Meet the Man Who Artistically Carves Entire Caves by Hand with a Pickaxe

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Sculptor Ra Paulette has a phenomenal hobby – he digs caves in New Mexico’s sandstone cliffs. Not plain, rocky, boring ones. Ra’s caves are smooth, artistic, and breathtakingly beautiful, and he creates them with his bare hands. His only tools – a pickaxe and a wheelbarrow.

67-year-old Ra came into his unusual profession after years of being a drifter. He was a college dropout, was discharged from the U.S. Navy and hitchhiked his way across America. He worked on a series of odd jobs – postal employee, security guard, janitor, and even farmer and one point.

Ra learnt the art of digging in the summer of 1985, when he worked in Dixon as an excavator. He would dig outhouses and build wells, giving him a longing to do something artistic with his hands. One thing led to another and soon, he was digging caves.

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English Farmer Builds Incredible Hobbit House for Just 150 Pounds

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At a time when housing rates are hitting the roof, an English farmer has gone and built a house for almost nothing. 59-year-old Michael Buck spent a measly £150( $250) to construct a small, yet cozy house in the garden of his Oxfordshire home.

The former art teacher drew plans for the house on the back of an envelope. He didn’t need any special planning permissions since it was classified as a summer home. Buck spent two years gathering natural and reclaimed materials for construction. It took him an additional eight months to construct it with his bare hands; he didn’t use any power tools at all.

To make the base, he learned the ancient technique of cob from a book. The technique comes from prehistoric times and involves a mixture of sand, clay, water and earth. Clay based subsoil is mixed with sand, straw and water and then ladled onto a stone foundation. Workers and oxen then trample upon the mixture – a process known as cobbing. The layers of cob gradually build up and harden over time.

For the 300 sq. ft. floor space, Buck rescued the floorboards from a neighbor’s unused skip. He retrieved the windscreen of an old lorry and converted the glass into windows. The walls are painted with a mixture of chalk and plant resin. The roof is a simple wooden frame thatched with straw from nearby fields.

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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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Former Monk Has Spent the Last 50 Years Building a Giant Junk Cathedral in the Name of God

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Justo Gallego Martinez, an 86-year-old farmer from Spain, has spent the last 50 years of his life single-handedly building a large cathedral in a suburb of Madrid, without any architectural knowledge or construction experience.

Considering the sheer size of Justo Gallego’s junk cathedral, almost 40 meters (131 feet) tall, with its large dome and spires towering over nearby apartment buildings, it’s almost impossible to believe it’s the work of a single man. But it just goes to show how far people can stretch their limits in the name of a higher purpose. In Gallego’s case, it was his faith and love of God. His mother was very pious and he grew up with a deep Christian faith and an overwhelming desire to dedicate himself to the Creator. After working as a farmer and as a bullfighter, Don Justo, as everyone calls him, joined a Trappist monastery, where he spent eight years as a monk. He was forced to leave the monastery in 1961, after he contracted tuberculosis, but promised himself that if he survived the illness he would dedicate his life to building a  a chapel in the name of the Lady of The Pillar (the Blessed Virgin Marry), who he prayed to during the ordeal. His prayers were answered and he stayed true to his vow, laying the first brick of what would become a unique cathedral, almost 50 years ago.

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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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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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Texas Blind Man Builds His Dream Home

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Some folks seem to think blind people can barely perform the most mundane tasks without needing assistance, but Thomas Graham, a blind man with a vision, is proving them all wrong by building his dream house.

Thomas Graham, from Bullard, Texas, was blinded by a shotgun blast to the face when he was only 18 years old. He was in a dark place for a long time after that, until a neighbor gave him an old cane and with it the hope that he could still live a happy life and fulfill his dreams. He attended a rehabilitation institute in Austin, and took a class called Industrial Art, where a blind teacher taught him everything he needed to know about building things. “I noticed when I shook hands with him that he had all of his fingers so I figured it was okay to learn from him,” Graham remembers about his teacher. He had always had a hand for construction, but he didn’t have the eyes to go with it anymore, so he had to learn how to use all the usual construction tools without hurting himself. This April, after being laid off from his job at the East Texas Lighthouse for the Blind, Thomas finally decided to fulfill his lifelong dream of building his own home, and in just a month and a half he finished the entire wooden skeleton of the house.

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Grieving Widower Builds Taj Mahal Replica in Memory of His Late Wife

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Faizul Hasan Kadari, a retired post-master from India, has put his entire life savings into building a replica of the world famous Taj Mahal in memory of his beloved wife who died in 2011.

The original Taj Mahal was built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in honor of his wife Mumtaz in 1631, and is regarded as one of the world’s greatest monuments to love and grief. But who would have thought Shah Jahan’s gesture would ever be replicated, and by a retired postal worker, of all people? Faizul Hasan Kadari might not have had the riches of the old emperor, but the promise made to his dying wife Tajammuli Begum was enough to fuel his ambition and build his own version of the Taj Mahal. He took a team of local workers to the walled city of Agra to see the original masterpiece and asked them to build a smaller replica, without all the intricate carvings and decorations, which would have been impossible to imitate anyway. To fund his project, Kadari sold his land, his wife’s jewels and used up all the savings from his pension.

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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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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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Family Is Literally Living under a Rock in the Mexican Desert

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For the last three decades, Benito Hernandez and his wife have been living under a huge rock, in Mexico’s Coahuila Desert, 80 kilometers from the US border.

Benito Hernandez started visiting the 40 meter diameter rock that now serves as a roof for his sun-dried brick home when he was just eight years old. He liked it so much that he decided to one day make it his home. Many 8-year-olds have crazy dreams, but Benito’s followed him into adulthood. 55 years ago, when he and his family first discovered the remote rock formation, a man could claim a piece of land by settling on it for long periods of time, so during the many years they spent working in the area harvesting the Candelilla plant, he beat off other who would claim the rock for themselves and 20 years later he finally became its legal owner. He could finally build his dream house under the boulder that fascinated him all this time.

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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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