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11 Inscriptions on Buildings That Tell It Like It Is

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

People have carved inscriptions onto buildings since ancient times. They usually contain wise advice or admonitions. The Temple of Apollo at Delphi says "Know Thyself," and legend has it that an inscription above the door of Plato's school read "Let no one ignorant of geometry enter here." The practice carried over to humbler buildings, like personal dwellings and shops, and got a boost in popularity with the classical revival of the Middle Ages. Most inscriptions favor fancy Latin proverbs and religious scripture but sometimes they get a little more creative. Here are 11 inscriptions on (mostly) old buildings that tell it like it is.

1. Plaza Entrance in Amsterdam

Homo sapiens non urinat in ventum

This quote, which you can see in the photo above, translates to "A wise man doesn’t piss into the wind." Built in the 1990s, so not exactly an old building yet, but advice for the ages.

2. On a house in Norfolk, UK

Nec mihi glis servus, nec hospes hirudo

This inscription—"No doormouse as servant for me, neither a horse leech for a guest"—was no doubt inspired by an overstayed welcome. Stay away mooches!

3. Almshouse in Herefordshire, UK

Leominster History

"He that gives away all before he's dead, Let 'em take this hatchet and knock him on the head."

Illustrated with the figure of man holding an axe, naked but for his hat, shoes, and a strategically placed knot of fabric. One story (of many) says it refers to the man who founded the almshouse and got into so much debt from building expenses, he ended up spending the rest of his days as a resident.

4. Doorway in Essex on Hilly Road

"The dumb animals' humble petition
Rest, drivers rest, on this steep hill,
Dumb beasts, pray use with all good will.
Goad not, scourge not, with thonged whips;
Let not one curse escape your lips.
'God sees and hears.'"

Someone on that hill got sick of hearing all the shouting and abuse.

5. Under the Coat of Arms, Knowsley Hall in Lancashire

Wikimedia Commons

“James, Earl of Derby, Lord of the Man and the Isles, grandson of James, Earl of Derby, and of Charlotte, daughter of Claude, Duke de la Tremouille, whose husband James was beheaded at Bolton, 15th October, 1652, for strenuously adhering to Charles II, who refused a bill passed unanimously by both Houses of Parliament, for restoring to the family the estates lost by his loyalty to him, 1732."

The politics are complicated, but it means something like, "I'm putting this here as the grandson of the guy that got beheaded defending Charles II, that jerk who when he got back into power couldn't be bothered to pass a bill that would have given my grandfather's estate back to us. But look, we got it back anyway."

6. Houses in Buckinghamshire

"Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Women."
"An Obedient Wife Governs Her Husband."

Among the inscriptions on the 31 houses of Harleyford village are some that are pretty forward-thinking for the 17th century. Must have been a nice neighborhood.

7. Adare Manor House, co. Limerick, Ireland

Sceptre Tours

"This goodly house was erected by Wyndam Henry, Earl of Dunraven, and Caroline his countess, without borrowing, selling, or leaving a debt, A.D. 1850"

Well, good for you, but you don't have to brag about it. Unfortunately for their descendants, the house proved too expensive to maintain and it was sold to an American businessman in 1984. It's now a lovely hotel.

8. On the Town Gate in Galway, Ireland

"From the ferocious O'Flaherty's, Good Lord deliver us!"

The gate is no more, but legend has it the citizens of Galway erected one in the 1500s with this inscription on it. Another account, unsupported by the historical record, has it that the gates at the other entrance-points to the city read as follows: "From the devlish O'Dalys, Good Lord, defend us!"; "From the cut-throat O'Kellys, Good Lord save and keep us!"; "From the murderous O'Maddens, Good Lord, preserve us!"

9. House in Baumkirchen, Austria

Dies Hause gehört mich nein,
Der nach mir kommt auch nicht sein;
Man trug auch den Dritten, hinaus:
Ach Gott! wem gehört dieses Haus?

"This house belongs not to me,
Neither to him who comes after me;
They carried out the third also (to burial):
Ah God, to whom belongs this house?"

In other words, "Yeah, I guess this is my house, but not really, because nothing actually belongs to us anyway, 'cause we're all gonna die."

10. Various Places in Bavaria, Germany

Extra Bavariam nulla vita, et si vita, non est ita.

This inscription reads, "There's no life outside Bavaria, and if there is, it isn't life at all." And you thought Texas had state pride.

11. A Sundial on a House in Northhamptonshire.

"We shall die all."

Pretty gloomy. Like, "look at the clock, and be reminded how little time you have left." But it sounds less gloomy when you realize it's a pun on "dial." Get it? Sundial? Die all? Feel your gloom being replaced by annoyance?

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Courtesy of Fernando Artigas
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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]

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Engineers Have Figured Out How the Leaning Tower of Pisa Withstands Earthquakes
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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.

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