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Best Friends Build Own Private Neighborhood to Be Together Forever

For many groups of faithful friends, adulthood means accepting that logistics are often the biggest obstacle to maintaining relationships. As hard as it is to get the gang together for dinner when everyone lives in the same city, it becomes a Herculean (or Sisyphean) task once the winds of change have scattered everyone to lands afar. Rather than succumb to the inevitable growing apart, four close-knit couples in Texas came up with a clever way to live together while maintaining their independence. They've built themselves four tiny houses all in a row, each within a stone’s throw of the next.

Because nothing says friends forever like signing a deed together, eight great pals living in the Austin area purchased ten acres of land outside the city limits, near the Llano River, for what they dubbed the “Llano Exit Strategy.” With a plot of earth to collectively call their own, the environmentally minded landowners enlisted the services of architect Matt Garcia to design four identical residential structures, one for each of the families. In keeping with the pragmatic minimalism of the “tiny house” movement, the homes comprise a mere 350 square feet apiece, with one bedroom, one bathroom, and one living room.

Where the friends’ extremely private community breaks from tiny house tradition is the existence of a fifth building: a big 1500-square-foot cabin with a full kitchen and additional social space for the neighbor-friends to come together as they please—think of it as a ground-level tree house, or a college residence hall lounge with nicer furniture. There are two dishwashers, presumably to avoid fighting over anyone leaving their silverware out too long, a porch, picnic tables, and even six bunk beds to accommodate lucky guests.

It’s not hard to see why the couples chose the Llano River as the site of their ideal idyll. They “had been hunting for a quiet escape from the ever-growing buzz of Austin, a place to ride their bikes, reconnect with nature and recharge,” and the riverfront location checks all those boxes. They’ve made sure to respect their natural surroundings by working with the arid local climate, rather than against it: the homes’ sloped butterfly-style roofs catch rainwater for reuse around the compound, while metal siding and good insulation both reduce heat from the glaring summer sun while preserving indoor warmth during cooler months.

The couples haven’t yet moved to their shared property full-time, escaping their busy city lives mostly on holidays and long weekends, but they do plan to retire there. What a way to grow old together.

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Peter Macdiarmid, Getty Images
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Long-Closed Part of Westminster Abbey to Open to the Public for the First Time in 700 Years
The triforium in 2009
The triforium in 2009
Peter Macdiarmid, Getty Images

On June 11, 2018, visitors to London's Westminster Abbey will get a look at a section of the historic church that has been off-limits for 700 years. That’s when the triforium, located high above the abbey floor, will open to the general public for the first time as the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries, according to Condé Nast Traveler.

The 13th-century space, located 70 feet above the nave floor, had previously been used for abbey storage. (One architecture critic who visited before the renovation described it as a “glorified attic.”) After a $32.5 million renovation, it will now become a museum with killer views.

The view from the triforium looking down onto the rest of Westminster Abbey
The view from the triforium looking down toward the ground floor of the abbey
Dan Kitwood, Getty Images

To access the area, which looks out over the nave and altar, architects built a new tower, the abbey’s first major addition since 1745. The 80-foot-tall, window-lined structure will provide brand-new vantage points to look out on surrounding areas of Westminster. Inside the triforium, the windows of the galleries look out onto the Houses of Parliament and St. Margaret’s church, and visitors will be able to walk around the upper mezzanine and look down onto the ground floor of the abbey below.

The museum itself will show off objects from Westminster Abbey’s history, such as a 17th-century coronation chair for Mary II and an altarpiece from Henry III’s reign, when the triforium was first constructed. Oh, and it will also display Prince William and Kate Middleton’s marriage license, for those interested in more modern royal history.

[h/t Condé Nast Traveler]

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Steinar Skaar / Statens vegvesen
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A Look at One of Norway's Most Beautiful Public Bathrooms
Steinar Skaar / Statens vegvesen
Steinar Skaar / Statens vegvesen

In Norway, beautiful architecture isn’t limited to new museums and opera houses. The country also has some incredible bathrooms, thanks to a program called the National Tourist Routes, which commissions architects to design imaginative, beautiful rest stops and lookout points to encourage travel in some of the country’s more remote areas.

One of the latest projects to be unveiled, as Dezeen alerted us, is a high-design commode in the northern Norwegian municipality of Gildeskål. The newly renovated site located along the Norwegian Scenic Route Helgelandskysten, called Ureddplassen, was recently opened to the public.

Bench seating outside the restroom, with mountains in the background
Lars Grimsby / State Road Administration

A view up the stairs of the amphitheater toward steep mountains
Steinar Skaar / Statens vegvesen

Designed by the Oslo-based designers Haugen/Zohar Architects and the landscape architects Landskapsfabrikken AS, the site includes an amphitheater, a viewing platform, and of course, a beautiful restroom. The area is a popular place to view the Northern Lights in the fall and winter and the midnight sun in the summer, so it sees a fair amount of traffic.

The site has been home to a monument honoring victims of the 1943 sinking of a World War II submarine called the Uredd since 1987, and the designers added a new marble base to the monument as part of this project.

A view of the monument to the soldiers lost in the sinking of the Uredd
Steinar Skaar / Statens vegvesen

Now, travelers and locals alike can stop off the highway for a quick pee in the restroom, with its rolling concrete and glass design, then plop down on the steps of the amphitheater to gaze at the view across the Norwegian Sea. It’s one rest stop you’ll actually want to rest at.

[h/t Dezeen]

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