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Top 10 buildings built with booze bottles

In a world of waste any attempt to reduce and reuse should be applauded, which makes the following bottle-based constructions not only impressive works of art, but eco-friendly landmarks.

William Peck outside his bottle house in Tonopah, Nevada, believed to be the first, built in 1902

With millions of bottles discarded everyday, it makes sense for such waste to be given a second lease of life, rather than risk it ending up in a landfill. The bottle’s proclivity for construction has not gone unnoticed. In fact, the use of bottles in construction dates back to ancient Rome, when discarded Amphorae would often be embedded in concrete to form solid foundations.

However the use of glass bottles to construct buildings only really started to take off in the early 20th century. The first bottle house was built in 1902 by William Peck. Constructed out of 10,000 beer bottles scavenged from saloons, the home comprised of a one-story, 16×20 feet dwelling with five rooms. Thought to be the first of its kind, Peck’s bottle house was demolished in the early 1980s.

Since then, the art of bottle construction has been taken up by imaginative architects the world over, who have used beer, whisky, Champagne and wine bottles to craft extraordinary spaces. While brilliant examples of ingenuity, they also raise debate over how the drinks industry might better contribute to environmentally-friendly initiatives to dispose of the millions of bottles it produces each year.

Click through for our pick of some of the world’s best bottle houses…

10. The (still standing) beer bottle house, Rhyolite, Nevada, US

Then – 1905

Built around 1905 by Tom Kelly out of 50,000 beer bottles, this house still stands in the now ghost town of Rhyolite in Nevada. With lumber scarce in the deserts of Nevada, Kelly turned to discarded beer, whisky and medicine bottles to build a house for his family, which today serves as an oddball tourist destination.

Even more impressive, Mr Kelly was 76 years old when he started building the unique structure, taking six months to complete it. The property was restored and re-roofed by Paramount Pictures in 1925 in preparation for use in a (silent) movie, The Air Mail, and was later given to the Beatty Improvement Association for maintenance as a historical site. It later fell into the hands of Louis J. Murphy and a woman named Bessie Stratton Moffat, who together maintained it as a museum until he died in 1956. It then passed to a Tommy Thompson and his wife, who continued its tradition as a museum and relic shop. Their son, Evan Thompson, was the last known person to live in the house, which is now empty.


9. The ‘Blotto Grotto’, Hertfordshire, UK

Richard Pim, from Pembridge, a finalist in the eco category of the 2014 Shed of the Year competition sponsored by Cuprinol for his Bottle Grotto shed. The shed has been selected from over 2,000 entries by more than 20,000 public votes. The winner will be announced during Channel 4's Amazing Spaces: Shed of the Year series, to be aired over three episodes, starting on 24th July at 8pm. As well as the prestigious title, the winner will receive £1,000 courtesy of sponsors Cuprinol and a commemorative winners wooden plaque for their shed.

Built by 75-year-old Richard Pim of Pembridge, Hertfordshire, this igloo-esque structure was shortlisted as one of 32 finalists in the 2014 UK Shed of the Year competition. Officially known as Bottle Dome, the structure has attracted the affectionate moniker of the ‘Blotto Grotto’, due to the fact that it is made from 5,000 wines bottles set between crossed arches, like a “huge hot-cross bun”, according to its owner Pim, a retired engineer.

The 19ft wide dome is just one of Mr Pim’s garden creations on show at Westonbury Mill Water Gardens, which he has spent the last 15 years building and which is open to the public.

8. The Bottle House, Knott’s Berry Farm, California, US


Made from over 3,000 whisky bottles, The Bottle House at Knott’s Farm amusement park in California is today used as “Indian Trader” store. The house was actually a remake of the Rhyolite Bottle House in Nevada. Completed in 1945, the Bottle House was the first permanent structure at Knott’s Berry Farm, offering souvenirs for sale and serving as the unofficial information centre of its ‘Ghost Town’.

7. Champagne bottle house, Russia


In 2015 the existence of a building constructed out of 12,000 Champagne bottles in the Russian city of Chelyabinsk came to light. Known as the “Palace of Oz”, the house was built by 52-year-old Hamidullah Ilchibaev, who collected the bottles over three years to build this 99-square meter house. Using the bottles as bricks, Ilchibaev stacked his collection bottle neck inwards around a solid foundation leaving a gap between the insulation and the top of the bottle into which he poured a solution to hold the bottles in place, as well as keeping the building warm.

Hamidullah is confident that the house, which he gave as a wedding gift to his eldest son, will stand for at least 100 years.

6. The Calico Bottle House, Calico, California, US

calicoAlso inspired by the Rhyolite original, the Calico Bottle House was built in the 1950s when Walter Knott, of Knott’s Berry Farm amusement park in California, set about restoring the Calico Ghost Town as a tourist attraction. Built with more than 5,000 bottles, the town of Calico, along with its Bottle House, was donated to San Bernardino County in 1966. It was empty from then until 2013, when it reopened as The Dog House, which sells dog treats.

5. The Kaleva Bottle House in Kaleva, Michigan, US

kaleve_bottle_houseThe Kaleva Bottle House was built by Finland native John Makinen, who moved his family to Michigan in 1903. Makinen was an employee of the Northwestern Bottling Works Company in Kaleva, where most of the 60,000 bottles used to build the house came from. A selection of bottles were arranged in such a way as to spell our “Happy Home” on the front exterior. Work to build the house was completed in 1941, the year before Makinen’s death, meaning he never moved in.

The Kaleva Historical Society bought the house in 1980, followed by the Kaleva Historical Museum in 1981 for use as a museum, which is still is use today.

4. The Heineken WOBO (World Bottle)

aaaaWhile not a building itself, we feel that Alfred Heineken’s attempts to product a “brick that holds beer” is worthy of a mention, and an idea which if it had been successful could have helped solve many issues surrounding the disposal of waste and availability of building materials.

While on a tour of his breweries in 1960, Alfred Heineken came up with the idea to create bottles for the specific purpose of later being reused as building bricks after seeing empty bottles discarded on the Caribbean island of Curaçao, where building materials were expensive and poverty rife.

He asked Dutch architect John Habraken to design what he called “a brick that holds beer”, (building upon a similar Block-o-beer-bottle developed in 1959 by the east German Radeberger Brewery).

Heineken spent three years developing the WOBO, and while many designs proved effective, they were believed to be “too heavy and slow-forming” to be produced on an economic scale. The eventual design saw bottles interlocked and intended to laid horizontally and bonded with cement, with their necks collapsing into the base of each bottle. In 1963, 100,000 WOBOs were produced in two sizes, 350 and 500 mm, however the bottles failed to be taken up by construction firms. Today, only two WOBO structures are believed to exist; a small shed and a timber double garage with WOBO siding. Both are located on the Heineken estate in Noordwijk, near Amsterdam.

Most of the WOBO bottles were destroyed, with those that do exist now a collector’s item.

3. Beer can house, Houston, Texas, US


While not strictly made from bottles, John Milkovisch’s beer can house is worth a mention. Starting life in 1968, the house has evolved over four decades to become a staple on tourist road maps of alternative America. Bored with his suburban home, John began tinkering with beer can decor in the late 60s, first decorating his patio with pieces of brass, marbles and buttons. Not satisfied, he then moved on to the main house, flattening beer cans and using them to adorn its exterior walls. Over the next 18 years his obsession with beer can design grew until his entire house was covered. It’s estimated that around 40,000 cans have gone into creating his masterpiece. The strung curtains draped around the front of the house are made from the ring pulls of beer cans.

John died in 1988, and today his home is owned by preservation society the Orange Show Foundation.

2. The Bottle Houses, Cap-Egmont, Canada


A truly unique collection, The Bottles Houses, in Canada, were constructed out of 25 000 recycled bottles. Located in Cap-Egmont, Prince Edward Island, they were built by the late Édouard T. Arsenault, who embarked on the project in 1980 after receiving a postcard of The Glass Castle – an attraction on Vancouver Island – from his daughter.

That summer, he began collecting bottles to create his own attraction. Arsenault began work on the project which comprised three buildings the six-gabled house, the tavern and the chapel. The first, the six-gabled house, was constructed from some 12,000 bottles. Next came the tavern in 1982, which is made up of 8,000 bottles, and lastly the chapel, built in 1983 from around 10,000 bottles. As planned, the buildings have become a popular tourist site.

1. Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew temple, Thailand


Perhaps the grandest of up-cycled buildings in the world, the Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew Buddhist temple in Thailand was built with more than 1.5 million green Heineken bottles and brown Chang beer bottles and is appropriately known as the “Temple of a Million Bottles”. Construction began in 1984, with the main building completed two years later. In addition to the bottles themselves, the bottle caps are used to create mosaics. The motivation behind the build came from the monks themselves, who were at the time looking for ways to improve waste disposal in their area and ways to live that were more environmentally friendly.

The monks have continued to add to the site ever since, with some 20 further buildings, constructed in a similar fashion, since built including a crematorium, a series of prayer rooms, water tower, bathrooms and housing for the monks.


And finally, the Can House of Hartlepool, UK


Covered in flattened Fosters’ beer cans, The Can House, on a council estate in Hartlepool, is a much-talked about local oddity. It was created by Philip “the can man” Muspratt, who one day decided to literally give his home a lager top to help raise some money for his local church. It isn’t just the house that Philip decorated with empty cans. He also used them to design ornamental fountains, a barbecue and to depict a giant cross on the side of the house.

The house became the subject of a 52-minute documentary, The Can House, made by Maxy Bianco and Michael Smith (who incidentally is the cousin of db writer Darren Smith). Writing on his blog Smith said the can-adorned house, made by a “family of chronic alcoholics”, was a “truly heroic/tragic/comic hymn to alcohol”. Sadly, Philip Muspratt died last year.


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