The Palace Built By a Postman, Using Stones From His Route

M Maselli, Flickr // CC BY-2.0
M Maselli, Flickr // CC BY-2.0

by Jenny Morrill

The Palais Idéal in Hauterives, France is a unique structure. It is made entirely out of stones that postman Ferdinand Cheval collected on his mail route.

One night, Cheval dreamed about building a palace. He thought nothing of this dream for years, until one day in the spring of 1879, when his foot caught on an unusual-looking rock during his postal route. The rock was so fascinating to Cheval that he took it home to admire it. It also gave him an idea.

For the next 33 years, Cheval continued picking up more stones during his postal route, first putting them in his pockets, then graduating to a basket, and finally using a wheelbarrow. Each one of the stones was hand-selected by Cheval to play a part in the construction of his dream palace.

For more than three decades, Cheval spent his nights building his home by the light of an oil lamp, and his days delivering the mail. He completed work on the palace in 1912.

Today, the palace is a protected landmark and is open to visitors. Though Cheval wished to be buried in his palace when he died, this was illegal in France at the time. So he spent an additional eight years building a mausoleum for himself in the town cemetery. He finished just in time, too; Cheval passed away on August 19, 1924, approximately one year after completing the mausoleum, which remains his final resting place.

Architect Creates Renderings of Frank Lloyd Wright Designs That Were Never Built

Frank Lloyd Wright designed more than a thousand works in his lifetime, but hundreds of his ideas were never built. One of those was the Gordon Strong Automobile Objective, a tourist attraction commissioned in 1924. Now, thanks to new renderings by Spanish architect David Romero, you can get a better idea of what the proposed project might have looked like had it been completed, as Curbed reports.

Romero is the creator of Hooked on the Past, a project in which he translates plans for Frank Lloyd Wright's unbuilt designs into photorealistic scale renderings. He imports data and plans Wright drew up for the projects into modern modeling software in order to create the most accurate renderings possible of what these structures would have looked like. For the Gordon Strong Automobile Objective images, he collaborated with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, which recently ran the images in its magazine, Frank Lloyd Wright Quarterly.

A spiraling building on top of a mountain
David Romero

Intended to stand atop Sugarloaf Mountain in Maryland’s Blue Ridge Mountains, the plan for the Gordon Strong Automobile Objective called for a planetarium and restaurant to accompany a scenic overlook. Its developer, wealthy Chicago businessman Gordon Strong, envisioned it as a destination where families would drive for the day from Baltimore and Washington, D.C. The design shifted substantially from draft to draft. In some, it called for a dance hall instead of a planetarium; in another, a theater. He also designed in waterfalls, pedestrian paths, bridges, an aquarium, and a car showroom.

A rendering of a pedestrian bridge
The unbuilt Butterfly Wing Bridge
David Romero

Above all, it was to be a destination for drivers, as the name suggests, and visitors would have driven up to park along its spiral structure—similar to the one that would later come to life in the design of the Guggenheim museum, which Romero looked to as inspiration while translating Wright's failed plans into 3D renderings.

A rendering of a spiral-shaped building at night
David Romero

Romero also painstakingly researched the context and location of the building, including adding era-appropriate cars, traces of rain and dirt on the building, and other details in order to bring the project to life. As a result, at times it can be hard to tell these are illustrations rather than stylized photographs.

Romero has also created similarly detailed renderings of other unbuilt or demolished Frank Lloyd Wright projects, including ones that have long since been destroyed, like the demolished Larkin Administration Building in Buffalo, New York and the burned-down Rose Pauson House in Arizona. You can see more here.

[h/t Curbed]

What Central Park Could Have Looked Like, Based on a Rejected 1858 Design

Though Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux have become legendary as the landscape designers behind New York's Central Park, the pair weren't the only ones to submit plans to transform the more than 770 acres in the middle of Manhattan into an idyllic green space. In fact, 35 different designers submitted ideas to the Central Park Commission's contest in 1858. Ultimately, Olmsted and Vaux's "Greensward" plan won, and the other plans were long forgotten.

You can still see what one of them looked like, though, in the form of renderings recently created by the insurance brand Budget Direct. The rejected design, by John J. Rink, called for a carefully manicured space he called a "folk-art fantasy of Versailles." It featured spiraling, symmetrical sections of topiary and large reflective pools—a major departure from the naturalistic topography of Olmsted and Vaux's winning design.

Explore this alternate-reality version of New York City in the renderings below.

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