CLOSE

5 Rediscovered Underground Temples

In the past week, the discoveries of two very different and amazing underground temples were in the news. But they are not the only ones.

1. The Lupercale
435_romulusandremus.jpg
Just last week, the first pictures of a recently-discovered underground grotto in Rome were released. The chamber is 26 feet high and 24 feet in diameter. The discovery was made about a year ago as workers were repairing the remains of Emperor Augustus' palace on the Palatine, a hill in Rome. Archaeologists believe it is the original Lupercale, the site where legend says the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus, were nursed by a wolf after having been abandoned by their parents, the war god Mars and mortal priestess Rhea Silvia. The chamber is partly filled with debris, but the ceiling mosaic gives a glimpse of the majesty the temple had when it was in use 2,000 years ago.

2. The Temples of Damanhur
435_daramhaone.jpg
In 1978, Oberto Airaudi and a few friends began excavating the ground under the alpine hill in Italy on whch they lived. They dug for 16 years in secret, as they had no permit for the project. When authorities demanded to see the dig in 1992, they were astonished to find nine ornately-decorated chambers, with a total volume approaching 300,000 cubic feet! Although the Italian government seized the temples for a time and was going to destroy them, a retroactive permit was eventually issued. Airaudi (who prefers the name Falco) and his colleagues continue building the underground temples to this day, with plans for bigger and better underground chambers to come.

More on the Damanhur and other temples, after the jump.

435_daramhatwo.jpg
Falco's organization, the Federation of Damanhur, runs tours of the Temples of Humankind complex, a two-day affair with a day of "preparation" and a day of viewing. The temples are not dedicated to any deity, but to humankind. They were built for meditation and spiritual renewal. See more photos of the temples of Humankind at the official website.

3. The Underground Temple at Hampi
435_Hampitemple.jpg
The city of Hampi in Karnataka, India is a UNESCO World Heritage site as a grouping of Hindu monuments. One of these is the Underground Temple, believed to have been built in the 13th century and used until Muslim attacks left the city in ruins in the 16th century. This temple of Siva is underneath the water table, and the inner sanctum is usually flooded. However, tourists are welcome to go as far down the passageway as possible.

4. The Hypogeum at Hal Saflieni
435_hypogeumMalta.jpg
The Hal Saflieni Hypogeum in Malta is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the oldest underground temple we now know of. Its 500 square meters spread over three levels of halls, chambers, and passageways carved out between 3600 and 2500 BC. It was rediscovered in 1902 by a stonemason who was building houses over the temple. The Hypogeum is open to tourism, with a limit of 80 visitors a day, so reservations should be made far in advance. See more pictures at Malta Temples.

5. The Osireion
435_Osireion.jpg
The Osireion is a false tomb connected to the Seti I temple at Abydos in Egypt. It is the mythical burial tomb of the ancient Egyptian god Osiris. Seti I reigned in the 13th century BC. The Osireion was built below the water table and was flooded much of the time before its 20th century excavation. It was discovered during an excavation in 1902, but not fully explored until 1926. Part of the Osireion is open to the surface now, but originally had limestone roofs below ground level. This photo by Ernesto Graf shows a section that is both exposed and flooded.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Courtesy of Fernando Artigas
arrow
architecture
Step Inside This Stunning, Nature-Inspired Art Gallery in Tulum, Mexico
Courtesy of Fernando Artigas
Courtesy of Fernando Artigas

Upon closer inspection, this building in Tulum, Mexico, doesn’t seem like a suitable place to house an art exhibit. Everything that makes it so visually striking—its curved walls, uneven floors, and lack of drab, white backgrounds—also makes it a challenge for curators.

But none of these factors deterred Santiago Rumney Guggenheim—the great-grandson of the late famed art collector and heiress Peggy Guggenheim—from christening the space an art gallery. And thus, IK LAB was born.

“We want to trigger the creative minds of artists to create for a completely different environment,” Rumney Guggenheim, the gallery’s director, tells Artsy. “We are challenging the artists to make work for a space that doesn’t have straight walls or floors—we don’t even have walls really, it’s more like shapes coming out of the floor. And the floor is hardly a floor.”

A view inside IK LAB
Courtesy of Fernando Artigas

A view inside IK LAB
Courtesy of Fernando Artigas

A view inside IK LAB
Courtesy of Fernando Artigas

A view inside IK LAB
Courtesy of Fernando Artigas

IK LAB was brought to life by Rumney Guggenheim and Jorge Eduardo Neira Sterkel, the founder of luxury resort Azulik. The two properties, which have a similar style of architecture, share a site near the Caribbean coast. IK LAB may be unconventional, but it certainly makes a statement. Its ceiling is composed of diagonal slats resembling the veins of a leaf, and a wavy wooden texture breaks up the monotony of concrete floors. Entry to the gallery is gained through a 13-foot-high glass door that’s shaped a little like a hobbit hole.

The gallery was also designed to be eco-conscious. The building is propped up on stilts, which not only lets wildlife pass underneath, but also gives guests a view overlooking the forest canopy. Many of the materials have been sourced from local jungles. Gallery organizers say the building is designed to induce a “meditative state,” and visitors are asked to go barefoot to foster a more sensory experience. (Be careful, though—you wouldn't want to trip on the uneven floor.)

The gallery's first exhibition, "Alignments," features the suspended sculptures of Artur Lescher, the perception-challenging works of Margo Trushina, and the geometrical pendulums of Tatiana Trouvé. One piece by Trouvé features 250 pendulums suspended from the gallery's domed ceiling. If you want to see this exhibit, be sure to get there before it ends in September.

[h/t Dezeen]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
architecture
Engineers Have Figured Out How the Leaning Tower of Pisa Withstands Earthquakes
iStock
iStock

Builders had barely finished the second floor of the Tower of Pisa when the structure started to tilt. Despite foundational issues, the project was completed, and eight centuries and at least four major earthquakes later, the precarious landmark remains standing. Now, a team of engineers from the University of Bristol and other institutions claims to have finally solved the mystery behind its endurance.

Pisa is located between the Arno and Serchio rivers, and the city's iconic tower was built on soft ground consisting largely of clay, shells, and fine sand. The unstable foundation meant the tower had been sinking little by little until 2008, when construction workers removed 70 metric tons of soil to stabilize the site. Today it leans at a 4-degree angle—about 13 feet past perfectly vertical.

Now researchers say that the dirt responsible for the tower's lean also played a vital role in its survival. Their study, which will be presented at this year's European Conference on Earthquake Engineering in Greece, shows that the combination of the tall, stiff tower with the soft soil produced an effect known as dynamic soil-structure interaction, or DSSI. During an earthquake, the tower doesn't move and shake with the earth the same way it would with a firmer, more stable foundation. According to the engineers, the Leaning Tower of Pisa is the world's best example of the effects of DSSI.

"Ironically, the very same soil that caused the leaning instability and brought the tower to the verge of collapse can be credited for helping it survive these seismic events," study co-author George Mylonakis said in a statement.

The tower's earthquake-proof foundation was an accident, but engineers are interested in intentionally incorporating the principles of DSSI into their structures—as long as they can keep them upright at the same time.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios