Geeky Architecture

A Lair Fit For A Villain

Fire Brigade Margreid

Earlier, our Dear Leader posed the question of who is the best villain from science fiction or fantasy. This got me thinking. If I were a villain, what would I like to be my lair? I would need someplace ominous and, preferably underground. Because all of the best lairs are underground. The options seem endless. An old submarine base in Norway. A private island connected to land only by a footbridge. A castle near Miami with a moat. However, one stuck out to me. Maybe because it actually isn’t for sale, so some nefarious villain-y deals would have to be made to get it. It’s the Fire Brigade Margreid in Margreid, Italy. When the town decided to build a new facility for their volunteer fire department, they didn’t want to use any expensive, precious land. So, they dug the fire headquarters into the side of a cliff. This makes it energy efficient and the perfect place from which my dog can launch her world domination schemes.

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Geeky Architecture

Lego Skyscrapers

Lego Skyscrapers

What happens when an architect rediscovers his childhood passion for Legos? Some of the world’s most iconic skyscrapers (and other structures) are built to scale with the magical interlocking blocks.

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Geeky Architecture

Sydney Sells Shells on the Seashore

Click to largerize, mate!

Click to largerize, mate!

No discussion of architecture is complete without at least a passing remark on the Sydney Opera House. This landmark and symbol of Sydney and all of Australia deserves more than just a passing remark when the technology behind its most significant feature is discussed.

In 1957, Dane Jørn Utzon won a competition for the design of a new multi-use arts complex to be located on Bennelong Point at the entrance to Sydney Cove. His design consisted of a podium supporting several shell-shaped roof sections. Inside would be several halls for opera, symphonies, theater, and other performing arts. Unfortunately, as a visionary architect he had little understanding of actual physics and engineering. Oh, and the New South Wales government would complicate things as that seems to be one of the very few things that governments are routinely good at doing.

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Geeky Architecture

Brick Gothic

albi_2012-08_02-640x

Albi Cathedral, east end. Click for Überlargerizerificationizing.

Good morning everyone.

The imposing structure in the photo above looks like a medieval fortress doesn’t it, what with the arrow slits up high and the bell-shaped obstructions on the columns and all? Well, it should because it is a fortress in addition to being the Cathedral of Saint Cecilia in Albi, France. Why would someone build such a militaristic-looking church? Aren’t churches supposed to be a place of peace? (No snide comments, now…)

The cathedral was built in the aftermath the Albigensian Crusade to crush the Cathar rebellion that took place in the area, the Languedoc region of France. The Cathars had gotten up the nose of the Holy See because they thought that the Catholic Church was basically corrupt and the priests were all a bunch of self-important bastards. What was worse, several nobles in the area supported these heretical bastards, and you couldn’t have that now, could you? The nobles had all of the money, and that money was supposed to go to Rome and not to a bunch of local hayseeds that didn’t pray right. Well then, Crusade! Burn the heretics! Confiscate the faithless noble’s lands and monies and divvy it up between the nobles fighting for us!

It’s the same old story with different bad guys.

Anyway, after all of the burning and pillaging was over, the Church decided that it needed a display of power and authority in the area, and in 1282 construction of the Albi cathedral was begun, first as a fortress and then finally as a cathedral. Construction of the Brick Gothic cathedral took nearly 200 years and was completed in 1480. That’s actually pretty fast for a cathedral of this size at the time, especially when you consider how elaborate the interior is. I suspect that the Vatican was very generous with funds so that construction wouldn’t languish for decades, which was typically the case with most other cathedrals of the era. Supposedly it’s the largest brick structure in the world (with 8.5 million bricks, count ‘em), which may or may not be true.

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