Daily Dose: Vive l’Eliphante

Add to TwitterVive l’eliphante! It could pass as French for “long live the elephant!” Eliphante, an outdoor sculpture/residence gets its faux-French spelling of “elephant” after a visitor offered a faux-pronunciation of the actual French word “éléphant.” (Eliphante’s entrance does indeed resemble the animal’s long trunk.) Despite the falsities of spelling, the current owner and resident is very sincere about this project and her artistic lifestyle in general.

Entrance to Eliphante; Image courtesy of atlasobscura.com

Leda Livant and her late husband Michael Kahn built Eliphante in 1979 on land near Cornville, AZ. The structure is composed mainly of found objects which include rocks, scraps from construction sites, stained glass, pottery and driftwood. Though majestic in its own way, Eliphante is in dire need of repairs (an estimated $28,000) and is listed in the Smithsonian’s SOS (Save Outdoor Sculpture) initiative.

Interior fireplace of Eliphante; Image courtesy of atlasobscura.com

It started out as a residence for Leda and Michael, but today Eliphante is an organization to support the arts as well as a sporadically active tour site.* Leda lives in another fascinating building on the premises – Hippodome. It has no plumbing, heat, or electricity but it’s filled with the beauty of her husband’s paintings and found objects. Both residences find and reflect the value in even the smallest of things. What a gratifying way to live.

*If you’re interested in a tour, contact J. D. Allen of Blue Feather Tours at 928.963.0271.

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Sources:
http://atlasobscura.com/places/eliphante
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/31/garden/31elephante.html
http://www.eliphante.org

Images:
http://atlasobscura.com/places/eliphante

Daily Dose: Fallingwater by Frank Lloyd Wright

Add to TwitterFallingwater has seen – and continues to see – its fair share of controversy and challenge. Still, Frank Lloyd Wright‘s masterpiece attracts upwards of 120,000 visitors each year and has received much recognition for its innovative design and overall integration into the surroundings. Designed in 1934 and built over a waterfall in the Allegheny mountains of Pennsylvania, Fallingwater was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966.

Fallingwater by Frank Lloyd Wright; Image courtesy of Figuura

Edgar Kaufmann Sr., a prominent Pennsylvania businessman, was the owner of Fallingwater. He was surprised to see that Wright’s design placed his weekend home directly over the falls rather than at their base, but ultimately warmed to the idea. Wright’s plans mean that the water can be heard throughout the building but only seen from the uppermost balcony. The famous designer’s Japanese aesthetics and principles are perhaps most clearly observed through this creation. Interior and exterior spaces combine through the strategic use of windows and balconies (as well as through sound); humans and nature are hardly separated in Fallingwater.

Balconies of Fallingwater by Frank Lloyd Wright; Image courtesy of Dennis Adams, Federal Highway Administration

Construction didn’t go off without a hitch: Wright, Kaufmann and the contractor disagreed about the amount of reinforcement needed for the concrete cantilevered balconies. Wright won out in the end, but not after some of the balconies had to be redone. Fallingwater, which cost $155,000 (now: $2.4 million) to build, also suffers from mold and condensation problems because of the lack of a thermal break. It’s been facetiously called “Rising Mildew” in response to its many moisture issues.

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Sources:
http://www.wright-house.com/frank-lloyd-wright/fallingwater.html
http://imodernhome.com/modblog/2008/11/01/falling-water-video-and-photos/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fallingwater

Images:
http://www.wright-house.com/frank-lloyd-wright/fallingwater-pictures/falling-water-fall-house.html
http://www.wright-house.com/frank-lloyd-wright/fallingwater-pictures/west-tower-fallingwater.html

Daily Dose: Reversible Destiny

Add to TwitterYou probably sat through fifth-grade history lessons of Ponce de Leon and the Fountain of Youth or maybe you’re familiar with the more modern version: Harry Potter’s Sorcerer’s Stone. Legends about objects that can impart eternal life to their beholders are many and varied across time and cultures. But have you ever heard of a house that can turn back time – or at least slow it down? Arakawa’s Bioscleave House is intended to do just that… in some very unusual ways.

Reversible Destiny homes in Mitaka, Japan. Image courtesy of Masatako Nakano

Above is an image of “reversible destiny” homes in Mitaka, Japan. Though their brightly-colored, unusually-shaped exteriors make them look like children’s playgrounds, they’re actually intended for aging adults. Arakawa and his wife Madeline Gins designed these homes as well as the new Bioscleave House in Long Island, NY. Inside the Bioscleave, a bumpy, undulating floor forces the occupants to use many different muscle groups to maintain their balance. The walls are painted in 40+ different colors, windows are placed at varying heights and wall fixtures appear at unexpected angles. What’s the point? To cheat death, according to Gins and Arakawa. Supposedly, the challenging – and sometimes dangerous – interior will keep residents from becoming complacent; for the artists, alertness is key to staying alive and young for as long as possible.

Interior of Bioscleave House, Long Island, NY. Image courtesy of Eric Striffler, NY Times.

“It’s immoral that people have to die,” or so says Gins. She and Arakawa have been exploring the possibilities of what they call “reversible destiny” through paintings, books and the built environment. They are constantly seeking ways to “reverse the downward course of human life,” which I take to mean the natural process of aging that eventually leads to death. Bioscleave House does look like a fun place to spend some time – and could do wonders as a physical therapy center – but may not be my first choice for a permanent residence.

Marcel Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase

Here’s an extra tidbit, just for fun: Arakawa claims that Marcel Duchamp was one of his patrons. Could be… the sensory-overloaded houses do remind me of the all-at-once movement of Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase:

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Sources:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/03/garden/03destiny.html?_r=1
http://www.treehugger.com/files/2008/04/reversible-destiny-house.php

Images:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/03/garden/03destiny.html?_r=1

Daily Dose: Gol Gumbaz

Add to TwitterGol Gumbaz (round dome) is the mausoleum of Muhammad Adil Shah in India. It’s made of dark grey basalt and plaster and covers 18,225 square feet. Ready for some more numbers? It was built between 1626 and 1656, the walls are nine feet thick and 100 feet high, and the 124-foot-diameter-dome is one of the largest in the world.

Gol Gumbaz mausoleum, India; Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

In my opinion, the coolest part about this massive monument is the whispering gallery. In the area around the base of the dome, any sound is echoed ten times and can easily be heard on the opposite side. It seems that everything about the Gol Gumbaz is magnified.

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Sources:
http://www.archnet.org/library/sites/one-site.jsp?site_id=7616
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gol_Gumbaz

Image:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:GolGumbaz2.jpg

Daily Dose: Straw Homes

Add to TwitterThe third little pig who built his house out of bricks is generally considered to be the most intelligent and resourceful of the trio… but the following homes might convince you that building out of straw isn’t so bad! Crossing countries (US, UK, Denmark, Wales) and styles (traditional, spiral, dome, hobbit-like), these houses relate to one another only in that they use straw as a functional part of their construction.

Straw bale home in Oakland, CA; Image ©Brett Weinstein/Realty Advocates

I don’t know about you, but I’d never guess that this Oakland, CA home was constructed with straw bales between layers of plaster. This natural material acts as an effective insulator, absorbing sun during the day and giving off heat in the evening hours. The straw also helps to reduce external noise – a definite plus in an urban area.

Straw home in Pembrokeshire, UK; Image courtesy of ecohouseagent.com

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Next on the docket is a straw home located in Pembrokeshire, UK. Unlike the bales used in the Oakland home, the straw in this residence is load-bearing which eliminates the need for a timber frame. It also looks a bit more three-little-pigs-y. Maybe it’s just the color, though.

Spiral straw home in Denmark; Image ©Poula-Line

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The spiral straw home in Denmark is part of an entire eco-village, a community of homes made of a variety of sustainable materials. It was inspired by the shape of a seashell and has a spiral chimney to boot!

Hobbit house in Wales; Image courtesy of simondale.net

We’ll end with my favorite: a house designed and built by Simon Dale called the “Hobbit House.” It’s partially dug into a hillside and displays a frame of spare oak wood as well as straw insulation. Dale says he built it with little to no prior construction experience, so if you have an extra hill and some straw, maybe you can give it a go!

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Sources:
http://realestate.msn.com/slideshow.aspx?cp-documentid=23420141&GT1=35000
http://simondale.net/house/index.htm
http://www.thedailygreen.com/green-homes/latest/straw-homes-461209

Images:
http://realestate.msn.com/slideshow.aspx?cp-documentid=23420141&GT1=35000

Daily Dose: Romantic Buildings

Add to TwitterIt’s a little late this year to take your sweetheart to one of these romantic locations on Valentine’s Day, but keep these places in mind for your next outing or vacation destination – they’re sure to inspire the two of you to keep the love alive!

Empire State Building on Valentine's Day; Still image from Sleepless in Seattle

Perhaps the most obvious choice is the Empire State Building in New York City. Weddings are held year-round in a 55th floor suite of the 102-storey tower. Those wishing to marry on Valentine’s Day can apply with a creative tale of how they met and why the Empire State Building is special to them. Fourteen couples are chosen to wed on February 14th each year; during the past fifteen years, over 220 couples have married there on Valentine’s day.

Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr in An Affair to Remember; Still image from film

The film industry has also made the Empire State Building a beacon of romance. Two popular movies, An Affair to Remember (1957) and Sleepless in Seattle (1993), had scenes in which the lovers (Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr in An Affair and Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in Sleepless) agree to meet on the top floor to affirm their commitment to one another. Misadventures ultimately keep each of the couples apart in those scenes, lending the building some poignancy in its romance.

Crim Dell Bridge in Williamsburg, VA

The brightly painted Crim Dell Bridge on the campus of the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA is a whimsical means of transport across the scenic pond below. It was built in 1966 and was dedicated with a plaque showing the following quote from Pascall:

…that one may walk in beauty, discover the serenity of the quiet moment, and dispel the shadows.

Crim Dell Bridge in Williamsburg, VA; Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

It is said that if two lovers cross the bridge together and kiss at its peak, they will stay together forever. However, I beseech women to embark on such an endeavor with care. If you and your partner don’t find eternal bliss, you must throw your ex-lover off the bridge into the water to avoid perpetual spinsterhood. (Both women? Maybe it’s a race to who throws whom off first. You’re doubly warned!) And though it may look like a peaceful place to walk in solitude, beware; crossing the Crim Dell Bridge alone ensures that you will be single forever.

Trevi Fountain in Rome, Italy; Image ©James Martin

Finally, the Trevi Fountain in Rome is cloaked in romantic potential – but only if you count your coins correctly. One tossed in over your shoulder ensures that you will someday return to Rome. It’s generally purported that two will lead to new romance and three will guarantee a marriage or divorce. An estimated 3,000 euros are thrown into the Trevi Fountain each day. The money is used to help fund a supermarket for low-income citizens.

I hope this post gives you refreshed inspiration for next year’s Valentine’s Day destinations. If you have your own stories about romantic buildings in your life, share them here!

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Sources:
http://www.esbnyc.com/tourism/tourism_specialevents_valentines.cfm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crim_Dell_bridge
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trevi_Fountain
http://goeurope.about.com/library/phot/bl_rome_trevi_2.htm

Images:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Crim_Dell_2.jpg
http://goeurope.about.com/library/phot/bl_rome_trevi_2.htm

Daily Dose: Poseidon Underwater Hotel

Add to TwitterSo, I’ve stayed in some pretty questionable hotels “in my day,” but never one in which I went to sleep wondering if I’d drown before I woke up… and I’m pretty sure that would be my primary focus in the Poseidon Underwater Hotel. Oh, it looks beautiful and intriguing, don’t get me wrong – but I don’t know if that’d be enough after my countless viewings of James Cameron’s Titanic and the water rushing into those rooms. And perhaps I’m not open-minded enough, but I can’t imagine that the 24 underwater modules were constructed without considerable negative marine impact.

Poseidon Underwater Hotel room

Above is a view of one of the 24 suites now available in the Poseidon Underwater Hotel located on the island of Fiji. When guests arrive, they are taken 40 feet underwater by elevator and introduced to their luxury accommodations. Made mostly of steel and plexi-glass, the rooms offer uninhibited views of the surrounding sea. And – get this – you can even feed the fish in the nearby (human-made?) coral reefs with the touch of a button on your “central console.”

Poseidon Hotel modules

I know that any construction project impacts the environment – heck, my 50-mile-a-day-commute doesn’t help, either. But marine ecosystems are some of the most fragile on the planet, and introducing the huge impact of underwater construction and building maintenance isn’t beneficial. I wasn’t able to discern whether the adjacent coral reefs are naturally-occurring or created purely for the guests’ viewing pleasure, but either way it’s an issue. Interfering with natural ecosystems and creating our own are equally problematic.

I think ecotourism is great (it can give a fresh focus to family or personal travel and increase awareness) but only if it’s simultaneously respectful of the environments it’s showcasing. Beautiful as a stay at the Poseidon Underwater Hotel may be, if the resort’s presence is causing undue stress to the native, fragile flora and fauna, it’s not worth even the most luxurious of accommodations.

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Sources:
http://www.poseidonresorts.com

Images:
http://www.architecturelist.com/2008/02/20/poseidon-undersea-hotel-in-istanbul/