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Folly Architecture: Eccentric Buildings around the World

Updated on January 16, 2017
The Pfaueninsel Castlebuilt by Friedrich Wilhelm II in 1794-97. It's a UNESCO World Heritage site in Berlin-Wannsee.
The Pfaueninsel Castlebuilt by Friedrich Wilhelm II in 1794-97. It's a UNESCO World Heritage site in Berlin-Wannsee. | Source

Follies as its name suggests, are buildings that seem without sense or practical use.

The follies appeared in the English gardens at the beginning of the eighteenth century and spread with the fashion of the landscaped gardens. Folly parks were built during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

The word comes from the Anglo-French word "folie" meaning foolish acts or ideas what looks like the right word to match with such structures since they are most of the times associated with the owner's craziness. Often people didn't need those buildings, they only dreamed about exquisite and different gardens, that no one else possessed.

Generally it's not correct to say they were useless taking in mind all follies build for such reasons as summer-houses, temples, ice-houses, tower hunts, gateways and other. The fact is they are unusual structures usually inside gardens.They have all sorts of forms and designs like grottos, castles, towers, fake ruins or bridges but they were all built as a result of outstanding ambition.Rich people, most of the times nouveau riches, frequently wished to become noticed by extravaganza. If neighbors had a nice garden they had to create a better one.

Ireland owns some of the most beautiful follies, build during famine times when cheap workers were countless but, as rich and excentric people ever existed we continue to find endless old and modern follies worldwide.

foolish monuments to greatness and great monuments to foolishness

— Stuart Barton
Oscar's Tower in Soderhamn, Sweeden built in 1895 as a memorial.
Oscar's Tower in Soderhamn, Sweeden built in 1895 as a memorial. | Source
Initiation Well or inverted tower in Quinta da Regaleira, Portugal dating from 1910.
Initiation Well or inverted tower in Quinta da Regaleira, Portugal dating from 1910. | Source

Follies are commonly grouped into four main picturesque typologies:


Classical, inspired by the antique: temples, rotundas or colonnades with antiquities motifs.

Exotic, inspired by distant lands: pagodas, Chinese gates, pyramids.

Natural: dolmens, caves or artificial rocks.

Rural: thatched cottages, huts, and reproductions of vernacular architectures.

According to the importance of the parks, the four typologies cohabit or succeed each other in the course of a walk and the discovery of the garden.

The Lija Belvedere Tower, officially Torri Belvedere, is a belvedere in Lija, Malta. It was built in the 19th century as a folly within a private garden, and it is now located on a roundabout.
The Lija Belvedere Tower, officially Torri Belvedere, is a belvedere in Lija, Malta. It was built in the 19th century as a folly within a private garden, and it is now located on a roundabout. | Source
Built in 1912, the Swallow's Nest is one of the Neo-Gothic châteaux fantastiques near Yalta.
Built in 1912, the Swallow's Nest is one of the Neo-Gothic châteaux fantastiques near Yalta. | Source
The Iulia Hasdeu Castle is a folly house built in the form of small castle by historian and politician Bogdan Petriceicu Hasdeu in the city of Câmpina, Romania in 1893.
The Iulia Hasdeu Castle is a folly house built in the form of small castle by historian and politician Bogdan Petriceicu Hasdeu in the city of Câmpina, Romania in 1893. | Source
leaning house in the park of monsters, close to Bomarzo, Italy dating from 16th century
leaning house in the park of monsters, close to Bomarzo, Italy dating from 16th century | Source
El Capricho ("The Folly") is a building in Comillas, Spain designed by Antoni Gaudi. It was built in 1883-1885 as a summer villa for Maximo Diaz de Quijano.
El Capricho ("The Folly") is a building in Comillas, Spain designed by Antoni Gaudi. It was built in 1883-1885 as a summer villa for Maximo Diaz de Quijano. | Source
The Palace of Fine Arts in the Marina District of San Francisco, California, is a monumental structure originally constructed for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in order to exhibit works of art presented there.
The Palace of Fine Arts in the Marina District of San Francisco, California, is a monumental structure originally constructed for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in order to exhibit works of art presented there. | Source
The Leaning Tower of Niles is a half-size replica of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Located in Niles, Illinois, it was completed in 1934 by industrialist Robert Ilg as part of a recreation park for employees of the Ilg Hot Air Electric Ventilating Compan
The Leaning Tower of Niles is a half-size replica of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Located in Niles, Illinois, it was completed in 1934 by industrialist Robert Ilg as part of a recreation park for employees of the Ilg Hot Air Electric Ventilating Compan | Source
Elsinore Arch (also known as Elsinore Tower) is a registered historic structure in Cincinnati, Ohio, constructed in 1883 for the Cincinnati Water Works.
Elsinore Arch (also known as Elsinore Tower) is a registered historic structure in Cincinnati, Ohio, constructed in 1883 for the Cincinnati Water Works. | Source
Bancroft Tower is a 56-foot-high (17 m) natural stone and granite tower, which looks like a miniature feudal castle. It is located in Salisbury Park, in the city of Worcester, Massachusetts. It was erected in 1900, in memory of George Bancroft.
Bancroft Tower is a 56-foot-high (17 m) natural stone and granite tower, which looks like a miniature feudal castle. It is located in Salisbury Park, in the city of Worcester, Massachusetts. It was erected in 1900, in memory of George Bancroft. | Source
A Goat Tower is a decorative goat house, modeled on a European garden Folly, an early example of which was built in Portugal in the 19th century. This South African goat tower at Fairview Winery was built in the 20th century and became famous.
A Goat Tower is a decorative goat house, modeled on a European garden Folly, an early example of which was built in Portugal in the 19th century. This South African goat tower at Fairview Winery was built in the 20th century and became famous. | Source
Folly in La Garenne Lemot, France
Folly in La Garenne Lemot, France | Source
The octagonal Belvedere was built between (1778-81), and consecrated to the four Seasons, in the newly-informal gardens of the Petit Trianon at Versailles.
The octagonal Belvedere was built between (1778-81), and consecrated to the four Seasons, in the newly-informal gardens of the Petit Trianon at Versailles. | Source
The Egyptian Pyramid (1778) in Parc Monceau, France
The Egyptian Pyramid (1778) in Parc Monceau, France | Source
The Temple of Philosophy at Ermenonville, France, 1776
The Temple of Philosophy at Ermenonville, France, 1776 | Source
The Wonderful Barn is a corkscrew-shaped building in Ireland dating from 1743
The Wonderful Barn is a corkscrew-shaped building in Ireland dating from 1743 | Source
 the Jealous Wall was erected to block out the view of the brother's owner nearby mansion,  suspected of fancying his wife. It is one of several remarkable follies which may be seen in the parkland at Belvedere, Ireland
the Jealous Wall was erected to block out the view of the brother's owner nearby mansion, suspected of fancying his wife. It is one of several remarkable follies which may be seen in the parkland at Belvedere, Ireland | Source
The Dunmore Pineapple, a folly ranked "as the most bizarre building in Scotland", stands in Dunmore Park, near Airth in Stirlingshire, Scotland.
The Dunmore Pineapple, a folly ranked "as the most bizarre building in Scotland", stands in Dunmore Park, near Airth in Stirlingshire, Scotland. | Source
Carn Brea Castle on Carn Brea is a 14th-century granite stone building which was extensively remodelled in the 18th century as a hunting lodge in the style of a castle for the Basset family.
Carn Brea Castle on Carn Brea is a 14th-century granite stone building which was extensively remodelled in the 18th century as a hunting lodge in the style of a castle for the Basset family. | Source
The Chinese House, Stowe Built in 1738 (probably the earliest chinese building in England), it was originally located in the Elysian Fields. It was moved from Stowe in 1750, but purchased and returned to its present location by the National Trust in
The Chinese House, Stowe Built in 1738 (probably the earliest chinese building in England), it was originally located in the Elysian Fields. It was moved from Stowe in 1750, but purchased and returned to its present location by the National Trust in | Source
Appley Tower, Ryde, Isle of Wight. A folly built in 1875 for Sir William Hutt, who described it as "The Watch Tower". Designed by Thomas Hellyer and built by Isaac Barton.
Appley Tower, Ryde, Isle of Wight. A folly built in 1875 for Sir William Hutt, who described it as "The Watch Tower". Designed by Thomas Hellyer and built by Isaac Barton. | Source
The Grotto of Old Wardour Castle was built in 1792 by Josiah Lane of Tisbury. He was commissioned to build the artificial cave, complete with dripping water, fossils and ferns from brick, plaster and stone from the ruins of the castle. The grotto als
The Grotto of Old Wardour Castle was built in 1792 by Josiah Lane of Tisbury. He was commissioned to build the artificial cave, complete with dripping water, fossils and ferns from brick, plaster and stone from the ruins of the castle. The grotto als | Source
The Druids' Temple is a replica of Stonehenge built in about 1800 by William Danby in Ilton, North Yorkshire. During a time of agricultural depression and high unemployment, Danby hired local men to construct the folly, working at a full shilling a d
The Druids' Temple is a replica of Stonehenge built in about 1800 by William Danby in Ilton, North Yorkshire. During a time of agricultural depression and high unemployment, Danby hired local men to construct the folly, working at a full shilling a d | Source
White Nancy which stands above Bollington Cheshire was built in 1817 by John Gaskell junior of North End Farm to commemorate the victory at the Battle of Waterloo
White Nancy which stands above Bollington Cheshire was built in 1817 by John Gaskell junior of North End Farm to commemorate the victory at the Battle of Waterloo | Source
Eccentric landowner John Perrott built the folly in 1758. JRR Tolkien lived in its shadow in nearby Stirling Road during his childhood. The Folly and The Waterworks tower which together are said to be the inspiration for the two towers
Eccentric landowner John Perrott built the folly in 1758. JRR Tolkien lived in its shadow in nearby Stirling Road during his childhood. The Folly and The Waterworks tower which together are said to be the inspiration for the two towers | Source
Broadway Tower, a folly in the English county of Worcestershire. The "Saxon" tower was designed by James Wyatt in 1794 to resemble a mock castle, and built for Lady Coventry in 1799.
Broadway Tower, a folly in the English county of Worcestershire. The "Saxon" tower was designed by James Wyatt in 1794 to resemble a mock castle, and built for Lady Coventry in 1799. | Source

Building a folly in Barnsdale, home of Robin Hood.

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    • Margaridab profile imageAUTHOR

      Margarida Borges 

      22 months ago from Lyon, France

      There are also plenty of them in the United States!

    • Amanda108 profile image

      Amanda 

      22 months ago from Michigan, United States

      I would love to visit any of these! I love seeing unique architecture.

    • Margaridab profile imageAUTHOR

      Margarida Borges 

      22 months ago from Lyon, France

      I'm not good with gardens.. I would prefer something like the Swallow's Nest, to enjoy the sea while reading and having a beer.. ;)

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 

      22 months ago from the short journey

      So enjoyed seeing these follies! Thanks for putting them together in a hub. It would be such fun to build a mini one…perhaps a jealousy wall as a privacy fence, or a set of faux towers with an arched doorway to a garden. The faux towers could hold my gardening tools so they wouldn't be complete follies. :)

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