By Megan Lee
Jono Williams never, ever gives up on an idea. So when (after several bourbon-and-Cokes), he assured some friends he'd build a glass room in the sky, he meant it.
That's how the Skysphere, a 33-foot-tall, 270-square-foot hangout space, came to stand in Williams' hometown on his parents' farm in New Zealand. (Click here or on a photo for a slideshow.)
"I fully understand that if some people are drunk and goofing around, you say you'll do something and you won't," Williams says. "But if I say I'll do something, I really will. And I did."
The Skysphere has 360-degree views of the surrounding property. It sits atop a steel column with a ladder in the core that leads to the living space. Williams spent about $50,000 to build the structure, mostly paying as he went along but also taking out a small loan from a bank.
Whether a drunken idea or a stroke of genius, the Skysphere is a particularly impressive feat considering Williams had no architectural experience before he started. In his current job, he designs and develops everyday products. He does not build structures.
And Williams didn't just figure out the basic design and energy systems -- he also added some intriguing, James Bond-like details to the Skysphere:
• The entire building can be controlled by a smartphone.
• A small fingerprint scanner at the front entrance is programmed to welcome guests and keep out intruders. A computer dialogue voice calls guests by name and only opens the door for those whose fingerprints it recognizes.
• A custom, in-couch beer dispenser gives guests a cold beer upon entry.
• Additional amenities include a Miracast projector, custom rounded furniture and LED mood lighting available in several shades.
Williams says Internet searches (and perhaps a little more bourbon and Coke) played a significant role in the planning and construction of the Skysphere.
"Basically, I had the concept in mind and then I had no idea how to actually build it, but what I did was I took small steps at a time," he says.
He followed instructions for building wind turbines, because the Skysphere tower is similarly structured, with a narrow base and weight at the top. "I pretty much had to think of everything that could humanly possibly take my tower down," Williams says. "It was almost like survival in a way. I didn't know how to do it, but I had to figure it out."
He also designed a solar system to power the structure.
The Skysphere has been much lauded as the ultimate "bachelor pad," but Williams says it's "absolutely not that at all" -- instead, he considers it more low-key, as a place to go with three or four friends, drink beers and talk.
The only catch: There's no bathroom. He himself makes use of the roof and gravity (a railing around the top keeps people from falling off).
He's not sure exactly what he'll do with the Skysphere next, but he's thinking about taking advantage of the 360-degree vantage point by moving the structure to a coastal property and incorporating a full residential building underneath it.
"People often ask if I think it was a waste of time and money. The amount of knowledge I gained, and the amount I learned about myself made it all worth it," Williams says. "At times I felt as though it couldn't be done, [but] then I'd notice my survival instincts kicking in, and I believe this is what helped me pull through. After conquering the Skysphere, I feel I could do anything."
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