Forgotten Gardens: Crumbling Complex Has a Sinister History

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[ By Steph in Abandoned Places & Architecture. ]

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Police reports detail disturbing incidents that have occurred just beyond the stone walls of one of America’s most dramatic forgotten gardens, a mysterious complex full of imported ancient Roman columns in the unlikely location of suburban Yonkers, New York. How much of the sinister history of this place, which has become the stuff of legend over the years, really happened? Was it a hotbed of bizarre occult activity as the locals claim, or is this just a case of Satanic panic?

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Perched on a hillside overlooking the Hudson River and sprawling across 43 acres, Untermyer Park (also known as Untermyer Gardens) was first developed between 1899 and 1940 as part of a large private estate. A Grecian-style amphitheater, classical pavilion, Persian Paradise garden and a number of statues were erected by the time owner Samuel Untermyer died, and the gardens passed to the City of Yonkers in 1946.

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Decades later, the complex has begun to crumble, with graffiti covering many of the deteriorating stone structures. But it’s more than neglect that gives this place a sense of foreboding: it’s the connection to one of New York’s most brutal serial killers. As the murderer known as Son of Sam taunted police with Satanism-tinged letters during a killing spree targeting young couples, police found the corpses of ritualistically mutilated German Shepherds in the aqueduct south of Untermyer Park.

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Years after he was captured in 1977, David Berkowitz claimed that he hadn’t acted alone, pinpointing Untermyer Park as the site of frequent gatherings of the Satanic cult of which he was a member. This claim alone has led to all manner of legends springing up about the park, with locals claiming to hear strange chanting or glimpse the glow of torches in the woods at night.

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Is it the truth, or just defensive ramblings from the mind of a killer? It’s hard to say, but Berkowitz’ claims fall into line with the Satanic panic that sprung up in the ’70s and ’80s, blaming supposed secret cults for everything from child molestation to murder. It’s impossible to say exactly what has transpired at Untermyer Park, especially given the gruesome discovery in 1976, but the place definitely still carries a feeling of mystery, especially as its once-grand features continue to decay.

All photographs via Kristine Paulus/Flickr Creative Commons


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Zombie-Powered Vertical Farm: Post-Apocalyptic Safe House

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[ By WebUrbanist in Architecture & Houses & Residential. ]

zombie brains

Strangely sustainable, this towering haven is designed to turn the energy of the undead toward a positive purpose, using zombies to turn a turbine in order to provide both power and water pressure in case of a viral apocalypse.

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As part of the Zombie Safe House competition, this Zombie Ranch entry goes above and beyond simply protecting people from risen corpses, turning their lust for blood and brains into a baited trap to keep life going above the ground.

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The slow-moving zombies push a twisting turbine that sends water up for drinking and farming on a second story – residents occupy the top level, presumably for an extra layer of safety and to get some distance from the groaning hordes.

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A series of spiral staircases and drawbridges provide ways to cut off attacks on each floor as well as a means of lifting the entire structure further skyward to make it less accessible when a swarm wanders through.

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Each zombie-resistant tower is designed to be fully self-sufficient so survivors can remain aloft indefinitely, leaving them free to enjoy the end of the world in relative luxury.


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Transparent Home: Glass Dwelling Puts Urban Life on Display

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[ By WebUrbanist in Architecture & Houses & Residential. ]

see through house japan

A beautiful and boldly open design, this see-through structure uses glass to reveal (and staggered layers to conceal) different parts of the everyday lives of its occupants.

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Designed by architect Yuusuke Karasawa for a medium-density city lot in Tokyo, the snakelike S House relies on upper layers, underground areas and limited walls to create privacy where required or desired.

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The split-level approach replaces corridors with staircases and serves to section off parts of the interior without creating excessive walls, all reinforcing the overall openness of the design (reminiscent of Modernist masters including Mies van der Rohe, Philip Glass and Le Corbusier).

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Primarily white, limited wood accents are added and the neighborhood becomes a kind of passive decor, its textures visible from almost any area of the interior.

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Partly, the design plays on a cultural element of respect for personal space found in Japan – prying eyes are not something to be worried about.

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see through master bath

see through rooftop deck

Nonetheless, the master bedroom and bathroom are located on the level below ground, and a rooftop deck also affords a higher degree of seclusion when needed.


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Apps for Architects: 12 Handy Digital Tools for Home Design

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[ By Steph in Design & Fixtures & Interiors. ]

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Remodeling your house, decorating a room or designing an entire structure gets a lot easier with a range of mobile apps that let you draw to scale, save measurements on top of photos, access thousands of inspirational images and more. These 12 handy tools will ensure that you ever buy a piece of furniture that’s too big for your space, lose the ideas you scrawled on paper or stand around staring at bedding wondering whether it’ll clash with your drapes again.

Photo Measures
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Save measurements right on your photos with the Photo Measures app. Snap images of rooms or objects and immediately save their exact dimensions so you can be sure whether furniture will fit in a given space, or give contractors all the info they need for a renovation.

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Architect Apps PHaidon Design Classics

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You can buy the 10-inch-thick Phaidon Design Classics book for $175, or just get the iPad app for $19.99. Either option will give you access to 1,000 iconic design projects, but the app is definitely more portable. It’s a handy reference for anyone trying to style an interior, providing visuals for everything from Eames chairs to antique glassware.

Remodelista
Architect Apps Remodelista

Sort through thousands of inspirational interior design images, save them to your own customized folders and share them with the Remodelista app for iPad, iPHone and Android. It puts the entire archive of Remodelista.com posts at your fingertips, along with a list of products featured in each post.

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Architect Apps Penultimate

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Want the ease and comfort of writing on paper, with the search functions and shareability of digital? The Penultimate app is a replacement for your physical notebook, allowing you to write and sketch with a stylus. Even better, you’ll never lose another important note again – everything you create in the app is synched to your Evernote account automatically so you can view, search and share them across a range of devices.

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Looking Grave: 12 Spooky & Scary Abandoned Funeral Homes

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[ By Steve in Abandoned Places & Architecture. ]

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Funeral homes are mortal, much like their clients. When funeral homes are abandoned, however, they’re left to decay, deteriorate and decompose in public.

Built in 1870 during the difficult era of post-Civil War Reconstruction, Ward’s Funeral Home in Opelika, Alabama has long since surrendered to the inexorable march of time. Flickr user Jessica Williams (JessicaNicholex) brings us these images of the former funeral home that, like the neighborhood it still resides in, has seen better days.

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It’s not known exactly how long Ward’s Funeral Home has been abandoned; long enough for it to become an eerie urban legend at least. Some Opelika residents claim to have seen haints (haunts, or ghosts in the local parlance) peering through the windows at night. Those brave enough to enter the building itself will find a few caskets in what may have been the business’s showroom. Opening them isn’t recommended… especially to anyone who’s seen a certain scene from Raiders Of The Lost Ark.

Dark Undertakings

abandoned funeral home undertaker Aquasco Maryland

This abandoned “undertakers” establishment can be found in beautiful suburban Aquasco, Maryland – or at least it could be back in mid-March of 2009 when Flickr user ZOOPMON captured it for posterity. Check out the window on the upper left (embiggened view here)… if you weren’t planning on enjoying a sound sleep tonight.

Bodie’s Bodies

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Bodie, a California desert ghost town founded in 1876 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1961, had a working funeral parlor for much of its history – and like most Wild West mining towns, the resident undertaker had plenty of regular business. The funeral home has deteriorated somewhat since the last few Bodieans abandoned the town but enough remains (pardon the pun) to distinguish it as such.

Little Rock Of Ages

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Abandoned funeral homes don’t need to be photographed on gloomy overcast days to bring out their essential creepiness. Just check out these photos of the abandoned Miller’s Funeral Home in Little Rock, Arkansas, snapped by Flickr user Terry Williams (IM2_OCD) on July 25th of 2010. The images cast the business’s decay in gritty focus while bringing out the essential beauty of the sun-washed subject. Especially poignant is the top photo, contrasting the timeless dereliction indoors with the soulless flyover banality glimpsed through the window.

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Chinese President Calls for End to “Weird Architecture” Trend

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[ By WebUrbanist in Architecture & Public & Institutional. ]

oma strange shaped building

After years of both importing famous designers and copying strange structures from abroad, Xi Jinping, the leader of China’s Communist Party has declared an end to offbeat construction projects going forward. Translated from a two-hour speech on the subject, he was recently quoted as saying: “No more weird architecture.” As yet, it remains unclear whether this is a statement of official policy direction or a tacit warning to developers to play it safe.

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Iconic buildings in the country have been coming under attack for quite some time, but the phallic look of the 500-foot headquarters of the Chinese state newspaper, the People’s Daily, sparked particular outrage, likely leading to his more vocal objection. Crasser comparisons aside, various spheres, donuts and other shaped deemed odd by the party leader have also been critiqued both domestically and on the international social web.

donut shaped structure

bridges river china

Other designs prompting problems for the government in the press include the CCTV headquarters in Beijing by Rem Koolhaas. Still, the theme of genitalia shape comparisons in paritcular, as in the case of the bridges (above) in Chongqing, have caused state media to start censoring search results related to some projects. They are also not fans of advertising their surreal replicas or ghost cities, also unusual byproducts of the recent construction boom.

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cctv tower china

Speaking recently, Xi maintained that Fine art works should be like sunshine from the blue sky and the breeze in spring that will inspire minds, warm hearts, cultivate taste and clean up undesirable work styles.” Sadly for some, his response comes at a time when architecture in China is also drawing a great deal of positive attention, some copycat scandals aside.


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Adapting Aging Architecture: Modern Plug-Ins for Beijing

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[ By Steph in Architecture & Cities & Urbanism. ]

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Cold, dilapidated and lacking modern amenities like bathrooms, Beijing’s historic architecture in the Hutong districts becomes livable again with sleek modern plug-ins that make them more comfortable without significant alteration. People’s Architecture Office created a modular system called the Courtyard House Plugin that acts as a temporary solution to make the spaces more desirable, minus the trouble of renovation.

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These aging structures are typically built around small courtyards, and after centuries of habitation, have sometimes reached the point of being dangerous. Developers are often hesitant to take on significant renovation projects due to costs and the fact that some of these spaces are still inhabited.

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The new modular components slide into existing spaces, instantly updating them with modern amenities and clean, contemporary interiors. They can be assembled quickly with no more than a single hex wrench.

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The first prototype, ‘Courtyard 72,’ will be a live-in laboratory for researchers studying the living conditions in the region. Ultimately, this sort of plug-in modular solution could ensure that Beijing’s oldest and most culturally and historically important neighborhoods remain livable for local residents.


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Amphibious Architecture: 12 Flood-Proof Home Designs

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[ By Steph in Architecture & Houses & Residential. ]

amphibious architecture affordable bamboo house 1

Instead of trying to beat back rising water levels, these innovative structures work with them, adapting from land-based to floating houses with the ease of an amphibian. From a DIY foam-based flotation system on a modest home in Louisiana to high-tech, self-sustaining disaster pods, these buildings are ready for whatever Mother Nature might throw their way – even 10-foot floodwaters.

The UK’s First Amphibious House
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Located on the Thames River, the UK’s first amphibious house is nearing completion. Baca Architects designed the home for a couple who wanted to live on a flood-prone island in the river, integrating a terraced landscape that acts as an early warning system that the waters are rising. The terraces will fill with water before the ‘wet dock’ under the house does, and then the home itself will gently rise to stay above the surface.

Foundations That Float Above Floods
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The Buoyant Foundation Project has come up with a solution to retrofit existing homes in post-Katrina New Orleans in anticipation of future storms and floods, allowing the structures to lift off the ground in an emergency. Buoyancy blocks would be installed beneath the sub-frame of the home, while four corner guideposts keep the building in place as it rises with the water.

Amphibious Communities for Thailand
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Flooding in Thailand gets worse with each passing year, now occurring in off-seasons and in areas that haven’t historically been flood-prone. Site-Specific looks to the nation’s past for an answer, in the form of homes that were built as rafts. This idea can be adapted even to communities that aren’t built directly on the water in the form of amphibious homes built over trenches, which fill with water first, raising the structures as the water rises. The entire prefabricated steel flotation system is hidden in the trench beneath the house during the dry seasons.

New Orleans Home Will Break Free & Float in Case of Flooding
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New Orleans design firm Morphosis, which has designed many of the city’s most innovative post-Katrina architecture, came up with a home that will rise up on the surface of the water in the event of flooding but remain tethered to vertical guides. Sponsored by Brad Pitt’s Make it Right Foundation, the house uses the region’s classic narrow shotgun house typology and adapts it for the realities of the present time.

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3D-Printed Columns Use Ancient Technique Against Earthquakes

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[ By WebUrbanist in Conceptual & Futuristic & Technology. ]

quake column design detail

Bringing together cutting-edge technologies and an ancient approach to resisting earthquake damage, the so-called Quake Column marries tradition and high-tech to create a bold new structural solution needing no mortar nor rebar to reinforce it.

3d printed column interlocking

Incan masons historically interlocked complex three-dimensional stone shapes in order to allow movement during earthquakes while preventing buildings from becoming structurally compromised in the process. The puzzle-like interlinking of the constituent parts helps structures resist seismic shocks, keeping them from becoming detached either horizontally or vertically.

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A modern-day company in California, Emerging Objects, has taken this page out of history and reapplied it with 3D printing, allowing their new variants of these old blocks to be fabricated quickly, easily and cost-effectively. Unlike their heavy stone predecessors, these new versions are can be lightweight, modular and made on demand, including built-in handles for carrying printed-on instructions showing builders how to assemble them into columns.

quake column mortar free

3d printed material exterior

These contemporary equivalents are designed to be load-bearing, code-compliant materials that could be used in actual architectural applications of all kinds, all without steel reinforcement or mortar cementing the connections. More on the structural physics at work via Inhabitat: “the absence of resonant frequencies and stress concentration points made the structures more earthquake resistant. During earthquakes, the dry-stone walls built by the Incas would move slightly and resettle without any damage. Rounded corners and an incline of three to five degrees contributed to their stability.”


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Lost Soles: 10 Abandoned & De-Feeted Shoe Repair Stores

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[ By Steve in Abandoned Places & Architecture. ]

8 Cents shoe repair store Peoria 1
Abandoned shoe repair stores, once ubiquitous elements of the urban tapestry, epitomize small Mom & Pop stores that “progress” has kicked to the curb. Here’s one shoe repair store that won’t play in Peoria, even at the bargain rate of eight cents. Not that shoe repair ever was an expensive chore, this shop had to be abandoned a LONG time when Flickr user Smitty-Snaps chanced upon it on January 23rd of 2009.

8 Cents shoe repair store Peoria 2

A little over two years after Smitty-Snaps snapped the abandoned 8 Cents Shoe Repair (if that actually was its original name, and that’s doubtful), another Flickr user, David Sebben, couldn’t pass on the opportunity to photo-document the peeling green patina on the abandoned storefront. The shop lost its “1209” street number in the meantime but an extra couple of years haven’t noticeably aged this already well-weathered denizen of a long-passed Peoria.

No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service

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Militello's Shoe Repair Baton Rouge 3

“Complete Shoe Service While You Wait”? Ain’t nobody got time for that these days! The former Militello’s Shoe Repair located on Government Street in downtown Baton Rouge, LA, was visited in August of 2007 by the delightful Colleen Kane from the Abandoned Baton Rouge blog. Could that be a reflection of her sandal-clad tootsies in the lower left corner of the third image above? If not, Militello’s is way creepier than we thought.

“This Pizza’s Tougher’n Boot Leather”

Boot & Shoe Repair in McAlester OK

If the external architecture of the eerily lit Boot & Shoe Repair shop in McAlester, Oklahoma looks a little familiar, you just might be hankering for some pizza & birch beer. Yes indeed, this used to be a Pizza Hut restaurant back in the day and as the author of the Used to Be a Pizza Hut blog states, the store “pretty much looks abandoned but is apparently a boot & shoe repair place, which is actually harder to believe would be in business than the original Pizza Hut that it replaced. When is the last time you took a shoe in to be repaired?” Harsh.

From Re-Soled to Re-Sold

Cordonnerie Shoe Repair shop 1

Cordonnerie Shoe Repair shop 2

“Cordonnerie” is French for Shoe Repair and J. M. Dostie’s shop on Avenue De La Salle in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, Montreal, was legendary amongst the shoe-repairing cognoscenti. Although Dostie’s Cordonnerie had managed to build up an appreciative clientele among the Canadian city’s rock-climbing community, rising rents amidst gentrification in the neighborhood delivered an effective coup de grace to the store in early 2011. Kudos to The Milkman at Vanishing Montreal for the above before & after images.

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