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This Medieval Town is Built Inside a Crater and Composed of Millions of Diamonds

From the greystone of Montreal to the limestone of Jerusalem, every city has its own iconic identity read through the city’s urban fabric. Scanning the architecture of the 1,110-year-old German town of Nördlingen, the timber frame homes, red pitched roofs, and winding streets appear identical in almost every regard to many quaint medieval communities populating the European countryside.

While the town’s appearance in the 1971 classic Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory may seem like its most notable claim, there is something entirely unique about the architecture of this south German locale. Nördlingen is literally made of diamonds—millions of microscopic diamonds to be exact—with the town itself constructed within an ancient impact crater.

AD Classics: Neuschwanstein Castle / Eduard Riedel

Looming over the small Bavarian town of Hohenschwangau are the turrets and towers of one of the world’s most famous “fairytale” castles. Schloß Neuschwanstein, or “New Swan Stone Castle,” was the fantastical creation of King Ludwig II – a monarch who dreamed of creating for himself an ideal medieval palace, nestled in the Alps. Though designed to represent a 13th-century Romanesque castle[1], Neuschwanstein was a thoroughly 19th-century project, constructed using industrial methods and filled with modern comforts and conveniences; indeed, without the technological advancements of the time, Ludwig could never have escaped into his medieval fantasy.[2]

Courtesy of Flickr user Julian Knutzen Courtesy of Flickr user Janis Courtesy of United States Library of Congress Courtesy of United States Library of Congress + 13

House KE12 / SoHo Architektur

© Rainer Retzlaff
© Rainer Retzlaff

Architects: SoHo Architektur Location: Memmingen, Germany Design Team: Alexander Nägele Project Year: 2010 Photographs: Rainer Retzlaff

© Rainer Retzlaff © Rainer Retzlaff © Rainer Retzlaff © Rainer Retzlaff + 13