Follies: Humans Wasting Cash For Kudos

On September 5, 2014 by Tim Newman

It seems that for as long as humanity has had time and money it has been wantonly wasting it. Money wasting is as human a trait as yawning or the pox. People have been creating expensive, useless buildings and outhouses for no other reason than to show off since rich people were invented in the 16th century. A folly according to the OED is…

…a popular name for any costly structure considered to have shown folly in the builder

In short a folly is a building or structure with no real use other than for decoration; or a building that was ridiculously expensive to build without adding any actual benefits to the area. Follies differ from classical sculptures because they’re buildings rather than art per se. To all intents and purposes a folly looks as though it should be useful but it isn’t. It’s a phsycial manifestation of whimsy.

Follies started out as Gothic outhouses and additions to English gardens, and slowly mutated into buildings inspired by far flung mystical places like China and India.

Here are a few examples of such follies for you to point and laugh at, maybe shed a tear and stare with jaws agape:

Roman Ruins at Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna

Folly - Roman Ruins at Schönbrunn Palace 2

Erected in 1778 these faux Roman ruins were initially built for Emperor Maximillian II but had been relegated to a podwer store until they were moved to Schönbrunn Palace.

Chanteloup Pagoda, France

Folly - Chanteloup Pagoda, near Amboise

This exotic Chinese tower, built under King Louis XVI within an exotic Asian garden, is the only remain of the Duke of Choiseul’s chateau, destroyed in 1823. The views of the Loire Valley from the top are particularly enchanting, so I’ve heard.

Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe Water Features, Germany

Folly - Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe Water Features, Germany

Majestically pointless and wonderfully ornate, this water feature in Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe is quite breathtaking. Work began on the ornamental “mountain park” in 1696 and took 150 years to complete.

Schwetzingen Castle Mosque, Germany

Folly - Mosque in the Schwetzingen Castle

Built in the late 18th century, this is the earliest mosque shaped building in Germany. At the time a “Turkish” kind of style was all the rage. The building was never meant to be used for prayer but over the ages it has been used appropriately. The mosque still counts as a folly because its intention was to wow and impressive without being useful at all.

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