Monday, December 3, 2012

Chop Stick

Visiondivision was commissioned by the Indianapolis Museum of Art to create an innovative concession stand for the 100 Acres: The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park.

The design is based on the universal notion that you need to sacrifice something in order to make something new. Every product is a compound of different pieces of nature, whether it is a cell phone, a car, a stone floor or a wood board; they have all been harvested in one way or another. Our project is about trying to harvest something as gently as possible so that the source of what we harvest is displayed in a pure, pedagogic and respectful way—respectful to both the source itself and to everyone visiting the building.

The raw material we selected is a 100-foot yellow poplar tree, the state tree of Indiana, known for its beauty, respectable size, and good properties as hardwood. We found a great specimen standing in a patch of forest outside of Anderson, Indiana. Our goal was to make the best out of this specific poplar tree, from taking it down and through the whole process of transforming it into a useful building that is now part of one of the finest art parks in the United States. As the project proceeded, we continued to be surprised by all of the marvelous features that where revealed in refining a tree into a building; both in the level of craftsmanship and knowledge of woodworkers and arborists, and also of the tree itself.

The tree was then transported to the park site, where it became the suspended horizontal beam of this new structure, which is almost entirely made out of the tree itself. The tree’s bark was removed to prevent it from falling on bystanders, a process that occurs naturally as the moisture content in the wood drops, causing the tree to shrink and the bark to lose its grip. Craftsmen loosen entire cylinders of bark from the trunk that are then flattened and cut into a standard shingle length. The shingles was carefully stacked and placed under pressure to avoid curling. The stacks was then kiln dried to the proper moisture content, sterilized, and kept in climate-controlled storage until they where ready for use. Bark shingles are very durable, long lasting (up to 80 years), and maintenance free.

After debarking, pieces of wood are extracted from the suspended tree and used for each of the components of the concession stand; structural support of the construction, pillars and studs for the kiosk, swings under the tree for kids, chairs and tables to be placed under the tree’s crown, from which special fixtures made out of bark pieces will hang. Many school children visit 100 Acres, and we had those kids in mind when we decided to hang swings from the tree. On a smaller scale, we explored ways to use other parts of the tree in the concession stand, including pressed leaves and flowers that were taken from the tree and that became ornaments in the front glass of the kiosk.
We also made Yellow Poplar syrup that was extracted from the bark of the tree and that will be sold in the kiosk, thus meaning that you could actually eat a part of the building.

Exterior view

Swings made by pieces of the trunk

The VD-team handing out ice cream at the opening party

The top part of the tree with tables and chairs

Chop Stick on a summer afternoon

Chop Stick branded cowboy style

From inside the kiosk

Chop Stick at night time with the lamp shades from the bark of the smaller limbs

The delicate balance act of the risk of weakening the hovering tree with taking cuts from it versus having to have a certain amount of wood to stabilize and construct the kiosk and carrying the load from the tree itself was very challenging.
Many days was spent with the structural engineer trying different types of cuts in a computer model to optimize the structure. To be able to fit all pieces that needed to be taken from the tree into the actual cuts we needed to make drawings for every single piece taken from the tree. We also needed to optimize the kiosk both in size and in its constructions since it would take a lot of weight from the hovering trunk. The kiosk got a truss frame construction with two larger pieces of wood that are right under the tree. Using the schematics from our engineers force diagram program, we concluded that the wall closer to the end of the tree was taking more load, thus we sized up the two larger pieces of wood in that specific wall. All these alterations really just made the project more beautiful since the design became more refined in terms of more balanced proportions.

Master diagram showing the concept and the process


Diagram showing the cuts and where the different pieces of wood is used

The cut down of the tree and the transportation to the IMA
Image courtesy: Donna Sink
Here is a movie and series of pictures when the tree was taken down gently from a forest outside of Anderson, Indiana and taken to the 100 Acres at The Indianapolis Museum of Arts.

The transportation to the museum

The tree gets lifted with crane

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Creature Code

Visiondivision was invited by the Japan Design Association and Designboom to produce a piece of architecture as a tribute to the eccentric 18th century painter Ito Jakuchu to be exhibited at the Tokyo Designers Week. The team could also realize one of the projects in Tokyo with support by The Swedish Arts Grants Committeé

In the beginning, the world was untainted nature; creatures could find water in the rivers and the lakes and find shelter in the woods, the grass and within the earth itself.
With the evolution and progress of mankind however, nature has been shifted more to suit the needs of humans and more and more of the surface of the planet has become artificial with vast areas of croplands and the rise and prosperity of towns, cities and metropolises. The animals have been pushed away to smaller parcels of lands and whole habitats have been changed with the speed of human development.
Some animals have adapted to these new artificial environments but there are seldom any efforts from the humans to make it easier for them to do so, we don’t want them in our cities unless they are well-behaved pets.

Ito Jakuchu understood the value of animals and wanted to combine the worlds of animals and man into something greater.
In his spirit, we have done a series of projects to increase the awareness of that we are not the only species on this earth as well as in the cities that we have produced.

Common building materials could be slightly adjusted to still keep its intended function but that now also can be used better by the critters in the city.
Hopefully this could be a start to a design strategy for the urban animals.
Each project uses an advantage that the city brings and that could benefit the animal; Water, Food, Shelter, Heat, Production, Heat and Lifestyle

We realized one of these proposals in Tokyo which takes use of the water in the city.
The idea is that where we before just saw a gutter, we will now try to see small rivers, so instead of directing water from our roofs directly underground in a hurry, we’re proposing it to take detours that will benefit the city animals better which sometimes have trouble to find water.
To show a very literal example of this, we have made a gutter module that is a fish tank that fits any standard Japanese gutter.

We went to the Tokyo Glass Art Institute where we gave the instructions for the creation of the fish tank and which we later on attached to a drainage pipe at a residential house in the outskirts of Tokyo.
The result can be seen below as well as in the video where you also will see more of how the production went.


When we build our houses, we often make them impenetrable and hermetic to keep weather and animals away. It is poignant to see all this building mass and facades that doesn’t givie anything back to nature.
With simple modifications we could for example make a new brick into a bird house and another brick as a bird bath and so on.

We have a superior technology and production capacity that we are alone of having on this planet. The combination with the size of a human compared to insects for example, means that we could without much of an effort give them entire cities in a matter of no time. If we take the Japanese rhino beetle for example, that live most of its life under ground, is having a hard time to find places to exist due to the immense foot print that our cities are making, and where there are not houses, there is impenetrable
asphalt and concrete that makes a coating over the earth.
We could easily modify drainage sheets that are normally dug down around houses into massive underground housing complex for the insects that would still function as we want it to but benefit them greatly.

The waste of food that we produce each year is discomforting, if each household had a special home appliance under the sink where leftovers can be put and that also could be visited by critters like rats, cockroaches and worms, a part of this waste could come in use.
The small animals are also important for larger urban animals that prey on these for their survival.

Many animals hibernate in climates with cold winters and even if they don’t sleep through winter they anyway tend to be less active and slumber a lot and seek warm places. The heat that we produce could come in handy for some of these animals and can
easily be better shared to our fellow critters.
We could also give away some indoor space that we don’t use, like the area under a sofa or a bed for example.
This space could with a small enclosure be made into an animal winter habitat which is reached from the outside with a cover.
These can be already custom made with an enclosed space that is docked in to the wall opening, or be a small container that can be inserted in the same fashion.

There are many intelligent animals that don’t just think of life as surviving and reproducing, the snow monkeys in Japan for example that both take pleasure in bathing and sunbathing.
We replace some of the plain metal sheets on the roof with curved sheets that make excellent sun chairs to stretch out on, just next to a curved steel section that makes up a basin of water that could be heated during the winter.
The chimney is also refined into a habitat for the monkeys so they can take part of the heat.
Monkeys can also use tools, so a set up with electrical appliances, connected with a sun cell unit, that can benefit the monkeys enjoyment in life, for example a blender to mix their fruits, a refrigerator for cold drinks, a fan for hot summer
days and so on.

Many thanks to the Tokyo Glass Institute and the glass master Kenichiro Omoto for his skillfull work as well as the other teachers and the students that helped.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Tokyo Office

The boys have now set up a temporary office in Tokyo for a commission that will be published shortly.
For this particular project, the team has practised karate precision in a samurai village in the Tochigi prefecture, so they will be able to carry out the craftsmanship required to contrive the most seamless piece of architecture in whole of Japan.
The work will also include the islanders favorite food and will be for display at the Tokyo Designers Week from 30th October until 5th November.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Villa Village

Visiondivision was contacted by a family that lives outside Tampere, Finland, to create an extension to a 1970s house by a lake.
There are certain aspects that formed our concept for this project. One is about the clients’ lifestyle and one is about economy and production.

As we noticed while visiting the clients, a couple with two children, they both worked a lot from home and that they almost used their existing house as if it was a small town, they worked on different places both outside and inside and Skyped each other as if they were in different parts of the town.
The more we came to think about it, the existing house and the surroundings seemed to be a very well used small village and that’s what we emphasized and adapted our architecture to. We saw them as strollers in their own town, setting up their office in the park, at the café or in the sauna depending on where they might end up on their daily stroll. This way of life doesn’t correspond to normal architecture where every room has its function. This way of life needs a village with several options of moving between different settings.
Our proposal is not do one extension; it is in fact to do as many as possible.
The clients will not be owners of one house anymore; they will be mayors of a small town.
A village of small units are placed to capture the beautiful surroundings but also to improve the existing house as well as the close area around it. The result will be a house as versatile and pleasant as a small town; an interesting structure for the clients to inhabit and walk about in many different fashions that will inspire them in their everyday activities, as well as for work as for leisure.

Concept Diagram showing the existing house and the future look

Economy and production
As an office we often try to investigate the production of architecture, the materials and techniques we as architects can work with in order to create something.
In recent projects we have been trying to harvest a material as gently as possible and we have also even planted and grown a house.
As for this project, we have investigated the opposite approach; to work with ready-mades and improve them, a sort of fancy dinner of fast food architecture, buffet style.
This approach came natural given the village atmosphere that we wanted to strive for as the most competitive segment in the building industry is the market for small sheds and cottages.
We have found over fifty different companies so far and the competition between them has led to ridiculous prices on prefabricated small houses where you can buy a 15 m2 shed for only 2000 Euros for example. The sheds have no special features but as a wooden structure they are quite easy to improve and being so cheap you can buy plenty of them and elaborate with how they interact with each other.
The advantage of building several extensions is of course also that the clients don’t need to build everything at once and they can plan the growth of the village more gently and also adapt it easier to their economy.

Section showing the existing house's two floors and the new additions

Roof plan with the new additions

 The Village
The design has been as much about city planning as house design.
We have taken in consideration the outlooks, the sun and to make an interesting promenade that includes all the characteristics of the lake side site.
We have a town square with a lot of sun, cottages that overlook the lake, others that are directed to the forest and others that have more urban qualities.
Aesthetically we will treat and paint the exterior in a similar colour, change the windows to be better insulated and also larger at some of the modules.

The best view from the house is from the roof level, and given the fact that the existing roof is flat and that it is possible to build upon it, we have decided to put the main part of the village here.
A stair is built from the existing living room to the roof level, just over the staircase that leads down to the basement.
The staircase ends up inside a mid-sized cottage with large windows so the whole staircase also will act as a large light shaft for the existing house.
A family room is located in this cottage and glass sliding doors face the sunny town square/terrace, from the square it is possible to take an outdoor stair down to another terrace that connects the existing living room with the outside.
From the terrace a spacious stair/hangout area leads down to a relaxation area with sauna and a potential outdoor Jacuzzi. These cottages are linked from the basement level in the existing house.

Guest house with glass roof

Family room with view over the new town square

Guest toilet with view over the forest

From the new family room that is located on the roof level, the clients will reach another small cottage with a guest bathroom, and further on a cottage that faces the forest and would be an excellent guest house/office.
On the roof there is also a cottage that lies over the existing master bedroom that will give the bedroom a double ceiling height as well as a secluded space on the roof level that can be reached via Main Street.
Smaller sheds that acts as lanterns over the children’s rooms could also be done.
A two-car garage is built next to the old one, making the old garage into a storage room.
A secluded cottage that lies a little bit further out in the woods can be reached via a stairway from the roof. While almost every new cottage can be reached from the existing house, some can only be reached by going outdoors first, giving the cottage more privacy and calm which is perfect if one has work that demands extra concentration, or guests that prefers this setting more.

Night view of the new village

Monday, September 24, 2012

VD Guide XIV

It is time for the VD Guide XIV, where we will travel to arid places around the mediterranian sea, where stark and beautiful architecture has evolved, from the Berber vernacular minimalism to the cavernous Turks. We will also see some impressive Indian temples, some illustrous North American architecture, massive festivities and some architecture made for animals.
If you know some piece that could fit the guide, feel free to drop us a line ( and your name will be credited if we use it.
As always, enjoy the show and be inspired!
/the vd team

Göreme Police Station - Carved out police station
Birth: Centuries ago
Location: Göreme, Cappadocia, Turkey
Architect: Earth and perhaps the Romans
VD says: The perfect police station

The police station was carved probably centuries ago, and it might have been an ancient roman tomb, since most of the carved hoodoos (Fairy chimneys) in Cappadocia are in fact ancient tombs, later converted into houses.­
The eroded rock formations of Cappadocia look like sandstone, but it is actually volcanic tuff, a type of rock consisting of consolidated volcanic ash that originated from ancient volcanic eruptions in the region.­
The hard stone caps on the pinnacles protected them while rains eroded the surrounding softer rock around, leaving the pointy bits behind.
The natural shape gives the building a nice watch tower as well.
There are an abundance of great architecture like this in this region so make some research before you go.


Dunmore Pineapple - Pineapple shaped folly
Birth: 1761
Location: Dunmore, Falkirk, Scotland
Architect: William Chambers
VD says: Architecture that makes you happy

Discovered by Christopher Columbus on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe in 1493, pineapples became a rare delicacy in Europe, and were symbolic of power, wealth, and hospitality. The pineapple was adopted as a motif by architects, artisans and craftsmen,
being sculpted into gateposts, railings, weather vanes and door lintels. The motif also featured prominently in interior decoration, fabrics and furniture. The Dunmore Pineapple is perhaps the most spectacular architectural use of the motif.
The pineapple is around 14 metres high and constitute a stunning example of the stonemason's craft, being a remarkably accurate depiction of a pineapple. Each of the curving stone leaves is separately drained to prevent frost damage, and the stiff serrated edges of the lowest and topmost leaves and the plum berry-like fruits are all cunningly graded so that water cannot accumulate anywhere, ensuring that frozen trapped water cannot damage the delicate stonework.
Despite the unconventional design and the mix of architectural styles, the effect is harmonious because the pineapple and the portico are made of the same stone (ensuring a single colour from top to bottom) and are of a consistent width. Together, they draw the eye upwards in a single smooth motion. The height of the building, from the bottom of the lower floor to the top of the pineapple, is exactly half the width of the structure. Additionally, the width of the portico and pineapple matches the height of the south façade. Together, these elements, along with the four equally spaced urn-shaped chimneys, add to the sense of Classical order and harmony.
For more pineapple shaped buildings, check out the Gran Lisboa Casino in Macau.


The Colossus of Rhodes - An immense statue and a lighthouse
Birth: 292 BC Death: 230 BC by an earthquake
Location: Rhodes, Greece
Architect: Chares of Lindos
VD says: Superb, they should rebuild it

One of the seven ancient wonders of the world. A colossus is a statue larger than life. The most famous colossus of antiquity was the Colossus of Rhodes, erected between 292 and 280 BC. It was a bronze statue of the sun god Apollo, cast by Chares of Lindos. No one knows exactly what it looked like; but the common view – that its legs straddled the entrance to the harbor, so that ships passed beneath it – is an invention of the Middle Ages. About 56 years after it was put up the Colossus was overthrown by an earthquake. Pliny, more than 300 years later, described its finger as larger than a status of ordinary size. It disappeared in AD 672 when a traveler from Emesa bought the fragments, loaded them on to 900 camels, and carted them away.
It is believed that the architect, Chares of Lindos, did not live to see his project finished. There are several legends that he committed suicide. In one tale he has almost finished the statue when someone points out a small flaw in the construction. The sculptor is so ashamed of it he kills himself.
In another version the city fathers decide to double the height of the statue. Chares only doubles his fee, forgetting that doubling the height will mean an eightfold increase in the amount of materials needed. This drives him into bankruptcy and suicide.


Tateyama Alpine Route - A 20 meter high snow corridor
Birth: 1971
Location: Tateyama, Japan
Architect: Mother Earth and machines
VD says: Ice Age up close

The Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route is a unique and spectacular route through the Northern Japan Alps, which is traversed by various means of transportation, including cablecars, trolley buses and a ropeway. The route is particularly famous for the high snow walls that line some of its roads in spring.
The Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route was completed in 1971, and connects Toyama City in Toyama Prefecture with Omachi Town in Nagano Prefecture. The section between Tateyama Station and Ogizawa is closed to private vehicles.
The route is open from mid April through November.


The Old Faithful Inn - An enormous log house with an enormous fire place
Birth: 1904
Location: Yellowstone National Park, USA
Architect: Robert Reamer
VD says: Megalomanic lobby

The Old Faithful Inn is a hotel located in Yellowstone National Park, USA, with a clear view of the renowned Old Faithful Geyser. The Inn features a multi-story log lobby, flanked by long frame wings containing guest rooms.
With its spectacular log and limb lobby and massive (500-ton, 25-meters) stone fireplace, the inn is a prime example of the "Golden Age" of rustic resort architecture. It is also unique in that it is one of the few log hotels still standing in the United States. It was the first of the great park lodges of the American west.
Initial construction was carried out over the winter of 1903-1904, largely using locally-obtained materials including lodgepole pine and rhyolite stone. When the Old Faithful Inn first opened in the spring of 1904, it boasted electric lights and steam heat.
The structure is the largest log hotel in the world; possibly even the largest log building in the world. In 2007 the AIA conducted a survey to determine the 150 favorite buildings in America; the Old Faithful Inn ranked 36. The Inn, which was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987.


Kabaw - A Berber town with a nice granary
Birth: 14th Century
Location: Kabaw, Libya
Architect: Berber
VD says: Playful

While the old Kabaw village is almost all in shambles, and its inhabitants relocated to dull, new houses, the old village still has areas indicating how live once was.
Most interesting, however, are the ghurfas or ksar, the granary built by the local Berbers, dating 700 years back in time. The inner courtyard has a tomb built around a local religious leader.
In April, there is a festival in Kabaw, known as the Qasr Festival. Here Berber culture comes alive, but it is also a time for important events like weddings.

Ovambo Villages - Round houses surrounded with palisade mazes
Birth: Unknown
Location: Around Namibia, Africa
Architect: The Ovambo tribe
VD says: Confusing for their enemies

A traditional Owambo homestead was a large maze of wooden fences surrounding a group of round wood huts with thatched roofs and sand floors, each of which served a different purpose (bedrooms, grain storage, kitchen, social quarters, etc.)


Karaweik Hall - Golden palace boat, now a buffet restaurant
Birth: 1972
Location: Kandawgyi Lake, Yangon, Myanmar
Architect: U Ngwe Hlaing
VD says: Where eating must be a heavenly pleasure

Karaweik Hall is a palace on the eastern shore of Kandawgyi Lake, Yangon, Burma. The barge was designed by Burmese architect U Ngwe Hlaing, who based it on the Pyigyimon royal barge. Construction began in June 1972 and it was finished in October 1974. The barge is a two-storied construction of concerete and stucco, reinforced by iron rods, with a pyatthat-topped roof, and two reception halls and a conference room. It houses a buffet restaurant today.


Holi Festival - A very colorful festival
Birth: 7th Century
Location: Barsana, India
Architect: Hindu and color
VD says: Colors are an effective trick

Every year, thousands of Hindus participate in the festival Holi. The festival has many purposes. First and foremost, it celebrates the beginning of the new season, spring. Originally, it was a festival that commemorated good harvests and the fertile land. Hindus believe it is a time of enjoying spring's abundant colors and saying farewell to winter. It also has a religious purpose,commemorating events present in Hindu mythology. Although it is the least religious holiday, it is probably one of the most exhilarating ones in existence. During this event, participants hold a bonfire, throw colored powder at each other, and celebrate wildly.
Rangapanchami occurs a few days later on a Panchami (fifth day of the full moon), marking the end of festivities involving colours.
The main day, Holi, is celebrated by people throwing scented powder and perfume at each other.

Villa Escudero Restaurant - Restaurant with seatings in a waterfall
Birth: 1981
Location: Harbin, China
Architect: Escudero Family
VD says: A delightful way to eat your dinner

Waterfalls are some of the most majestic and mysterious sites in the world, but getting close can not only be difficult, but also dangerous. The Villa Escudero Resort of San Pablo City in the Philippines offers a one of a kind experience for guests to get up close and personal with a roaring waterfall while enjoying their lunch. Their waterfall restaurant sits at the foot of the Labasin Falls where guests can enjoy local cuisine at handmade bamboo tables while clear spring water runs over theirfeet. The falls are so people friendly, guests can even lie against the rushing water covered wall for quick massage or post-lunch rinse off.


Penguin Pool - A modernistic penguin habitat
Birth: 1934
Location: London Zoo, London
Architect: Berthold Lubetkin
VD says: Animal architecture at its finest

Lubetkin seems to have seen this building as an opportunity to creatively explore the possibilities of a new building material available in 1934 - reinforced concrete. Having studied the habits of penguins he created a penguin enclosure and pool that provides an interesting environment for the penguins, a multiplicity of viewing angles for the spectator and a Modernist building of true clarity and style.

After setting up the architectural group 'Tecton' in 1932 the penguin pool was one of his first commissions, from the Director of London Zoo. The overall elliptical shape is referenced in the spiraling intertwined ramps that connect the different levels; these sloping cambered ramps give a dynamic feel to the building.
The large elliptical blue pool provides the birds with a large swimming area and also gives a contrast to the white concrete used throughout. There is a partially shaded area to provide the birds with protection from the direct sun, and the gently curved walls are designed to echo the penguin's cries.

This building cleverly combines practical considerations, such as a shaded area for the penguins and gently sloping access to the pool, with a powerful aesthetic statement of form and line.

The penguin pool is a Grade 1 listed building in the UK Government scheme for protecting important buildings.


Haida Gwaii Villages - Villages with a large number of totem poles
Birth: 18th century, with golden age around 1850 Death: End of 19th century, but had some revival in the mid 20ths.
Location:Haida Gwaii, British Colombia, Canada
Architect: Haida People
VD says: Artistic splendour

Totem poles are usually made of cedar or spruce. Traditional carving tools are adzes (sharp blades tied to wooden handles), two larger ones used to remove big pieces of wood and an elbow adze (so-named because its shape looks like a human elbow) for final shaping, which compresses the wood fibers and helps make the wood water-resistant.
Due to United States and Canadian policies and practices of acculturation and assimilation, the Natives sharply reduced their production of totem poles at the end of the 19th century.
Symbols on totem poles are primarily the symbols of the clans they belong to. At the highest level, everyone is either of the eagle or raven clan, with subclans such as beaver, fox, bear, and frog. The raven has a straight beak, while the eagle has a curved one. The human figure on top is the village watchman, who warned of approaching danger or a thief in the village. If you see someone hanging upside down, they owe a debt to the village. Once the debtor paid up, the pole would be chopped down, taken into the forest to rot and a new one erected. Red ears and mouth signify a stingy person.
See also the totem poles in Ketchikan, Alaska.


Burstbaer houses- Interconnected turf houses
Birth: 18th century
Location: Glaumbaer, Iceland
Architect: Icelandic farmers
VD says: Perfect for the location

The Icelandic turf houses was the product of a difficult climate, offering superior insulation compared to buildings solely made of wood or stone, and the relative difficulty in obtaining other construction materials in sufficient quantities.

Iceland was fully forested when it was settled (save the mountains and highlands), with forests of birch trees. Oak was the preferred timber for building Norse halls in Scandinavia, but native birch had to serve as the primary framing material on the remote island. However, Iceland did have a large amount of turf that was suitable for construction. Some structures in Norway had turf roofs, so the notion of using this as a building material wasn't alien to many settlers.

Then in the late 18th century a new style started to gain momentum, the burstabær, with its wooden ends. This is the most commonly depicted version of the Icelandic turf houses and many such survived well into the 20th century. This style was then slowly replaced with the urban building style of wooden house clothed in corrugated iron


City of Manazan - A vertical village
Birth: Centuries ago
Location: Taskale, Anatolia, Turkey
Architect: Turks
VD says: Visually striking

Dating back to the Byzantine Empire, the City of Manazan features an entire rock face, carved to create a vertical village of tiny rooms. Naturally protected from invaders and the elements, this rock-cut village has survived through centuries of war and regime change in Central Anatolia.
Although seemingly impractical, Manazan stretches up five stories and across 3km of cliffs, and was a fully functioning city centuries ago. The intricate series of caves and tunnels housed churches, storage facilities, family homes and even cemeteries, all high above the ground on the cliff face.
Today, the city is no longer inhabited, but locals from Taskale still use the temperate caves to store wheat, cheese and other grains, and the region is actively developing the area for greater revenue from tourism.
In Turkey alone, there are aproximatly 40.000 cave dwellings.


Son Doong Cave - World's biggest cave
Birth: A long time ago
Location: Vietnam-Laos border
Architect: Mother Earth
VD says: The underground rainforest is amazing

Located near the Vietnam-Laos border, the cave was found by a local man named Ho-Khanh in 1991. The locals, it is said, were too afraid of the cave to go exploring because of the sound coming from the fast-moving underground river.
In 2009, a group of scientists from the British Cave Research Association began an extensive survey of the cave's depths. According to Howard Limbert, the man leading the survey, the cave is five times larger than Phong Nha, which once held the title of the largest in Vietnam. The biggest chamber, his team found, is over five kilometers long and 200 meters tall.
The jungle found inside of the cave has formed underneath a collapsed roof in one of the caverns. After the roof collapsed, enough light spilled into the cavern that vegetation was able to creep in slowly from outside. As the vegetation took hold, larger and larger plants began to grow.


St Louis City Museum - A huge interactive museum to go wild in
Birth: 1993
Location: St Louis, USA
Architect: Bob Cassilly
VD says: Every kids dream

It’s a huge playground, made almost entirely of recycled components, where every piece of art and architecture is interactive. At any given time of day (and up until 1:00 A.M. in the summer) adults and children play in underground cabins, on roped circles of sturdy wire suspended high above the building, and even in a “skateless” skate park (on the building's third floor) with ramps and ropes. The museum is frequented by such celebrities as Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers. The Museum also hosts concerts.
The City Museum is an insurance nightmare, but also is indisputably a legendary St. Louis institution. It was founded in 1993 by St. Louis sculptor and entrepreneur Bob Cassilly (1949– ) and his second wife, Gail, who envisioned an artistic structure right in the heart of downtown St. Louis with a revolving set of unique, hands-on exhibits.
It's more mayhem than museum.


Antogo Lake Fishing - Dry season fishing in an African lake
Birth: Unknown
Location: Antogo Lake, Mali
Architect: Mother Earth and the Dogon Tribe
VD says: Apocalyptic

Once a year, the people of the Dogon (also check out their architecture, they're awesome) rush the sacred Antogo Lake in Mali. In a flurry of activity, the Dogon grab at the water feverishly hoping to snatch a fish.
The lake itself is a rarity in a country comprised mostly of the Sahara desert and the dry steppes of the Sahel, which undoubtedly lends to its importance and sacredness. Although the lake is sacred, it is small and murky, and within minutes the Dogon fisherman empty the lake of all its inhabitants.
Throughout the year, it is illegal to fish in the lake. However, after the ban is lifted, fishermen file into the lake to grab whatever they can during the short-lived Antogo fishing frenzy.
The frenzy occurs during the dry season in Mali, which allows the fish to be easily caught in the shrunken lake. The ritual is strongly based on ancestor worship, and along with other rituals in Dogon culture, women are prohibited from participating.
Although women cannot join in the festivities, legend holds that a young woman discovered the lake and its miraculous fish, starting the chain of ritual fishing in the desert pool. Regardless, the Antogo festival is a spectacle like no other opening day for fishing across the world.
The elders of the Dogon villages decide the date of the fishing frenzy each year but it generally falls in the dry season in the early summer months.


Palitana - A pilgrim city for the Jains with 3000 temples
Birth: From the 11th century and onwards
Location: Palitana, Gujarat, India
Architect: Various
VD says: A marble temple splurge

The Palitana temples are considered the most sacred pilgrimage place by the Jain community, and is the world’s largest temple cmplex with more than 3000 temples located on the Shatrunjaya hills, exquisitely carved in marble.
Jainism is a relatively small religion, with only a little over 4 million believers in India and small pockets of followers throughout the rest of the world. The Jains' primary belief is non-violence; they believe that people, animals and even plants have souls and should be treated equally and well. Although they have no gods or spiritual figures, they do live with the principle of reincarnation in mind, hoping to eventually be liberated from the cycle of life and rebirth in an eternal transcedence.
The Shatrunjaya Hill site is huge and pilgrimage rites are difficult for such an ascetic religion. The hill's 3,950 steps often take three hours to climb, with the elderly often hiring a dholi, a seat attached to a pole carried by strong men, to the top. It is the goal of devout Jains to climb the mountain 99 times in their lifetimes.


Lencois Maranhenses National Park - An array of oases
Birth: A long time ago
Location: Maranhão state, Brazil
Architect: Mother Nature
VD says: The perfect beach vacation

The Lençóis Maranhenses National Park located in Maranhão state, in northeastern Brazil, is one of the most marvelous and unique places in the world. An area encompassing about 1000 square kilometers of white silky sands intercepted at regular intervals by endless cool oases of turquoise lakes.
At first glance Lençóis Maranhenses looks like an archetypal desert. Lying just outside the Amazon basin, the region is subject to a regular rain season during the beginning of the year. The rain water accumulates in the valleys in between sand dunes and forms clear blue and green lagoons that reach their fullest between July and September. The area is also surprisingly home to a variety of fish which, despite the almost complete disappearance of the lagoons during the dry season, have their eggs brought from the sea by birds. Mangroves, deserted beaches, buritis - a graceful kind of palm tree - and the Preguiças River help compose the park's diversity.


Voronet Monastery- A church with exterior frescoes
Birth: 1488
Location: Voroneţ, Suceava County, Romania
Architect: Stephen the great
VD says: Smart to put the frescoes on the outside to lure people to the church

The main church of Saint George at Voroneț Monastery is possibly the most famous church in Moldavia. It is known throughout the world for its exterior frescoes of bright and intense colours, and for the hundreds of well-preserved figures placed against the renowned azurite background.
A legend tells us that Stephen the Great, in a moment of crisis during a war against the Ottoman Turks, came to Daniel the Hermit at his skete in Voroneț and asked for advice. After he won the battle against the Turks, keeping his promise to the monk, the Prince built a new church, dedicated to Saint George, the "bringer of victory in battle".


M'Zab Valley - Five walled city with nice city planning and small architectural gems
Birth: 11th century
Location: M'Zab, Libya
Architect: Ibadites
VD says: Beautiful and simple

A traditional human habitat, created in the 10th century by the Ibadites around their five ksour (fortified cities), has been preserved intact in the M’Zab valley. Simple, functional and perfectly adapted to the environment, the architecture of M’Zab was designed for community living, while respecting the structure of the family. It is a source of inspiration for today’s urban planners.
the M'Zab Valley has conserved practically the same way of life and the same building techniques since the 11th century, ordered as much by a specific social and cultural context, as by the need for adaptation to a hostile environment, the choice of which responded to a historic need for withdrawal and a defensive imperative. Each of these miniature citadels, surrounded by walls, is dominated by a mosque, the minaret of which functions as a watchtower. The mosque is conceived as a fortress, the last bastion of resistance in the event of a siege, and comprises an arsenal and a grain store. Around this building, which is essential for communal life, are houses built in concentric circles up to the ramparts. Each house constitutes a cubic cell of standard type, illustrating an egalitarian society founded on the respect for the family structure, aiming at the preservation of its intimacy and autonomy.


Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple - Hindu temple complex with highly ornamented towers
Birth: 6th century and still being added to
Location: Srirangam, India
Architect: Various
VD says: A vital and impressive temple complex that still gets additions

The Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to Ranganatha, a reclining form of Hindu deity, Vishnu located in Srirangam, India . Constructed in the Dravidian style of architecture, this temple is glorified in the Divya Prabandha, the early medieval Tamil literature canon of the Alvar saints from the 6th–9th centuries and is counted as the first and foremost among the 108 Divya Desams dedicated to Vishnu.
It is one of the most illustrious Vaishnava temples in South India rich in legend and history. Its location, on an island in Cauvery river, has rendered it vulnerable to natural disasters as well as the rampaging of invading armies – Hindu, Muslim and European – which repeatedly commandeered the site for military encampment.The main entrance, known as the Rajagopuram (the royal temple tower), rises from the base area of around 13 cents (around 5720 sq ft) and goes up to 72 m, moving up in eleven progressively smaller tiers. The annual 21 day festival conducted during the Tamil month of Margazhi (December–January) attracts 1 million visitors. Srirangam temple is often listed as the largest functioning Hindu temple in the world, the still larger Angkor Wat being the largest existing temple. The temple occupies an area of 156 acres (631,000 m²) with a perimeter of 4,116m making it the largest temple in India and one of the largest religious complexes in the world.

Smokey Mountain Slum - Garbage dump with 30 000 inhabitants
Birth: 1970s
Location: Manila, Philippines
Architect: Slum dwellers
VD says: Maybe the toughest place on earth

Smokey Mountain is a large rubbish dump in Manila, Philippines. Consisting of over two million metric tons of waste, it has operated for more than 40 years and is known for decomposing at such high temperatures that it will catch fire, a fact from which the location derives its name. Indeed, fires at Smokey Mountain have caused many deaths.
Smokey Mountain has a large squatter community, and it is estimated that 30,000 people live near the site, and make their living from picking through the rubbish at Smokey Mountain.
According to a UN-Habitat report, over 20 million people in the Philippines live in slums, and in the city of Manila alone, 50% of the over 11 million inhabitants live in slum areas.

Crystal Cathedral - Large church in glass
Birth: 1980
Location: Garden Grove, California, USA
Architect: Philip Johnson
VD says: Great use of glass

The Garden Grove Community Church was founded in 1955 by Robert H. Schuller and his wife Arvella. An affiliate of the Reformed Church in America, the church first held services in space rented from the Orange Drive-In Theatre.
In 1961, the congregation moved to a new sanctuary designed by architect Richard Neutra.In 1968, The Tower of Hope was completed, providing office and classroom space.Continued growth led to the need for a new facility. Schuller envisioned a unique facility with walls made of glass and commissioned architect Philip Johnson. Construction on the Crystal Cathedral began in 1977 and was completed in 1980, built at a cost of $18 million. The signature rectangular panes of glass comprising the building are not bolted to the structure; they are glued to it using a silicone-based glue. This and other measures are intended to allow the building to withstand an earthquake of magnitude 8.0. The building was constructed using over 10,000 rectangular panes of glass.
Upon moving from the old Neutra sanctuary to the new Johnson sanctuary in 1981, the congregation changed its name to the "Crystal Cathedral". The name is merely an alliterative construct; the building is not made of crystal and it is not a true cathedral in that it does not house a bishop's official seat (cathedra). In 1990 the Prayer Spire was completed.

Dr. Robert H. Schuller said, "When the local congregation reached 10,000 and we needed a bigger church building, I remembered how wonderful it had been at my little drive-in church (where the ministry began in 1955) where there had been no walls or ceiling-it was there I fell in love with the sky! And that's why we built the Crystal Cathedral with walls and a roof of glass-crystal-clear glass that lets the sun and sky sparkle through our wonderful sanctuary."


Casa Loma - Huge mansion in medieval style
Birth: 1914
Location: Toronto, Canada
Architect: E.J. Lennox
VD says: A nice ecclectic mix

Casa Loma is the former estate of Sir Henry Mill Pellatt, a Toronto financier, industrialist and military man. Much of his fortune was made through investments in hydro electricity and railway industries. Sir Henry hired noted architect E.J. Lennox to build him and his wife a medieval castle on a brow overlooking Toronto.

Begun in 1911, it took 300 men nearly 3 years to complete and cost $3,500,000; for a time, it was the largest residence in North America. Sir Henry enjoyed Casa Loma for a mere 10 years before financial loss forced him to abandon his castle home.

Today, the mansion is owned by the City of Toronto and run by The Kiwanis Club of Casa Loma, which uses its share of the proceeds for charitable projects.


Juzcar Village - A town painted in blue because of the Smurfs
Birth: 2010
Location: Juzcar, Costa Blanca, Spain
Architect: PR-people for the Smurfs
VD says: Life takes mysterious ways

The small village of Juzcar, in Spain’s Malaga region, has recently been painted blue as part of a global promotion for the Sony Pictures film “The Smurfs 3D”.

Juzcar is a peaceful, traditional “pueblo blanco” village, located in the Genel Valley region of Andalucia. It boasts a population of just 250, and yet Sony has selected it as the perfect location for the world premiere of its new film “The Smurfs 3D”. Locals were delighted, especially since the news meant their small village would become a temporary tourist attraction, but their fame and fortune came at a price: Sony requested that the entire settlement, including its historic church be painted blue, to resemble the smurfs’ fantasy village.

In preparation for the big premiere on June 16, 12 unemployed locals armed with various painting tools used 4,200 liters of paint to turn Juzcar into a real life Smurf village. There have been no complaints regarding the sudden transformation, and considering tourists have already begun arriving, the locals are more than happy with the change. Although Sony has agreed to turn the village to its former white glory, locals are now considering leaving the town as it is now, hoping Juzcar could become a permanent tourist spot.


Carmel Statues - A number of modern statues teaching people how to live
Birth: 2005
Location: Carmel, Indiana, USA
Architect: J. Seward Johnson Jr
VD says: Scary but interesting, next step will be robots

Carmel is a town just north of Indianapolis in USA, a town that is heavily influenced by new urbanism. A couple of years ago they bought a number of statues that where placed around the town, sort of teaching the citizens of Carmel how to live their white middle class lives.
“There, Now You Can Grow” – A little girl, with a straw hat hanging from her neck and wearing overall, waters nearby flowers.
“First Ride” – A young, smiling girl takes off on a bike as her father watches and lets go for the first time.
“Confirming Predictions” – A gray-haired businessman, focused on his newspaper, sits comfortably on a bench.
“Sidewalk Concert” – A street musician closes his eyes as he plays a sweet song on his violin, leaving his case open for spare change.“Holding Out,” depicts a woman carrying a bag of groceries in one arm and two additional shopping bags in the other.
· “Oh, It’s You, Welcome” – a smiling police officer assisting passers by
· “Unconditional Surrender” – image of sailor kissing nurse from VJ day
· “My World” – A little girl with a book
· “Who’s in Charge?” – a boy riding on his father’s shoulders
· “Big Sister” – Girl trying on sister’s shoe
· “One Man’s Search” – boy sitting on a bench reading wearing a school sweater, which will be customized to carry the Carmel High School emblem
· “Things To Do” – Seated woman writing a list, which will be customized to show design notes
· “Elemental” – couple with umbrella, which will be customized to show the couple carrying an antique mirror and shopping bag.
· Ambassador of the Streets” – Woman walking a dog


Buzescu Gypsy Palaces - A town with enormous self designed gypsy mansions
Birth: Unknown
Location: Buzescu, Romania
Architect: Gypsies
VD says: Highly interesting aestetics like dollar signs and Mercedes Benz symbols

Buzescu is a Gypsy Beverly Hills, and on the few hundred yards of Main Street are clustered the fanciful houses of successful Roma families, each one trying to outdo the other with another pinnacle or an extra silvery flourish.
Spiky turrets sheathed in beaten metal rise above balconies trimmed with filigree carvings which in turn spring from clusters of plaster columns. Some of them bear the owner's name, picked out in large metal letters and slung between brick chimneys. Many of these tinny mansions have forbiddingly elaborate gates covered in swirling tendrils of wrought iron, outside which large men with dark leather jackets hang about, exuding menace.
No-one knows exactly how many Gypsies there are in Romania, numbers vary from half a million to two million, but it's the largest Gypsy population of any European country.


Fingals Cave - An island which almost looks man-made
Birth: A long time ago
Location: Staffa Island, Inner Hebrides, Scotland
Architect: Mother Nature
VD says: A pixelated nature

Fingal's Cave is a sea cave on the uninhabited island of Staffa, in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland, part of a National Nature Reserve owned by the National Trust for Scotland. It is formed entirely from hexagonally jointed basalt columns within a Paleocene lava flow, similar in structure to the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland. In all these cases, cooling on the upper and lower surfaces of the solidified lava resulted in contraction and fracturing, starting in a blocky tetragonal pattern and transitioning to a regular hexagonal fracture pattern with fractures perpendicular to the cooling surfaces.As cooling continued these cracks gradually extended toward the centre of the flow, forming the long hexagonal columns we see in the wave eroded cross-section today. Similar hexagonal fracture patterns are found in desiccation cracks in mud where contraction is due to loss of water instead of cooling.
See also Giants Causeway which has a similar geological pattern.


Shark Shower - Outdoor shower formed as a shark
Birth: 2003
Location: Lake Sinclair, Georgia, USA
Architect: John Parker
VD says: Shows that even a small project can be turned into something nice

The Shark Shower is located at the Parker lake house on Lake Sinclair, 85 miles southeast of Atlanta, Georgia. John and his wife entertain a large number of guests during the summer months and often find the need for an extra shower to accommodate everyone after a hot day on the lake. Necessity, combined with inspiration from a niece fascinated by sharks, led to the idea of the shark-shaped shower.

John designed and constructed the Shark Shower himself, with a little help from his friends. The process began with a scaled-up drawing of the shark. To allow enough space inside to shower, John quickly realized the shark would have to be close to 15 feet long and 3 feet in diameter.

He constructed the frame from approximately 500 feet of steel and wire mesh. Welding turned out to be the most difficult step for John, as he had no prior experience working with metals. Not to be deterred, he went to the local pawnshop and bought an arc welder and taught himself to weld.

After the frame was built out, the Shark Shower began to take shape. John then encapsulated the frame with 30 pounds of spray polyurethane foam. The steel teeth had to be sanded down so not to hurt any ankles or legs while showering. After that, the shark was covered in fiberglass and resin.


Ghadamès - Oasis town with a unique division of functions
Birth: 7th century
Location: Ghadames, Libya
Architect: Berber tribes
VD says: Great town typology

Ghadamès, known as 'the pearl of the desert', stands in an oasis. It is one of the oldest pre-Saharan cities and an outstanding example of a traditional settlement. Its domestic architecture is characterized by a vertical division of functions: the ground floor used to store supplies; then another floor for the family, overhanging covered alleys that create what is almost an underground network of passageways; and, at the top, open-air terraces reserved for the women.


La Recoleta Cemetery - A cemetery laid out like a town with impressive mausoleums
Birth: 1881
Location: Buenos Aires, Argentina
Architect: Juan Antonio Buschiazzo
VD says: Cemeteries doesn't have to be boring

Set in 5.5 hectares the property contains 4691 vaults, all above ground, of which 94 have been declared National Historical Monuments by the Argentine government and are protected by the state. The entrance to the cemetery is through neo-classical gates with tall Doric columns. The cemetery contains many elaborate marble mausoleums, decorated with statues, in a wide variety of architectural styles such as Art Deco, Art Nouveau, Baroque, and Neo-Gothic, and most materials used between 1880 and 1930 in the construction of tombs were imported from Paris and Milan. The entire cemetery is laid out in sections like city blocks, with wide tree-lined main walkways branching into sidewalks filled with mausoleums.