This Brokerage Firm Only Lists Castles and Historic Buildings

Deciding you want to buy a castle is easy. The hard part is knowing where to look for one. That’s where VIP Castle comes in: this specialty brokerage firm focuses exclusively on selling castles and other historic buildings. 

According to Bloomberg Businessweek, Natalia Makovik founded the firm in 2007 after making the move from Belarus to the Czech Republic eight years prior. Unable to afford one of the country's more than 2000 castles and chateaux, Makovik decided to turn her passion for historical architecture into a career. "I believe it lies in that magic childhood dream of wanting to become the princess of a castle," Makovik tells mental_floss of her inspiration behind the move. More than five years passed before Makovik sold her first property, but today she’s closing up to three deals a month, with some buildings selling for nearly $4.5 million.

Not every castle she sells is limited to the mega-rich; people browsing properties on can narrow their search to "affordable castles." While that may sound like an oxymoron, the prices are often comparable to much humbler homes here in the states. The Kolovratsky Castle, for example—which Makovik's website describes as an "historical monument of the Czech Republic"—is currently listed at an asking price of 19,000 € or around $21,000. To put that into perspective, the median price of a one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan is $710,000, according to The New York Times. The trade-off is restoration expenses, which can sometimes end up costing castle owners 10 times the purchase price.

Compared to other parts of Europe, a dilapidated castle bought in the Czech Republic is still a great bargain. "The Czech historical properties market is considered one of the most attractive areas for investment," says Makovik. VIP Castle specifies that non-residents are also allowed to buy historical properties in the country, so anyone is free to search through the company's online listings (there are currently 35 of them). "Anyone can buy an expensive car," says Makovik. "Owning a castle is rare."

[h/t Bloomberg Businessweek]

Futuristic New Street Toilets Are Coming to San Francisco

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

“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]

Houben and Van Mierlo Architecten
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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