Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Some Amazing Underground Homes

With all the talk in Sydney about the need for high density living, developers and politicians have immediately turned to the high rise skyscraper unit blocks to solve the housing problem. But what about building beneath the surface, in an underground home? Visually stunning and often extremely ecco-friendly here are a couple of amazing underground homes that catch the eye.

Swiss Mountain Ellipse
In the Swiss mountain village of Vals, sits a sunken crater that is barely visible from the surface. For an underground home, it offers spectacular mountain views.
More Photos

Gary Nevilles Home
Former Manchester United Star Gary Neville has recently had plans drawn up for an amazing home that looks like something out of the teletubbies. Built almost entirely underground, the home has been designed into the shape of a flower with each of the petals representing the activities of "work", "entertain", "eat", "relax" and "play" with the kitchen as the central focal point in the middle.
Said to cost 8 million pounds to build, the home has a 0% carbon footprint and generates its power from a wind turbine, solar panels and an underground thermal heating system. In fact, the home is thought to be so efficient that the UK Government has set it as the benchmark for zero carbon emission design.
The architects of the building have used the ancient neolithic settlement of Skara Brae as inspiration for the design.

Uunderground cities of Kaymakli & Derinkuyu
Living underground is not a new concept. The inhabitants of Cappadocia in Turkey built dwellings into the soft volcanic rock. There is evidence that they housed persecuted Christians during the Roman and Byzantine eras and some of the structures are as tall as 11 stories. At their height, these stone cities would have been able to accommodate up to 50 000 people and large stone boulders were rolled in and out as doors to seal the community away from the persecuting outside world.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Bushrangers in Balmain - Captain Thunderbolt

The folklore of bushrangers have touched the hearts and minds of all Australians. Their romantically rogue ways of highway robbery and living a life on the run have become legend in Australian history. Balmain, more specifically, Cockatoo Island became an island known for housing some of Australia's most notorious bushrangers. In 1857, a local newspaper called Cockatoo Island "a hot bed of vice, a nursery of crime and a den of the blackest infamy where crimes that would rise the blush of burning shame upon a demon's check are nightly perpetrated." After that description, no one could mistake Cockatoo Island for being a nice place!

In 1833, Governor Bourke established a gaol on the island that originally housed 250 convicts. The island, situated in a remote part of Sydney and surrounded by strong tides and currents, made for a perfect fortress to hold the derelicts of society. It stood as a goal for 38 years before being shut down. During that time, the gaol housed the famous bushranger - Captain Thunderbolt. Captain Thunderbolt gained notoriety as being one of the few prisoners to escape Cockatoo Island prison, braving the strong currents to set foot in Balmain.

Born with the name Frederick Ward in 1833 to convict parents in Wilburforce, Ward was originally sentenced to 10 years hard labour at Cockatoo Island for selling 75 stolen horses. He was 23 at the time. After serving 4 years on the island, he was released and married Mary Ann Bugg. In 1860, he was sent back to Cockatoo Island for stealing 2 shoes and a horse. His wife devised a plan to break him out of gaol.

On 11 September 1863, Mary Ann Bugg swam from the cliffs at Birchgrove to Cockatoo Island carrying tools to release her husband. The plan was a success with Ward, his wife Mary Ann and another prisoner, Fred Bitten, escaping Cockatoo Island and successfully swimming the narrow water ways to the Balmain Peninsular.

The trio then made their way north to the Hunter Valley region where they soon became notorious bushrangers committing crimes ranging from highway robbery to horse stealing. Their crimes were so quick, yet brutal that Ward quickly earned the name Captain Thunderbolt.

Captain Thunderbolt terrorised the NSW central north west for 7 years until he suddenly disappeared. There are a few theories about what happened him. One theory is that he was shot during a highway robbery in 1870 by a Constable Walker in Uralla; however the locals at the time maintained that it was Ward's uncle who was killed and not Captain Thunderbolt. Another theory was that he had fled to America where a "Frederick Ward" shows up in an American census in 1871.

Captain Thunderbolt's violent legacy remains with a statue to him in Uralla and at the Moonan Flat Pub in Scone, where there still remains a bullet hole in the wall made by the bushranger during a hold up.