Architectural Oddities

Across the world a whole host of construction materials are used to create buildings where people live, work and shop, and most of them are relatively commonplace and unremarkable. There are others that have become benchmarks for opulence or design, famous the world over, such as the Palace of Versailles in Paris, St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, or the Empire State Building in New York.

But what of the unsung heroes of the architectural world? There are astonishing places that use something a little different as building materials, or do something on such a grand scale that all comparisons to other buildings of the same pale into insignificance.

The Great Mosque, Djenne

by 300td

The Great Mosque of Djenne in Mali is the world’s largest mud-brick building and a triumph of both Sudano-Sahelian architecture as well as human skill. Not just the skills of the forced labour who helped build this 75m long structure, but also of the people who gather for the yearly festival to repair the damage caused by the weather in the past twelve months. Sadly, non-muslims are no longer allowed in thanks to a Vogue photo shoot the caused offence but you can go along and enjoy the festival.

Capela dos Ossos #1 @ Évora

by bjaglin

Next up is an altogether more gruesome use of materials, we’re talking human bones here! Portugal has a number of these catholic “Bone Chapels”, with the one in Evora the best known, and there is also one in Rome, the Capuchin Crypt. Human bones don’t form the basis of the construction but they are used to adorn every available surface in the interior, giving the impression that you’re inside a structure made entirely of bones. Not for the faint of heart this one!

The Monastary at Petra

by watchsmart

A great example and the  best known of the ancient cities hewn out of the rock, Petra is rightly a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Established around 6 BC it was unheard of in the western world until 1812, although it had long been a popular tourist site for the wealthy middle-eastern traveller. It’s gained popularity in the west ever since its discovery and today its challenge is to stop the erosion of the site caused by both the weather and eager sightseers. If you want somewhere a little less under threat then the rock-cut churches of Lalibela in Ethiopia might just hit the spot.

by rhonogle

And so to a more modern example of creative architecture, taking recycling to a new level. Glass bottles might not be the most inspiring item, especially when the beer or wine is already all gone, but that hasn’t stopped these inventive people. Used as a beautiful way to let light in through the walls, the bottles in the Minnie Evans Bottle Chapel and Grandma Prisbrey’s Bottle Village help create bright and stunning architecture. And they save the landfill space, so you can’t say fairer than that!

top image by Andrey Belenko