Bizarre Buildings, by Paul Cattermole and Ian Westwell, is a marvelous book to browse through, with page after page of stunningly beautiful photographs of the most truly imaginative architectural creations from all around the world. Some are well-known icons, like the Sydney Opera House in Australia and Gaudi's Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain. But Cattermole and Westwell have included many others, less well-known but no less amazing in their originality and creativity.
I was particularly fascinated by the structure depicted on the dust jacket - Le Palais Ideal in Chateauneuf-de-Galaure, France - and was even more impressed when the book told the story behind it.
"This bizarre building is the work of a French postman, Ferdinand Cheval (1836 - Augst 19, 1924). Le Palais Ideal was started in April 1879: Cheval said that he tripped on a stone and was inspired by its shape. During his daily mail route and in retirement, Cheval carried stones at first in his pockets, then a basket and eventually a wheelbarrow. His self-inflicted task took him the next 33 years -- there is an inscription on Le Palais Ideal that identifies '10,000 days, 9,300 hours, 33 years of toil.' Cheval spent the first two decades building the outer walls -- 85 feet (26 meters) long, 45 feet (14 meters) wide and up to 33 feet (10 meters) high -- continuing after his retirement in 1896. He often worked at night in the light of an oil lamp. Locals regarded him as a village idiot, but before his death he began to receive some recognition from luminaries such as Pablo picasso. The building is covered with inscriptions of all sorts, figures of many animals and famous people. In 1969 Andre Malraux, French minister of culture, declared the site a cultural landmark and had it officially protected."
Highly recommended for anyone who delights in architecture as an expression of human creativity or who simply enjoys photographs of structures that truly seize the imagination.