February 5, 2009
In addition to bottle-shaped roadside attractions, there are also a large number of buildings actually made out of bottles. Employing “bottle wall construction,” many have sought to build homes with bottles instead of bricks.
The use of empty vessels in construction dates back at least to ancient Rome, where many structures used empty amphorae embedded in concrete. This was not done for aesthetic reasons, but to lighten the load of upper levels of structures, and also to reduce concrete usage. This technique was used for example in the Circus of Maxentius.
Wikipedia entry: Bottle Houses Throughout History
In (relatively) more recent times, there have been a variety of motivations for using bottles instead of bricks. These structures run the gamut from cabins built in the early 1900s (in areas like death valley where empty bottles were more plentiful than lumber)—to eccentric homemade “follies” (often evolving into roadside attractions, in their own right.)
Sometimes the structures actually rely on the bottles for cumulative strength. Other times the bottles are used as a culturally-charged, decorative element. (Also: when colored bottles are used to build transparent walls, it creates a kind of poor man’s stained glass.)
There are too many brands of bottle houses to list them all, but here are eight:
1. The Rhyolite Bottle House
The Rhyolite bottle house in Death Valley. (archival photo from 1926, The Bancroft Library. University of California, Berkeley)
(Lots more glass bottle house photos, after the fold…)
The back porch of the Rhyolite Bottle House. (archival photo from 1926, The Bancroft Library. University of California, Berkeley)
Another Death Valley bottle house that did not fare so well. (archival photo from 1926, The Bancroft Library. University of California, Berkeley)
2. Kaleva Bottle House
The bottle house in Kaleva, Michigan was built by John J. Makinen, Sr. in 1941.
from Wikipedia entry on: John J. Makinen Bottle House
3. Rockome Bottle Houses
Rockome is an Amish theme park in Arcola, Illinois which used to feature several bottle playhouses conceived as tourist attractions.
The structure of these houses did not depend on the bottles. In fact, they appear to have been stuccoed plywood houses with a decorative layer of matching bottles—(7-Up for one house; Fresca for another).
For a place seeking to capitalize on things-Amish, it seems an odd choice to have decorated these play houses with mass-produced consumer packaging. For American tourists during the fifties and sixties, however, the bottle houses proved a popular attraction. In any event, the bottle houses were dismantled in 2006.
4. Doc Hope Bottle House
Photos above by Debra Jane Seltzer
Excerpted from Debra Jane Seltzer’s Agility Nut website:
5. Heineken WOBO (World Bottle)
(Photos via Inhabit.com) The bottom photo is a model of proposed a building designed by John Habraken & Rinus van den Berg (never built) with WOBO bottle walls, oil drums for columns and Volkswagen bus tops for roof.
Excerpted from Inhabit.com “HEINEKEN WOBO: The brick that holds beer,” by Ali Kriscenski
The final WOBO design came in two sizes—350 and 500 mm versions that were meant to lay horizontally, interlock and layout in the same manner as ‘brick and mortar’ construction. One production run in 1963 yielded 100,000 bottles some of which were used to build a small shed on Mr. Heineken’s estate in Noordwijk, Netherlands…
Despite the success of the first “world bottle” project, the Heineken brewery didn’t support the WOBO and the idea stalled…
Today, the shed at the Heineken estate and a wall made of WOBO at the Heineken Museum in Amsterdam are the only structures where the ‘beer brick’ was used.
6. Charlie Yelton’s Bottle House(s)
Photos above by Debra Jane Seltzer
With no real experience building houses, retiree, Charlie Yelton began building bottle houses in 1971. (Read about his bottle houses: here.)
7. Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew Bottle Temple
8. Charles Stagg’s Bottle House
Beach Packaging Design
2. Another good source for bottle house information (and some amazing photos) is Tom Krepcio’s blog about stained glass, here.