Thursday, April 23, 2009


More and more urban architecture is becoming 'green', with the most popular feature being a green roof. Unlike earth-sheltered homes, such as caves; a green roof is a roof of a building that is partially or completely covered with vegetation and soil. Green roofs are also referred to as eco-roofs, vegetated roofs and living roofs.

1. The OUTrial House, Poland

Polish architects KWK Promes designed the OUTrial House in Ksiazenice, Poland. the idea was to “carve out” a piece of the grass-covered site, move it up and treat it as the roofing to arrange all the required functions underneath. The only way to reach it was through the interior of the house.

2. Hundertwasser building, Vienna

Friedensreich Regentag Dunkelbunt Hundertwasser was an Austrian painter, architect and sculptor. He first achieved fame for his boldly-coloured paintings, but he is more widely renowned today for his revolutionary architectural designs, which incorporate natural features of the landscape, and use of irregular forms in his building design. The Hundertwasserhaus block in Vienna, built between 1983 and 1986, features undulating floors ("an uneven floor is a melody to the feet"), a roof covered with earth and grass, and large trees growing from inside the rooms, with limbs extending from windows. He took no payment for the design of Hundertwasserhaus, declaring that it was worth it, to "prevent something ugly from going up in its place".

3. California Academy of Sciences

The new Academy in
Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA, is a masterpiece in sustainable architecture, blends seamlessly into the park's natural setting, and is filled with hundreds of innovative exhibits and thousands of extraordinary plants and animals. The Academy features an aquarium, planetarium, living roof and four story rainforest among other things.

4. SYNTHe, Urban Rooftop, LA

SYNTHe is an urban rooftop on the Flat building in LA, developed by SCI-arc professor Alex Rochas and his students. There’s a restaurant on the ground floor whose menu changes according to the harvest, and compost is returned to the roof. The roof also provides many of the benefits of a green roof, including the filter of pollutants and thermal insulation.

5. School of Art, Design and Media at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore

6. Remota Hotel, Chili

The inspiration are the sheep farm’s buildings of Patagonia. Not the main houses of the estancias, their warm interiors closed to their place, but the buildings made for the sheep farm works where daily life in Patagonia is lived, and finds an splendor of its own; the barns for drying the sheep’s hides and for the many other works at the estancias, that have to be done inside because of the cold or the wind, or both.

7. Silberfisch Houseboat

With the cost of living in large cities steadily rising and the recession continuing to bite, there is an increasing need to search for viable alternatives. Bernhard Urich along with Flo Florian and Sascha Akkermann of German design firm Confused-Direction looked to one such alternative in their quest for urban affordability, a thoroughly modern floating home that also allows the flexibility of relocation on a whim.

Sporting a ‘green’ roof planted with vegetation, producing zero emissions and utilising reclaimed wood where possible, the Silberfisch houseboat doesn’t need to occupy a valuable plot of city land so is an exciting opportunity to live in the city at a fraction of the cost of building a house.

8. The ACROS Fukuoka, Japan

In Fukuoka City in Japan, the 'ACROS Fukuoka' building has two very distinct sides: one side looks like a conventional office building with glass walls, but on the other side there is a huge terraced roof that merges with a park. The garden terraces, which reach up to about 60 meters above the ground, contain some 35,000 plants representing 76 species. A huge semicircular atrium and the triangular lobby provide contrast to the greenery, in this space is a symphony hall, offices and shops.

9. The Art and Exhibition Hall, Germany

A giant cyber arts centre, the Art and Exhibition Hall of the Federal Republic of Germany is impressive. The building features the hall that includes seating for up to 500 in the Forum for theatre, concerts, readings, conferences and film showings, an outdoor, covered stage for summer concerts and a stunning roof garden open to visitors.

10. Parliament House Canberra

Parliament House, Canberra is probably one of the world’s earliest and most successful green roofs. The Parliament House building was constructed in 1988 for $1.1 billion. The reason for the design of the green roof at the time was not due to sustainability as an imperative, rather it was conceived of “in order to preserve the shape of the hill on which it was built.” The Parliament building was constructed into the top of the hill and the roof was grassed over.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

HOMES THAT WILL ROCK YOUR WORLD: 17 Unique Cave and Earth Sheltered Homes

Today's Most Unique Cave and Rock Sheltered Homes and Hotels

Caves offer shelter against the forces of nature or one can say that they provide a roof over one’s head, and pre-historic man was well aware of this. Since then, man has transformed caves into chapels, homes, hotels and even night clubs and most of them are still in use today. One will be surprised that caves still play such a huge role in modern times; people still live in caves; in certain areas of northern China they serve as homes for more than 40 million people and some of the best tourist attractions up to date are ancient cave dwellings. This post features some of the most notabable cave homes and hotels of today. Enjoy!

1. Setenil de las Bodegas: Living under a rock

Setenil de las Bodegas is a small town located in the province of Cádiz, Spain with a population of 3,016 inhabitants. The town features houses dug into a mountain with the cliff itself being the roof. The big piece of stone looks like it could come tumbling down on tens of houses. This town of surprising and original beauty is a great tourist attraction.

Setenil was one of the most costly conquests for the Christian troops. They were able to take all the surrounding fortresses but not this one. They tried and failed seven times, which is how it got the name “September nihil”.

The wine business arrived later, although today there are only private wineries. One of the best ways to get to know this town is to wander through its nooks and corners sampling the Tapas. Sentenil is incredible and unusual, justifying a slow and restful visit that allows one to contemplate its marvels.

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2. Village of Gerome, Cappadocia, Turkey

Cappadocia in Turkey is an fantasyland of fairy chimneys, homes and churches cut out of soft rock formations and underground cities with intricate tunnel systems. The astounding geological beauty of Cappadocia is a wonder-destination of Central Anatolia.

Rock, which is the only construction material of the region, as it is very soft after quarry due to the structure of the region, can be easily processed but after contact with air it hardens and turns into a very strong construction material.

The region was a Roman province that stayed mostly undetected by the conflicts of the era. The people living here used heavy rolling stone doors to prevent invaders from entering. They dug deep wells for water, and constructed tall chimneys for ventilation. They even carved highly structured churches, wine presses, oil storage and cooking-places out of the rock that enabled them to live for weeks underground until it was safe to go outside.

One of the most renowned villages in Cappadocia is the village of Gerome; half of the village of Göreme itself consists of cave dwellings. It also accommodates an open-air museum that stands visually striking with its ‘fairy chimney’ volcanic cones. Surprisingly over 30 of the best-preserved churches of Cappadocia can be seen here.

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3. The Yunak Evleri Cave Hotel in Turkey

The Yunak Evleri Cave Hotel in Urgup, Cappadocia, Turkey is an astonishing feat of architecture; it does merely blend with the landscape, it quite literally is the landscape. The Yunak Evleri Hotel is a combination of 6 luxurious cave houses with a total of 30 private cave rooms dating back to the 5th and 6th centuries.

The suits are spacious, with large living areas, brass bedsteads, marbled bathrooms with Jacuzzi's. The big stone mansion has a fantastic music room, packed with a gigantic collection of cds. Wi-fi and computers with Internet connection and a cosy home theater are mixed in with the rocks, marbles and Turkish drapes.

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4. Sala Silvermine Mining Suite in Sweden

Sala Silvermine, in the county of Västmanland in Sweden, is one of the world’s best preserved mines. The mine area has also been developed into a venue for events, adventures, parties, weddings and conferences; but the most recommended will be the mining suite (for 2 people only).

One sleeps 155 m underground in the extraordinary environment of the mine. A guided tour is included, late night dinner and breakfast the next morning. A simple toilet is available 50 m from the banquet hall, while the shower is above ground. Even to those not familiar with mining, the underground setting is sensational; it is cold, damp and dark, but very beautiful.

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5. Beckham Creek Cave Haven, USA

Set on the 530 acre estate, the Beckham Creek Cave Haven near Jasper in Arkansas, USA took 4 years to complete. It was built with the philosophy that the ongoing preservation of natural beauty is paramount. Everywhere one looks, the superior design and attention to detail is obvious. Putting you directly in touch with nature, the house boasts natural living cave walls and ceilings.

By maximizing window areas along the wall facing outside, and maintaining large, open living spaces, natural sunlight floods the living area, pool room, and kitchen, bringing the outdoors inside the cave.
This is truly a modern accommodation literally fit for royalty.

From the moment you walk in the door, the area itself encourages one to shed all of the cares of the daily grind and concentrate on finding true inner peace. If you want to host a wedding, dance, seminar or a reunion, this is the place to do it.

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6. Kokopelli’s Cave, USA

Kokopelli's Cave Bed & Breakfast in Farmington, New Mexico, is a privately owned luxury cliff dwelling located north of Farmington, New Mexico near the Mesa Verde National Monument. The cave itself is 70' below the surface. The entrance is located in the cliff face and is reached by walking down a sloping path and intermittent steps cut into the sandstone along the pathway. There is a short ladder at the bottom of the path with three wooden steps that land you on the flagstone porch and the front entrance to Kokopelli's "digs." This 1,650 square foot, one-bedroom cave home carved from a 65-million year old sandstone formation 280 feet above the La Plata River is furnished with plush carpeting, Southwestern style furniture and accents.

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7. St Louis Cave Home, USA

Originally dug out as a mine tunnel, this 15,000 sq ft cave in St Louis, Missouri has been converted into a family home. What makes this home even more interesting is that it is currently on sale! Curt and Deborah Sleeper of Festus bought 3 acres of property and a cave in Festus in 2004, after they spotted it online. They fell in love with the unique geography of the old mining cave and figured out how to build a house inside of it. However they are now struggling to keep their unique home.

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8. Kandovan, Iran: The Stone Village

Kandovan (also spelled Candovan) is a famous tourist village located in the northern Iranian mountain-side, near the cities Osku and Tabriz. It looks alot like the Cappadocian region in Turkey. The village is globally knownfor its unique rock-carved houses dating back more than 700 years. The Kandovan Tourism Cliff Hotel is the first of its kind in Iran and the second in the world, after the luxurious Yunak Evleri Cave Hotel, in Cappadocia, Turkey. It is claimed that the first inhabitants came to Kandovan to escape the invading Mongols by digging hideouts in the giant volcanic cliffs. They remained there even after the danger was over. Their hiding places slowly became elaborate houses with kitchens, hallways and bedrooms.

Most houses face south so residents enjoy sunlight during the day. The houses have windows with decorative glass. It is said that the houses have an air circulation system that keeps the homes cool in summer and warm in winter. Nowadays the houses have electrical connection, water piped in and even waste plumbing. Visitors can sleep in the 5 star Kandovan Tourism Cliff Hotel, located at the heart of the village or in one of the other stone-carved homes, if they can negotiate with the Farsi-speaking villagers. There are also many cafés along the river that passes through Kandovan, where tourists can indulge in drinking coffee and delicious zam-zam juice, all in a unique atmosphere dominated by sweet rose fragrances.

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9. Hotel Sidi Driss in Tunisia: The Star Wars Hotel

Hotel Sidi Driss in Matmata, Turkey is about 40km from Gabes and is located at an altitude of 600m. Theastonishing Mamatra is known for its troglodyte dwellings. The soft rock in this area is ideal for digging. More than 700 dwellings were dug out in the soil.

Hotel Sidi Driss in Matmata, was the filmspot of the movie of Georges Lucas: Star Wars. This spot was the 'home' of the family Lars, the guest family of Luke Skywalker and Beru. The Hotel Sidi Driss was no touristy Universal Studios re-creation; it was the real thing. The hotel is open all year and the decorations are still intact. There are five pits in the hotel, four of them with rooms; the fifth one, the Star Wars pit, is the hotel's restaurant. Although it is not allowed to sleep in the sets, it is possible to dine in the same room as in the film.

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10. England's Rock Cottage

Lets not exclude England from the list. The Rock Cottage, in a sandstone cliff near Wolverley, Worcestershire, was last occupied in the late 1940s, but has recently been sold for a 100 000 pounds.
The cottage has no electricity or water supply but boasts a front door, windows and fireplaces, as well as a pantry, sitting room and a bedroom. It also includes nearly five acres of mixed woodland and garden land.

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11. The village of Zhongdong, China

The village of Zhongdong, a Miao minority village in China is build in a huge, aircraft hanger-sized natural cave, carved out of a mountain over thousands of years by wind, water and seismic shifts. The natural cave is home to about 20 families

Electricity has arrived via wires strung over the mountains, and there is a primary school, which like almost every other buildings in Zhongdong has no roof. It does not need one as the buildings are deep inside the cave.

Four houses now have televisions, some with DVD players, and some have washing machines. Satellite dishes are perched on outcrops at the cave's entrance and there is even mobile phone reception.

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12. Les Hautes Roches, France

At this former monastery turned upmarket retreat on the banks of the Loire, in France, 12 of the 15 lavish rooms are set in caves. However, even if you get one of the three "ordinary" rooms, you don't have to go without the troglodyte experience altogether, since the hotel's bar is also set into the rock. When you want to come up for air, this Relais & Châteaux property also features a sunny terrace, pool and restaurant.

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13. The Desert Cave Hotel, Australia

The Desert Cave Hotel opened in Coober Pedy in 1988, making excellent use of the underground climate. Local opal miners had been living below ground for years, gladly escaping the outback heat. Today's guests don't have to rough it, though. The hotel's 50 suites all have TV and internet and, although a little dated now, were cleverly designed to reflect the landscape. If you think you might get cabin fever, the hotel also has rooms above ground.


14.The Caves of Baviaanskloof, South Africa

Baviaanskloof in South Africa features the Makkedaat caves and Van Terrebert caves with unique enclosed acommodation. The Van Terrebert Cave is a natural rock overhang that has been enclosed to form a double storey cave house that sleeps up to 10 people. Like all caves, it maintains an even temperature, being neither too hot in summer nor too cold in winter. An ideal year-round experience. The caves face east resulting in spectacular views of the sunrise and romantic moons. At night the clear Karoo sky offers excellent opportunities to star gazers.

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15. Tulsa Cave House, Oklahoma, USA

This tacky-looking cave home was owned for 10 years by
Linda and Kate Collier, a mother/daughter duo who's now offering weekend tours for five bucks a pop. When you enter the Cave House, you instantly feel like you're inside the real deal. The place smells damp and musty but in a good way, like a real cave would. Linda, who is something of a packrat, has decorated the house, rather stylishly, with recycled objects she found on the streets, in people's trash, wherever.

Linda has only spent one night alone in the house and says, though she feels a strong spiritual presence, she doesn’t believe it's an angry or evil one. She ­still feels a sense of peace in the Cave House and now a sense of duty, a desire to preserve and restore it so that when people drive by and think, "I'd really ­love to see inside that place," they can.

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Underground Berber house in Gharyan, Libya

Not much is known about this extroadinary home, but the definately built his home submerged into the earth to escape the heat.

Australia's Underground Dwellings of Coober Pedy

Coober Pedy is a town located in South Australia and is best known for its unique way of life. During the harsh summer temperatures in the deserts of South Australia an underground home is the perfect escape. These underground 'dug-outs' sustain a consistent cool temperature of remain a comfortable 25 degrees, year-round, free of charge, making it the perfect place to live in a not-so-perfect town.

When you look at the pictures, they might look like a cave of some sorts, but these homes are in fact built in old opal mines. One can find everything you need in this underground town; museums, potteries, opal shops, an art gallery and even a church and hotel.