Did you read that? That second definition..."a costly ornamental building with no purpose". Ouch. I suppose my definition of a folly is much more forgiving and broad. I've always seen a folly as a hidden jewel of a structure. Something obviously foreign in its environment but something that enhances its surroundings just the same. When done right, it offers refuge and peace.
In college, I was fortunate enough to spend a year in Stuttgart, Germany on a year-long study abroad trip. Different than my husband's own experience where he traveled with his UTA professors and classmates, I was shipped off with a handful of other KU students from all different studies. I was one of just a handful of architectural students. The abundant weekends and vacations allowed for numerous trips around Europe, though without a professor, it was up to me to discover the architectural wonders, both modern and historic.
The photos above are from my trip to Paris. Forgive the quality...these are actually photos of prints -imagine the day before digital cameras or even mobile phones. This is Parc de la Villette in NE Paris. It was designed by Bernard Tschumi, one of my favorite architects back in the day. There are thirty-five follies throughout the park, placed on a grid, offering organization and points of reference. Over the years, I've referenced this park and its red buildings set against the greenery of the gardens...not to mention all the cultural buildings and pedestrian bridges.
Here is my idea of a folly: a functional yet flexible space using simple materials. Though alien looking set in this natural setting, the shape is actually derived from nature: the coil of the snail's shell. The small scale of the two-room footprint lends itself to simple functions: a studio, an afternoon retreat, or an isolated band room. The beauty is realized by its placement among a lush forest or perhaps the exact opposite, a rolling prairie.