A home backyard in Sydenham, Christchurch New Zealand is now the location of possibly New Zealand’s first completed bottleship.
Resident George Hendry designed and built the edifice himself over ten years, starting om 23 September 2018 and officially launching today, 23 September 2028.
“I wanted to prove it could be done” says George, “particularly because no one seemed to have heard of such a thing before and several people told me it would be impossible.
“Admittedly there were several problems to overcome. At first I thought all I needed to do was collect heaps of bottles and start stacking them in rows, then stacking more rows on top of those. It was when the bottles just kept falling down that I realised I would have to learn how to put bottles together in a way that made them stay up. I had to learn bottle building architecture, which was a whole new skill for me at the time and took several years to perfect.”
On inspecting the bottleship we were impressed at the system used to keep the bottles in rows to a remarkable height, and even more so by the system used to build roofs to the many rooms without any other apparent means of support than the bottles themselves, which at first glance seemed to be holding themselves in place by their weight alone in a series of archways, though on closer inspection it could be seen that a pair of bottles were typically joined by a strand of fibreglass with one end stuffed into each bottle, the bottles then being twisted in opposite directions until they were pulled tightly together, making an interlocking unit of building material.
‘The real trick’, says George , ‘was to keep the bottles in place until the roof of a room came together joined at the top and could hold itself in place without outside support. The plan that worked turned out to be getting several people to agree to help, explaining the system to them and then building really quickly so the bottles were in place before they had a chance to fall over. At the critical point we’d try to get a room built in a day, with a few people laying bottles as fast as they could while another team were holding the bottles in place and instructing from below. The first few times we didn’t get it done quite soon enough. But once we succeeded with one we knew how to do it with others and the work went much more quickly.’
George explained that the bottleship, far from being merely an architectural project, would be used as a glasshouse, with organic vegetables growing in some rooms while others would be used for playing music or “just sitting in quietly for a few minutes each day, as a reminder of what else might turn out to be possible to achieve. A sort of inspiration room really”.
“We plan to add several more rooms over the next few years. When there are enough of us to hold things in place we plan to add larger rooms which could be used for meetings, conferences and perhaps even for holding retreats, depending on what form public interest takes.
” Now that people can see it works, they stop seeing it as a curiosity and nothing to do with them and instead start asking how they might use it or get involved themselves.
“I’m thinking of opening it up as a public amenity, possibly run by a charitable trust of some sort. I’m particularly keen to see young people getting on board , if that’s the right term, with the idea that they’re destined to achieve something creative, unexpected and amazing.”
George added that there were other groups in the earthquake-hit city that were working to help young people with the challenges caused by widespread disruption to their lives and that he was keen to collaborate with them.
“If we can just get them to come out for a discussion, they are amazed at how the design allows them to be heard by people in the other rooms while at the same time giving them the feeling of a private space. People find themselves really opening up and drinking in the atmosphere.”
When asked about waterproofing the ship, George explained that no room is ever permanently waterproof and that the plants preferred it that way. “If someone wants to play music on a rainy day in here they stick a large umbrella into a large upright bottle and sit under it. The runoff from the umbrella gives the plants more water right at their roots.”
George admitted that as yet he hadn’t thought of a way to make the bottleship float but that the idea was far from being given up on. (797)