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Giant sandcastle Minas Tirith survives orcs, falls to rain

Artist spends years creating a massive, painstaking replica of Minas Tirith from "Lord of the Rings" out of sand.

Minas Tirith sand castle
Storm the sand castle.
Joseph Alvernaz

When Joseph Alvernaz set out to build a sand sculpture replica of Minas Tirith from "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King," he didn't take any shortcuts. The structure took two summers to create out of a sandy loam that holds together better than regular beach sand. Once finished, he could stand atop the 10-foot-tall structure without breaking it.

While Minas Tirith in the books and movies had to deal with orcs and lumbering oliphaunts, the sandcastle version had to contend with birds and waves. The creation was made entirely of sand and water, with the exception of a single brace in the top tower, which was necessary to counteract the ruthless attacks of birds landing on it and breaking it.

The fate of the sandcastle Minas Tirith was sealed by the elements. Alvarnez already successfully protected the city through one winter with a tarp while he was working on it, but the second winter did it in.

"While the orcs might not have been able to destroy the city, the winter did," Alvernaz writes. "A rain storm came from the south blasting half of the city and causing the buildings to melt and crumble."

Some of us build "Lord of Rings" sets out of Legos. Some of us make them from balloons. And some of us are just crazy enough to spend a couple years crafting them out of fickle sand.

Minas Tirith falling down
Minas Tirith shows the scars of a winter storm. Joseph Alvernaz

(Via io9)