Unusual Designs

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She Built This “Prairie Castle” From A Recycled Grain Bin

For a long time Kate Morris held close a dream inspired by the undulating hills and vast expanse of the Montana prairie. She had always been awe-struck by the serene countryside and the structures that rose from it out of nowhere. Specifically, she had a fondness for massive, cylindrical grain storage bins. Her dream was to one day to build a house out of one of them.


Her dream took flight when she purchased an old grain bin and assembled it on the 250 acre lot that she inherited from her father. Shortly after, she realized that building a house was quite a bit more work than she thought, especially when involving such an unorthodox starting point.


That’s when she enlisted Nick Pancheau, an architect who she had taught in grade school many years before. The two were off to the races, adding boxy punched openings for windows and designing solutions that would transform the cold steel bin into a 900-square-foot home with a cozy and efficient layout.





She came up with creative solutions, like using a mechanic tool bin for a kitchen island, and fashioning a kitchen table with two sawhorses and a piece of plywood.



Using OSB boards with a polyurethane finish helps keep the costs down, and keeps in line with the utilitarian nature of the space.



While many windows afford her that precious view of the prairie, a line of windows in the kitchen faces the interior wall of the bin.


Given the extensive customization needed, the total cost for this project wasn’t too bad, coming in at just over $200k (not including the land). Kate Morris’ couldn’t be happier with her prairie castle, and enjoys the creative approach involved with making it a comfortable place to spend her days.

A Creative Solution For Homeless Housing, Or Just A Pipe Dream?

Homelessness remains a worldwide issue, and in nearly any city or town with a prevalent number of homeless, you’ll find a number of solutions in place. The most popular being a shelter. But what if there was another solution?


This concept from DesignDevelop might seem a little far-fetched at first, but the fact remains they are generating a discussion about the issue, regardless of whether or not their solution is viable. What is their solution you ask? The design firm created a 178 square foot triangular-shaped home with sides that double as a billboard.


Step inside the dwelling and you’re met with a decidedly luxurious looking design. We have to wonder what sort of maintenance would be required should something like this actually serve as a home for the homeless.


The “live-in” billboard is raised off the ground, and is accessible via a small staircase. The only visible hint of what’s sandwiched between the billboard is the rear of the structure, which has a few windows.


There’s a bathroom, shower, toilet, and a raised bed with storage underneath. You’ll also find a galley kitchen and a study area opposite the bed.



While the concept is pretty cool, we have to imagine that living next to a highway would itself violate most zoning laws. Regardless, we comment DesignDevelop for the thought behind their billboard home.

Photos courtesy DesignDevelop

This Postman Collected Pebbles During The Day. At Night He Built Something Incredible.

In 1879 a postman by the name of Ferdinand Cheval stepped on a small pebble, and after picking it up and examining it, he got an idea. He would spend the next 30+ years collecting pebbles of various shapes and sizes on his 18-mile-long route. After work he would mix together lime and concrete to build the Palais Idéal.

“I said to myself: since Nature is willing to do the sculpture, I will do the masonry and the architecture”

Located in Hauterives, the palace is a popular tourist destination and also serves as inspiration for artists. An example of “naïve art architecture”, . He spent 22 years building the outer walls, using stones he gathered in his pockets. Eventually he carried a basket and finally a wheelbarrow to collect the necessary stones to complete the project.

Ferdinand is an inspiration not just to artists, but anyone who rides a wave of inspiration to the finish. His efforts prove that with time, passion, and effort, you can achieve almost anything.


It’s Alive! This Home Uses Compost For Climate Control

A collection of crafty and clever students at Japan’s Waseda University have developed a way to utilize the natural fermentation process of straw to heat and cool your home. On the interior, pre-fabricated acrylic boxes are stuffed full of common straw. The straw is left to ferment and compost, naturally giving off a staggering amount of heat – up to 86 degrees Fahrenheit!

The design of the home is fairly simple – meant to be more of a shell for experimentation than a display of architectural ingenuity. It serves its purpose well enough to showcase this nontraditional building technology, and the exterior is also clad in straw, showcasing its use as an effective weather barrier.

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The fermentation is a result of a low-odor composting technique called “bokashi” (meaning “fermented organic matter”). The process happens over a four week period, so the real downside to this type of system would be the maintenance. If anything, the project is an example of what is possible using natural processes in building tech.fermenting straw2 The acrylic boxes are placed strategically throughout the interior so as to provide each space with the appropriate amount of heat.fermenting straw3 In the summer, the dormant straw that has already been composed acts as a natural insulator – keeping the home passively cool. They will even release moisture, which acts as a natural cooling mechanism. fermenting straw4 This floor plan shows where the boxes are hung on the interior walls.fermenting straw5

Designed by Masaki Ogasawara, Keisuke Tsukada and Erika Mikami, the students hope the prototype ushers in new and interesting investigations into natural building technologies. Their “Recipe to Live” house is certainly an example of the possibilities as we move towards a move eco-conscious society.

Images by Waseda University.

He wanted to build a simple cottage, but ended up with a massive castle

Jim's initial incorporation of ironwork was purely ornamental, but is now used structurally along with steel to secure the castle's foundation.

Every man’s home is his castle, a sentiment Jim Bishop took to heart when he began construction on his namesake project, Bishop Castle, in 1969 at the age of 25 in Wetmore, Colorado.

Jim Bishop on the balcony of his castle.
Jim Bishop on the balcony of his castle.

Jim Bishop bought the two-and-a-half acre of land just outside the limits of the San Isabel National Forest ten years earlier for $450 at just 15. The land was used by his family for the occasional camping trip until his marriage in 1967, when he was then inspired to begin the construction of a simple stone cottage for him and his wife on their property. The inspiration to build a castle came when the issue of installing a water tank arose. An iron worker by trade, this was an easy feat for him to accomplish. However, upon the remarks of family and friends that the iron and stone work he had chosen for building materials made the cottage look rather as if he were building a castle, he decided to switch gears and do just that: build a castle. Why not?

Jim's initial incorporation of ironwork was purely ornamental, but is now used structurally along with steel to secure the castle's foundation.
Jim’s initial incorporation of ironwork was purely ornamental, but is now used structurally along with steel to secure the castle’s foundation.

In the beginning stages of his castle, word spread and many offered their help to Jim in the construction of the castle. But no one ever did come to help Jim build his castle, which did not deter him in the least from his vision. “By God, I’ve gotten this far by myself!” he declared. “If you want something done right, do it yourself!” So, for the next 40 years, Jim balanced his work as an iron worker with the construction of Bishop Castle, a project that only ever kept growing in size.

Jim Bishop at work on the iron work of his castle.
Jim Bishop at work on the iron work of his castle.

Like any construction project, occasional issues arose: a running dispute since resolved was with the San Isabel National Forest, where he collected the stones and rocks for the castle. Jim’s goal is to complete Bishop Castle in its entirety before he passes away. He still has many additions to his vision to complete before that time is nigh, among them being the installation of a moat and draw bridge, a balcony large enough to fit an orchestra, and even the construction of a second castle!

One of the entrance signs to Bishop Castle with Jim's terms and conditions to visitors.
One of the entrance signs to Bishop Castle with Jim’s terms and conditions to visitors.

Until then, Bishop Castle is open to visitors as an official tourist attraction, as listed by the state of Colorado’s Chamber of Commerce. The price of admission to Jim Bishop’s legacy is a donation to the (continuing) construction costs.

A Wartime Bunker Is A Good Place For A Home, Right? Right!

Netherlands based architecture firm B-ILD have transformed this decrepit, ancient war-time bunker into a cool, rustic-chic getaway. I’d be the first to keep my arm down in a show of hands of people who thought a dank old bomb shelter would make a good place to reside, but seeing this project might have just changed my mind. It’s an unorthodox adaptive re-use project that, at first glance, doesn’t have a lot going for it. Upon closer look, that’s exactly what the architect used to craft a majestic underground dwelling.

The ironic thing is that B-UILD’s additions are minimal and strategic, allowing the weathered board-formed concrete walls to define the aesthetic of the space. It’s a move that pays off in the end, turning the very thing that made the space desolate into what makes it shine. The bunker is small, occupying only 118 square feet of floor area. As a space saver, the sleeping area deploys barracks-style bunk beds; an appropriate nod to a common war-time building type.

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He Built His Family A Hobbit House From Scraps For $4500

Simon Dale isn’t your ordinary father and this is no ordinary home. After he decided paying a mortgage and incurring debt wasn’t the greatest thing, he moved his family to the Wales countryside. Armed with a hammer, chainsaw, and a chisel, and with no prior building experience, he set to work constructing a home for his family that Bilbo Baggins himself would envy.

He began with some rough sketches to flesh out the idea…



While his wife and two children camped out nearby, he began framing the exterior using felled timber from the forest. The process took him four months.


If you can believe it, he had zero prior experience in carpentry and architecture! Regardless, he learned how to timber frame and use strawbale techniques just fine.


Giving his son a lesson on structural safety…


“Being your own have-a-go architect is a lot of fun and allows you to create and enjoy something which is part of yourself and the land rather than, at worst, a mass-produced box designed for maximum profit and the convenience of the construction industry.”

5312502c1629c285d8f8ccba17e1cba5_imageHe used lime plaster on the walls as an alternative to cement and other potentially carcinogenic materials.


The interior is simply stunning, with a magical aura penetrating every corner.



A living roof of grass and moss covers the roof.


The home blends right into the hillside, becoming a natural part of its surroundings.



Unfortunately the local government pushed the family out of this home, citing a lack of proper permits as the reason. However, since building the home in 2003 the family has since moved into a new home, but Simon continues to work on other similar projects, both for his family and others. This hobbit house remains intact and serves as inspiration for others, along with a place for You can see more of his work on his website, http://simondale.net

9 Most Amazing Green Roofs In The World

Green roofs have plenty to offer. Not only are they architecturally interesting, they have a drastic effect on reducing a building’s carbon footprint. Covering any roof in a thick layer of properly drained vegetation naturally insulates the interior, but also absorbs heat that would typically be reflected back into the sky, preventing all kinds of ecological problems on a large enough scale.

Architects have taken notice, and are beginning to embrace green roofs as a focal point of their designs. Here are 9 green roofs that will knock your socks off (which is good, because no one wants to walk on grass with socks on).

1 | 8 House | Bjark Ingles Group (BIG)

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BIG is known for going…well…big! This green roof is no different. The symmetrical shed roofs provide the perfect opportunity for the dual cascading green carpets that meet at an exterior courtyard at the base of the structure. (source)

2 | CR Land Guanganmen Green Tech Showroom | Vector Architects

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When a green roof isn’t enough, why no couple it with some green walls? Vector Architects have left no exterior sufrace naked, creating an extruded square shell that naturally protects the interiors from swings in temperature. (source)

3 | California Academy Of Sciences | Renzo Piano

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If I didn’t use ‘undulating’ and ‘elegant’ in the same sentence to describe this one I’d have an angry gathering of former architecture professors burning me at the stake (not literally). Mr. Piano is a master of his craft, and this is one of the truly iconic contemporary buildings in the Western Hemisphere. (source)

4 | Marcel Sembat High School | archi5

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High school has changed a lot since my day. This beautiful structure is highlighted by the (don’t say undulating…don’t say undulating) faceted curvilinear roof structure (nailed it). (source)

5 | Beijing Capital International Airport | Foster + Partners

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In a stroke of perfect irony, visitors to the world’s most industrial, pollutant contributing city are greeted with one of the world’s most sprawling green roof. China is no stranger to environmental paradox, as they are a leader in sustainable development, yet continue to degrade the planet through their bustling industry. (source)

6 | School of Art, Media, and Design | CPG

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Two interlocking sloped green roofs wrap around a central public space in this project by Singapore based firm CPG. The roofs are accessilble to visitors, providing a lush carpet to make a picinic and take in a view of the surrounding Nanyang. (source)

7 | Villa Bio | Enric Ruiz-Geli

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Spanish architect Enric Ruiz-Geli designed this home intented to reflect the landscape of the area. Even though it’s surrounded by homes that are less-than-camouflage, the green roof acts as a bridge between natural and man-made.(source)

8 | Chicago City Hall | City of Chicago

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In 2001, the City of Chicago tasked a team of architects, landscape architects and engineers to design and build a 38,800 square feet of green space. It is an initiative that makes great strides towards covering our cities in  well-manicured lawns. (source)

9 | Vancouver Convention Center | LMN + DA with MCM

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A lush carpet of green velvet covers this convention center, which sits in a prestigious waterfront site in the heart of downtown Vancouver, BC. The architectural team created a man-made peninsula that mirrors the surrounding landscape. (source)

A See-Through Church That Suspends Disbelief

Spaces of prayer and worship have traditionally been designed create suspension of disbelief in order to give the users a grander sense of a higher being. This church, designed by Belgian architects Pieterjan Gijs and Arnout Van Vaerenbergh, does just that by appearing to be completely see-through.

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Layers of rusted steel ribs are stacked upon each other with spacers that create gaps between each piece. The result is a structure that is more translucent than it is opaque, allowing light, air and views to flow into one exterior wall and out the other.

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The ephemeral church blends majestically into the surrounding Belgian hillside, especially when backlit by the rising or setting sun. It won’t protect you from rain, wind, floods or snow, but it will provide a serene setting to appreciate the things greater than yourself.

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Incredible Sunken Rooftop Garden Brings Life Into A Former Caviar Warehouse

An unassuming warehouse in the heart of Manhattan conceals a very special secret. A portion of the rooftop deck in this loft apartment is dropped into the middle of the living room, providing the interiors with an abundance of natural light and lush garden views. Architect Andrew Franz converted the top floor of the once dank caviar warehouse, converting salvaged materials such as using existing walnut roof joists as new stair treads.

all images © albert vecerka, ESTO / courtesy of andrew franz architect PLLC