A Castle in the Making
May 4, 2010 9:50 PM   Subscribe

Ozark Medieval Fortress – Thirty masons, carpenters and stone carvers authentically dressed, will work all year round for twenty years, the time required to build a fortress in the Middle Ages.
posted by tellurian (74 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
The planning of a medieval castle had to answer several essential questions: Is the site suitable? Can it be defended? Are the building materials available? The answers of these questions influenced the eventual shape of the castle.

I hope those questions also influenced where they're going to build it.

How do they get around hard-hat regulations, I wonder?
posted by dunkadunc at 9:57 PM on May 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


I just think it's awesome that Michael Guyot, The Inventor, is a visionary amateur. What college'd ya go to for that?
posted by TheManChild2000 at 10:00 PM on May 4, 2010


Thirty masons, carpenters and stone carvers authentically dressed, will work all year round for twenty years

On average? Do they get time off for their children's marriages? I actually find this to be really cool. I hope it turns out better than Biosphere. I'd consider visiting it once they get going.
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:07 PM on May 4, 2010


So are these guys dorks or nerds?
posted by nola at 10:10 PM on May 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


I admire the ambition and dedication and hope it gets completed. The number one reason I'm always a bit disappointed when I get home from being abroad is North America's lack of the sort of structure that doesn't look prefabricated and machine made and built in the last 50 years. Even though this sounds a bit LARP-y, I can get behind it and encourage labors of love like this with the goal of producing a beautiful building that could conceivably stand for generations.
posted by Kirk Grim at 10:13 PM on May 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Are these guys dwarves?
posted by mwhybark at 10:16 PM on May 4, 2010 [5 favorites]


Silly atavism annoy the hell out of me. I mean people in the middle ages gave their lives to these buildings, they were more than forts or even civil monuments. They were the nation and society.

Of course that doesn't mean I wouldn't like to go and watch this going on! (but I hope they aren't making the scaffolds out of reused pine.And I was hoping it would be near Subiaco, Arkansas; every 12th century castle needs some Benedictines around.
posted by Some1 at 10:20 PM on May 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


Like this one perhaps.
posted by Brian B. at 10:29 PM on May 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think this looks really cool. I'd love to visit, and since Branson is a mere 45 minutes away I could try to make my head explode from cognitive dissonance by seeing Yakov Smirnov and the building of a medieval fortress in the same day.
posted by Bromius at 10:33 PM on May 4, 2010


Dwarf Fortress LARP'ing?!
posted by fallingbadgers at 10:34 PM on May 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, there's exactly one reason to move back to Springfield.

Well, okay, and the hills are so beautiful.
posted by Netzapper at 10:41 PM on May 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


It may be ridiculous, but I've been to the Ozarks and it's better than this.
posted by chaff at 10:51 PM on May 4, 2010


They will never finish--but damn it is a magnificent effort!
posted by LarryC at 10:54 PM on May 4, 2010


This is awesome. I'm driving from Virginia to Oklahoma in July, and I'm sure as hell going to make sure my route goes by this place.
posted by pmbuko at 10:57 PM on May 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Someone has to mention Macaulay's Cathedral: the Story of its Construction. Twenty years? Try one hundred, you wimps.
posted by twoleftfeet at 10:57 PM on May 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


When we run out of oil buildings like this will be needed again...this is foresight on their part.

I kid I kid....awesome project.
posted by dibblda at 11:10 PM on May 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


From this site King Bubba II will conquer the Ozarks.
posted by whuppy at 11:12 PM on May 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


Take that, future alien archaeologists...
posted by Phanx at 11:24 PM on May 4, 2010 [12 favorites]


All I can think of is I want to build a castle a couple miles away, crank out some villagers, put them to work gathering supplies so I can build up my eco', upgrade my troops, and then go blow up their fortress.
posted by Lukenlogs at 11:24 PM on May 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


On their jobs page they are hiring a "horse Carter". I have never come across that term before, what is it?
posted by saucysault at 11:28 PM on May 4, 2010


This is very cool. And it will come in handy after the Reaper virus destroys modern civilization.
posted by homunculus at 11:33 PM on May 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thirty masons, carpenters and stone carvers authentically dressed, will work all year round for twenty years

While their families starve. No, wait. It's actually an outdoor museum, so they'll be museum employees paid out of the ticket and souvenir proceeds, right? Or are they going to keep their night jobs? I'd just like to know how a stone carver gets a 20-year gig these days.

Also, I would be interested to know what Missouri's construction site inspectors think of construction workers wearing medieval boots and hats on medieval scaffolding up the side of a 45-foot tower.
posted by pracowity at 11:33 PM on May 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, I would be interested to know what Missouri's construction site inspectors think of construction workers wearing medieval boots and hats on medieval scaffolding up the side of a 45-foot tower.

It could be located in an area that lacks building codes.
posted by Jumpin Jack Flash at 11:37 PM on May 4, 2010


Are you going to Spring School saucysault? A horse carter is someone who transports goods using a horse.
posted by tellurian at 11:43 PM on May 4, 2010


Brian B.: "Like this one perhaps."

Same guy.
posted by stbalbach at 11:47 PM on May 4, 2010


how will they pay for this?
posted by rebent at 11:51 PM on May 4, 2010


It could be located in an area that lacks building codes.

Doesn't labor law apply throughout the state?
posted by pracowity at 11:53 PM on May 4, 2010


posted by Jumpin Jack Flash It could be located in an area that lacks building codes.

In what part(s) of the United States are building codes nonexistent? I work with architects and engineers, so I'm very curious.
posted by mattdidthat at 11:55 PM on May 4, 2010


how will they pay for this?

Tickets. It's a show and the craftsmen are performers. Also, probably souvenirs and snacks.
posted by pracowity at 11:57 PM on May 4, 2010


Wait. I didn't mean to imply that the craftsmen are probably souvenirs and snacks. They could be, I suppose -- "Ladies, imagine a night with a burly medieval stone carver..." -- but it doesn't seem probable. Labor law again.
posted by pracowity at 12:16 AM on May 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


I just think it's awesome that Michael Guyot, The Inventor, is a visionary amateur. What college'd ya go to for that?

I have a colleague who is working on getting her masters degree in biochemistry and, like a good addict, is trying to convince me to join her and shell out thousands of dollars per class for the EE degree I joke about working on. I'm using the Gutenberg Method, have a little lab space set up, have pulled about a zillion data sheets off the web and more books than I can carry. Next stop is a probe for the $15 oscilloscope I picked up on E-bay.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:32 AM on May 5, 2010


It's a show and the craftsmen are performers.

Wait, there are people who will pay money to watch a bunch of geeks in linen gym shorts muck about with hand tools in the woods somewhere? To think of all the years I've been calling it a vacation and paying to do it.

The rope with 13 knots is great and all but I'm a big fan of a medieval tool called "the ruler."
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:40 AM on May 5, 2010


authentically dressed

How did the masons, carpenters and stone carvers that lived in Arkansas between the 5th century and the 15th century dress, I wonder?
posted by soundofsuburbia at 1:47 AM on May 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


It could be located in an area that lacks building codes.

Man, that project will attract building codes. I suggest you become friends with the local political elite. You have a much better chance of surviving your first major workplace accident if you're buddies with the mayor. And don't forget, paying tribute to the King is totally in character.

Come to think of, tithes would also be appropriate. Find out which church the mayor and the county official go to. Then you do some stuff for the mayor and some stuff for the pastor. Build an oak desk for each of their offices. Make an impressive set of front doors for the church. Built the granite Ten Commandments monument that you know they want to put in front of the courthouse. Think about it—that stuff is fun, you'll enjoy it.

When the ACLU calls, have the mayor do a press conference. Then you give a little speech about why you made the monuments and gave them to the church. "When I first moved to this community, I was amazed by warmth and friendliness I felt from the community. Then some bullshit about whatever. [church is focal point of our town] - [first amendment is ignorant of the way our faith diffuses through all parts of life] - [stays with us in all things and can't be walled away] - [sculptor felt an urge, a calling, the give back to the community and church] - [an artist, he turned to his craft] - [slow work, time for reflection, felt presence of God as he carved the rock] - [aclu out to get me just because I see God in beauty, beauty in God] - [aclu trying to outlaw my inspiration] - [too much to bear, I'll take down the statues].

Cool! Now recycle those monuments into valuable political capital. I suggest the backyard garden of either the judge or the mayor.

Heh. Your fort is going to be politically-relevant entity, just like the old ones. Hire a local lawyer to tell you who's who and how to get things done.
posted by ryanrs at 2:21 AM on May 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


I knew a couple of brothers here in Austin who have a business carving stone. Some of the very few master stone carvers in the states; they learned in some sort of apprenticeship in NYC when they were young men, they've worked in NYC, worked in Europe, then back here to the states and formed their business.

I didn't know them well, I knew better a stone carver who worked for them; it was he who told me about apprenticeship as a stone carver. It seems that, if you are accepted by the masters, you are given a chunk of rock and the use of the tools you're going to need to carve this chunk of rock into a perfectly square cube, twelve inches by twelve inches. (It was interesting to me to read about the thirteen knot rope, that twelve equal spaces can be used in many ways in this sort of construction. Having been a carpenter in my faded youth I know how important a tool a piece of string is, in the right hands. Or I thought I did, anyways -- looking at what they do with this thirteen knot rope is super-cool, a lot could be learned there, was I still banging nails. And banging nails or not, it's still interesting to me.)

Anyways, you're given this assignment to carve this cube, and they'll give you clues, but pretty much you're on your own. And you're doing this free, also, you're not getting paid in this time, and you are of course also helping around the shop, moving huge pieces of stone around or whatever else is to be done; you're the apprentice. And after however much time you've gotten your cube complete, and you present it to the master. He checks it to determine that it is perfectly square, and all surfaces perfectly flat, and exactly twelve inches by twelve inches. If it is not perfectly square, and all the surfaces are not perfectly flat, and it is not exactly twelve inches by twelve inches, he takes his hammer, pounds off a corner of it, and you start over again -- should they still be willing to accept you as their student -- with a new chunk of rock.

But if it is a perfect cube you are then given the task of transforming that perfect cube into a perfect sphere, twelve inches in diameter. Again, if it is not perfect when you present it to the master, it is broken, and you are to start again, carve another cube from another piece of rock and from that attempt again a sphere, should they still be inclined to work with you.

I've seen a statue of a master carver, standing straight with a twelve inch cube in one hand and a twelve inch sphere in the other -- very, very cool. I believe I saw it in the lowest level of a church in either London or Paris, though it's possible that I saw it in a museum somewhere or other. It was sortof a picture of the trade, in stone. My google-fu fails me, I've been unable to find online an image of a statue such as that one -- it was great, I wish I could have shown it to you.

To watch these people -- mostly men but some women in that shop also -- to watch them find people or animals or plants (or whatever else it was they were commissioned to create) to watch them uncover these things from inside large pieces of stone is truly a wonder. A spectacle -- it's spectacular. And they were none of them pretentious, they were workers, with hard hands and strong arms and backs, workingman faces, dust in their hair. It was a particular point of pride for them that they carved everything by hand -- no compressors, no air tools; these people could have worked four hundred years ago.

So this is off the topic, sortof, except it's also not off the topic -- it seems that these are the sorts of skills that are to be learned and utilized in the building of this castle. I hope they hang in and get it done and do it exactly as they're planning, using all the old ways.
posted by dancestoblue at 3:19 AM on May 5, 2010 [36 favorites]


Awesome project. I hope these guys hold on to the manual. You know how annoying it would be to reach 2020 and not know the right answer to be determined the real king?
posted by robocop is bleeding at 3:53 AM on May 5, 2010


Doesn't labor law apply throughout the state?

No.
posted by Pollomacho at 4:31 AM on May 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


My friend's dad built a small castle in the middle of a barrier island just north of St. Augustine, Florida several years ago.
posted by saladin at 4:45 AM on May 5, 2010


Why are you all sitting around yakking? Shouldn't we attack them before they get the walls up?
posted by crazylegs at 5:11 AM on May 5, 2010 [8 favorites]


Reminds me of Chateau Laroche just outside of Cincinnati.
posted by Mick at 5:41 AM on May 5, 2010


It's cool, but I feel oblidged to be pedantic and point out that regular medieval castles were just forts of wood that someone could throw up really quickly. They're building a luxury stone castle.
posted by jb at 6:00 AM on May 5, 2010


So as a stone mason, after nearly twenty years of building this thing (in costume) would you be excited as you see the building close to completion, or sad that your job for the last 20 years is almost finished?

Also I see that they are open 7 days a week. Rain or shine. From May 1 through Nov 30. So let's see...you would be working July 4th and Memorial Day not to mention Sundays. Miserable job in a thunderstorm or in 100 degree weather.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:06 AM on May 5, 2010


I love the rope belts on the masons. Jeans and steel-toed boots are okay, but the belt, it must be rope!
posted by molecicco at 6:45 AM on May 5, 2010


Also, I would be interested to know what Missouri's construction site inspectors think of construction workers wearing medieval boots and hats on medieval scaffolding up the side of a 45-foot tower.

In the photos the workers appear to be wearing medieval era Timberlands.
posted by leetheflea at 6:49 AM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Twenty years isn't so bad. It took 83 to build the National Cathedral.

This is a neat project. Stone is a beautiful building material and it'd be wonderful if this project resulted in the teaching and production of more stonemasons.
posted by Atreides at 6:51 AM on May 5, 2010


Everyone said I was daft to build a castle in Arkansas, but I built it all the same, just to show them. It sank into the swamp...
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 6:57 AM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Very cool, but will they catapult dead cows over the ramparts at passing English kings?

Because I'd pay to see that.
posted by bwg at 7:06 AM on May 5, 2010


My Zombie Contingency Plan
By The Whelk, age 26.

1. Go to Melissa's.
Go to Ozark Fortress.
posted by The Whelk at 7:06 AM on May 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


In what part(s) of the United States are building codes nonexistent? I work with architects and engineers, so I'm very curious.

This link below might explain what I mean.

http://earthbagbuilding.wordpress.com/2009/12/14/choose-rural-areas-with-few-building-codes/
posted by Jumpin Jack Flash at 7:48 AM on May 5, 2010


Wait, they put catapults right next to their castle!? They're going to make this too easy for me.
posted by Hoenikker at 7:58 AM on May 5, 2010


I think it's interesting the investors are all French. The principle, Michel Guyot, has a similar project in France started almost 15 years ago. I guess the finances work? I could imagine the French government financially supporting that project; in the US, not so much.
posted by Nelson at 8:05 AM on May 5, 2010


Holy cow. I wish i had a single useful skill so I could contribute to something like this.

Do you think they'd need a guy to stand on the edge of the site and make smart-ass comments?
posted by ServSci at 8:08 AM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Do you think they'd need a guy to stand on the edge of the site and make smart-ass comments?

ServSci, pretty sure we're all auditioning for that...
posted by Hoenikker at 8:10 AM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Can I just stand along the edge and shout "Bring out your dead?" I would accept minimum wage for that job.
posted by mmmbacon at 8:36 AM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yet again, my home state never fails to surprise me. Half of me wonders if I know any of the folks working on this project. Must check.
posted by palabradot at 9:01 AM on May 5, 2010


posted by Jumpin Jack Flash This link below might explain what I mean. http://earthbagbuilding.wordpress.com/2009/12/14/choose-rural-areas-with-few-building-codes/

Well, sort of. To the best of my knowledge, building and fire codes aren't nonexistent in rural areas. The blog to which you linked suggests people can build whatever they want on their own land and ignore the codes of the cities/towns/counties in which they live. Sure, you can ignore the codes and build whatever you want on your land, but don't complain when the city/town/county fines you and orders you to demolish your castle because it doesn't meet code--especially if you've built a structure open to the public.

I am not familiar with Missouri's building codes, but I would be very surprised if a structure open to the public was somehow exempt from fire code and life safety requirements, ADA requirements, seismic requirements (if applicable) and so on. The Ozark castle appears to be a tourist attraction/amusement park structure open to the public, so I can't see how it would not be required to meet building code.

Since this project is a money-making endeavor with a lot of publicity, I'm certain the architects and contractors have obtained the permits and are building the castle to code but they're not publicizing that aspect of it. Instead, they're playing up the "We're building this like they did in the Middle Ages!" angle . . . for the publicity, and ultimately, the money.
posted by mattdidthat at 9:16 AM on May 5, 2010


There's some job security. Perhaps we need more castles.
posted by asfuller at 9:20 AM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


BTW. This is being built in Arkansas, not Missouri, not that that really changes the argument about building codes. However, I'd think it would be the OSHA and other work safety regs that would give them the most problems, not the construction codes.
posted by Some1 at 9:32 AM on May 5, 2010


Having flipped through the site, it honestly looks like they gave it a legitimate shot in the beginning with the authentic dress, then realized, for whatever reason, that wasn't a good idea. Now they wear Timberlands, and I suspect a bit of hard-hatness under some of those non-authentic wide-brim hats. They also went from wearing the traditional robes to some sort of cloth-like tunic over modern wear.

So, they're not so authentic, really.
posted by Malice at 9:52 AM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Since this project is a money-making endeavor with a lot of publicity, I'm certain the architects and contractors have obtained the permits and are building the castle to code but they're not publicizing that aspect of it. Instead, they're playing up the "We're building this like they did in the Middle Ages!" angle . . . for the publicity, and ultimately, the money.
posted by mattdidthat at 9:16 AM on May 5 [+] [!]

I imagine the public part of the project means that the standard rules would apply. It will still depend on the area as to how well the rules are enforced. Up until a few years ago there were unincorporated areas in Wash state that had no government to adopt these rules and then enforce them. The state now has forced the counties to absorb the responsibility for building code enforcement in these areas.
posted by Jumpin Jack Flash at 10:21 AM on May 5, 2010


Holy cow. I wish i had a single useful skill so I could contribute to something like this.

Do they need abacus support?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:30 AM on May 5, 2010


some of those non-authentic wide-brim hats

I assume you mean these?

What is so particularly non-authentic about them?

As for the boots, I'm pretty sure those are as close to authentic as the law will allow.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:19 AM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


As for the boots, I'm pretty sure those are as close to authentic as the law will allow.

In the starting pictures, they were wearing leather sandals.

The wide brim hats aren't authentic, as far as the word is concerned. Metal and plastic clips, synthetic materials, etc.
posted by Malice at 11:46 AM on May 5, 2010


real period dress would include codpieces a la The Black Adder.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:54 AM on May 5, 2010


Pollomancho - great illustrations, and shows how we tend to stereotype the middle ages (assuming they never wore wide-brimmed straw hats, when it's kind of a unversal hat form for people who have straw and have to work under the sun).

That said, the shape of the crown (pinched as it is) does look very 20th century; I would have gone for a round crown, or dimpled into the middle (like the hats in your links) -- probably have to get a woman's straw hat, or make your own.
posted by jb at 12:17 PM on May 5, 2010


Also, I would be interested to know what Missouri's construction site inspectors think of construction workers wearing medieval boots and hats on medieval scaffolding up the side of a 45-foot tower.

Lots of rural areas in Missouri have few/no building regulations (remember that next time you're visiting Branson . . . that very lack is one reason it attracted people who wanted to build those big theaters etc.).

'Course this is being built in Arkansas & I can't say as I know the situation there.
posted by flug at 12:40 PM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I visited the site on May 1. I raised the security question. They said legal helmets were hidden and tied up under straw hats and workers are wearing steel-toe-shoes of... 21st century. Be in harmony with law doesn't hurt the goal of the project.
posted by johnnaner at 2:06 PM on May 5, 2010


So, they're not so authentic, really.

But the workers are still undernourished, right? And they still have a life expectancy of, like 32 or some such? Oh, and they're forbidden from getting vaccinations to things like smallpox, or receiving any healthcare at all, really? And at night, they sleep in hovels or some such?

It's a tourist attraction. It's a mighty damn cool one, but let's not get carried away here in our requirements for authenticity.

The real question is, how soon after it opens will its location be claimed as reservation land by a local tribe and converted for use as a casino?

And the followup question: imagine HOW FUCKING AWESOME it would have been if the Spanish conquistadors had stumbled upon a huge, stone medieval castle in the middle of what's now fucking Arkansas? "You want our women and our riches? Storm our fucking castle, Spanish pig-dogs!"
posted by mosk at 2:20 PM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Before I purchase, I need to know if it's Bowser-proof.

aagh worst staircase wit ever
posted by clockzero at 5:13 PM on May 5, 2010


Huh. Turns out my princess isn't there....
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 7:41 PM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Having visited a few restored and semi-restored medieval fortresses in recent years, I can say with 100% certainty that I wouldn't want to have to live there.
posted by moonbiter at 2:14 AM on May 6, 2010


I've heard of these guys. Building castles is not all they do.
posted by captnkurt at 9:31 AM on May 6, 2010


Having visited a few restored and semi-restored medieval fortresses in recent years, I can say with 100% certainty that I wouldn't want to have to live there.

You would if the alternative was a wolf, witch, brigand, invader infested wilderness.
posted by IndigoJones at 4:57 PM on May 6, 2010


By the way, that crane was already old technology by the middle ages
posted by IndigoJones at 5:03 PM on May 6, 2010


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