The Reason You See the Same Leaves Atop So Many Columns

Mr.TinDC, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0
Mr.TinDC, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

If an architect wants to design a building with a timeless, distinguished look, they will often channel the ancient Greeks and Romans. That's why so many famous structures—like the Capitol building in Washington D.C.—feature imposing white columns. But look closer and you'll find another detail many of them share: sculpted leaves curling at the top of the pillars. According to a new video from Vox, these leaves are all modeled after the same plant, acanthus, and their origins can be traced back to the same ancient myth.

Columns featuring acanthus leaves are known as Corinthian columns, and they first appeared around 550 BCE. A Roman writer named Vitruvius explained the ornamentation by creating a legend about a young woman who passed away. After her death, her nurse gathered her possessions into a basket and sealed it with a tile, and as time passed an acanthus plant crept up the sides of the container and covered it completely. The legend goes that the overgrown basket was spotted by a sculptor who was inspired to make Corinthian columns.

There's another symbolic reason acanthus leaves appear in classical architecture: The plant can grow from root cuttings. The leaves represent strength and durability, make them a natural fit for the top of a column. The design is striking enough to persist all these centuries later.

You can check out the full story below.

[h/t Vox]

Europe's First Underwater Restaurant Is Now Taking Reservations

MIR, Snøhetta
MIR, Snøhetta

The choppy waters off Norway's coast may not seem like the most relaxing dining atmosphere, but thanks to the work of the architecture firm Snøhetta, the North Sea is now home to the region's hottest new restaurant. Under, Europe first underwater restaurant (and the world's largest), opens next year, as Forbes reports—and reservations are already filling up fast.

From the shore, Under looks like some sort of toppled ruin jutting out of the water. Guests enter at sea-level, then descend to the champagne bar and finally to the 100-person dining room, which is submerged 18 feet beneath the ocean's surface. From their seats, diners can gaze through the restaurant's 36-foot-by-13-foot panoramic window. Lighting installed both inside the room and along the seabed outside illuminates nearby marine life, providing a stunning underwater show any time of day or night.

A rendering of the top of Under jutting out of the ocean
MIR, Snøhetta

In addition to designing Under to be a breathtaking experience, Snøhetta built the restaurant to durable. The building's 3-foot thick walls protect guests and staff from water pressure and violent tides. The architects were so sure of the restaurant's safety that they intentionally built it in notoriously rough waters near the town of Båly off Norway's southern coast. According to Snøhetta's senior architect Rune Grasdal, a storm is the best time to dine if guests want a truly dramatic view.

A rendering of the exterior of the underwater restaurant
MIR, Snøhetta

The over-the-top atmosphere will be accompanied by a world-class meal. The seasonal menu comes from Danish chef Nicolai Ellitsgaard and dishes are served over the course of three-and-a-half to four hours.

Under doesn't open to the public until April 2019, but the restaurant is already taking reservations. Adventurous diners can attempt to book a table here, or, for parties larger than eight, email the restaurant.

[h/t Forbes]

David Hockney Designed Westminster Abbey's Newest Stained Glass Window—on an iPad

Westminster Abbey, YouTube
Westminster Abbey, YouTube

Westminster Abbey just got a new stained glass window whose colorful depiction of a country path contrasts starkly with the surrounding Gothic architecture. As The Guardian reports, famed 81-year-old British pop artist David Hockney sketched the scene of blossoming hawthorn on his iPad, then a 10-person team from Barley Studio in York, England installed the stained glass and brought his vision to life. The window, which replaced a section of "mostly blank" glass, is over 27 feet tall and nearly 11.5 feet wide.

It is called the Queen's Window, having been commissioned to celebrate the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. As for Her Majesty, no word yet on whether or not she likes it. "The Queen very often doesn't give you a very strong reaction," John Hall, the Dean of Westminster, told The Guardian. But Hall praised the newest addition to the church for having "an amazing brightness and clarity" and being a celebration of something the Queen has long loved: the countryside.

"It is wonderful to have something which is utterly contemporary from one of the greatest artists of the Queen's reign," Hall said.

It was certainly a bold choice, and as with much pop art, not everyone loves the end result. Dr. James Alexander Cameron, a freelance art and architectural historian who runs the blog Stained Glass Attitudes, wrote on Twitter, "I mean it depends on the quality of the actual glass but I think David Hockney might have topped Hugh Easton for 'worst window in Westminster Abbey.'"

Easton, the late artist Cameron is referring to, created six stained glass windows for Westminster Abbey. One window, dedicated in 1947, pays tribute to soldiers who fought in the Battle of Britain seven years prior. Two others, in a section called Cheyneygates, depict a wreath of roses and famed ballerina Dame Margot Fonteyn.

This marks the first time in Hockney's nearly 60-year career that one his artworks has been rendered on stained glass. He's considered one of the most influential British artists of the past century, and, according to The New York Times, if a scheduled Christie's auction next month of one of his 1972 works sells for its $80 million estimate, he'll become the world's most expensive living artist.

[h/t The Guardian]

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