Architecture

Roof It Around Stockholm

For some travelers the opportunity to take a guided walking tour of historic buildings is about as appealing as taking a walk through an airport security checkpoint. Yet even those travelers would find the offerings by Stockholm tour operator Upplev Mer cool. That’s because their tours don’t walk alongside acclaimed architecture—they walk on top of it!

Literally. Participants on a Upplev Mer tour scamper across Stockholm’s roof tops like Mary Poppins. Except, instead of using an umbrella for safety, they rely on hard hats, harnesses and cables.

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The Roller Coaster Stairway To Nowhere

Try not to think about the fact that you are above an enormous mound of industrial waste.

There are more than a handful of tourist attractions that feature great staircases. Among those that immediately to mind: the stairs that spiral up the Loretto Chapel in the Vatican, the stairs leading down to the ritual bathing areas along the Ganges River in Varanasi, India and the stairs that ascend Mexico’s Chichen Itza temple. But the world’s coolest set of stairs don’t go anywhere at all. For those you’ll have to visit Angerpark in the town of Duisburg, in the Ruhr area of Germany.

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The Truth Behind Iceland’s Most Secluded House

Off the coast of Iceland there’s one particular island upon which is built a single, solitary house. It is a house that looks like the sort the Dursleys could have hidden Harry Potter for his 11th birthday.

Over the years, photos of this house — some snapped from airplanes, most from boats — have circulated around various blogs. And as people have glimpsed the digital images of the abode’s stark setting and seemingly impossible seclusion, internet gossip about the place has mounted.

So, let’s start by dispensing with some misconceptions. Here’s some of what the house is not:

It is not located on Iceland’s third largest island. It was not a gift by the government of Iceland to its most famous pop star, Bjork. The house is not a hoax created using PhotoShop. And it is not inhabited by a secretive billionaire, nor by a religious hermit, nor by a paranoid recluse intent on surviving a coming zombie apocalypse.

In fact, technically, it is not a house at all.

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The Building That Sings When It Rains

The sound of rain falling is music to the ears of the residents of one particular building in Dresden, Germany.

Their building is one of those that form five funky courtyards collectively known as the Kunsthofpassage, located in the city’s Äußere Neustadt (Outer New Town) neighborhood. Each courtyard is designed by local artists working on a theme. And in one of the courtyards there’s a colorful building with a series of metallic funnels attached to the facade. When it rains, water is channeled down the front of the building in a way that creates melodic notes as it goes. It sounds almost like this cool piece of architecture is singing!

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The World’s Tallest Climbing Wall

The real challenge is the overhang, which curved 11 meters out from the base.

For the ultimate wave challenge surfers head to Hawaii. For ultimate mountains hikers head to Nepal. And for the ultimate rock climbing wall? For that one must go to the north of Holland.

It is there, in the city of Groningen, that daring climbers take on The Excalibur at the Bjoeks Klimcentrum.

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The Shipping Container Starbucks

Most Starbucks are architecturally rather cookie cutter and bland. But the popular chain of coffee shops does have a handful of locations with a cool edge to them. Perhaps none more than the company’s drive-thru located in outside of Seattle in Tukwila, Washington. The Starbucks there is built out of used shipping containers!

Since Spot Cool Stuff’s first post about shipping container architecture, use of the eco-friendly building material has grown hugely in popularity. Sadly, it hasn’t grown as quickly as the surplus supply of used containers. But nearly every day work begins on at least one new shipping container house or office building somewhere on the planet.

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Climbing the Tokyo Skytree

The world’s highest tower is now in Japan. The recently-completed Tokyo Skytree rockets up a breathtaking 634 meters (2,080 ft) above the Japanese capital. And now visitors can go up and check out the view.

How high is 634 meters? It’s twice the height of the Eiffel Tower. On a clear, day you can have lunch in the Skytree’s lower observation area and gaze out—way out—to Mt. Fuji on the horizon. From the upper observation deck you can distinctly see the curvature of the planet!

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The Million Beer Bottle Temple

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. And if you are a Buddhist monk and life gives you empty beer bottles . . . build a temple out of them.

That was the philosophy of a group of Thai monks in the early 1980s who looked at the innumerable glass beer bottles littering their eastern Thailand hometown of Khun Han and saw more than trash. They saw potential.

At first, the monks picked up a few of the bottles to create artistic decorations from. Then they gathered more discarded vessels to build a modest monk living quarters. Eventually, they decided to construct an entire temple out of found beer bottles.

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