Tag Archives: architecture

Szekely Kapu (Szekely Gates)

Main Text: 

Szekely Kapu (Szekely Gates)

Background on Informant: 

My informant is originally from Romania, specifically the Transylvania region that is intermixed with Romanian and Hungarian roots. They came to the United States at 24 and have been here since. They are very knowledgable with the cultural context of Romania and Hungary, having grown up in Szekely tradition (a subgroup of Hungarian people living in Romania). They have graciously shared with me parts of their folklore and heritage. 


They explain: 

“Growing up in Szekely tradition, this concept of the Szekely “kapu” gate was a phenomenon we saw everywhere. 

It’s symbolism is as a kind of barrier between the family home and the outside world. Usually these gates are wooden and have important carvings that are meant to either be religious or represent something that the maker found important enough to etch in. 

It’s a connection to the ancestral past, and what’s interesting to note about them is that because in the old days it was so common, you can observe differences from these type of gates in West versus where I grew up in the East. 

But they are unique and an important connection to heritage, I know my parents looked upon it as sacred because it was supposed to be guard our ‘sanctuary’. 

My parents and their parents before them were very religious so I remember ours had a giant Isten Hozott carved into it which means ‘God has brought you’. 

The gates aren’t really created anymore but the ones left have beautiful legacies of rich culture and of course the folklore reflect in them. The carvings have immortalized the period they were created with paintings, visual imageries like crosses and doves, and of course like I mentioned before words of wisdom or associated with religion. But because of how old most of them are, they are fading from weathering. 

People in my hometown take pride in them because it shows off our village identity and it’s our little corner of the world where we get to shine with our cultural traditions. 

I think people still sell them, but it’s lost its sacredness and it’s mostly for tourism or decoration. My family still has ours up in front of the house, but it’s been up for so long that you can barely make out the carvings but still it serves as a reminder and protection of the past.”


Before this interview I had never even heard of the concept of the Szekely gate and was astounded at how much I was able to learn from it. From researching, I learned that often times these gates were made for the wealthy and as time went on it became a large part of lower households histories as well. It is fascinating how much pride the people of the Szekelyfold hold towards their cultural and folk identity. 

I admire the beautiful carvings and art that are the gates and wish it were still around as much as it was in the past rather than just a relic. I love how much emotional connection the person I interviewed had and overall just the connection the gate has with ancestral past. I love how unique the carvings are and how it can be anything from flowers, to the sun, moon, and angels.  It is also funny to note that oftentimes some of the houses are long gone yet the gates remain as reminders of what was. Overall, I learned so much about the beautiful tradition and past of Szekely kapu and hope to see one in the future. 


For visual reference: 


For more information: 



Main Piece: Menehune is categorized as a mischievous small people. They are like dwarves but not really. They are just small people who live hidden in the valleys of Hawaii. They were there before the settlers and they made the roads, buildings, and ponds. They especially made the waterfalls and streams that connect to the ocean. They’re in a lot of children’s books and are like figures for kids to look up to as hard workers who work at night. I’ve heard them being used as tricksters who mess with visitors if they don’t behave.

Context: The informant is a current freshman at USC. She lived in Hawaii until she graduated high school. Growing up there, she learned all about the customs and folklore of Hawaii.

Thoughts: I like the concept of having a figure to look up to especially since it promotes hard work. It also reflects the respect for the land as well, which I think more people should definitely have. Their secondary role as a trickster also plays as a rule maker for tourists so that they do not go out wandering at night. 

For More information see, “The Menehune of Hawaii – Ancient Race or Fictional Fairytale?” by April Holloway

Holloway, April. “The Menehune of Hawaii – Ancient Race or Fictional Fairytale?” Ancient Origins, Ancient Origins, 11 June 2014, www.ancient-origins.net/myths-legends/menhune-hawaii-ancient-race-or-fictional-fairytale-001741.

Halcyon House (Washington, D.C) Albert Clemens

Transcription: “A couple generations later, the house was bought Samuel Clemens’ (Mark Twain) nephew, Albert Clemens. He owned it in the late 1800s. Albert believed that as long as the kept building the house, he wouldn’t die. He built stairways to nowhere, doors that open into nothing, and rooms within rooms. He was adamantly opposed to electricity. He didn’t let anyone bring anything electric into his house. They say that to this day, people will walk into the house and their phones will stop working or light bulbs will burst. When he died, he wanted the coroner to put a pick-ax in his heart to make sure he was dead.”

The same informant who works for a Washington D.C. tour company told me another story involving the Halcyon House. Several decades later, the house was owned by Samuel Clemens’ nephew, Albert Clemens. I did not realize the historical significance of Samuel Clemens until my informant told me I would recognize his pen name, Mark Twain. Therefore, the Halcyon house is not only connected with American history, but American culture.

I do not know much about Samuel Clemens or his nephew, but according to my informant, Albert suffered from mental health problems. Albert convinced himself that he would not die as long as he continued to build and renovate the Halcyon property. Albert likely attached some spiritual significant to the house or associated it with his life purpose. In hopes of postponing his death, Albert built designs that would inhibit the completion of the house. He built stairways to nowhere, doors that open to a wall, and rooms within rooms. He believed these paradoxes of design held the key to his immortality. Albert’s superstitions were not limited to structural design and immortality. He also was opposed to electricity and had a fear of being buried alive. His rejection of electricity could be explained as a fear of progress and technology.

This story combines multiple genres of folklore since it documents the superstitions of an individual, includes a legendary figure, and the history lives on today in the form of a ghost story.


Brunelleschi and The Egg


There is an old architecture legend about famed Italian architect Filippo Brunelleschi trying to convince the city of Florence that he was the most qualified to build the Cathedral of Florence. The story goes that after being rejected due to his long absence in Germany, Brunelleschi attempted to show that not only did he have the artistic eye, but also the wit and intelligence to solve any problem. To do this, Brunelleschi handed each of the chosen architects an egg and asked them to stand it up on its end and have it stay there. After none of the architects were able to do it, Brunelleschi crushes one end, creating a surface that can be stood up on the table. According to the legend, this is what convinced the city that he was truly the smartest of the bunch.


My interview with my source, T, is as follows:

T: So when Brunelleschi was telling his idea to the city, he literally didn’t tell them anything he was going to do. He’s like, “Guys, I know how to do this, I know you have this problem, I’m going to build your building” and they’re like “uhh… you were gone for like 10 years, we don’t even know if you’re capable of this.” And he’s like “You’re gonna give me the job and here’s why.” So he gives them all eggs and says “Make the egg stand on its end. If one of you can do it then you don’t have to hire me.” And none of them could do it so he walks up to the table and says, “You want me to show you why I have more knowledge than you?” and he smashes the end of the egg on the table so it stands up on its end. They gave him the job.


I think this is a very clever legend. In all honesty the likelihood of this display of intelligence being the only driving factor behind Brunelleschi being hired is highly unlikely. The story, however, is a great way of conveying just how dedicated and clever Brunelleschi actually was, regardless of whether this event actually took place or not.

Building of the Pyramids Through Canals


Not much is known about how the Great Pyramids of Giza were built. Often viewed as something that simply shouldn’t have been possible, many struggle to figure out how exactly materials were transported. One legend tells a story of the Egyptians architects instructing the laborers to build canals that would transport materials to the site via boats and rafts. Though probably not the most practical of solutions, the free cost of slave labor made things as impractical as canal building, completely possible.


When first hearing this legend, I was skeptical. While the Egyptians are famous for their ingenuity, I couldn’t help but feel like building canals simply to transport materials. It wasn’t until my source explained that the slave labor at the time meant that there was virtually no risks in doing things that required that much more effort.