6 Impressive Works of Architecture in the Middle of Nowhere
There you are, lost in the desert, summiting the peak of an Antarctic mountain, splitting through the turquoise murk, diving for the sea floor. You have never felt so alone. The touch of civilization, which you have known all of your life, falls away, and you get a glimpse at what the ancient world was before humanity set its stain upon it. Then you look two feet to your left and see a movie theater.
Or a dude watching TV. Or a high-end clothing store. It doesn't matter what it is, just that it has absolutely no business being there. Like this stuff:
The Movie Theater in the Sinai Desert
There are certain things one fully expects to find in a desert. Sand. Heat. Mummies. Brendan Fraser's career. There are certain things one does not expect to find in a desert. John Waters. A frogurt shop. Or, hey, how about a movie theater?
Photographer Kaupo Kikkas has friends that know where to hide the bodies. When one offered to "show him something interesting," Kikkas agreed. Luckily, instead of waking up in a shallow grave, he wound up standing in the middle of the desert, staring at row after row of folding theater seats, patiently waiting to be stickily christened with soda and Skittles. This is the End of the World Cinema, the theater where Mad Max goes to watch chick flicks free of judging eyes.
"I ... I'm not crying. It's just dusty."
Over a decade ago, some well-to-do French guy decided that Heat Death, Egypt, was the perfect place to build a cinema. So he had the seats, projection equipment, and a generator trucked in. Truly, he was ready to live the fever-dream. It wasn't meant to be, however; on opening night, the generator mysteriously failed due to what we have to assume was a pharaoh's curse, and the theater has been left to dry rot ever since. Sadly, the screen no longer stands. So all you have to watch is the gentle undulation of the sand devils.
Just pretend it's a scene from a Terrence Malick movie.
But you should still go check it out. We know it's astronomically unlikely, but what if some poor tourist was out there exploring -- all dehydrated and scared, but still kind of awestruck at the brutal majesty of nature -- when he crests that last insurmountable ridge ... and finds you and your friends sitting in a post-apocalyptic movie theater, munching sandy popcorn and clapping for scorpions.
Nobody would ever believe him.
Lenin's Frozen Head in Inaccessible Antarctica
The only things you'll find in the Antarctic are snow, penguins, and Kurt Russell. So imagine trudging through the snowdrifts, slipping on the ice, braving the blizzards to get to its absolute most remote spot -- and finding Vladimir Lenin just chilling there.
That's one cool motherfucker.
In the 1950s, everything was a race between America and Russia. So when the U.S. built a research station at the South Pole, the Soviets one-upped us by building one at the pole of inaccessibility -- aka the spot in Antarctica that is the farthest from the ocean and therefore the most difficult to reach. After presumably waving their dicks in the general direction of Uncle Sam until they froze solid, the Russians mustered up just a little bit more spite and slapped Lenin's head atop the whole affair.
It's cheap plastic, the best-quality Soviet material available.
The Soviets didn't stay there long, but their ramshackle "research station" remains. Of course, it was eventually buried by years of arctic winds and snowfall. Today, only the bust is visible above the frozen tundra, just waiting to confuse the holy shit out of the next alien parasite to stumble across it.
A Prada Store in the Middle of Nowhere, Texas
Located off of Route 90, Marfa, Texas, has a population of around 2,000. You can probably picture that archetypal drive-through highway town in your head right now: it might have an old, beat-up, all-VHS video rental store. It almost certainly has a small combination gas station/market/shitty microwave burrito depository. It might even have a police officer waiting in a speed trap. Gotta pay the mayor somehow.
Does the town you're picturing have a Prada store? You know, Prada -- home of multi-thousand-dollar handbags? Because Marfa does.
"Thank God! I've been lost for days. I need water ... and a casual black clutch bag."
Driving along Route 90 in Texas looks like you took a left turn into a John Wayne flick. Sand, tumbleweed, dead lizard, vulture, high-end handbag store, coyote, telephone pole -- one of these things is not like the others.
Hint: it's the only source of light for miles.
And that's kind of the entire point. The store is actually an art installation, and while it does have a full stock of actual Prada merchandise, it's lacking in other business essentials, such as cash registers. Or a door. The artists' intent was for it to slowly degrade as the Texas environment has its brutal way with it -- and the locals have been happy to help the environment along by way of repeatedly vandalizing the place.
Texas art critics don't mince words.
A Sculpture Garden (at the Bottom of the Ocean)
Most artists create their work with the intention of it being as accessible and visible as possible -- because otherwise, what's the point? But Jason deCaires Taylor takes a different approach. If you want to see what he does, you better have good lungs and no looming fear of what lurks in the vast, dark ocean. That's because Taylor painstakingly creates detailed, lifelike sculptures, then dumps them into the damn sea.
Like if Dexter had taken up art instead of forensics.
He opened the first underwater sculpture park in 2006 off the coast of Grenada, and soon after that expanded to Cancun, where drunken, sunburnt tourists are encouraged to rent some scuba gear and browse the subaquatic gallery while glubbing pretentious neologisms into their facemasks.
It's one of those fun museums where you can pee on the exhibits.
If you're wondering why deep-sixing the sculptures doesn't completely destroy them after a bit, well, this is one of those "art things." By building with pH-neutral, environmentally friendly media, Taylor hopes to help the environment by encouraging marine life to live in and grow on his creations. And if this all seems a little boring, take heart! As the coral slowly consumes the sculptures, they transform from lame old humans into something straight out of Resident Evil.
You can transform too, if you just agree to stay forever.
So come, don your fragile gear, plunge into a hostile environment, and explore the undersea horror garden!
It ... could probably use a better tagline.
A Luxurious Hotel Built Inside of a Mountain
If you were to wander aimlessly and drunkenly, as one does, among the Ozark Mountains near scenic Parthenon, Arkansas, you just might find yourself standing at the base of a mountain, staring at some remarkably well-preserved Dwarven ruins. These are actually the grounds of the Beckham Creek Cave Lodge, a luxury hotel built right into the rock:
The service is superb. The WiFi's kind of dodgy.
It was originally built in the '80s by a man named John Hay, who intended it to serve as a bomb shelter after he watched an apocalyptic movie and became convinced that the end was nigh. After presumably watching some Care Bears, Hay changed his mind and realized everything was going to be OK, so he decided to sell his nuke-proof hobbit hole. It has since been remodeled into a hotel where guests are free to live out their fantasies of being the Morlock 1 percent.
Or swinger Batman.
Though the lodge's only architect was God (as Hay put it), Man has improved upon this divine construction by adding running water, heating, and all the luxurious furnishings that ore can buy.
Really, anything to make people forget they're in Arkansas.
Quiet, luxurious, remote, safe from nuclear Armageddon, and probably only, like, a one-in-three chance of digging too deep and freeing a Balrog. What more could you ask for in a vacation destination?
A Highway in the Middle of the Rainforest
Imagine you're the adventurous type. You know, the type that actually goes out and experiences things rather than just reading about them on the Internet. A foreign concept, we're aware.
Now, further imagine that you're trekking through the oppressive overgrowth of the Brazilian jungle, surrounded by nothing but exotic flora and fauna as far as the eye can see. Perhaps there are some tribes of humanity here, but the blight of technology has not yet settled on this place. You survey the immense, possibly uncharted wilderness around you with a sigh, and because you're not paying attention to where you're going, you bump straight into a 130-foot-tall, 1,000-foot-long stretch of highway. Right in the middle of the damn jungle.
You prepared for pterodactyls and smoke monsters, but not this.
Congratulations! You've just bashed your face on the Viaduct Petrobras. Built in the '60s as part of the Rio-Santos Highway, it was later abandoned when officials decided a more coastal route was better, because apparently Brazil is McConaughey-levels of chill about their highway engineering projects. It still stands today, like a set from a post-apocalyptic film, just waiting for you to come and jump all over it.
Traveling up there via flying manta ray.
That's right: you can book yourself an "adventure tour" here, during which you can rappel right off the side of the viaduct. Presumably while shooting twin Airsoft pistols and screaming terrible action-hero puns, if you're anything like us.
Eric Yosomono writes about the strange buildings of Japan for Gaijinass.com.
For more things we never saw coming, check out 8 Celebrities Who Are Great at the Last Thing You'd Expect and 6 Famous Artists You Didn't Know Were Perverts.