When we think of functional structures that make our lives easier, we might often imagine sleek and modern ones with innovative designs. But sometimes, such structures may look nothing like we’d ever imagined. In fact, there are some strangely designed objects out there that have an important and practical function in our lives. However, their simple ingenuity and usefulness often make up for how unusual they appear. So, with that in mind, let’s have a look at some unusual designs that actually serve a purpose.
1. “Ha-ha” walls are a type of boundary wall built primarily during the 18th century. They consist of a sunken stone wall, with its top level with the land, and a deep ditch on the far side. Such walls would be invisible from the house and allowed for an unobstructed view of the land.
First described in print in 1709, “ha-ha” walls are nothing short of quirky. These typically formed a boundary between an estate’s gardens and grounds, but without blocking the view from the house.
For this, it would sport a deep ditch on one side of the wall that then climbed up steeply to meet the surrounding grounds. Meanwhile, the wall would be short enough that its top was level with the encircled land.
According to Dezallier d’Argenville, an 18th-century French gardening enthusiast, the wall derives its name from how it would make people exclaim “Ah! Ah!” in surprise.
Until the 1720s, these walls were a feature of French gardens. But when Charles Bridgeman and John Lee installed them at the gardens at Stowe, it became one of the first few examples of the ha-ha walls in England. From there, these walls became widespread in many parts of the world, where they still remain. (1, 2)
2. The Laguna Garźon Bridge in Uruguay is built with an unusual circular design, complete with observation decks, fishing points, and pedestrian crossings. This ensures that cars slow down on the bridge and avoid accidents, while also allowing people to enjoy the view.
Most bridges are only concerned with transporting things and people from one side to another. But Uruguay’s Laguna Garźon Bridge is a different breed. Designed by a New York-based architect, Rafael Viñoly, this bridge is unusually circular in shape. However, this is not without good cause.
For one, the bridge stands in a lagoon that previously needed rudimentary rafts to get across. But since its opening, close to 1,000 vehicles have been able to pass through each day. The circular shape of the bridge helps control this traffic by forcing cars to slow down.
But more importantly, it also allows people to take a moment and appreciate the beauty they are zooming past. For this reason, the bridge comes fully equipped with pedestrian crossings, fishing points, and observation decks that allow people to enjoy the breathtaking view.
3. In the German city of Ulm, solar-powered sleep capsules have been installed to provide shelter to homeless people during the winter. These cabins are made from steel and wood and have sensors that monitor temperature, humidity, and carbon monoxide levels. They also have a ventilation system that provides clean air to their occupants.
Many homeless people end up sleeping on the streets, and winters can be particularly tough for them to get through. But in Ulm, Germany, a team of six business people has tackled this issue head-on. They have installed specially designed sleep pods throughout the city to provide an emergency shelter for people caught in the cold.
Known as the “Ulmer Nest,” these solar-powered pods provide numerous facilities to their occupants. They are made from steel and wood designed to be windproof and waterproof and can house up to two people at a time.
These also come equipped with specialized sensors for temperature, humidity, smoke, and carbon monoxide levels. However, to preserve the privacy of their occupants, the pods do not have cameras inside.
Unsurprisingly, the pods have received an overwhelmingly positive response. However, their creators have been careful to point out that these pods are not a replacement for proper overnight shelters. (1, 2)
4. A Dutch company has created an unusually shaped underground walk-in fridge with a storage capacity of 3,000 liters. It does not require electricity but does have a battery-driven ventilation system to supplement the cooling process during hot seasons. It also has a padlock to keep intruders out.
If you’re unsure how to spend your next £15,000 ($20,000), we’ve got the perfect idea for you. A Dutch company has created an underground fridge to keep food safe from germs without using electricity.
Like the underground cellars of the olden days, this “Groundfridge” also needs to be buried in the ground. Since underground structures are sheltered from the sun and its heat, this fridge can keep any food inside it fresh without using much power.
However, it also comes with a battery-powered ventilator that boosts its cooling function during the summer. But for the winters, its layers of insulation are more than enough to keep food fresh.
5. “Crinkle crankle” walls are a common sight in Suffolk, UK. The bricks of these walls are lined in a curve that looks like a ribbon. This design requires only a single line of bricks and its wavy shape provides better stability.
For residents of Suffolk, UK, “crinkle-crankle” walls may seem like an ordinary part of their lives. In fact, these walls are so steeped in local history that even their names come from a Suffolk dialect term for “sinuously curving” or “snake-like.” However, these unusual serpentine walls are anything but ordinary.
In their most traditional forms, these walls are perhaps one of the most efficient uses of resources. They need just a single line of bricks and are often sturdier than regular brick walls because their curvy natures provide their own stability.
Surprisingly, although Suffolk is known for them, the crinkle-crankle wall likely dates all the way back to ancient Egypt. Sadly, they require great skill to build, and modern construction techniques have reduced any need for such walls. As a result, these walls have now become a remnant of the past. (1, 2)
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