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The Cathedral of Junk

Touring the corridors of Vince Hannemann's tower of refuse feels like drifting through a record of your life chronicled in the form of everything you've ever discarded. To your left is the plastic rocking horse you got for your sixth Christmas. To your right, the coffee maker from your college dorm. High above hang the hideous lamp you thought looked cool over your wet bar and the crutches you earned hanging it.

Hours could be wasted discovering such memory-provoking items inside Austin's beloved Cathedral of Junk as you inspect its various nooks and the obscure cast-offs therein. A careful enough search uncovers works within the work––smaller junk-based sculptures growing out of the larger structure's walls. If you could tear away its layers, the Cathedral would yield further surprises, revealing its ancient secrets to you much the way the all-knowing Trash Heap did to her friends from Fraggle Rock.

Vince estimates the assemblage to weigh around 60 tons, all stuff previously deemed no longer useful. Mailboxes, street signs, old typewriters… the list goes on and on. There are over 700 bicycles inside, as well as half a dozen motorcycles and some 15 weed eaters.


Vince once inventoried the Cathedral and compiled a list of its components he could print on T-shirts. He says it takes about 20 minutes just to read it.

Though he was once referred to as a "mini Christo," accused of looking for publicity rather than trying to create real art, Vince confesses neither really applies. To him, it's just something to do. He equates it to a child's fort or a clubhouse. "It's like, why build a sandcastle? It's just to have fun. It was kind of my version of escaping. Make my own little private world, you know. The way I want it… Playing is the main reason why."

Vince has been playing with his cathedral since he moved into the house in 1989. Around 2000, however, recess nearly came to an end when Vince made a brief decision to scrap the whole thing. Due to what he calls "a little mental craziness," he began tearing his creation apart and selling it for scrap. "I just wanted to move out of here and get away."

He follows with a smirk, "Obviously, that didn't work… It was impossible. I hurt myself trying to take it down. The back tower was three stories tall." Vince dismantled the first two stories and called it quits. "It was just killer. I couldn't go any further." He laughs, "It's just too solid."

He's since returned to his senses––or left them again, however you see it––and is currently rebuilding.

Weird Texas


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