Dirt House Deluxe

Get ready to be wowed by dirt blocks!

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade – or get mad and throw them back at life. No one tells you what to drink. When Minecraft gives you dirt blocks, build ugly bridges in the Nether. Well, unless you're Robert, a.k.a. Uknownymous. His recent creation, A Giant Dirt Mansion, showcases the humble dirt block in an unexpected way. Whoever thought dirt could look so cozy? So majestic? Not me, because even molehills would put my dirt houses to shame, even more so because my builds have never inspired a delicious dessert (look up 'German mole cake' – you're welcome).

But before we delve into the deets of this impressive mansion, let's get to know the creator. Born and raised in Wales, Robert has always had a passion for art and creativity, from drawing and writing to singing. When he discovered Minecraft at the young age of ten, he was immediately captivated by the creative possibilities: "It really struck a chord with me, as a sandbox where I had more free will to not only create, but also to explore within my creations in first person," he explains. 

He grew particularly fond of servers that used Towny – a plugin that allows players to build and manage their own cities. This experience inspired Robert to focus on aesthetics rather than just survival in his builds. He also enjoys playing on a Minecraft RPG server with mixtures of magic and dungeons, but creative mode is where the real magic happens for Robert.

Fast forward a bit, and Uknownymous has gained quite the following on Planet Minecraft. It only takes one look at his page to see that he's a versatile creator, so it's not surprising that he managed to turn dirt into a gem. His creations include majestic castles, steampunk cities, and floating islands, among others. He's particularly proud of Steampunk City and Cyberpunk City: "It's not so much because they're the best or the most refined, but rather because they're the ones I've had the most fun with and felt the most satisfied with how they turned out.”

Going back to the star of this post, Uknownymous's initial inspiration for the Dirt Mansion came from the Hobbit houses in Lord of the Rings – except, well… dirt-ier? Instead of homely and tidy wooden houses, he went for a more natural and primitive style to better suit the material. When asked about the build's potential residents, he said that he'd more likely see a colony of creatures rather than humans living there because it simply wouldn't be quite up to human health regulations. 

"I was thinking along the lines of tiny, cunning creatures like Snaga, Goblins, and Kobolds, [who are] known for grouping together in large numbers and dwelling in huge caves that they mine out themselves,” he says. “They're still capable of artistry in their own ways, but it'd be a struggle for them to make anything like pickaxes, so a dirt mansion would suit them really well." Regulations shmegulations, give it a good sweep while I pack my stuff because it sure beats my studio apartment!

The Dirt Mansion came into existence thanks to an online challenge. Uknownymous has created many builds for contests and challenges, from smaller server ones like Build Battle, where exposure is limited to only several players, to Planet Minecraft building contests, where views can exceed millions. The Dirt Mansion was created for Minecraft Discord's Fortnightly Building Challenge, where it attracted the attention of thousands and even won! Not that it's a surprise. I mean, just look at it!

Uknownymous had a pretty good idea of what he wanted to create from the start: "A bridge across a calm flowing ocean, an uprise of many, many house-like pieces built atop each other massively into the sky, and at times a few cliff-sides marking that there were at least some areas they couldn't pack up dirt in."

While it wasn't planned in much detail, the build came together perfectly! The mansion towers over the stunning crashing waves – and the best part? With a bit of shader magic, this build comes to life at night! Each unit of the mansion lights up, and the waves give a stunning blue glow. As if it wasn't impressive enough in the first place!

Dirt is not the only unpopular block that Uknownymous turns into art. Stating that "all blocks can be used well, no matter how peculiar they are". He seems to have an eye for using blocks in unconventional ways. For example, he's a huge fan of using sponge for grassy terrain and its wet counterpart for rocks or cliffs, tree trunks, and even leaves. To him, the secret is focusing on the shape of the build rather than the material, specifically going for more lenient fluid shapes rather than cubic ones. Depth also plays a massive role in the appeal of a build because it gives it the necessary layers to create patterns and decorations. Still, if you ask Unknownymous, it's essential not to go overboard. "While over-detailing is just as tempting as a flat surface may be, it can be hard to take it all in for the eyes," he says.

When he's not following guidelines, Uknownymous likes to get creative with leaves, sea lanterns, and spruce planks in particular because of their versatility. He also uses redstone lamps often to give his builds an appealing glow. But why take part in challenges and not just build whatever your heart desires? To Uknownymous, it's all pushing the limits of his creativity.

"I find that contests help me delve into my creative process because they give me the ability to try out themes I may not otherwise even consider attempting,” he explains. “Whether I win or not, I also try to take a good look at the other participants' creations, ensuring I learn from what they've done. Knowing that what I've learned was enough to achieve a victory with a creation that people enjoy is incredibly reassuring and motivating." I bet! The only thing I ever won was a silly dance contest, and I totally ripped off my local car dealership's wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tube man.

Whether it's part of a challenge or a personal project, we can't wait to see what Uknownymous has in store for us next! Why not check out his work, or even take part in a challenge yourself? Could you build a house out of pumpkins, sponge, or even *gasp* diorite? Only one way to find out.

Written By
Cristina Anderca