Chinese Millionaire Builds Six European-Style Castles in China, Plans to Make it 100

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59-year-old Liu Chonghua is the latest to join a string of wealthy Chinese businessmen with eccentric hobbies. Liu is spending millions of dollars building fake European castles in the megacity of Chongqing. And get this – he copies the designs out of a book of castle pictures he keeps in his office.

One of the castles Liu built is a gray stone structure resembling Britain’s Windsor Castle. The only difference – the Chinese version is surrounded by lush green paddy fields. Another one is a red brick fairytale structure with soaring spires, inspired by the Disney movie, Aladdin. He also has a white castle with candy-colored towers, similar to 19th century Bavarian ‘Mad’ King Ludwig’s hilltop fantasy – Neuschwanstein.

Recreating foreign designs on Chinese soil might involve architectural challenges, but Liu’s team has dismissed them. Ma Wenneng, former soldier and now a construction worker, says, “Actually, European castles are really easy to build.”

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Ordinary Miracle – Russia’s Fairy-Tale School

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The Secondary School no.5, in Yoshkar-Ola, Russia, may be called “Ordinary Miracle”, but there is certainly nothing ordinary about the way it looks. Unlike most bland communist era schools around the country, this particular learning institution looks like something out of a children’s fairy-tale. And that’s exactly what makes it so popular.

Ordinary Miracle was built 12 years ago, by Sergey Mamaev, one of Russia’s most successful businessmen, who wanted to fulfill his wife Tatiana’s dream of teaching in a school where children actually wanted to go. She just didn’t find all the official-looking buildings used as schools throughout Russia suitable for molding young minds, so she came up with a more appealing design inspired by fairy-tale castles. Construction began in 1998, and in just three years time, the entire complex was completed and opened for business. Parents have to pay a tuition of 2,000 rubles ($61) per month, to have their children educated in this unique setting featuring a state of the art kindergarten, elementary and middle schools, cafeteria, swimming pool, gym and more. Mamaev’s investment in Ordinary Miracle is being praised on Russian sites as an example for other wealthy businessmen.

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Closer to Heaven – A Temple Built on the Rooftop of a Chinese Skyscraper

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Architectural wonders erected on the rooftops of skyscrapers seems to be the latest constructions trend in China. Just days after the scandal involving a mountain villa built on the roof of a Beijing apartment building, a microblogger from Shenzen discovered a traditional private temple located atop a similar residential building.

According to several Chinese media reports, the mysterious temple constructed on the roof of a 21-storey luxury apartment building in the Nanfang district of Shenzen has been around for at least three years, yet nobody, not even the tenants know who it belongs to. The rooftop structure is surrounded by foliage, has glazed golden tiles and features traditional upturned eaves decorated with carvings of dragons and phoenixes. A fingerprint scanner, security cameras and dogs barking on the other side of a locked door prevent access to the temple, but neighbors say it’s often used for traditional Chinese religious practices, as indicated by the ashes of burned offerings that float down from the roof. The private temple, suspected to be yet another illegal rooftop structure, jeopardizes the structural integrity of the entire building, but tenants say their complaints have so far landed on dead ears.

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Israeli Women Convert Old Public Transportation Bus into Beautiful Living Space

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Two women from Even Yehuda, Israel, seem to have found a practical solution to the country’s growing housing problem. They have taken a beat-down public transportation bus and turned it into a luxury home anyone would be lucky to live in.

Tali Shaul, a psychotherapist, and Hagit Morevski, an ecological pond water treatment specialist, became friends after their two sons started playing together. Sharing similar views, the two looked for a creative project and joint business idea for a long time, before finding their inspiration in the pages of a women’s style magazine. “I read an article about alternative housing solutions, such as containers and tents,” Shaul told Xnet, “and suggested Hagit and I turn an old bus into a living space.” That same week, they went to a scrapyard and bought an old public transportation bus. After stripping away all the seats and clearing up the space for the big transformation, Tali and Hagit found themselves wondering whether to keep the original outlay of the bus or turn it into a container-like space. Unable to make a decision on heir own, they reached out to their designer friend, Vered Sofer Drori, who ultimately found a way to keep the bus’ general layout and design the living space around it.

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Eccentric Businessman Builds Mountain Villa atop Beijing Apartment Building

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Zhang Biqing, a successful Chinese businessman from Beijing, has spent the last six years building a realistic-looking two-story mountain villa atop a high apartment building right in China’s capital city.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could retreat somewhere quiet and get away from it all, without actually leaving your home? That’s probably what Zhang Biqing, a former government adviser turned successful entrepreneur, thought when he decided to build his dream mountain villa at the top of a 26-floor apartment building in Beijing’s upscale Park View estate. During the six years it took to complete, residents complained about the infernal construction noise, but after seeing the enormity of the complex covering the entire top of their building, they began to worry about structural damage. The mountain in which Biqing’s villa appears to be carved may be fake, but the materials used to make it are reportedly pretty heavy as well, and threaten to weaken the residential building’s resistance. It turns out the whole rooftop project is illegal, as Zhang never received the necessary planning permission for his extreme dwelling, yet no one ever bothered him about it until Chinese newspapers recently covered the topic sparking public outrage.

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Chinese Human Snail Carries His Home on His Back Wherever He Goes

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38-year-old Liu Lingchao is a real-life human snail who carries his 60-kg-heavy house on his back wherever he goes. Made of bamboo poles and plastic sheets, the portable home provides shelter on Liu’s long travels through China.

Liu Lingchao makes a living selling plastic bottle and metal cans he picks up from the streets of various Chinese cities. The man from Rong’an, Guangdong Province, built his first mobile home five years ago, as a way to save money on his long journeys, and for protection against rain and cold weather. Liu found life as a snail to his liking, and has since then worn out three bamboo huts. His newest one is 1.5 meters wide and and 2.2 meters tall, offering him just enough room for a modest bedding and his travel necessities. Its 60 kg weight is not exactly easy for one man to carry, so Liu really is moving at the pace of a snail along China’s roads, but it beats having to look for shelter wherever he goes, and says the fact that he can settle down virtually anywhere he wants is worth the effort. The human snail left Wuzhou City several months ago, and is now just 20 miles away from completing an epic 270-mile walk and returning to his home town.

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Man Designs and Builds Unique Star Trek-Themed Home

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Steve Nighteagle likes being different, he hates having possessions that every person can have. So to make sure his home was completely unique he has spent the last four years turning his front room into a Star Trek-themed Federation room.

“I disliked my life in the past, the now is OK!  Star Trek gives me the way to escape from those areas,” Steve explains his decision to use the Star Trek theme as design inspiration for his house. An experienced builder from Colorado, Nighteagle has always been a fan of science-fiction and of the epic saga of the original Star Trek series. Before turning his house into every Trekkie’s  dream home, he changed its theme from a homestead to southwestern, but ultimately decided a futuristic look worked better. Steve says he spends seven and a half month out of a year on his Star Trek abode, and although it took him four years to finally finish his amazing Federation Room, he won’t stop until he gives the other four rooms the same kind of makeover. “I still have 4 rooms that I can create this 23rd Century look,” he said in an interview. “I believe that if you have a theme for living quarters, you loose the effect if you dont completely do the entire house!  It would be incomplete for me!”

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Sleep like a Bird in One of Jayson Fann’s Human Nests

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California-based artist Jayson Fann designs and creates nests for humans, where one can experience what it feels like to sleep like a bird. Made from tree branches harvested from local forests, the Spirit Nests are available for purchase from Big Sur Spirit Garden, an international arts and culture center in the Big Sur valley. Or, you could head to the only nest that’s open to public at the Treebones Resort, on the Big Sur Coast.

Before you start dreaming of spending a night in a nest, you must know that these structures don’t exactly provide the best of comfort. They aren’t water proof and have no other amenities except maybe a mattress or two. If it starts to rain, the best you can do is pitch a tent inside the nest. But if you are prone to roughing it out in nature, then this is one experience you don’t want to miss. The nest at Treebones can accommodate up to 8 people and is made from the branches of eucalyptus trees. The ones that Jayson sells to individuals can be as small as a love-seat or large enough for 30 people.

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Bon Appetit! London Public Toilet Gets Converted into a Gourmet Snack Bar

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If you enjoy eating in the bathroom, you have to check out the Attendant Cafe, in London. Formerly a 19th century public restroom, the underground venue has recently been converted into a gourmet sandwich shop, but retains many of its original decors, including the urinals…

Rising property prices in London are becoming a big problem for would-be homeowners and businesses looking for commercial spaces. But for the few people who can see beyond the smelly history of the city’s abandoned public toilets, converting them into quirky restaurants and bars is proving to be a very cost-effective alternative. One such bold entrepreneur is Peter Tomlinson, who invested most of his savings into turning a 19th century men’s restroom on Foley Street into the Attendant snack bar. Don’t worry, it smells a lot better than it sounds, but patrons looking to enjoy a gourmet sandwich and a hot cup of coffee in this place might be a bit put off by some of the decor elements. For example, the old porcelain urinals have been re-purposed as table tops, so you’re basically enjoying your meals in the exact same place where Londoners used to…well, I wouldn’t want to spoil your appetite.

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Colomares Castle – An Enchanting Masterpiece Dedicated to Christopher Columbus

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Boasting a combination of Byzantine, Roman, Gothic and Mudejar architectural styles, Colomares Castle, in the Spanish town of Benalmadena is a unique monument that pays homage to explorer Christopher Columbus.

Looking at this fairy-tale castle with all its exquisite details, you could never guess it was built by a doctor with no architectural background, and two local brick layers. Esteban Martin, M.D., spent seven years working on Colombares Castle, from 1987 to 1994, trying to create a marvelous monument honoring Christopher Columbus and the discovery of America. For the good doctor building the castle was a labor of love, undertaken in his spare time. He tried to combine all these different architectural styles and at the same time include various elements relating to Christopher Columbus and his historic journey, like finely carved representations of the three ships that made the trip to America. In the end, he manged to construct the largest monument dedicated to the Genovese explorer, covering an area of 1,500 square meters. At the same time, Colomares Castle made into the Guinness Book of Records for hosting the world’s tiniest chapel, just 1.96 square meters in size.

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California Water Tower Is Actually a Beautiful 3-Storey House

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If you look at the structure located at 1 Anderson Street, Seal Beach, California, you can see nothing but an ordinary water tower. But after a closer inspection you’ll realize it’s not filled with water, but common household items. It was several years ago, when the 100-year-old 9-storeys-tall water tower with a capacity of 75,000 gallons had outlived its purpose and was going to be torn down that a few local architects began taking interest in the structure. The tower was originally used to service steam engines traveling on the California coast. After the trains stopped running, the water tower was rendered useless. It was in danger of being demolished in the 1980s, when the architects stepped in, got permits and converted the tower into a beautiful home.

The process of converting a century-old structure into a home was no easy feat. First, the original water tank had to be removed and placed in a parking lot. After 18 months of renovation, a skilled team of engineers worked together to lift it up and put it back in its original place. A commercial elevator and two jacuzzis were added as the final touches to the 3000 sq ft. house. One of the jacuzzi tubs is actually on the upper deck and provides a view of the ocean. Almost every window in the house is fitted with stained glass. There are also two master bedrooms, a maid’s quarters, and four bathrooms. One of the bathrooms has rotating walls, so you could enter in the bedroom and come out from the hallway. The entertainment room has a 360 degree view, a built-in movie theatre, electric blinds and an indoor fire pit. From one direction you get to see the Pacific Ocean and the Catalina Island, and from another you get a view of the Newport Beach, Long Beach, Port of Los Angeles, San Pedro and San Bernardino Mountains. On a clear day, you can even get a glimpse of Los Angeles.

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LOTR Fans’ Fantastic Real-Life Hobbit House

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Now here’s a house that all you LOTR fans out there wouldn’t mind spending a few nights in. Or maybe, the rest of your lives. If you’ve been an admirer of the hobbits who inhabited Middle Earth in J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy world, this house is something you’ve got to see. The 600 sq.ft. dwelling was built by architect Peter Archer for his clients – a Chester County couple with grown kids. Lifelong fans of J.R.R. Tolkien, they wanted the house as a worthy shrine for the rare books and Tolkien-inspired memorabilia collected over a period of 30 years of travel in the U.S. and abroad. The stone cottage is tucked away into the Pennsylvania countryside, a picturesque location befitting the hobbit-style house.

Before he took up the project, Archer wasn’t too well versed with the nature of Tolkien’s works, but he caught on rather quickly. “Upon starting the project I read the book The Hobbit and watched the Lord of the Rings movies, but more importantly, looked at the range of writings by Tolkien, including amazing sketches he had done to illustrate his work,” Archer says. “I remember at the start saying that we would be happy to design the structure but we were not going to do a Hollywood interpretation. We wanted it to be timeless. It was built in 2004 but looking at it, you could think it was from 1904 or 1604.” Working closely with another Pennsylvania architect Mark Avellino, he was able to “interpret Tolkien and create the beautiful details that make this such a special building.” He also credits the host of builders and landscape artists who put in every effort possible into the making of what has come to be known as the ‘Hobbit House’.

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Dutch Artist Spends 20 Years Building Life-Size Replica of Noah’s Ark

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Inspired by Noah’s Ark from the Book of Genesis, Dutch artist Johan Huibers built a modern day replica spending a whopping $1.2 million on it. His reasons for building the vessel  – he feared the effects global warming would someday have on his country, flooding included. The idea came to him in 1992, when he had a dream about his native land submerged in a flood similar to the one in the Book of Genesis. He continued to think about it until he finally did something about it. And the result is a 130m long, 29m wide, 23m high ark that he completed in 2005. Weighing almost 3000 tons and built from Swedish pine reinforced with steel, it is quite hard to believe that ark might be seaworthy at all, but this modern-day Noah assures us it does indeed float.

A carpenter by profession, Johan Huibers has now opened his full scale ark to the public and is attracting thousands of tourists from the world over. Located in Dordrecht, the Netherlands, the ark is something that would even surprise Noah, for it has a restaurant, two cinemas and of course, a menagerie of life-sized plastic animals. Towering over the flat Dutch landscape, the ark is easily visible from a nearby highway. Across the arks main hold is a huge space of stalls, where visitors can view a large collection of stuffed and plastic animals like zebras, gorillas, lions, tigers, bears and buffaloes. There’s also a petting zoo, where less dangerous real-life animals like dogs, sheep, rabbits, ponies and a few exotic birds are housed . On each level of the boat, around its edges, are displays about the history and dress of the ancient Middle East, a few scenes from the life of Noah, and games for kids like water pumps and levers that lift bales of hay. But the ark is not just about tourist attractions. Down below, there exists a honeycomb system of hatches, each opening an area where food could be sealed in for long-term storage. The curvature of the upper deck could be used to collect rainwater and also to let the horses and other animals get some exercise. Huibers says that his boat gives people a pretty good idea of how Noah’s ark would have worked in practice.

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$100,000 Luxury Tree House Is as Comfortable as a 5-Star Hotel

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Britain’s most luxurious tree house belongs to builder Chris Whalley. The incredible abode that he unveiled just last week took him over seven months and £60,000 ($98,000) to build. Located in Blean, Kent, Whalley’s tree house is made almost entirely out of driftwood that he gathered from a nearby beach and is meant to be his holiday home. What’s most unique about the house itself is that it comes with all the comforts a five-star hotel has to offer, including plumbing, electricity and even a rustic décor that goes very well with the natural surroundings.

I must say that I’ve fallen in love with this quaint little house, just looking at the pictures of the interiors. There’s something so charming about the place that it reminds me of the Beatrix Potter books I read as a child; of course, with some modern conveniences as well. The beds are covered with the finest Egyptian cotton linen, and the bathrobes and towels are from Waters and Noble. The kitchen crockery is also top of the range. Some of the pieces of luxury furniture in the house are well worth over £1,500. Everything inside the house is one-of-a-kind, including the concrete-wood effect kitchen worktop and the tree trunk sink. As if all this wasn’t good enough, Whalley’s house even comes with an elevated hot tub, for the ultimate experience in luxury. The entire construction rests 20ft above the ground on a 25 ft red cedar tree, making it not only the most deluxe habitable tree house in England, but also the highest. It is located among other holiday log cabins that Whalley built six years ago. Naturally, the view from the house is brilliant.

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Serafin Villarán, the Man Who Built His Own Castle

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Located in Cebolleros, a small community in the province of Burgos, northern Spain, Castillo de las Cuevas, or Castle of Caves, is the result of one man’s ambition and determination. Serafin Villarán dreamed of having his very own castle, and he single-handedly turn his dream into a reality.

Born in 1935, in the town of Burgos, Serafin was a simple man, working as a welder in a local factory. He didn’t have much experience in construction, until that day in 1977 when he got the idea to build himself a fairy-tale castle. He was 42 years old, yet he decided to follow his dream of create a castle-shaped home for him and his family. He bought a piece of land, and without any real architectural knowledge began working on his masterpiece. He mainly used rounded stones which he collected from the nearby rivers Nela and Trueba, and fixed them together with concrete to give his Castillo de las Cuevas an authentic look. Construction began without a preconceived plan, and according to his family he relied only on his imagination and books on Spanish castles as inspiration.

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