Posts Tagged ‘architecture’

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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bottle-2 bottle-detail

Monks in Thailand have built a temple complex from over 1 million recycled beer bottles. Above is the temple and a detail from the roof.


Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew, also known as Wat Lan Kuad or ‘the Temple of a Million Bottles’, is in Sisaket province near the Cambodian border, 400 miles from the capital Bangkok.

The Buddhist monks began collecting beer bottles in 1984 and they collected so many that they decided to use them as a building material. They encouraged the local authorities to send them more and they have now created a complex of around 20 buildings using the beer bottles, comprising the main temple over a lake, crematorium, prayer rooms, a hall, water tower, tourist bathrooms and several small bungalows raised off the ground which serve as monks quarters.


A concrete core is used to strengthen the building and the green bottles are Heineken and the brown ones are the Thai beer Chang. The bottles do not lose their colour, provide good lighting and are easy to clean, the men say. The monks are so eco-friendly that the mosaics of Buddha are created with recycled beer bottle caps.

Altogether there are about 1.5 million recycled bottles in the temple, and the monks at the temple are intending to reuse even more. Abbot San Kataboonyo said: “The more bottles we get, the more buildings we make.”

The beer bottle temple is now on an approved list of eco-friendly sight-seeing tours in southeast Asia.

For more information go to http://www.treehugger.com/files/2008/10/temple-built-from-beer-bottles.php

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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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10-crazyhouse-Hand nga geusthouse vietnam

The Hang Nga Hotel in Vietnam

This offbeat hotel in Dalat in Vietnam goes by various names, among them The Spider Web Chalet, the Hang Nga Tree House and the Crazy House, depending on who you ask.

It is in fact a hotel, designed by Dang Viet Na, a former model and daughter of Truong Chinh, the former resident of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. She designed the hotel so that guests could imagine they were staying in a fantasy world. Being the former president’s daughter clearly helped Dang Viet Na, who studied architecture in Moscow, get permission to build her fantasy hotel.

Its official name is the Hang Nga Tree House, Hang Nga was a moon fairy. Features include an Ant Room, a Honeymoon room reached by a minute bamboo staircase and spiders web made out of string waiting to catch the unwary. 

Crazy_House_09 courtyard

You can find more images here Travelogues site with photos of The Crazy Hotel in Dalat, Vietnam

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Teatubed John Radford

Often today it seems the line between follies and works of art in public places, is increasingly blurred. With fewer opportunities to build permanent follies, in urban environments, artists and architects are constructing temporary sculptures and fanciful buildings which reference the past and the future to stir our imagination.

One such artist is the Auckland based “tactile archivist” John Radford,  a man haunted by the ghosts of destroyed buildings. Radford has made it his occupation to document the buildings of old Auckland just before the bulldozers move in. The spirit of these old buildings are evoked in TIP, a sculpture/folly/ruins collection in Ponsonby’s Western Park which was his initial response to the redeveloped city. TIP comprises replicas of details of three buildings demolished in the Eighties, embedded in the ground.

But even there things are not what they seem. The installation includes Teatube,a “hidden interior work” located within VIC, the sculpture closest to the park’s  northern corner on Ponsonby Road.  Through a 2 inch window viewers can glimpse the Sky Room inspired by the tea room at the top of the  Milne & Choyce Building, a department store demolished in 1984. “It was the most lavish interior that Auckland has ever had.”

Disembodied bits of Auckland city sit within this mythic interior and replicas of an aged elevator engine sit in the tunnel alluding to floors below or above. 

Find out more about John Radford and his work at http://www.johnradford.co.nz/index.php/Artists-CV.html (To find out more about Teatube look in the heading “Interior Interior Works”).

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original rome grotto 2

Remote control camera image of grotto under the Palatine Hill in Rome

OK it’s not a modern folly, in fact it’s an ancient grotto but it’s only just been found and I am so excited I have to include it here.

My favourite follies are artificial grottoes, decorated with shells,  which were “reinvented” during the Renaissance in Italy in the 16th century, as copies of the grottoes of ancient Rome.

Now a new grotto has been found, over 50 feet below the Palatine Hill in Rome which Italian archaeologists cautiously (I assume that is as cautious as Italians ever are) have speculated might be the original grotto built by Romulus or was it Remus as the foundation of their palace on the Palatine Hill.

A camera was lowered into the cave and photographed a crypt shaped ceiling decorated with shells and marble. Now they are looking for the original entrance.

There are early reports that the grotto, together with Nero’s famous frescoes, maybe open to the public next spring. I’ll believe that when I see it but whenever it does open I will be one of the first in line for a viewing.

How Exciting I can’t wait


Here is a press report by Ariel David of the Associated Press Agency:

20th November 2007

Archaeologists on Tuesday unveiled an underground grotto believed to have been revered by ancient Romans as the place where a wolf nursed the city’s legendary founder Romulus and his twin brother Remus.

Decorated with seashells and colored marble, the vaulted sanctuary is buried 52 feet inside the Palatine hill, the palatial center of power in imperial Rome, the archaeologists said at a news conference.

In the past two years, experts have been probing the space with endoscopes and laser scanners, fearing that the fragile grotto, already partially caved-in, would not survive a full-scale dig, said Giorgio Croci, an engineer who worked on the site.

The archaeologists are convinced that they have found the place of worship where Romans believed a she-wolf suckled Romulus and Remus, the twin sons of the god of war Mars who were abandoned in a basket and left adrift on the Tiber.

Thanks to the wolf, a symbol of Rome to this day, the twins survived, and Romulus founded the city, becoming its first king after killing Remus in a power struggle.

Ancient texts say the grotto known as the “Lupercale”_ from “lupa,” Latin for she-wolf — was near the palace of Augustus, Rome’s first emperor, who was said to have restored it, and was decorated with a white eagle.

That symbol of the Roman Empire was found atop the sanctuary’s vault, which lies just below the ruins of the palace built by Augustus, said Irene Iacopi, the archaeologist in charge of the Palatine and the nearby Roman Forum.

Augustus, who ruled from the late 1st century B.C. to his death in the year 14, was keen on being close to the places of Rome’s mythical foundation and used the city’s religious traditions to bolster his hold on power, Iacopi said.

“The Lupercale must have had an important role in Augustus’ policies,” she said. “He saw himself as a new Romulus.”

Andrea Carandini, a professor of archaeology at Rome’s La Sapienza University and an expert on the Palatine, said the grotto is almost certainly the “Lupercale.”

“The chances that it’s not are minimal,” said Carandini, who did not take part in the dig. “It’s one of the greatest discoveries ever made.”

Most of the sanctuary is filled with earth, but laser scans allowed experts to estimate that the circular structure has a height of 26 feet and a diameter of 24 feet, Croci said.

Archaeologists at the news conference were divided on how to gain access to the “Lupercale.”

Iacopi said a new dig would start soon to find the grotto’s original entrance at the bottom of the hill. Carandini suggested enlarging the hole at the top through which probes have been lowered so far, saying that burrowing at the base of the hill could disturb the foundations of other ruins.

The Palatine is honeycombed with palaces and other ancient monuments, from the 8th-century B.C. remains of Rome’s first fledgling huts to a medieval fortress and Renaissance villas. But the remains are fragile and plagued by collapses, leaving more than half of the hill, including Augustus’ palace, closed to the public.

Culture Minister Francesco Rutelli said the first area to benefit from an extensive, $17.5 million restoration of the hills’ ruins will be Augustus’ palace, scheduled to reopen in February after being closed for decades

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airplane-house2 nigeria by said jammal

The Airplane House Nigeria by Said Jammal

Strictly speaking a folly should be a building with no useful purpose. So houses don’t really qualify, or do they? What if the convention that form follows function has been completely abandoned, if the builder has not just torn up the form book but comprehensively trashed it to realise their wildest fantasies. The really obsessed even build their personal follies themselves like Lebanese engineer Said Jammal whose Airplane house in Nigera is pictured above. Could such an obsession be said to denote folly in the builder? Would such a house be a folly?

American real estate agent Roxanne Ardary would probably say yes. On her website she has collected a set of extraordinary houses from around the world, of which the very least that could be said is that they denote folly in the builder.  Below are two more, proving that folly building transcends all races and geographical boundaries.


The Crooked House in Poland

football_house Malawi by Dutch architect Jan Sonkieh2

The Football House in Malawi

You can find plenty more where these came from on Roxanne’s site.


No doubt I shall return to it in future.

For now surf and enjoy……..

toodle pip!


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philsstonefolly from reclaimed church standstone

If you fancy a modern garden folly, but lack the imagination or time, to build one, you can always consult the folly designer Phil Game. Phil’s work has recently been brought to my attention by Shedworking and includes some very cheerful and eccentric sheds. But his scope is wider than that. Pictured above is a  folly tower, Phil’s Folly, built  from reclaimed church sandstone.  I have cut and pasted the blurb about Phil from his web site Pure Folly (hyperlink below) which has some interesting designs and is worth a visit.

“About Phil Game

I attended Hornsey College of Art in the late ‘60s – a great time to be an art student in London – where I specialised in graphic design.

After working in London agencies for a couple of years, I went freelance in 1972. In 1974 I set up a publishing business, and in 1980 I set up my own design studio. At the same time I moved to a derelict old barn outside Cambridge which I converted myself over the following years, thereby acquiring the practical building skills that are necessary to construct safe follies. I built my first folly in my own garden, from stone reclaimed from an old church.

Since then I have used my designer skills on many individual garden buildings and structures. I have successfully collaborated together with one of England’s best-known garden designers, Marney Hall, for several years now.”

And below is a splendid shed for our shed fanciers: Moulder’s Cabin.

You can see more of Phil’s designs on his website Pure Folly. They will also feature in : ‘Shedworking: the alternative workplace revolution’ to be published in July 2008 by The Friday Project. Look out for it.

Moulder’s Cabin

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James Turrell at the extinct Roden Volcano in ArizonaThe Sky Spaces of James Turrell (1943-)

I first encountered Kielder Forest, in northern Northumberland many years ago when I was walking the Pennine Way. It was impressive but rather soulless with the conifer plantations smothering the original landscape. At that time the reservoir was under construction. 

I first encountered the “sky spaces”  of James Turrell, nearly as long ago, at an Exhibition on London’s South Bank. I remember he had built a small pavilion on the top of the building where you could sit and watch the changing sky through an opening in the roof. It seems a very simple thing to do but the effect is quite extraordinary once experienced.

I bought a catalogue at that first Exhibition in London which explained that this was just one of many of Turrell’s “sky spaces”, the largest being a crater in Arizona which he was hollowing out in a 20 year project. The artist himself was a keen amateur pilot which also influenced his obsession with the changing skies.

Since then I have read about Mr. Turrell at various intervals, designing a sky space in a grotto in Ireland and making a viewing pavilion for the eclipse in Cornwall a few years ago.  (I read that it was built on slightly the wrong orientation, so nothing could be seem from within, but that may have been just malicious gossip).

There are examples of Turrell’s sky spaces around the UK including Ireland, Northumberland (Kielder Forest) and in Yorkshire.

 James Turrell on his sky space in Kielder Forest

James Turrell on his sky space installation in the Kielder Forest

 “Kielder Skyspace is a buried cylindrical chamber, entered through a tunnel and capped by a roof with a 3m diameter circular opening in its centre. Around the base of the inside wall is a continuous seat above which all surfaces have a white, visually uninterrupted surface. Behind the seating, low-energy light sources are arranged to give a continuous ring of ambient light illuminating the walls and ceiling.

“Visitors to the Skyspace will find themselves in the middle of this clear, precise chamber. From the seating, the artist’s precise manipulation of interior and exterior light causes the sky seen through the roof opening to seem an almost solid form. The Kielder Skyspace works on the measured and delicately balanced play between artificial, interior light and the northern natural light of the Kielder landscape.

“During the changing light conditions at dusk and dawn, visitors to the work can expect to experience a rich display of tone and colour.” mobile.orbit.zkm.de/?q=node/309

        The Deer Shelter at Yorkshire Sculpture Park

       The Deer Shelter at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park

In Yorkshire, The Art Fund, the UK’s leading art charity, commissioned a permanent Skyspace by Turrell at Yorkshire Sculpture Park  (YSP)  within the Park’s 18th-century Grade II Listed building – the deer shelter.

“The Deer Shelter Skyspace consists of a large square chamber with an aperture cut into the roof. Through this aperture the visitor is offered a heightened vision of the sky, seemingly transformed into a trompe l’oeil painting.”

There are other art installations in Kielder Forest and by the reservoir which may appeal to folly fanciers everywhere:

Chris Drury’s Wave Chamber: a drystone cone which has a camera obscura incorporated into its central chimney. A mirror reflects light from the surface of the reservoir into a lens that, in turn, projects it on to a circular concrete screen on the floor of the chamber.

The Belvedere, which was commissioned as a waiting room at one of the stopping-off points for the Kielder Water ferry. Made of stainless steel, with a yellow skylight and visor-like window aperture,  the long narrow view of water and forest you get from inside echoes the linear nature of the landscape at this point.

Tower Knowe Visitor Centre (0870 240 3549, www.kielder.org), near the dam on the southern side of the reservoir, is open daily 10am-6pm (closes 4pm in October).

Visitors can stay at Leaplish cabins, at Keilder’s Waterside park – these are about to be renovated and the Hollybush Inn in Greenhaugh. 

Map image

The Hollybush Inn (01434 240391, www.thehollybushinn.co.uk), Greenhaugh, just outside the valley, is an excellent base with simple clean rooms and good home cooking: £27 per person b & b, sharing, or £35 for single occupancy; starters from £3.50, main courses £7.50; weekend set menu from £12.95.

Find out more about Kielder Forest here http://www.northumberland.gov.uk/VG/kielder-redesdale.html

This is the Yorkshire Sculpture Parks web site http://www.ysp.co.uk

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