Several things under the surface (including extravagant subterranean playplaces)

In Excerpts, Thoughts on May 20, 2011 at 10:02 am

I don’t know why I’m fascinated by the above rendering. It’s a plan for what Anna Rita Emili, Barbara Pellegrino, and Massimo Ilardi call Well House. It’s a new type of house, sunken and centered around a pool, with two levels below the living area used for collecting rainwater and serving a geothermal system.

It’s innovative, but it also feels sinister. Perhaps it’s because it too closely approximates the feeling of being trapped at the bottom of a real well. Or because it feels more like a prison than a home. Or because while the shape in the water is meant to be human, it’s vague enough to be a shark or something altogether more vicious.

Thinking about this reminded me of a part in The BLDGBLOG Book, which devotes 65 pages to “the underground,” in which Manaugh quotes a London Times writer reporting on the growing existence of extravagant complexes built beneath the homes of the super-rich. Manaugh writes:

This urge toward subterranean architectural eccentricity is transforming the very earth beneath London. We learn, for instance, that “billionaire Russian oligarchs, private-equity traders, and hedge-fund managers are engaged in a multimillion-pound game of one-upmanship as they vie with each other to dig ever bigger, wider, and deeper extensions.” Digging also helps London’s super-rich to avoid strict planning and conservation laws, as the houses they’ve been extending into the earth are usally listed structures and thus cant be visibly altered. Many of these houses thus now “have more space below ground than above it,” we read.

Later he quotes a whole passage about one man’s ridiculous set-up.

“One home in north London even has a bespoke chute covered in a special slippery paint, which enables the owner, who loves swimming first thing in the morning, but hates the fuss of dressing, to step out of bed and slide straight into the water a couple stories below.”

No doubt most of us dreamt of something like this as a kid. Rope ladders from third-story towers down into secret basement passageways. Firemen’s poles into underground playgrounds. Etc.

The theme of our downward direction brought to mind one of the funnier things I’ve seen in a while. My friend Donnie animated this short clip as part of his Bleep-Bloop comics series. Well done, Donnie.


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