Dr. Evermor's Forevertron (photograph by Matt Bergstrom)
Around the world, self-taught builders have been inspired by dreams and daydreams to decorate their homes and yards with elaborate sculptures and artwork. These spectacular art gardens are visions of a more magical world realized through obsession. Here are eight of the world's most stunning outsider art gardens.
photograph by M.Maselli
One of the oldest documented outsider art gardens is the grandly named Palais Idéal, built by letter carrier Ferdinand Cheval in Hauterives, France.
While walking his long country mail route he often passed the time pondering architecture and world history. One day in 1879, he tripped over a rock that startled him from his reveries. Looking down, the strange shape of this stone inspired him, and he decided he must get to work now or he’d waste the rest of his life daydreaming. At first he would fill his pockets with other interesting rocks found on his route, and then later he used a wheelbarrow to gather increasing quantities of stone.
photograph by Daderot/Wikimedia
Working late each night with the experimental new modern material of concrete, he spent 33 years building his fantasy palace, which was finally complete in 1912. The structure is a romantic confection, densely covered with shapes and textures evoking exotic architecture, plants, and animals. Three colossal figures of César, Vercingétorix, and Archimedes support the Barbary Tower lookout. The trusty wheelbarrow is enshrined in a grotto inside the structure, and the strange stone that inspired the place is cemented in a place of honor as well. Along the walls are dozens of Cheval's boastful inscriptions about his accomplishment as a lowly but patient toiler who succeeded in making his dreams a concrete reality.
photograph by Gachepi/Wikimedia
photograph by Marine69/Wikimedia
THE GARDEN OF EDEN
photograph by soupstance/Flickr user
On the other side of the world, in the small town of Lucas, Kansas, Samuel P. Dinsmoor was also experimenting with cement to build a backyard Garden of Eden. After retiring from farming nearby in 1905, Dinsmoor moved into town and constructed an unusual stone house in the style of a log cabin.
photograph by Aaron Sumner
Instead of an ethereal dream palace like the Palais Ideal, Dinsmoor conceived of his "Cabin Home" as a showcase for his populist political views addressing the injustices of American society. Perhaps inspired by Masonic allegorical imagery, he filled the yard with a complex tableau of dozens of three dimensional figures leading from Adam and Eve’s original sin to the modern-day struggles of workers against capitalist injustice.