Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

10 Amazing Moats Around the World

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Everyone knows that no truly awesome castle is complete without a moat. These long, broad ditches, which may or may not be filled with water, mostly served to protect against marauding invaders, although some also helped stabilize buildings, and still others were just status symbols—the medieval equivalent of imported sports cars lining your driveway. While England is said to have 5,000 moats alone, they're also found in Africa, Japan, Asia, and elsewhere, protecting fortresses, temples, and towns as well as castles. Read on for ten amazing moats that you can still see. 

1. Forbidden City, China 

The world's largest palace, located in the heart of Beijing, has an equally impressive moat. A 170-foot-wide, 20-foot-deep rectangle of water surrounds the Forbidden City, a massive complex of villas, shrines, storehouses, chapels, residences, and gardens that housed China's emperors and their families for almost 500 years, from 1420 to 1912. Once meant for protection, the water now adds a picturesque touch to the complex, which has become a museum. 

2. Český Krumlov Castle, Czech Republic 

What's better than a castle with a moat? A castle with a moat filled with bears, obviously. The State Castle and Chateau of Český Krumlov, the second-biggest castle complex in Central Europe, includes a dry moat that's been periodically filled with bears since at least 1707. Legend has it that the animals were given to the Rosenbergs, who ruled the castle and region for about 400 years, as a token of their supposed connection with an Italian family of nobles called the Orsinis. ("Orsa" means female bear in Italian.) According to the Associated Press, "The animals get their own birthday parties and a big Christmas Eve Bear festival where children bring presents and food for them." They even have their own bearkeeper, a devoted man named Jan Černý, who is working to update the moat's ursinarium to modern-day bear living standards. 

3. Fort Bortange, Netherlands 

This star-shaped fort, with its accompanying network of star-shaped moats, was created in the late 16th century by Prince William the Silent during the Eighty Years' War. The Dutch were fighting for independence from Spain, and the fort's original purpose was to control the only road between Germany and the city of Groningen, which the Spaniards had taken over. The fort saw several battles before being converted into a village in 1851, but since the 1970s, it’s been an open-air museum. (It's far from the world's only star fort, by the way: the design evolved during the Renaissance as a response to increased use of gunpowder. Cannons could easily penetrate the high stone walls of medieval fortresses, but the star forts' lower angles, made from earthen or brick walls, were created to better resist cannon fire.) 

4. Himeji Castle, Japan 

The largest and most famous of Japan's “samurai castles,” Himeji Castle is sometimes called Shirasagi-jo ("White Heron Castle") because its graceful white exterior is thought to resemble the bird. The castle complex includes 83 buildings, with well-preserved turrets, keeps, and courtyards, as well as a system of three moats meant to repel invaders. Building them required huge amounts of stone—more than three miles of it for the inner moat alone, exhausting local quarries so much that builders also incorporated Buddhist sculptures and stone coffins from prehistoric burial mounds, according to journalist Kristin Johannsen

5. Egeskov Castle, Denmark

At Egeskov Castle, the moat is an entire lake, which the castle stands on top of, supported by a system of oak pilings. (Supposedly the castle required an entire oak forest to construct: hence its name, which means “oak forest.”) Built by nobleman Frands Brockenhuus and completed in 1554, it’s now said to be the best-preserved moated castle in Europe, and is open to the public. Aside from the moat, the castle includes 66 rooms, 171 doors, more than 2,000 windowpanes, a farm, a car museum, and an exquisitely detailed dollhouse. Tradition has it that if a wooden sculpture of a man lying beneath the spire of the castle's tower is ever moved from his cushion, the castle will sink into the moat on Christmas Eve. (Not surprisingly, the castle’s inhabitants have usually chosen to spend Christmas elsewhere, just in case.) 

6. Benin Walls, Nigeria

The City of Benin was once protected by a system of ramparts and moats that are said to have been the largest earthwork ever made. According to the New Scientist, they once extended for almost 1,000 miles, in a network of 500 interconnected boundaries. Dug by the Edo people between about 800 and 1500, they are also said to have been four times longer than the Great Wall of China, and to have taken about 150 million hours of digging to construct. Though much of them were destroyed by the British in 1897, parts are still around. 

7. Bodiam Castle, England 

With its spiral staircases, massive towers, battlements, and ruined interior, the 14th century Bodiam Castle is pretty much your childhood dream come to life. And of course, there's a moat, about 540 feet long and 8 feet deep, and now stocked with ducks and fish. The castle was built by former knight Sir Edward Dallingridge in 1385 during the Hundred Years' War for protection against the French (supposedly, although Dallingridge saw it more as a status symbol) and has been largely unaltered since its construction. 

8. Fort Monroe, Virginia 

The largest stone fort ever built in the U.S., the seven-sided Fort Monroe was built by the U.S. government from 1819-1834 at a strategic point on the tip of the Virginia peninsula. A moat surrounds all the inner structures. While most of the rest of Virginia fell to Confederate hands, the fort remained in Union control, and became a haven for former slaves. Former Confederate President Jefferson Davis also spent two years imprisoned at the site. It remained in military use until 2011, when it was decommissioned and became a national monument you can now explore. 

9. Matsumoto Castle, Japan 

Nicknamed "Black Crow Castle" for its somber exterior (and in contrast to the “White Heron Castle,” Himeji), Matsumoto Castle was once ringed by three concentric stone moats: one encircled a tower, one protecting palaces and storehouses, and one surrounding the residential quarters where the families of 90 high-ranking samurais lived. Today, only two of the moats remain, but the castle is one of the most-visited in Japan. 

Built in the early 16th century, the castle was in use for about 350 years, and is now open to the public as a museum. It also contains a unique addition: in the early 16th century, the castle's lord added a "moon-viewing tower" where he and his friends could quaff sake and write poetry. 

10. Angkor Wat, Cambodia 

The world's largest religious building has a moat to match: Angkor Wat is surrounded by a 650-foot-wide, 13-foot-deep square of water that runs for more than 3 miles around the perimeter of the temple complex. It's so big it can be seen from space. In addition to protecting the temple's buildings—constructed in the 12th century to resemble the Hindu Mt. Meru, dwelling place of the gods—the moat also helped stabilize their foundation. By collecting runoff from the region's frequent monsoons, it prevents the temple from sinking into the mud below.

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Futuristic New Street Toilets Are Coming to San Francisco
SmithGroupJJR
SmithGroupJJR

San Francisco’s streets are getting shiny new additions: futuristic-looking public toilets. Co.Design reports that San Francisco’s Department of Public Works has chosen a new design for self-cleaning street toilets by the architectural firm SmithGroupJJR that will eventually replace the city’s current public toilets.

The design is a stark contrast to the current San Francisco toilet aesthetic, a green knockoff of Paris’s Sanisettes. (They’re made by the same company that pioneered the Parisian version, JCDecaux.) The tall, curvy silver pods, called AmeniTREES, are topped with green roof gardens designed to collect rainwater that can then be used to flush the toilets and clean the kiosks themselves. They come in several different variations, including a single or double bathroom unit, one with benches, a street kiosk that can be used for retail or information services, and a design that can be topped by a tree. The pavilions also have room for exterior advertising.

Renderings of the silver pod bathrooms from the side and the top
SmithGroupJJR

“The design blends sculpture with technology in a way that conceptually, and literally, reflects San Francisco’s unique neighborhoods,” the firm’s design principal, Bill Katz, explained in a press statement. “Together, the varied kiosks and public toilets design will also tell a sustainability story through water re-use and native landscapes.”

San Francisco has a major street-poop problem, in part due to its large homeless population. The city has the second biggest homeless population in the country, behind New York City, and data collected in 2017 shows that the city has around 7500 people living on its streets. Though the city started rolling out sidewalk commodes in 1996, it doesn’t have nearly enough public toilets to match demand. There are only 28 public toilets across the city right now, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

These designs aren’t ready to go straight into construction first—the designers have to work with JCDeaux, which installs the city’s toilets, to adapt them “to the realities of construction and maintenance,” as the Chronicle puts it. Then, those plans will have to be submitted to the city’s arts commission and historic preservation commission before they can be installed.

[h/t Co.Design]

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Dutch City Will Become the World's First to Build Inhabitable 3D-Printed Concrete Houses
Houben and Van Mierlo Architecten
Houben and Van Mierlo Architecten

A new 3D-printed concrete housing development is coming to the Netherlands in 2019, CNN reports. The structures will be the first habitable 3D-printed concrete houses in the world, according to Project Milestone, the organization behind the initiative.

While architects and engineers have been experimenting with 3D-printed buildings for several years, most of those structures have just been prototypes. The Dutch development, located in Eindhoven, is expected to be ready for its first residents by mid-2019.

Project Milestone is a collaboration between the city of Eindhoven, Eindhoven University of Technology, the contractor Van Wijnen, the real estate company Vesteda—which will own and manage the houses—the engineering consultancy Witteveen+Bos, and the construction materials company Weber Beamix.

A rendering of boulder-like homes in the middle of a field
Houben and Van Mierlo Architecten

The five planned homes will be built one by one, giving the architects and engineers time to adjust their process as needed. The development is expected to be completed over the next five years.

The housing development won’t look like your average residential neighborhood: The futuristic houses resemble massive boulders with windows in them. The first house, scheduled for completion in 2019, will be a 1022-square-foot, three-room home. It will be a single-story house, though all the rest of the homes will have multiple stories. The first house will be built using the concrete printer on the Eindhoven University of Technology’s campus, but eventually the researchers hope to move the whole fabrication process on-site.

In the next few years, 3D-printed houses will likely become more commonplace. A 3D-printed home in Tennessee is expected to break ground sometime later in 2018. One nonprofit is currently trying to raise money to build a development of 100 3D-printed houses in El Salvador within the next two years. And there is already a 3D-printed office building open in Dubai.

In Eindhoven, residents appear to be fairly eager for the development to open. Twenty families have already applied to live in the first home.

You can learn more about the construction process in the video below.

[h/t CNN]

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