Even though I grew up in Austin, I moved away before I was old enough to really appreciate the level of weirdness the city embodies. So this visit to Austin, we took opportunities to explore some of the awesome places we had only heard about.
This past weekend while hanging out with our new friends, and soon-to-be-nomads, Brice & Rose of Tacky Texans – we decided to stop by the Cathedral of Junk in south Austin.
You’ll know you’ve arrived to the Cathedral of Junk when you spot a car on the roof of a house, and obviously displeased neighbors displaying ‘Keep off the Grass’ signs.
Park, be respectful of the neighbors – and then spend the next few moments of your life reminiscing as you see toys, electronics, signs, bikes and more from your past artfully constructed into a cathedral integrated in with the natural landscape.
Starting with a few hubcaps on the fence in 1989, over 800 bikes and thousands of specially donated items have been puzzled and wired together. An ongoing project, the Cathedral continues to evolve.
Vince Hannemann is the yardist behind this monolithic collection of junk – he owns the yard that the cathedral has sprung from and has been working on the project for over 20 years. An inspired artist, not all that unlike Leonard Knight of Salvation Mountain, Vince claims to be ‘not as friendly’. We didn’t find him be necessarily unfriendly either.
The cathedral is well constructed – this really isn’t just a pile of junk. It’s wired together and built for full on interaction with winding paths, ladders to upper floors and various chambers. And in the case of a tornado tearing through the neighborhood, it’s quite likely the Cathedral will be the only thing left standing.
View our video tour of the Cathedral of Junk (click for those on RSS/e-mail)
Some of the neighbors aren’t so amused however, and are trying their darnedest to create as many hoops as possible for the Cathedral to jump through. Their latest is involving the city of Austin for code enforcement – and presently the Cathedral has been granted only days to come up to compliance or face bulldozing. At present time, they have an April 9, 2010 deadline to file the necessary permits.
This would truly be a loss to the weirdness that Austin is – and many volunteers from the local community have come together to bring the Cathedral entirely up to code. Vince is also seems fairly confident that his community can come up with funding to buy the displeased neighbors out and be able to sell the properties at full market value to enthusiasts of the Cathedral who would better appreciate the attraction.
Inspired like we were by this monumental art project? Click on through to savethejunk.org to track the latest in the battle, and see how you can help out.
April 17, 2010 Update: The Cathedral of Junk continues to meet challenges.. potentially terminal ones. Not only is Vince trying to jump through hoops to meet code regulations, he is also now faced with possible zoning regulations. Austin City Council has said it is open to hearing citizen feedback as to whether the zoning regulations need to be clarified to allow this treasure to continue to exist. Write them now to have your voice heard!