Daily Dose: Nautilus House

Add to TwitterAs a kid, I remember walking along beaches picking up seashells, rinsing them in buckets and having to decide which ones were “special” enough to make the trip back home. Interior decorating stores have embraced clients’ childlike fascination with these portable shelters and made them trendy additions to mirrors, furniture and all manner of knick-knacks. It remains unusual, however, to use the shell as an inspiration for the architectural design of a residence. The 2006 home, designed by Javier Senosiain of Arquitectura Orgánica, makes extraordinary use of the nautilus shell’s natural form in its construction.

Nautilus House, Mexico City

Nautilus Interior, two views

It’s not just the outside design that’s meant to model the nautilus shell; the oddly shaped chambers and twisting interior walls lead the inhabitants through a space much like that of the actual shell itself. The primary construction material, ferrocement, is unique in its composition as well. It’s made up of cement, sand, water and wire or mesh; ferrocement is fire-proof, earthquake-safe and won’t rust. Beauty and brawn can work in harmony, after all.

Add to TwitterAdd to FacebookAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to DiggAdd to StumbleuponAdd to Yahoo Buzz



Daily Dose: Castles

Add to TwitterThis is another one of those topics a true masonry blog just couldn’t pass over: castles! The two I’ve chosen for today’s entry, the Château de Chillon and the Swallow’s Nest, are well-visited landmarks of their respective countries with fascinating histories (though very different in age!). Their medieval and Neo-Gothic styles put stone masonry to the test with extravagant turrets, vaulted ceilings and elegant façades.

Château de Chillon

Proudly altering the shoreline of Lake Geneva, the Château de Chillon has been around for quite some time; the earliest written document to reference it is dated to 1150 AD. It’s been mentioned a few times since then. Rousseau used the castle’s location near Montreux, Switzerland for a scene in “La Nouvelle Héloïse”, published in 1762. Just around 50 years later, in 1816, the famous poet Lord Byron wrote “The Prisoner of Chillon” which takes place in the castle’s dungeon.

Château de Chillon, dungeon

Excerpt from Stanza II of “The Prisoner of Chillon” by Lord Byron

There are seven pillars of Gothic mould,
In Chillon’s dungeons deep and old,
There are seven columns massy and grey,
Dim with a dull imprison’d ray.
A sunbeam which hath lost its way,
And through the crevice and the cleft
Of the thick wall is fallen and left…

The other castle featured in the Daily Dose is the Swallow’s Nest in Crimea, Ukraine. It’s much newer than the Château de Chillon, built between 1911 and 1912 by architect Leonid Sherwood. It has actually survived an earthquake and lay vacant for many years following. More damage was done to the cliff than the structure of the castle itself, and it’s since been reopened for tours and dining in the restaurant inside.

Swallow's Nest, Crimea

Not the ideal residence for sleepwalkers, but a breathtaking (quite literally for those afraid of heights!) location nonetheless. If you know of other blog-worthy castles or have visited a few yourself, leave a comment and share your experience!

Add to TwitterAdd to FacebookAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to DiggAdd to StumbleuponAdd to Yahoo Buzz



Daily Dose: Magdeburg Water Bridge

Add to TwitterPerhaps misleadingly described as a “concrete bathtub”, the Magdeburg Water Bridge stuns viewers with its more-than-washtub size. It’s just short of 1 km in length and required 68,000 cubic meters of concrete to create. Increased waterway reliability and capacity were the main reasons for its conception and realization. Magdeburg Bridge also offers walkways for pedestrians. Below, see a video interview by the Discovery Channel.

Click to watch Discovery's "How Stuff Works" video on the Magdeburg Bridge

The Magdeburg Bridge connects the Elbe-Havel and Mittelland canals (Berlin’s inland harbor and Rhine river ports), took six years to build, and cost a whopping 1/2 billion euros.

Interested in reading about more amazing bridges? Check out these Daily Dose entries:

Rolling Bridge
Henderson Waves
Pont du Gard

Add to TwitterAdd to FacebookAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to DiggAdd to StumbleuponAdd to Yahoo Buzz


Daily Dose: Everingham Rotating House

Add to TwitterI wish I had known about the Everingham Rotating House when I was writing the Daily Dose about kinetic architecture, but I hope you’ll agree that it’s better late than never. The impressive design for this Australian home also increases its energy efficiency – and it’s affordable!

Everingham Rotating House

As you can see, the octagonal home is constructed mainly of glass and steel – the many windows are what allows the house to capitalize on sunlight. Its 360 degree rotation is powered by a small electric motor. At top speed, the house can complete a full rotation in 30 minutes; a more leisurely spinning takes approximately two hours. Computer programs control the movement of the Everingham’s residence. Use of a touch screen allows the house to be moved at will, while computerized programs can be created to put the house on “auto pilot” if, for example, one wanted the house to follow the movement of the sun through the day/year. According to the Everinghams’ website, the house is no more expensive than homes of similar size and quality. I suppose the pricy bit would be finding a plot of land you actually want to face on all sides!

Add to TwitterAdd to FacebookAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to DiggAdd to StumbleuponAdd to Yahoo Buzz


Daily Dose: Rolling Bridge

Add to TwitterBeing from a small town not terribly near a major waterway, I’ve always been entranced by retracting or bascule-style bridges. The Rolling Bridge in London, a one-of-a-kind structure whose category has been dubbed the “curling bridge”, is on the same vein as other movable bridges but has a unique hinging action that sets it apart from the crowd.

Rolling Bridge in London, UK

The above image shows the Rolling Bridge at the beginning of its journey to the other side of the walkway. Its eight steel and timber hinged sections will curl up until the two ends of the bridge meet, forming an octagonal shape.

Rolling Bridge in London

Every Friday at noon, the bridge performs its acrobatics for admiring crowds of locals and tourists alike. Thomas Heatherwick, designer, is the mastermind behind this agile bit of architecture.

Add to TwitterAdd to FacebookAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to DiggAdd to StumbleuponAdd to Yahoo Buzz



Daily Dose: Colosseum

Add to TwitterWhat kind of masonry blog would this be if we never wrote about the Colosseum? Luckily, you’ll never have to find out, because this is your Daily Dose of ancient Roman masonry! An ancient host of gladitorial games and battle reenactments and modern-day tourist attraction, the Colosseum has consistently been a gathering site for crowds of visitors. In fact, when it was first constructed, it could seat up to 50,000 people. Read on for more astounding facts about this newly-appointed World Wonder.

Colosseum at night

The Colosseum was built in 8 years, from 72-80 AD. Its oblong shape spans an area of 6 acres and is 615 feet in length and 510 feet in width. Rome’s masterpiece doesn’t just take up a sizeable chunk of land; it also extends four storeys into the sky (on top of all those underground passages!) Each of the first three levels are adorned with engaged columns of the doric, ionic and corinthian orders. The distinction between the three can be determined by the relatively simple or elaborate capitals – the icanthus leaves of the corinthian order being the most extravagant design. Travertine limestone was used for the outer wall, set with mortar and 300 tons of iron clamps. In 1349, when the Colosseum sustained significant damage from an earthquake, this stone was reused to build palaces, churches and hospitals in the city of Rome.

Interior of Colosseum

As this photo clearly shows, the wood floor that once covered the underground passages of the Colosseum is no longer in existence and has not been reconstructed. In its early years, the floor was covered with sand and served as the site for bloody, deadly battles between human slaves and exotic animals. In an interesting turn of events, the Colosseum is now used as a symbol for the campaign against capital punishment. At night, the lighting is changed from white to gold when someone’s sentence has been commuted or a jurisdiction abolishes the death penalty. Sounds like the battleground has changed its tune…

Add to TwitterAdd to FacebookAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to DiggAdd to StumbleuponAdd to Yahoo Buzz



Daily Dose: Masonry Facts

Today’s mini-Daily Dose brings you some fun facts about masonry from MCAA’s website:

  • Brick is man’s oldest manufactured product
  • Masonry does not emit toxins during a fire
  • Over 70% of the buildings in the world are built of masonry
  • Masonry’s life cycle is unsurpassed by any other building material
  • The Great Pyramid of Giza is over 5,000 years old and uses 2,300,000 blocks of stone
  • Many of the world’s significant architectural achievements were built with masonry

Add to TwitterAdd to FacebookAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to DiggAdd to StumbleuponAdd to Yahoo Buzz