At the beginning of a construction project, no one really knows how it's going to turn out. Even with all the careful planning in the world, it's impossible to anticipate the twists and turns that are inevitable in any architectural enterprise and that often lead to disappointing results. On the other hand, there are a few souls who never question their choices at all, even when their projects seem utterly bizarre. Next up, we'll take a look at 10 wacky construction projects whose eccentric masterminds knew exactly what the outcome would be -- and proceeded without caution.
10: The Sutyagin House
Innocent home improvement projects have a tendency to get out of hand. Refinishing a cupboard might kick off a whole kitchen renovation. Digging a single flower bed can turn into tearing up the entire lawn. And sometimes, you accidentally build a 13-story wooden monstrosity on top of your house.
At least, that's what Nikolai Sutyagin, owner of the one-time world's largest single-family wooden house, did. Not content with two stories, Sutyagin, a resident of Arkhangelsk, Russia, spent 15 years adding layer after layer to the top of his house. The result was a colossally impressive 144-foot (43.9-meter) homemade skyscraper that towered over the neighborhood.
Since the local building code stipulates that no wooden structure can be higher than two floors, Sutyagin built a roof over the second floor in order to claim that everything above was just decorative. It didn't work -- in 2008, the city of Arkhangelsk declared the house a fire hazard and demolished it.
9: Ryugyong Hotel
The world's wackiest hotel has 105 stories and 3,000 rooms, but absolutely no one is allowed to stay in it. Construction on the concrete hulk began in 1987 but stalled in the early '90s when funding dried up, leaving behind a massive, empty shell. The Ryugyong Hotel, which looms over the skyline in Pyongyang, North Korea, is impossible to miss. Depending on how you look at it, the hotel resembles a rocket about to take off into a magical Communist utopia of the future, or somewhere a James Bond villain might like to hang out.
Recently, reports have been filtering in that work is beginning again on the unfinished top floors. Plans include completing the exterior of the building's pinnacle and constructing one of the five revolving restaurants that were originally planned for the hotel.
8: Mirny Diamond Mine
Although it's not quite the largest pit ever dug by humans -- an honor that belongs to the United States' Bingham Mine -- the Mirny Diamond Mine in Russia's Siberian region deserves a place on our list for the sheer grit it took to dig. Moreover, while the Bingham Mine is out in the desert, the Mirny Mine is practically in the center of the eastern Siberian town of Mirny. A giant pit surrounded by a town is visually staggering.
Digging the mine was intensely dangerous. In winter, workers blasted and clawed through permafrost, while in summer, the entire landscape turned to slushy mud, rendering most vehicles inoperable. The outcome is a hole so big -- 1,722.4 feet (525 meters) deep and 4,101 feet (1,250 meters) wide -- that the sky above it has been designated a no-fly zone out of concern that aircraft will be sucked in.
7: The Cerne Abbas Rude Man
What makes the Cerne Abbas giant rude? Is it the threatening club he's wielding -- or the prominent erection he's sporting in public view? This wacky construction project is actually an earthwork carving. Etched into a hillside in Dorset, England, the Rude Man stands 180 feet (54.9 meters) tall. His likeness was rendered by trenches dug deep into the white chalk beneath the landform's turf.
The first mention of the Rude Man in recorded history was in 1694, when a local churchwarden noted that three shillings had been paid for "repairing ye Giant." Theories as to why he was created abound. Some scholars think he's an ancient depiction of Hercules, while others propound that he's a Celtic fertility god. Some suspect the Rude Man isn't quite that old -- he may have been created as a caricature of Oliver Cromwell, who was mockingly called "England's Hercules." Today, the National Trust owns and maintains the Rude Man, and the organization relies on local shepherds to keep the grass on the hillside well-shorn [source: Cockcroft].
6: Jukkasja rvi Ice Hotel
The Jukkasjä rvi Ice Hotel in Sweden is composed almost completely of ice. Every winter, using frozen building materials from the Torne River, artists blast enormous steel skeletal frames with snow cannons. Then, the frames are removed to leave free-standing snow and ice structures. Construction on the hotel is continuous throughout the season, with new rooms and projects being completed as winter progresses.
No matter how cold the weather gets outside -- and just 124 miles (200 kilometers) north of the Arctic Circle, it certainly gets cold -- the temperature inside the ice hotel remains a steady 23 degrees Fahrenheit (-5 degrees Celsius) [source: ICEHOTEL]. For warmth, guests must rely on reindeer skins, toasty sleeping bags and the spirits served at the hotel bar, as well as whatever thermal undies they've packed.
Henry Ford had a lot of good ideas, but he also had a very bad one. In 1929, Ford constructed the town of Fordlâ ndia in an attempt to transplant American culture and industry into the Brazilian jungle. His goal was to get closer to the raw materials he needed -- and in the process, break the rubber barons who controlled these supplies.
Fordlândia was designed to be a beacon of Prohibition-era American culture, kind of like Disneyland with factories. But Ford didn't anticipate the malaria-carrying mosquitoes, hot weather and misunderstandings between American and Brazilian workers. Cranky employees plus widely available machetes was a dangerous combination. Mistake No. 2 was failing to hire any botanists. The topsoil, exposed by aggressive land clearance, disappeared, leaving overcrowded rubber saplings to starve and die in impossibly poor soil or succumb to a fungal blight. Disaster soon followed.
Today, Fordlândia is a spooky, American-style mirror world decaying in the jungle.
An "Ideal Palace"
Back in 1864 in Hauterives, France, a mailman named Ferdinand Cheval had a dream. In the dream, he built a palace made of stone, filled with grottoes and decorated with elaborate cornices and fine ornamentation -- an "ideal palace." Fifteen years, he stumbled on a stone. What resulted is one of the most bizarre pieces of folk architecture in the world.
Examining the stone that tripped him, Cheval was enthralled by its unusual shape. If the earth had provided him with such a beautiful, natural material, he reasoned, God must want him to become a mason. Cheval began collecting stones on his postal route and used them to build an ever-growing concrete and limestone structure. This continued for more than 30 years. By 1912, when he had finished, the palace was several stories high and boasted columns, turrets and intricate carvings.
3: The Moai
Each standing about 13 feet (3.9 meters) high and weighing 14 tons (12.7 metric tons), the moai, those iconic carved stone heads that populate Easter Island, are one of the most famous construction projects in history. Eight hundred eighty-seven moai dot the treeless landscape of the 63-square mile (163.2- square kilometer) island, 397 of which stand in the quarries where they were carved, mysteriously abandoned [source: NOVA].
The moai are a puzzle. How did the carving of these strange, enormous statues come about on such a small, treeless island? One hypothesis, though by no means an uncontested one, is that the Rapanui, the island's original inhabitants, deforested the island themselves in the process of building the moai, using logs and rope made from tree fiber to move the statues across the island.
2: The Winchester Mystery House
After Sarah Winchester's husband and daughter died, a medium explained to her that her family was being haunted by evil spirits -- specifically, the ghosts of every person who'd ever been killed by a Winchester rifle. The medium went on to tell her that in order to keep safe, she must build a house to confuse the spirits that haunted her. To stay alive, she must build continuously; if she stopped, she would die.
So she built. For the rest of her life, Winchester held a seance every night to find out what the next day's building plans would be, devoting her fortune to a 160-room mansion with a labyrinth of halls, doors that opened into walls and stairs that led nowhere. (Ghosts probably don't make the best architects.)
1: The World Archipelago
One of the world's largest artificial land masses (and a testament to pre-credit crunch hubris), the World Archipelago sits about 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) off the coast of Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Originally planned as 300 tiny private islands, the archipelago was going to be a luxury paradise for the super rich, who could buy their country or land mass of choice, each with a price tag between $15 million and $45 million.
That was the dream, anyway. Though developers claim that 70 percent of the islands have sold, early rumors about celebrity tenants like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie occupying the Ethiopia island have turned out to be false. Many observers, examining recent satellite footage, suspect that the sandy artificial islands are beginning to sink back into the sea [source: Mclean].
Top 10 Wackiest Construction Projects
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