackney Wick, east London, a dreary urban wasterland on the northern fringe of the 2012 Olympic site.  It was designed as a temporary structure, a “pop-up” folly with a life expectancy of six weeks as a venue for films, concerts, boat rides and cheap coffee.

The folly was conceived by the same group of architecture students and others, now calling themselves Assemble,  who created last year’s Cineroleum, a cinema temporarily made out of a disused petrol station.

The structure consisted of a sloping bank of seats for watching films and events, which then turned to form a café in the shape of a house. The house resembled something out of a child’s drawing or a fairytale, standing improbably in the forgotten concrete world beneath the flyover. The structure was scaffolding holding up some wobbly-looking bricks, which turn out to be made of reclaimed timber – oak, pine, yellowish opepe and reddish jarrah from railway sleepers. Each of the 10,000 bricks has been sawn from longer lengths by volunteers, and drilled with holes so they could be strung together by wires. The wall was in fact not masonry, but woven, and its elements can be reused.

One critic commented admiringly: ” The place is powerful, under the roads, with Piranesian columns, the water of the Hackney Cut and a slot of clear air, like an elongated oculus, between the two Roman-scaled bridges. Usually, it is also desolate and possibly scary, but by putting stuff and events there with a certain wit and spirit, Assemble have revealed its weird beauty. By having daytime events, boat rides and a cheap café, the Folly is also reaching a wider catchment than the largely twentysomething crowd who patronised Cineroleum.”

Here is a link to its website: http://www.follyforaflyover where you can find more images and what they got up to there.

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Visit wondrous and curious places on Obscura Day – 9 April 2011. Lots of unusual,hidden and intriguing places to visit worldwide. Check it out at http://obscuraday.com

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Topiary folly

OK so it is a flight of fantasy rather than a folly but what a flight!

Inspired by a visit to the Masai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya, Brecon resident Gavin Hogg has sculpted the overgrown hedge around his garden into a herd of topiary elephants.

Mr Hogg spent two days crafting the seven adults and three babies with a trimmer, shears – and a pair of scissors for the fiddly bits.

The result is a striking 100ft-long trail of green elephants that stretches around the corner of his family home outside Brecon in Mid Wales

Mr Hogg said: ‘It was just a normal, fairly boring box hedge when I started. I found a picture of a group of elephants and set about shaping it. Time seemed to disappear while I was working on it.

‘I was able to create the appearance of folds in the skin and shadow lines for shoulder blades and hips.

‘I also clipped an eye in some of the adult elephants to give it greater authenticity. It was a lot of work and the ears and trunks were a bit tricky but I am pleased with the end result.’

Father-of-two Mr Hogg and his wife Vina, who visited the Masai Mara game reserve in Kenya, farm organic vegetables at their 17th century home.

He added: ‘It’s great to see our own herd of elephants every time we look out of the window, even if they are green. They will need a haircut twice a year to smarten them up. But they will be a permanent feature.’

The topiary elephants are cut out of a hedge of common box (Buxus sempervirens) which was planted about 200 years ago.

(This story first appeared in the Daily Mail on 2 July 2009)

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 The Baobab Hotel, Huilo Huilo, Chile

Hotels in tree houses are not a new concept. But the latest addition to the genre certainly takes the form to new heights.

Parque Huilo Huilo is  a sprawling private nature reserve, midway between Neltume and Puerto Fuy, on the east side of Volcán Choshuenco (Choshuenco Volcano) in Chile.  The Magic Mountain Hotel and the Baobab Hotel, in the parque were built by the same owners. 

The Baobab is the newer of the two  and built, as it name suggests, to resemble a baobob tree.

baob hotel fountain

Lobby with fountain

 Hotel Baobab Huilo Huilo Chile 3*

This beautiful Lodge  opened in December 2007 and belongs to the same owners as the Montaña Mágica.  The hotel resembles a baobab (monkey bread tree), which is quite high and their trunk is slender and gets broader the more you get up. The 55 modern rooms with magnificent views of the Mocho-Choschuenco Volcano are ordered spirally around an atrium, in which a huge tree is growing. The surrounding trees weren’t cut for this construction, but included into the architecture.

All the styling and decor is inspired by the natural surroundings and crafted by indigenous artists designing in wood from the area. Windows, walls, doors and stairs are all carved out of the local rustic woods. All rooms have private bathrooms and central heating as standard and penthouse suites offer the added luxury of hydro massage bath. An impressive panoramic elevator offers a magnificent view when visiting the nine floors of Baobab lodge. There are two restaurants offering gastronomic menus, and there is an international bar. exquisite gastronomical delights and an important international bar. Baobab is an ideal place to relax in a quiet natural setting.


View from a bedroom window

The hotel is nestled in the National Reserve of Huilo Huilo, in the Region of The Rivers, a park of 12.000  about 56 km / 35 miles from Panguipulli, just next to the Lodge Montaña Mágica. Prices: 01.04.2008-30.04.2009 Standard single 132 USD double 187 USD Triple 265 USD extra bed 52 USD booking service at Inns of Chile

Footnote: I have no connection with the owners of the Baobab and Magic Mountain hotels, but if they ever wished to invite me to make a more detailed report on site for you, I could be ready to travel at 24 hours notice!

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OK so hotels aren’t strictly speaking follies, but when the owners have allowed themselves licence to indulge their imaginations to construct buildings which serve as hotels while at the same time indulging their wildest fantasies in design and construction, we let them in.

Hotels like the Magic Mountain in Chile are almost always found in the third world (or owned by rich and whimsical men and women), largely we assume because it is here they can be free of the worst excesses of centralised European planning. (Where are you Prince Charles?)

Two fantasy hotels have gone up in recent years, in the Parque Huilo Huilo, a sprawling private nature reserve, midway between Neltume and Puerto Fuy, on the east side of Volcán Choshuenco (Choshuenco Volcano) in southern Chile. These are the Magic Mountain and the Baobab Hotel, were built by the same owners.  The Baobab is the newer of the two. I have made that into a separate entry.

Magic Mountain hotel, Huilo-Huilo, Chile

The Magic Mountain hotel is perhaps the most astonishing of the two. The hotel resembles from the outside, a cone built inside a waterfall. It is approached via an aerial walk way and the entrance is at the top of the hotel. Not for anyone suffering vertigo. Inside the style is best described as rustic. I have left the rather endearing colloquial text descriptions as I found them as they convey something of the whimsical magic of this extraordinary constructions in the rain forest.

Lodge La Montaña Mágica, Parque Huilo-Huilo ***


The Lodge Montaña Mágica (Magic Mountain hotel) in Chile is located within the Natural Reserve Huilo Huilo about 56 km / 35 miles from Panguipulli. The Lodge was built using exclusively local wood and has a very unique architectural style similar to a volcano.

The guests of this peculiar hotel are completely surrounded by nature, and can enjoy activities such as hunting, fishing or even hiking in the neighbouring natural reserve of Hulio Hulio. One can also watch and observe the eagles or the pumas, amongst other animals, which are often seen near the hotel.

This hotel owes its name to an ancient legend which talked about a magic mountain which granted wishes and sometimes even performed miracles, and truth be told, this hotel is a rather magical place. The waterfall gives one peace and quiet with a distinctive touch and the union with nature.

This hotel has thirteen available rooms, each one with its own private bathroom. Furthermore, across the hotel’s territory there are eleven cabins which can fit in around four or six people each one. A rather curious aspect is that each room has a different and rather peculiar name, and their meanings tend to be names of magical plants or animals that live in the area.

In the hotel one can savour an exquisite meal in a restaurant called the “Mesón del Bosque”, where all the local gourmet specialties can be found. One of the most famous chilean meals, the pastel de papas, or potato pie, is made there.

The general facilities include a  bar, natural tree trunk hot tub, sauna, mini-golf court and internet access. Activities at and near Montaña Mágica Lodge include: hiking, trekking, horseback riding, canopy, rafting and mountain biking among others.

01.11.2008-31.03.2009 Standard single 151 USD and double 215 USD

Chile Hotel booking site

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article-0-047676A0000005DC-771_634x467 mini chapel

Jon and Muriel Richards outside the tiny chapel “Chapel of the Crosses” in their back garden

A couple fulfilled a two-and-a-half year “labour of love” by building a fully functional miniature chapel in their back garden.

Jon and Muriel Richards spent around £25,000 assembling the sanctuary next to their house in Mappleborough Green, Worcestershire, from pieces they collected from reclamation yards across the country.

The altar and pews had to be chiselled down to size, the stained-glass windows specially cut and the building, named The Chapel of the Crosses by the local vicar, can only accommodate 12 people but Mr Richards, a retired watch-importer, said the result was “wonderful”.

article-0-04767209000005DC-560_634x452 mini chapel inside

He said: “It is about 8 feet by 12 feet – about the size of a garden shed.

“It is very private – it’s part of our home. It’s a home chapel.

“But it is certainly a wonderful place inside; it’s a very emotional place.”

Everything including the chapel’s centrepiece, a bronze crucifixion figure about three-and-a-half feet tall, has “in its previous life” been in a church or a chapel and was collected over a period of around two-and-a-half years, Mr Richards said.

The building has not been consecrated but the local vicar has given services there, he added.

Mr Richards said: “The question everyone asks me is, ‘Why?’

“I’d like to say I experienced some divine intervention but that’s not true. My wife is very involved with the church and is in the choir and … that’s how it started out.

“If you look at the time we spent running up and down the country, going to reclamation yards for all the artefacts, the materials … it is a lot of money but it wasn’t intended. I don’t think we started off with a budget; it just went on. Sometimes when you put prices on it you realise how foolish you were but we fell in love with things.

“It was a labour of love and we knew one day it would be completed.”

This story appeared in the Daily Mail (UK) on 15 April 2009

Chapel of the Crosses

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casa di libri No 1jpg

Case di Libri No 1

Livio De Marchi is a man obsessed with wood. The Italian carver was born in Venezia where, still a child, he worked on ornamental sculpture in the Venetian tradition in the workshop of a joiner and studied art and drawing at the “Accademia di Belle Arti” in Venice.
During his artistic evolution he worked first in marble, then bronze, and eventually in wood. But wood has always been his favourite material because it gives him a vitality which other materials do not. This obsession has enabled him to develop the ability to mould wood with great expertise and sensitivity to create sculptures with fine detail and a feeling for spontaneity and the essence of the material.
In his own words, “After opening his own studio, Livio De Marchi allowed his fantasy to run free, declaring his way of being, his interior world.”
His web site shows a range of wooden carvings, in subjects ranging from women’s underwear to furniture. There is also a video of a wooden car being loaded into the lagoon at Venice and driven across the water with the artist at the wheel.

His latest work is a wooden house built in the shape of books and furnished  at with fittings and furniture also book shaped.


Interior of Casa di Libri No 1


More images of the house can be seen at www.liviodemarchi.com/casauk.htm

The artist’s own web site is at http://www.liviodemarchi.com/ukmain3.htm

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bamboo version birds nest

1:20 replica of the Bird’s Nest Stadium in bamboo

Most of you will be familiar with the “Bird’s Nest” stadium where the Olympics were staged in China in summer 2008. The quirky stadium (designed by Herzog and de Meuron)  was certainly an interesting and eclectic structure but it could not really be called a folly.

Now however I have come across a replica of the stadium, which certainly could. It seems that a group of Chinese peasants near Hangzhou in the south east of China, decided that the real thing was just too far away, and so built their own version locally in bamboo. Bamboo is a versatile material which I have long admired, and had the advantage of being a good deal cheaper and more accessible that the concrete and steel original.

bamboo birds nest under construction

Bamboo copy under construction outside Hangzhou.

It seems it took ten bamboo sculptors roughly two weeks to put together the 1:20 scale copy which the villagers claim the plan to use for local sports events. The completed structure is a tribute to the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the Chinese.

And just to remind you, here is the original.

birds nest stadium china 2008 olympics

Seems like a case of Instead of the mountain coming to Mohammed, the stadium has come to Confucius!

Story found at http://www.gizmodo.com.au/2008/08/chinese_farmers_build_birds_nest_stadium_out_of_bamboo-2.html

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