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Posts Tagged ‘tower’

Grand Canyon Desert View Watchtower (click to enlarge)

Grand Canyon Desert View Watchtower (click to enlarge)


View of eastern Grand Canyon from Desert View (click to enlarge)

View of eastern Grand Canyon from Desert View (click to enlarge)


Looking up inside the Watchtower (click to enlarge)

Looking up inside the Watchtower (click to enlarge)


Kabotie Mural in Desert View Watchtower

Kabotie Mural in Desert View Watchtower


“Build a structure that provides the widest possible view of Grand Canyon yet harmonizes with its setting: this was architect Mary Colter’s goal when the Fred Harvey Company hired her in 1930 to design a gift shop and rest area at Desert View. Colter’s answer was the Watchtower.

A perfectionist, Colter scrutinized every detail, down to the placement of nearly every stone. Each stone was handpicked for size and appearance. Weathered faces were left untouched to give the tower an ancient look. With a lavish, highly publicized dedication ceremony, the Watchtower opened in May 1933.

The Indian Watchtower is at the eastern end of the south rim of the Grand Canyon. From a distance the building’s silhouette looks like the Anasazi watchtower it was meant to mimic. In actual size the tower is considerably larger than any known Anasazi tower. In plan the structure is composed of one enormous circle at the north, a small circle at the south, and gently arced forms connecting the two. The largest circle and the arced portions are the sections of that building that are just one story in height. The smaller circular plan is for the tower itself, more than five stories high. The building sits out on a promontory overlooking the Grand Canyon.

The most noteworthy aspect of the exterior is the stonework–a variety of uncoursed rubble below and coursed sandstone above, with decorative patterns of triangular stones adding architectural interest directly below the tower’s parapet and other bands of color masonry adding even more visual interest.”

Text and image source: Grand Canyon Desert View Watchtower
Image source: Field Studies in the Grand Canyon Region
Image source: Adam Schallau.com
Image source: Flickr

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Rainwater Towers Apartments (click to enlarge)

Rainwater Towers Apartments (click to enlarge)


Specifications: Three 16′ interior diameter roundhouses, total 660 sq. ft. interior, one bedroom, one bath, Footprint: 39′ x 43′

Description: This three-story, triple roundhouse tower apartment complex is designed to provide affordable housing in urban areas. The towers are primarily earthen construction. Made with earthbag tubes filled with earth and tamped solid, very few manufactured/processed materials are required. This greatly reduces construction costs. The apartment name comes from the fact rainwater is captured on the roof and directed to underground cisterns, which reduces demand on city water supplies. Each apartment is accessible by a spiral staircase in the front tower. Features include spacious 201 sq. ft. bedroom with large closet, modern kitchen and comfortable living room. All rooms are round to create an embracing, inviting ambience. The round towers are naturally stable and form a visually striking exterior.

Rainwater Towers Apartments floorplan (click to enlarge)

Rainwater Towers Apartments floorplan (click to enlarge)

Over 120 more plans at Earthbag House Plans.

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Earthbag Castle (click to enlarge)

Earthbag Castle (click to enlarge)


My goal with this project has been twofold: 1. showcase individual designs (which included some designs that have been on the drawing board for months), and 2. combine them into a self sustaining, fortified homestead, where a group of 5-20 people could weather economic and social upheaval. It is not designed to withstand a direct missile or tank attack by governments, or total nuclear Armageddon. All bets are off if things get that bad. But the 10’ high by 3’ thick walls (at the base) should go a long way toward deterring attackers if things do unravel. Anyway, this has been an interesting project and I’m glad to see the high page rankings. It’s definitely been a lot of work.

Earthbag Castle summary:
– The castle consists of four structures – Custom Chonburi main residence, Two-story Roundhouse Above Survival Shelter guesthouse/office, Carriage House with second floor garage apartment, Guard Tower tool shed.
– All structures include a waterproof roof deck with ladder access and crenellations capped with cement or geopolymer
– All structures are also available with more standard roof designs at no extra charge (example: trussed gable roofs).
– Renewable energy systems not shown, but there is ample roof space for solar panels, solar water heaters and wind generators
– Due to a lack of protective roof overhangs, this castle is best suited to dry climates, although a reader pointed out how similar castles have stood the test of time in European climates.
– All plans can be modified for a modest fee. Just email me at strawhouses [at] yahoo.com.

Earthbag House Plans

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Observation Tower (click to enlarge)

Observation Tower (click to enlarge)


Observation Tower
Specifications: 133 sq. ft. interior, , 99 sq. ft. upper floor, total = 232 sq. ft. interior, plus roof deck, Footprint: 15′-6” diameter

Description: The Observation Tower for my Dome Fort (coming soon) could also be used for other purposes such as an office, pantry or even spare bedroom. The kids would love it. A spiraling staircase joins the first three floors, and a ladder provides access to the roof deck. Total height is 31’. The same tower is used in my Native Spirit home design.

Round Guard Tower (click to enlarge)

Round Guard Tower (click to enlarge)


Specifications: 133 sq. ft. interior, , 99 sq. ft. upper floor, total = 232 sq. ft. interior, plus roof deck, Footprint: 15′-6” diameter

Description: This guard tower for my Dome Fort could also be used for other purposes such as an office, pantry or even spare bedroom. The kids would love it (and big kids, too). A spiraling staircase joins the first and second floors, and a ladder provides access to the roof deck. Total height is 22’. The Round Guard Tower is the same as the Observation Tower except it is one floor (9’) shorter.

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Carriage House (click to enlarge)

Carriage House (click to enlarge)


These structures complete the series for my Earthbag Castle: Custom Chonburi, Tower House, Carriage House and Guard Tower. Now, everything has to be put together inside the castle wall. Stay tuned.

The Carriage House is a garage with some shop space and a second floor apartment for extended family or ‘servants’. The Guard Tower serves as a tool shed and observation tower in ‘peaceful’ times. It could also function as a small dwelling for some workers.

Guard Tower (click to enlarge)

Guard Tower (click to enlarge)

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Castle Tower House (click to enlarge)

Castle Tower House (click to enlarge)


The Castle Tower House is largely the same plan as the 2-story Roundhouse Above Survival Shelter with a crenellated roof design. In the earthbag castle I’m currently designing it’s used as a corner ‘watch tower’. Its primary function in ‘peace time’ is a guesthouse or office. Compare this version to the original plan to see how a few minor changes can make a lot of difference in appearance.

Specifications: 20’ DIA roundhouse, 314 sq. ft. interior first floor, 252 sq. ft. interior loft, 314 sq. ft. interior survival shelter plus pantry), 880 total square foot interior, Footprint: 23′ DIA, 23′ x 31′ survival shelter

Description: Every castle worth its name has to have at least one underground survival shelter. In this case it’s underneath the Tower House. It’s prudent to have a safe place to go to in case of emergencies, and what better place than your basement. Hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards and other natural disasters are all too common. While others panic and run for last minute preparations, you can calmly retreat to your basement (through a hidden trap door) that’s wisely stocked with everything you need to ride out the disaster.

More details on the Earthbag Survival Shelter that’s also sold separately (an excellent starter project and one of my most popular designs).

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Earthbag Tower House (click to enlarge)

Earthbag Tower House (click to enlarge)


This intriguing tower house slopes from 21 feet interior diameter at ground level to 13 feet diameter at the third floor observation deck. It’s perfect for environments with high winds and good views. Total interior square feet: 705

Towers such as this, including my Native Spirit design, are best built with earthbags filled with scoria or pumice. This provides insulated walls that are rot proof, fireproof, lightweight and easy to build.

More information is on my Earthbag House Plans site, that has over 100 small, affordable house plans.

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