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17 Strange and Amazing Buildings

8 December 2010 No Comment

Architects often have to conform to specific design requirements but every now and then they get the freedom to really go wild and create inspired buildings that make you really wonder where they got their ideas from. You see buildings that make you wonder how they could possibly stay up, buildings that are breathtakingly beautiful, and buildings that are just a little bit strange.

Here are a few of our favourite amazing and strange buildings.

1. Lotus Temple (Delhi, India)


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The Lotus Temple in India is a stunning example of modern architecture and took Canadian Architect Fariborz Sahba, 10 years to design and project manage this development. It is thought that the Lotus Temple is one of the most complicated modern structures in the world and took a work force of 800 people including engineers, technicians, artisans and workers to finish.


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The petals, that resemble the Lotus flower, were built using reinforced white concrete cast in place, these were clad in white marble panels, and patterned like the leaves of the flower. The design itself had virtually no straight lines, which meant erecting the framework became a very complicated procedure. However, the end result looks to be worth it as this monument stands as one of India’s most stunning buildings, in which there is some stiff competition and boasts more visitors than the Taj Mahal.

2. China Central Television Headquarters building

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In the Beijing Central Business District standing at 44 storeys high is the China Central Television Headquarters (CCTV). The building comes together with two leaning towers bent 90 degrees at the top and bottom to create a never ending loop. Because of its unusual shape, it is said that a taxi driver nicknamed the building dà kùchǎ , which roughly translates as, "big boxer shorts".


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The building was first built in two separate buildings that were joined early in the morning on the 30th May 2007. The early morning work was planned so the steel in the two towers would cool to the same temperature and wouldn’t lock in any structural differentials. The CCTV headquarters were completed on New Year’s day in 2008 the building was designed by Rem Koolhaas and Ole Scheeren of OMA .

3. Museum of Contemporary Art (Niteroi, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)


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Built in 1996 the Niteroi, Museum of Contemporary Art in Brazil is another strange and beautiful building; the Museum in Niteroi was designed by architect Oscar Niemeyer with help from structural engineer Bruno Contarini.


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The Museum in Rio de Janeiro only allows for a about 60 people in the Hall of Expositions, its impressive structure is likened to a UFO as it has a disc shape set on the cliffside reminiscent of a Science Fiction UFO landing and opening up.

4. The Church of Hallgrimur, Reykjavik, Iceland


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The church of Hallgrimur (Hallgrimskirkja )is a Lutheran parish church in Reykjavik, Iceland, the church towers in height at a staggering 74.5 metres (or 244 feet) making it the fourth tallest building in Iceland. Due to its height the church is also used as an observation tower and was the brainchild of architect Guðjon Samuelsson design.


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The church is unusual not only in design but also in the length of time it took to build, Guðjon Samuelsson was commissioned to do the work in 1938 then construction started in 1945 but was not completed until 1986 – 32 years!

5. Guggenheim Museum (Bilbao, Spain)


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The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao was designed by Frank Gehry and in the late 90’s was one of the most commented upon architectural structures for its unusual features and innovative design. It was unusual to see the use of curves and the inclusion of sculptured walls in architecture.

The museum is considered one of the most important pieces of work in architecture over the last decade and it is difficult to believe that the building was erected with a very tight deadline and budget.


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The architect used computer software that revolutionised the way we can design buildings and although the building is spectacular when viewed from the Nervion River it is not too overwhelming in relation to its more traditional surroundings.

6. Kunsthaus (Graz, Austria)


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The Kunsthaus in Graz, Austria was commissioned as part of the 2003 European capital of culture status but has since become an architectural talking point and feature in Austria as many visit to see its unusual design. The Kunsthaus was built by a team of architects who used the stylistic idiom ‘blob architecture’.


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Nicknamed the "Friendly Alien" by its creators Peter Cook and Colin Fournier, creators of the Kunsthaus Graz, it provides a modern alternative to the baroque style buildings that are commonplace in Austria.

7. House Attack (Viena, Austria)


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This is an imaginative concept from the artist Erin Wurm who came up with the idea for the Museum Moderner Kunst (MUMOK). The MUMOK is the largest art museum in Austria and hold an extensive collection of modern art from this century and the last.


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Together with Erin Wurm, MOMAK developed and built the idea of a house crashing into the side of the museum, a quirky architectural idea that caused a buzz when it was completed in 2006. Wurm installed the ‘attack house’ on the outside of the MUMOK building, which is said to represent small mindedness as well as an everyday occurrence.

8. National Centre for the Performing Arts (The Egg, China)


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Another stunning building from China is the Chinese National Centre for the Performing Arts this is also known as the National Grand Theatre or ‘The Egg’. A large and unusual building, ‘the Egg’ is found near the Forbidden City near Tiananmen Square and took over 5 years to build. This building is an oval shaped building submerged in water that contains an Opera House, a Concert Hall and a Theatre.


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Designed by French Architect Paul Andrew this building is both beautiful and enormous as below the surface of the water you can discover underwater corridors, an underwater garage, green space and an artificial lake.

9. Kansas City Library (Missouri, USA)


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This really is a building and not just miniature cars in front of a bookshelf, this innovative idea to camouflage the parking garage of Kansas City Library was designed by Dimensional Innovations. This is an unusual idea for a building but very fun and apt for the building.


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This project involved the community as residents of Kansas City were asked which books they wanted to be featured as the front of the building. This unique and quirky building lets you see the classic books before going into the library to read them.

10. Cathedral of Brasilia (Brazil)


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The Cathedral of Brasília (Catedral Metropolitana Nossa Senhora Aparecida) is a breathtaking building that serves as the seat for the Archdiocese of Brasília. The Roman Catholic cathedral was designed by Oscar Niemeyer, and although the keystone was first placed in 1958 it was not completed and dedicated until May 31, 1970.


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The cathedral is said to have been influenced by the Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral, as it is similar in design but instead of solid material the Cathedral de Brasilia allows light in to illuminate the building from top to the bottom with natural light giving a much more spiritual experience. The building is complimented with sculptures representing the evangelists that were created by Dante Croce.

11. Atomium (Brussels, Belgium)


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This Atonium is an unusual piece of architecture that was designed and built for Expo ’58, the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair by André Waterkeyn. Nine steel spheres are connected to form the shape of a unit cell of an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times. Each of these cells have space for exhibitions and are connected by tubes which actually hold escalators, only 5 of the spheres contain permanent exhibitions that are open to the public but other temporary exhibitions are often held showing scientific exhibitions.

The top sphere is easy to get to using the escalators and gives you a panoramic view of Brussels. The Atonium is one of Brussels most popular tourist destinations either for the exhibitions it features or just to look at the magnificent structure.

12. The Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium, Beijing


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The Beijing Olympic stadium was built for the 2008 Olympics games and is a partnership of Chinese art and culture with the collaboration of Pritzker Prize-winning architects Herzog & de Meuron with Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. This amazing design takes clear inspiration from nature and has been nicknamed the birds nest stadium because of its likeness to a birds nest.

The Olympic stadium is here to stay as it is made of earthquake resistant steel that is strengthened by the winding mesh of bands that create the birds nest effect. This stadium is set to last at least 100 years earth quake or no earthquake. This amazing design was a highlight of the 2008 Olympics and looks stunning when lit up at night.

13. Casa da musica (Porto, Portugal)


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The Casa da Musica building in Portugal came about under very unusual circumstances when in 1999 a competition was launched to build the new concert hall. Rem Koolhaas of OMD found he had a design that he liked but couldn’t use and submitted it to the competition.

The design was chosen and work began to get the Casa da Musica concert hall ready in time for the Portas Capital of Culture status in 2001, unfortunately turning the complex design into reality proved to be harder than anticipated and the building wasn’t completed until 2005 when it was opened with a Lou Reed concert.

14. European Southern Observatory Hotel, Chile


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The European Southern Observatory Hotel was designed and built as a place of work and a place of sanctuary for scientists and technicians using the great telescope that this would be home to. Without affecting the usage of the great telescope the architects Auer and Weber had to create a permanent building that would replace the tin huts previously used that would be comfortable, functional and would not have an impact on the environment.

Against the elements of strong winds from the Andes and the hot dry climate the architects took inspiration from cave dwellings of the Hopi Indians’ cliff houses and the Loess belt in China. The dam like structure is an impressive building that enhances the landscape and provides a good working and relaxing environment.

15. Olympic Stadium (Montreal, Canada)


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The Olympic Stadium in Montreal was built for the 1976 Summer Olympics and is the largest stadium in Canada that has been the home for a number of Football and Baseball teams since the Olympics. The stadium was designed by Roger Taillibert a French architect, and features a retractable roof which was to be controlled by an inclined tower structure. In the midst of construction the laborers went on strike and the stadium wasn’t properly finished until 1982 when the roof that had previously been sitting in a French warehouse was added to the stadium and tower.

16. Cubic Houses (Kubus woningen) (Rotterdam, Netherlands)


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The idea for the cubic houses in Rotterdam was initially born in the 1970s but the designer Piet Blom didn’t get the chance to make it real until 1984. Piet Blom has tried to capture a forest using each cube as an abstract tree; the whole cubic village then becomes a forest. Each of the cubes are built in the same way as accommodation and are split into three levels, a triangle shaped living area on the bottom, a sleeping and bathroom area on the middle level and the top level can be used as either living or sleeping areas.


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This is a crazy abstract way of turning living spaces into architectural talking points and must be strange for people living here to have their homes be such an attraction to tourists and those that appreciate innovative architecture.

17. Rotating Tower, Dubai, UAE

With so many unique buildings you would think architects would be running out of ideas but they still have plans to build eye catching and innovative designs like the Rotating Tower, Dubai.

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Dubai has been pushing the boundaries of great architecture and this development is certainly a head turner. The 59 floor rotating tower is being developed by architecture firm Dynamic Architecture headed up by David Fisher and is incorporating intelligent engineering to make each floor rotate on a concrete axis so each of the 200 apartments can get the best view. This building will also be the first building of its height that will be built in a factory then put together around the axis.

So what is next for the future of architecture?

I’m sure we can look forward to many more strange and unusual buildings that come from the imaginative minds of architects. Which are your favourites?

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