15 Mind-Bending Buildings That Are Architecture Porn
If we asked you to name some famous architects, you could probably only remember two, both of whom are conveniently named "Frank." That's because the majority of buildings we see on a day-to-day basis aren't memorable in any way. But while most structures adhere to the standard "giant box with doors" design, there are still plenty out there that were clearly the work of insane, overgrown children, built to either satisfy some lifelong goal, to stand out as a vacation destination, or to inject some pizzazz into the admittedly crowded and unglamorous field of mental health facilities.
Sweden's Half-Melted Department Store
No, it's not a super weapon, a black hole experiment gone wrong, or a giant block of cheese that Galactus tripped over. It's the Emporia Shopping Mall in Malmo, Sweden.
Designed by the famous (by architect standards) Swedish architect Gert Wingardh, the Emporia's design "challenges established shopping center conventions," such as the convention of actually being able to shop without solving a goddamn logic problem.
Singapore's Cruise Ship In The Sky
The Marina Bay Sands in Singapore is a casino that gallantly proves Vegas doesn't hold a monopoly on out-of-place landmarks by being a cruise ship held in the air by three towering skyscrapers.
The resort, one of the most expensive casinos in the world, took around eight billion of the most unnecessary dollars in history to build (not counting the protection fees from sky pirates). It contains more than 2,000 hotel rooms, as well as a terrifying swimming pool perched at the edge of the stratosphere.
Despite costing half a year's wage merely to book a room, millions of visitors come here each year. And at night, the whole thing lights up for a wicked awesome laser show, because it is truly the simple pleasures that make life worth living.
A Nightmare Puzzle House In Austria
This house in Frohnleiten, Austria illustrates exactly why you should never drop acid before designing houses. No building has ever looked more like a hallucination crawling out of a hillside.
Complete with a synthetic-grass-covered exterior, hallways that lead nowhere, and free-floating staircases scattered randomly throughout, this is a real house that you can actually live in, provided the current owner dies sometime soon and you have a whole lot of cash lying around waiting to be invested in a terrible decision.
According to the architects, the idea was to explore "the connectivity between nature and architecture." How that translated into an AstroTurf anti-house will probably never be clear.
China's God Hotels
If you visit the city of Hebei in China, you may have the good fortune to spot three old-world deities looming over a traffic circle like it is the twilight meadow of dead kings:
What looks like a scene from the upcoming Pacific Rim sequel is actually the Tianzi Garden Hotel in the city of Hebei, China. It's modeled after the Chinese gods of fortune, Fu, Lu, and Shou, and if you're keen on visiting, it's probably the only place in the world where you can holiday inside a deity's crotch.
We mean that literally -- each part of those giant wizened gentlemen is loaded with hotel rooms. Even that peach that the guy on the left is holding is its own room (appropriately known as the "Peach Suite"). That sounds almost whimsical enough to distract from the fact that you are vacationing inside a massive haunted nesting doll.
Indonesia's Chicken Temple
Wander deep into the depths of the Indonesian jungle, and you may stumble across an ancient temple dedicated to one of the lesser-known and less intimidating Elder Gods.
The locals call it "Gereja Ayam," or the "Chicken church," probably because it is a church in the shape of a giant chicken. According to the guy who built it, Daniel Alamsjah, the idea was actually to build the church in the shape of a dove, as instructed to him in a revelation from God Himself. Of course, Alamsjah wasn't exactly Noah, so the end result looks less like a divine vision and more like a skate park for the Lost Boys:
Alamsjah worked tirelessly with a group of friends and volunteers for years, until their money ran out and they were forced to abandon the project in 2000. Still, worshipers of many different faiths reportedly travel to the unfinished building every year to pray, with at least some of them doing it ironically, like devout hipsters.
The Netherlands' Robot Arm Bridge
Known as the Slauerhoffbrug Flying Drawbridge, this robotic contraption is The Netherlands' solution to the problem of heavy boat traffic running through the country's many waterways. The machine senses oncoming river traffic and uses a simple counterweight mechanism to raise the bridge up and let ships pass underneath, while simultaneously looking like a headless robot using both arms to lift a sandwich into the air.
It behooves us to mention that drawbridges are fairly common, appearing in countless places around the world and looking absolutely nothing like this, because there is no reason for a drawbridge to look like this. It only looks more and more like a piece from Mouse Trap the higher the bridge gets, until it reaches maximum verticality, at which point it looks poised to crush the world's largest housefly with the latest issue of Massive Robots magazine.
The Imploding Cartoon House Of Poland
You're going to assume this next one is an ordinary house that we ran through the liquefy tool on Photoshop, or a Walt Disney house collapsing in on itself like the end of Poltergeist. But we promise that this is a real building.
As you may guess from its shortage of vowels, the Krzywy Domek is a Polish shopping mall in the city of Sopot which includes some restaurants, a radio station, and a creeping sense that this world we see is not the true one. The name translates to "Crooked House," which we suppose is accurate enough, if only because we're not sure what the Polish phrase for "Melted Ice Cream Hut" is.
An Indian Department Of Fisheries Is Shaped Like A Giant Fish
If you happen to work for the national Department of Fisheries in Hyderabad, India, you're unlikely to forget what your job is, because some dream-weaving civic engineer decided that the only way the Department of Fisheries could perform its job properly was to build them a giant fish in which to base all of their operations. To complete the immersion, the fish-shaped building lights up at night so that it is bathed in blue (to give the impression that it's submerged), to the delight of everyone who comes to hang out at a government building at night.
Amsterdam's Tower Of Cottages
Inntel Hotel in Amsterdam kind of looks like Voltron, if it had been created by a European candy store.
In truth, it's a four-star hotel where each room is designed to feel like you're staying in a quaint little Scandinavian cottage, even if you're actually five stories up in a bizarre multicolored townhouse puzzle tower.
The Shrek Blob Gallery Of Austria
If you took a helicopter tour of the city of Graz in Austria, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the city is under attack by a giant sentient kidney. Not to worry, though -- what you're looking at is simply the local art museum.
The Kunsthaus Graz is a museum for all sorts of art formats, from traditional painting to film, which locals have lovingly nicknamed "the friendly alien." Despite the fact that we have been staring at these photographs for hours and feel that it is impossible to determine the Kunsthaus Graz's intentions.
The crazy design does serve a purpose beyond the sheer absurdity factor: Its blobby surface is actually composed of 1,288 solar panels, which enable it to entirely generate its own power, which is exactly the kind of behavior you'd expect from an art museum.
The Chinese Lotus Building
The city of Wujin, China, evidently deciding that the Sydney Opera House was far too basic, recently finished construction of the Lotus Building, a civic center that is quite frankly begging to have a squadron of hover cars use it as a parking garage.
Designed by an Australian company for maximum "fuck Sydney" street cred, the Lotus Building consists of three connected structures, meant to resemble a lotus flower at its various stages of bloom: pod, seedling, and Orlando. Visitors enter through an underwater tunnel connecting the building to the shore, thumbing its nose at the lessons about underwater tunnels taught to us by Jaws 3D. Even the inside is built to look like a flower, albeit a giant inverted flower that is in the process of eating you.
Additionally, the building is eco-friendly, using features like geothermal piles to minimize heating costs and energy usage. At night, the building lights up and changes colors every 30 seconds. Because if this article has demonstrated nothing else, it's that sometimes you have to make gigantic expensive buildings light up.
The '90s Trapper Keeper Buildings Of Germany
If the world of Pee-wee's Playhouse had a tenement district, it would look like Happy Rizzi House. Despite looking like a homunculus comprised of everything in a child's backpack, it is a fully functioning building in Brunswick, Germany, designed by American artist James Rizzi.
Construction started in 2001 as a project to liven up the cityscape, and evidently Rizzi didn't have anyone in place to step in and tell him when it was time to quit.
Arguably the greatest thing about Happy Rizzi House is that it's a completely ridiculous building located in the middle of a bunch of austere, old-fashioned German architecture. So contrary to popular opinion, fun does exist in Germany. It has merely been confined to one specific location.
A Giant Starship Enterprise In China
Millions of people grew up with Star Trek and wished they could live on the Enterprise, but only one person was both rich and frivolous enough to make it happen. Liu Dejian, one of China's wealthiest Melvins, spent $100 million turning his game development company's headquarters into a replica of television's most famous starship.
The building is six stories tall and 850 feet long, making it essentially a 1:3 scale model of the actual Enterprise (you know, if the Enterprise were an actual thing). Reportedly, the company needed permission from CBS to copy the design of the starship, and CBS granted it, assuming it was a joke. Indeed, the only joke here is how many diseases could have conceivably been cured with that money.
In case Dejian doesn't already have enough geek credit from this one project, it seems the building also features a life-sized Tyrannosaurus skeleton, which serves to further demonstrate that if you have enough money, you can be 12 years old forever.
Related: Best View on the Starship Enterprise
England's Giant Robot Head Department Store
If your dream is to have your entire body inhaled by a diamond-encrusted cyclopean android head, then we have some good news: There's exactly one place on Earth where you can live out your fantasy: Birmingham, England.
That's Selfridges department store in Birmingham, one of the city's most famous attractions. The fact that the building looks like an insane robot with a deviated septum becomes infinitely more strange when you put it in context against Birmingham's otherwise historical medieval architecture.
The unique design is an example of a punishingly obnoxious new school of architecture (called "blobitecture" for readily apparent reasons), and its exterior is covered in thousands of aluminum discs.
Of course, there's some strategy to Selfridges' tactic of making their building look as absurd as possible. The store is consistently rated by magazines such as Lonely Planet and Retail Week as one of the top 100 to visit worldwide. After all, if you came all the way out to Selfridges just to take a chuckling stroll up the building's lone nostril, you might as well buy some shoes while you're there.
The Mental Hospital Designed Like A Hallucination
In 2010, the city of Las Vegas approached the famous avant-garde architect Frank Gehry to design a mental health clinic, for reasons that stand in harsh defiance of everything we know about mental health. The resultant Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health is probably the last place you want to visit if you're having some existential struggle with the nature of personal reality.
In Gehry's defense, this is right in line with his architectural style, and pretty much exactly the kind of Alice-in-Wonderland bullshit that made him famous after he designed the Louis Vuitton building. But critics have questioned whether a surrealist dreamscape is really the best thing for mentally ill people to be seeing in their first stages of recovery.
According to Gehry, he was chosen to design the building because the people who bankrolled it wanted it to stand out (you know, among all the bland mental health facilities in the nation). So at least in that respect, it was a definite success -- although we suspect it is the Hotel California of mental hospitals.
For more designs clearly conjured up by kids, check out 5 Real Advanced Weapons Clearly Designed By A Toddler and 7 Awesome Buildings That Look Like They're Designed by Kids.
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