World's Wildest Houses VII
This Old House brings you a new crop of amazing abodes so wild, you'll have to see them to believe it
It seems there's no shortage of wild and wacky homes for us to showcase. And, thank goodness for that! In our seventh installment of World's Wildest Houses, TOH brings you a high-tech mobile home known as "The Blob" (which is up for sale!), a real-life castle in Kentucky, an elephant-shaped structure from the 1880s, and many others.
Who says you have to leave the comfort of your home to see the world's most brilliant sights? Kick back and get clicking for the most fun (and affordable!) world tour you'll go on—without actually going anywhere.
German architect Rolf Disch built this environmentally conscious abode for himself in 1994. Named for the Heliotrope, a class of plants that turns its leaves constantly to face the sun, the home is designed to perpetually rotate on its central axle. Here's why: One half of the building is all windows, allowing the sun to naturally heat the interior during cold months. The other half (shown) is heavily insulated to disperse heat during the summer, and keep the interior cool without air conditioning.
Meanwhile, the roof sports a solar hot water system that heats harvested rainwater. Not eco-friendly enough for you? Solar roof panels also generate between five and six times more energy than the house requires, making it an "energy positive" house.
Venice Beach, California
This Frank Gehry-designed beach house seems tame compared to the postmodern architect's curvilinear creations for the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. But it still displays his imaginative use of space and materials. Built in 1984 for Hollywood writer Bill Norton, the house features a prominent log arch at the entry and uses rugged materials (including cinderblocks and plywood) to create a series of structures connected by metal staircases. The most visible tower (shown here) serves as an isolated personal study, while a back stairway leads to a third-floor master bedroom.
Development company Lake Havasu Estates built this swanky cocktail lounge, naming it the "Dinesphere," in the 1970s. But bankruptcy forced the company to sell the building shortly thereafter. Hotelier and restaurateur Hank Schimmel bought the roadside oddity as a birthday present for his wife and the couple moved into the sphere in 1991. The 3,400-square-foot abode is divided into three levels, with a kitchen and living areas on the first level, a guest bed and a formal dining area on the second, and a master bedroom with breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains at the very top. The Schimmels have since moved on, and the current owners hope to open the sphere to the public as a roadside gift shop.
This complex, made of recycled shipping containers, was built in 2001 at Trinity Buoy Wharf as affordable housing and studio space for artists. Development company Urban Space Management was contracted to develop the wharf, which had gone into a decline. Container City is home to residential and office space, with a network of bridges and an elevator system connecting the units.
Takasugi-an (which translates roughly to "too high hut") is a modern take on a traditional Japanese teahouse. Designed by architect Terunobu Fujimori for his personal use in 2004, this teahouse rests on two chestnut trunks and is accessible only by propping up freestanding ladders. To enter, visitors must remove their shoes and crawl through a nijiriguchi, or small entry opening. Like traditional Japanese teahouses, the Takasugi-an was built for ceremony rather than comfort and luxury, so the interior is very modest.
No Photoshop trickery here! These are real, inhabited buildings built right up to the edge of a nearly 1,000 foot cliff drop. The strange Greek mountain formations of the Meteora (Greek for "in midair") have been home to monks since at least the 11th century. Numerous monasteries cropped up throughout the rocks over the subsequent centuries, six of which are still in use and open to the public—assuming, of course, that the public has the fortitude to make the climb.
James Vincent de Paul Lafferty, Jr., the original owner of this pachyderm-shaped pad, thought his whimsical design might lure property buyers to his nearby land holdings back in the 1880s. Nicknamed "Lucy", the elephant never really did attract people to Lafferty's real estate, but it remains an attraction some 130 years later. Constructed using wood and metal, Lucy stands 65 feet high, weighs around 90 tons, and can be seen with the naked eye from up to eight miles away. Now on the National Register of Historic Places, the building has served as a residence and as a tavern in the past. The place currently owned by the city of Margate, where visitors can climb up the stairs in the hind leg for a tour and to take in views from the howdah on the elephant's back.
Known as "the narrowest house in Boston," this Civil War-era home is a mere 10.4 feet at its widest point. Local lore maintains that two sons inherited a large plot of land from their father, but one son used nearly all the inheritance building a large house while the other was away in the military. When the cheated brother returned, he built this narrow blemish on the remaining piece of land to ruin the larger home's view. The house features a teeny 3-foot-by-6-foot kitchen, only one closet, and no front door (just a side entry).
The oft reviled trailer park staple has been completely reimaged in the form of this sleek, portable "blob" house by Mechelen-based architects dmvA. The unit's two doors open on hydraulics to create outdoor canopies and close into the nearly seamless "space-egg" design. It was built for Rini van Beek, the owner of a furniture design agency, in 2009. But, as one Belgian newspaper put it, the futuristic home office annex managed to "skirt around building regulations." The day after the article ran, a Netherlands council member dropped by to warn the owner against stationing the thing near her home. Now the mobile unit—complete with a kitchen, a full bath, storage niches, and even a built-in bed niche—is up for sale and currently on display at the Verbeje Foundation in Kemzeke, Belgium.
They say a man's home is his castle, and one Kentucky resident took that to heart. After a European vacation in 1969, wealthy developer and contractor Rex Martin and his wife, Caroline, were so inspired by the architecture they saw that they began construction on a palace of their very own. Plans for the land just outside Lexington included seven bedrooms, 15 bathrooms, and a fountain in the driveway. In 1975, current owner Tom Post bought the property for a cool $1.8 million. Post went on to spend nearly double the original value of the place on remodeling, and the Castle Post is now a hotel, complete with a library, game room, and luxury suites in each of the castle's four turrets.