Alexander Batyokhtin, a 41-year-old man from the Siberian village of Sosnovka, spent six weeks shaping around 12 cubic meters of fresh snow into a three-meter high church, where his fellow villagers can now to say a prayer and light a candle.
There is no real church in Sosnovka, or in any of the nearby villages, for that matter, and people who want to visit a place of worship have to drive for tens of kilometers to the city of Omsk. This is often an impossible task for the sick and the elderly, and it was this unfortunate situation that inspired Alexander to use the most abundant resource in his village to build a temporary church. He had worked in construction for years, and even though he was forced to retire after being diagnosed with a serious illness, the man was determined to offer Sosnovka a place to celebrate Christmas and Epiphany in properly.
Creative Home Engineering is the world’s most famous company dedicated to making hidden rooms and secret doors. From wannabe superheroes, to wealthy businessmen looking for a safe space for their prized art collections, they all turn to this particular company when they want one of those fancy hidden doors that you see in the movies.
The idea for Creative Home Engineering was born in 2003, when founder Steve Humble was working as a mechanical engineer designing surgical lasers for a medical device company. He had always been fascinated by hidden doors and passageways, and that year he decided he wanted one for himself, but realized there was no one to build it for him. “I was renting a large house with a bunch of my friends at the time, and we had some extra rooms that we weren’t using. I thought it would be fun to have a secret door like I had seen in the movies, but when I did a little research I was surprised to learn that there was no company anywhere that specialized in hidden passageways,” he recalls. Soon after, Steve quit his job and started building motorized secret passageways for people out of his parents’ garage in Arizona.
Humble got a special contractor’s license created for designing secret lairs, and went on to create over 150 custom installations for clients all over the United States, before expanding globally. Today Creative Home Engineering is the world’s premier designer and manufacturer of motorized and high-security secret passageways, with a portfolio of over 500 satisfied customers from all walks of life.
You might not be able to tell by the photo below, but this seemingly average two-storey colonial brick house, in Clinton Maryland, is actually a giant Hobbit hole dug into a small dirt mound. It just happens to have a cleverly-designed facade.
Popularly known as the “coolest house in Maryland”, this unusual dwelling was built in 2006, by Formworks Buildings Inc., a company that has been designing eco-friendly earth-sheltered homes for the past 30 years. The 3,300-square-foot property features three bedrooms, including a main-level master suite, two large bathrooms, and an attached garage outback. The brick facade does a good job of concealing the fact that this is in fact an underground house, or, more specifically, dug into a small mound.
It’s hard to believe that a family with no construction experience could build a two-storey, five-bedroom house all by themselves, by watching tutorials on YouTube, but Cara Brookins and her four kids are living proof that it can be done. Their amazing story is now the subject of a book – ‘Rise, How a House Built a Family’.
In 2008, Cara Brookins took her four children (ages 7, 15, 11 and 2) and left her abusive husband in search of a better life. They moved into a tiny home outside of Little Rock, Arkansas, for a while, while they looked for place that could comfortably house her four kids. Her initial plan was to buy a house, but she quickly realized that they were either too expensive or too small for their needs. One day, they passed by a house ravaged by a tornado that had all of its inner workings exposed. It was this sight that inspired them to undertake a challenge that would change their lives.
From the outside, the Jardines del Humaya Cemetery, in Culiacan, Mexico’s Sinaloa state, looks pretty ordinary, but the deeper you go, the more you get the impression that the place is actually a rich suburb full of over-the-top mansions. These are actually the world-famous mausoleums of some of the most ruthless “narcos” in Mexico.
They say you can’t take your money with you when you die, but that doesn’t mean some people don’t try, or at least take it all the way to the doorstep into the afterlife. Even in death, members of the dreaded Sinaloa cartel love nothing more than to flaunt their ostentatious lifestyle in the form of elaborate mausoleums that cost a lot more than an average family home in Mexico. Jardines del Humaya has become famous for its impressive villa or chapel-like tombs, with people from all over Mexico, and sometimes from abroad, traveling there just to see them in person.
Visiting a cemetery in one of the most dangerous places in Earth doesn’t sound much like a trip too many people would like to make, but there is no denying that the dozens of tombs in the cemetery’s “high-class” area are worth a look. Once you pass the average-looking graves of the poorer folk, near the entrance to Jardines del Humaya, you are treated to a plethora of architectural wonders all of which seem out of place in a cemetery. There are mansion-like mausoleums, two-story villas, small chapels, and even miniature castles, all built to show the greatness of the people resting in them.
And it’s not just the outside that’s impressive about these luxurious mausoleums. According to several reports, many of them come with modern amenities that many regular Mexicans can only dream of, like 24-hour air-conditioning, living rooms, bedrooms, fully equipped kitchens, bulletproof glass, alarm systems and wi-fi. All so that visiting families and friends can enjoy their stay.
“It’s an expression of the power that they once had and a manifestation of their desire for eternity, which is natural in any human being,” Juan Carlos Ayala, a philosophy professor at the Autonomous University of Sinaloa, said about the uncanny narco mausoleums. “It’s also a demonstration for those who survive them that this man was important.”
Professor Ayala estimates that the cost of some of these lavish mausoleums reaches up to $390,000, but according to a Daily Mail article from last year, some of them actually cost much more than that. For example, the massive mausoleum complex built for Arturo Guzman Loera, the brother of the famous ‘El Chapo’ Guzman, reportedly cost $1,200,000 to build, and features several bedrooms, 24-hour surveillance and air-conditioning, among others.
The mausoleum of Arturo Beltran Lyva, ‘The Boss of All Bosses’, looks like a small castle-fort and features satellite television, wi-fi internet connection, kitchen, bedrooms and a burglar alarm. It is estimated to have cost around $600,000.
With these lavish tombs boldly flaunting the lavish lifestyle of their permanent inhabitants, it’s no wonder that Mexican authorities have been considering placing a ban on such structures, to deter young people from joining drug cartels.
Interestingly, outrageously luxurious tombs and mausoleums are not unique to Mexico’s narco culture. Earlier this year, we featured Manila’s ‘Beverly Hills of the Dead‘, a Chinese cemetery filled with mansion-like mausoleums that are also equipped with state-of-the-art facilities.
Urban Rigger, a housing and architect firm in Denmark, has come up with an eco-friendly way to provide affordable and comfortable accommodations to cash-strapped students living in big cities. Their innovative “container dorms” are made up of modified shipping containers floating on a platform in urban harbors.
For many students, having to save money for rent every month is one of the most stressful aspect of their lives, but for a few hundred lucky youths studying in Copenhagen, things are about to get a lot easier. Urban Rigger hopes to ease the financial burden on students by building ingenious modular container homes that only cost $600 a month. In the Danish capital, that’s practically a steal.
Vladimir Chaika, a pensioner from the Ukrainian city of Kiev, spent 15 years turning the staircase of his Communist era apartment building into an artistic masterpiece reminiscent of 17th and 18th century chateaus.
Vladimir says that he had always been fascinated by the interior design style of 1600s and 1700s castles and estates, and having worked in constructions for many years, repairing various structures around Kiev, he had the skill and experience needed to undertake such a complicated project. It was time that he lacked, but following an accident that left him clinically dead in 1997, he was forced to retire and ended up with a lot of free time on his hands. He was very familiar with the decorating style of 17th century French chateaus, construction materials were cheap, and after asking a friend to supply him with a variety of custom molds, he was ready to get to work.
For the past five decades, Nargis Latif has been actively advocating for the recycling of trash in Pakistan as an alternative to simply burning it all and raising pollution levels. But perhaps her greatest achievement has been developing a technique of building cheap housing for the poor of Karachi out of blocks of dry waste.
Nargis Latif’s inspiring story began in the 1960s, with a quarrel over burning trash outside her apartment. She fought hard and managed to get the burning point moved, but that was not her real goal. She wanted people to start using their waste, instead of simply discarding it or burning it, but that meant arguing with individuals who simply did not understand the benefits of recycling. So she decided to use a language they would understand – money.
With the remains of around 100 billion dead people currently buried or otherwise stored on this planet, it’s no surprise that we’re running out of space for final resting places. The phrase “six feet under” just isn’t sustainable anymore, so architects are now looking to the sky as an alternative to sprawling ground cemeteries. High-rise cemeteries are becoming increasingly popular all over the world, and the Memorial Necrópole Ecumênica, in Santos, Brazil, is the highest of them all.
When Pepe Altstut inaugurated the Memorial Necrópole Ecumênica cemetery, in 1983, it was only a very small building, but the demand for above-ground tombs with a view was so great that he kept expanding until his cemetery became the tallest in the world. Today, it measures 108 meters tall, features 25,000 storing units (tombs, if you will), several wake rooms, crypts, mausoleums, a peacock garden with its own small waterfall and even a chapel and snack bar on the roof.
While few regular cemeteries can be considered tourist attractions in their own right, the Memorial Necrópole Ecumênica is actually one of the most visited landmarks in Santos, and acknowledged as such by the local tourism board. Altstut himself admits that his cemetery is incredibly popular with tourists, and attributes it to the structure’s notoriety as the tallest cemetery on Earth. People from all over the world reportedly come to Santos to see the necropolis where people pay big money for tombs with a view.
Inspired by a vision to create a sustainable and healthy home and way of life for their family, Benjamin and Ingrid Marie Hertefølger have built a unique all-natural house completely covered by a glass dome, on a plot of land on Norway’s Sandhorney island, in the Arctic Circle.
The Hertefølgers knew they wanted to live in an eco-home made of only natural materials – cob (a mixture of sand, clay and straw), wood and glass – but also that it had to withstand the harsh weather conditions of the Arctic Circle. Aware of the robust properties of geodesic domes, they contacted Solardome Industries about a bespoke dome to cover their new house. It had to withstand the heavy snowfalls common to Northern Norway, maintain a uniform temperature throughout the year, reduce ultraviolet radiation, minimise maintenance and act as a greenhouse for the family’s organic vegetable and fruit garden.
Growing up, I would have accepted a dingy old shack for a playhouse and considered it the coolest place in the world. But these days it’s possible for kids to enjoy luxury playhouses that cost just as much as full-size homes, thanks to ‘La Petite Maison’, a business run by American architect Alan Mower.
Working with interior designer Michelle Pollak, Mower creates what he claims are ‘the most luxurious playhouses in the world’. The structures are built using architectural stylings from around the world, including a Tudor-themed house, a Mediterranean playhouse, a San Diego villa, a saloon-like Tom Sawyer house, and more. Most of these houses have two floors and the interiors are decorated with bespoke furniture that would look great in any normal size house. Electricity and water are included, and air conditioning and heating cost extra.
Of course, these exclusive playhouses will cost you an arm and a leg. Or an hour’s earnings, depending on how rich you are. A basic model playhouse is priced at a $9,000, but the cost can go up to a whopping $75,000 depending on what extra features you opt for. But that’s nothing compared to what celebrity parents Kim Kardashian and Kanye West are spending on the playhouse they’ve commissioned Mower to build for their two-year-old daughter. It’s going to be a $146,000 mansion, complete with a walk-in closet, kitchen, a loft, a reading nook, and a living room with a functional fireplace.
Death doesn’t put an end to the luxurious lifestyles of some of Manila’s wealthy Chinese residents. They are buried by their loved ones in a mammoth graveyard known as the Chinese Cemetery of Manila. This place is a small neighborhood in it’s own right, with many tombs reaching the size of mansions with all the modern amenities included!
The ginormous mausoleums lining either side of two-way streets within the cemetery are equipped with state-of-the-art facilities that many living people can only dream of. They have fully-functioning kitchens and bathrooms with luxury fittings, and plush bedrooms for visiting relatives. Some of these places even have full-time residents who don’t seem to mind sharing their living space with the dead.
The Alaskan wilderness is home to many natural wonders but also an unusual man-made structure that appears to have jumped right out of the pages of a Dr. Seuss book. Located over 130 kilometers away from Anchorage city, the quirky 185-ft edifice known as Goose Creek Tower looks like a bunch of houses built on top of each other.
This strange tourist attraction was built after a forest fire created a natural clearing among the trees, midway between Willow and Talkeetna. This particular spot apparently offers a beautiful view of Denali – North America’s highest mountain peak – and it’s this detail that explains, at least in part, the strange design of Goose Creek Tower. It started off as a single-storey house, but as the forest started growing back after the fire, owner Phil Weidner began adding additional floors just so he could enjoy the picturesque view from the windows, over the canopy. The completed structure is so reminiscent of the illustrated Dr. Seuss stories by Theodore LeSieg, that locals fondly refer to it as the ‘Dr. Seuss House’.
Since June last year, a Dutch family has been living in a wooden cabin in Rotterdam that’s built inside of a large greenhouse. Inhabited by botanical stylist Helly Scholten, her husband, their two teenage daughters, and their pet dog, ‘Concept House’ presents the perfect example of sustainability in the modern world. Not only does it reduce energy costs by trapping heat, it also allows the Scholtens to grow their own food in a rooftop vegetable garden.
Helly, who decorates photo shoots and events with plants and flowers, had always dreamed of living off-grid in an environmentally friendly home. But she wanted the home to be located in Rotterdam, the second-largest city in the Netherlands. That was next to impossible, given that the city has long since embraced modern architecture.
She had almost given up on her dream, but in an incredible stroke of luck, Helly found out that a group of students at Rotterdam University were building experimental houses, one of which was inside a greenhouse. This was exactly what Helly wanted, so she didn’t waste any time contacting the head of the project. “We met a professor at the university’s Sustainable Building Technology program and he said he was looking for a ‘test family’ for a new sustainable home,” she said, speaking to NY Times. “We applied on the spot.”
French architecture firm Multipod Studio has come up with a revolutionary housing prototype – the PopUp House. This unique dwelling comes in the form of stackable blocks that anyone can put together IKEA style, using only a screwdriver. It’s supposedly as easy as building with Legos.
The company unveiled their PopUp House design in 2014, but was once again picked up by several media outlets last month, and since we missed the initial launch two years ago, we decided it was a good opportunity to include this amazing concept in our Architecture collection.
The PopUp House prototype, located in Aix-in-Provence, is a 1,614-square foot structure with an open layout – the living room is connected to a kitchen, dining area, and terrace. It also includes two bathrooms, an office, a master bedroom, and two smaller bedrooms. It doesn’t sound any different than a conventional house, but what really makes the PopUp House special is the construction process, which only takes four days and only requires an electric screwdriver.