Apanagar via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Kentucky’s $30 Million Castle

Apanagar via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Castle Post is a beautiful medieval-style stone castle completely enclosed by a stone wall with turrets on a 50-acre estate in Versailles. Versailles, Kentucky, that is, near Lexington. Begun as a labor of love, it’s now a bed and breakfast, and a lovely place to hold a wedding. But for decades it was a mysterious sight on the side of the road with no one at home.

Anthony via Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

In the 1960s, Rex Martin and his wife Caroline Bogaert Martin traveled to Europe and were impressed by the many medieval castles they saw. How nice it would be to have one of their own! They bought 53 acres in Kentucky’s horse farm country and started construction in 1969. The building went slowly because the plans kept getting bigger, and the castle was still unfinished when the Martins divorced in 1975. Neither wanted to talk about the castle or the divorce, but the divorce papers mentioned “castle acreage” as part of their troubles. Much later, Caroline Martin reportedly said that she only wanted a house surrounded by stone walls, and originally they were looking for a small lot of just a couple of acres. But the project ballooned over time. “It just got larger and larger,” she said.

mr_t_77 via Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

After the divorce, Rex Martin looked into turning the castle into a commercial property, such as a museum or an art gallery, but kept running into zoning ordinance problems. The residents in the area did not want to open their neighborhood up to commercial businesses, fearing high-rise construction and traffic congestion. Ultimately, he put a For Sale sign in front of the property and moved to Georgia. For decades, people called the number on the sign to inquire about the property with the still-unfinished castle, but Martin was not interested in returning calls.

Meanwhile, Martin Castle (sometimes called Castle Farm) became a landmark in Kentucky. People driving along Versailles Road (or Lexington Road, depending on which direction you went) were surprised by the sight of a stone castle with extensive walls and turrets along the side of the highway. But no one knew much about it. No one lived there, and no one answered the phone if you called the number on the sign. Martin Castle sat empty for more than 30 years.

Martin Castle before the 2004 fire.

Rex Martin never returned to the castle, and died in 2003. Miami lawyer and real estate investor Tom Post, who grew up in Lexington, saw the For Sale sign in 2000, and spent months tracking down the owners. He bought the property for $1.8 million from Martin’s heirs in 2003. He began renovations immediately, but an electrical fire in May 2004 destroyed much of the improvements and Post had to start over. He gave up his original plans to use the castle as a vacation home decided to make it a luxury bed and breakfast. By 2008, he had finished building a 50-room castle inside the walls.

Sarah Altendorf via Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

The hotel is now named Castle Post, which offers 10 luxury rooms and suites, and is available for weddings and special occasions. Rooms were as high as $3000 a night when Castle Post first opened, but business picked up considerably when rates were lowered to less than half the amount. Weekday rates are as low as $195 a night. There are four rooms on the second floor of the castle wall’s turrets, for extra privacy.

Navin Rajagopalan via Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Castle Post was listed for sale in 2010 for $30 million, but there were no buyers. The castle was put up for sale again in May 2014 but was removed in September of that year. However, enough publicity was generated so that anyone with $30 million who wants a castle in Kentucky will be steered in the right direction. 

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Morfeus Arkitekter. Photo: Silja Lena Løken / Statens vegvesen
Norway Opens Another Spectacular Roadside Bathroom
Morfeus Arkitekter. Photo: Silja Lena Løken / Statens vegvesen
Morfeus Arkitekter. Photo: Silja Lena Løken / Statens vegvesen

Norway’s National Tourist Routes will change how you think about rest stops. As part of a decades-long program, the Norwegian government has been hiring architects and designers to create beautiful roadside lookouts, bathrooms, and other amenities for travelers along 18 scenic highways throughout the country. One of the latest of the projects unveiled, spotted by Dezeen, is a glitzy restroom located on the Arctic island of Andøya in northern Norway.

The facility, designed by the Oslo-based Morfeus Arkitekter, is located near a rock formation called Bukkekjerka, once used as a sacrificial site by the indigenous Sami people. The angular concrete and steel structure is designed to fit in with the jagged mountains that surround it.

The mirrored exterior wall of the bathroom serves a dual purpose. On the one hand, it reflects the scenery around the building, helping it blend into the landscape. But it also has a hidden feature. It’s a one-way mirror, allowing those inside the restroom to have a private view out over the ocean or back into the mountains while they pee.

The newly landscaped rest area near the bathroom will serve as an event space in the future. The Bukkekjerka site is already home to an annual open-air church service, and with the new construction, the space will also be used for weddings and other events. Because this is the Arctic Circle, though, the restroom is only open in the late spring and summer, closing from October to May. Check it out in the photos below.

A bathroom nestled in a hilly landscape
Morfeus Arkitekter. Photo: Hugo Fagermo / Statens vegvesen

The mirrored facade of a rest stop reflects concrete steps leading down a pathway.
Morfeus Arkitekter. Photo: Hugo Fagermo / Statens vegvesen

A person stands outside the bathroom's reflective wall.
Morfeus Arkitekter. Photo: Hugo Fagermo / Statens vegvesen

A wide view of a rest stop at the base of a coastal mountain
Morfeus Arkitekter. Photo: Trine Kanter Zerwekh / Statens vegvesen

[h/t Dezeen]

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Snøhetta
Norway's New Hotel in the Arctic Circle Will Produce More Energy Than It Uses
Snøhetta
Snøhetta

A new hotel coming to Norway’s section of the Arctic Circle will be more than just a place to stay for a stunning fjord view. The Svart hotel, which is being billed as the world’s first "energy-positive" hotel, is designed to “set a new standard in sustainable travel,” according to Robb Report.

Built by a tourism company called Arctic Adventure Norway and designed by Snøhetta, an international architecture firm headquartered in Oslo, it’s one of the first buildings created according to the standards of Powerhouse, a coalition of firms (including Snøhetta) devoted to putting up buildings that will produce more power over the course of 60 years than they take to build, run, and eventually demolish. It will be located on a fjord at the base of Svartisen, one of the largest glaciers on Norway’s mainland and part of Saltfjellet-Svartisen National Park.

A hotel stretches out above the water of a fjord.
Snøhetta

The design of the hotel is geared toward making the facility as energy-efficient as possible. The architects mapped how the Sun shines through the mountains throughout the year to come up with the circular structure. When the Sun is high in the winter, the terraces outside the rooms provide shadows that reduce the need for air conditioning, while the windows are angled to catch the low winter Sun, keeping the building warm during cold Arctic winters. In total, it is expected to use 85 percent less energy than a traditional hotel.

The sun reflects off the roof of a hotel at the base of a glacier on a sunny day.
Snøhetta

Svart will also produce its own energy through rooftop solar panels, though it won’t have excess energy on hand year-round. Since it’s located in the Arctic Circle, the hotel will have an abundance of sunlight during the summer, at which point it will sell its excess energy to the local electricity grid. In the winter, when it’s too dark for solar energy production, the hotel will buy energy back from the grid. Over the course of the year, it will still produce more energy than it uses, and over time, it will eventually produce enough excess energy to offset the energy that was used to build the structure (including the creation of the building materials).

“Building in such a precious environment comes with some clear obligations in terms of preserving the natural beauty and the fauna and flora of the site,” Snøhetta co-founder Kjetil Trædal Thorsen explains in the firm’s description of the design. “Building an energy-positive and low-impact hotel is an essential factor to create a sustainable tourist destination respecting the unique features” of the area.

Svart is set to open in 2021.

[h/t Robb Report]

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