When you think of a building, let’s say an office building, what do you envision? Perhaps it’s a tall skyscraper built of iron and glass or a futuristic, almost abstract structure. What your very first thought wouldn’t be is a building disguised to resemble a giant basket. But would you believe that this is an actual piece of architecture?
There are many examples of such downright weird structures in the world through which their respective architects have pushed the boundaries of what building design can be. Let’s talk about some of the strangest ones that stand out because of their unconventional designs. You might love them or hate them, but there’s no denying that they possess an inherent ingenuity that’s hard to miss.
The Basket Building (Ohio, USA)
Located in Newark, Ohio, the Basket Building is exactly what its name suggests – a seven-story building shaped like a gigantic picnic basket. Built as the headquarters of the Longaberger Company, a manufacturer of handcrafted baskets, this whimsical structure captures the attention with its playful design. With a handle that doubles as an observation deck, the Basket Building is a testament to creativity and showcases how architecture can reflect the purpose and identity of a business, even if it’s something that many architects wouldn’t agree with since it looks more like a funny jab than anything else.
National Carpet Museum (Baku, Azerbaijan)
Stepping into the National Carpet Museum feels like entering a woven tapestry. Shaped like a rolled-up carpet, this architectural gem pays homage to Azerbaijan’s rich carpet-weaving tradition. The building’s unique shape and intricate facade, adorned with colorful motifs, mirror the patterns found in traditional Azerbaijani carpets. Its gold and silver facade shimmers in the bright sunlight against blue skies. Inside, visitors can explore a vast collection of carpets and rugs, gaining insight into the country’s cultural heritage while marveling at the building’s artistic representation.
The Crooked House (Sopot, Poland)
Located in the seaside resort town of Sopot, the Crooked House is a structure that seems to have come straight out of a fairytale. When you first walk past it, you might just feel a little dizzy and try to catch yourself. Designed by architects Szotyńscy & Zaleski, this peculiar building features an undulating facade, as if it were made of melting wax. Inspired by the illustrations of Jan Marcin Szancer and the paintings of Per Dahlberg, the Crooked House stands out with its almost surreal appearance. Housing various shops and restaurants, it offers visitors a truly enchanting experience. It’s impossible at first to figure out how the building even works because its jello-like appearance makes it look like it’ll start wobbling around with the slightest of touche.
La Sagrada Familia (Barcelona, Spain)
One of the most famous buildings in the world, La Sagrada Familia is an architectural masterpiece that defies categorization. Designed by renowned architect Antoni Gaudi, this basilica is a fusion of Gothic and Art Nouveau styles, with its towering spires, intricate facades and organic forms. What sets La Sagrada Familia apart is its ongoing construction, which began in 1882 and continues to this day. Gaudí’s vision remains unfinished, making it a symbol of perpetual creation and a testament to the power of architecture to transcend time. Each point of the facade you set your eyes on has something interesting to show. Gaudi also heavily used Christian symbolism in the building, both outside and inside. The structure has three distinct sides: the Nativity Facade, the Passion Facade, and the Glory Façade, each with its own set of sculptures and inscriptions paying homage to the Christian belief and showcasing Gaudi’s love for nature and its forms.
La Pedrera (Barcelona, Spain)
Another iconic creation by Antoni Gaudi and known as Casa Milà, this is a residential building in Barcelona that exemplifies the architect’s imaginative style. Built between 1906 and 1912, the building’s undulating stone facade and wrought-iron balconies stand in stark contrast to the conventional buildings surrounding it. La Pedrera’s rooftop is particularly noteworthy, with its chimneys resembling ancient warriors who are appointed to protect the residents. The building’s unconventional design challenges traditional notions of structure and creates a harmonious blend of art and architecture.
Guggenheim Museum (Bilbao, Spain)
Nestled in the heart of Bilbao, the Guggenheim Museum is an architectural gem that has become an iconic symbol of the city. Designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry, this contemporary art museum is a spectacle of curves, angles, and metallic surfaces. Its most distinctive feature is the undulating titanium panels that cover the exterior, giving the building an otherworldly appearance. The interplay of light and shadow on the reflective surfaces creates a mesmerizing visual effect, while the fluid lines of the structure add a sense of movement and dynamism to the point where it almost looks like a deconstructed ship. The Guggenheim Museum is a testament to Gehry’s innovative design philosophy, making it a must-visit for architecture enthusiasts and art lovers alike.
National Theater of China (Beijing, China)
In the bustling city of Beijing, the National Theater stands as a striking example of contemporary architectural design. Also known as “The Giant Egg” or “The Eggshell,” this futuristic building is an amalgamation of glass, titanium, and steel. Designed by French architect Paul Andreu, the theater’s spherical shape, covered with a translucent glass curtain, is an architectural marvel. The structure appears to float on a man-made lake around it, while its reflection creates the illusion of it being an ellipse. The result is something very alien, like a spaceship that has descended on Earth. The interior is equally impressive, with three main halls that cater to opera, theater, and concerts. The National Theater exemplifies the fusion of modernity and traditional Chinese culture, captivating visitors with its innovative design and dedication to the performing arts.
These examples show, more than anything, the ingenuity of the human mind. In times when artificial intelligence seems to be taking over the world, there’s really no match for what people can come up with. Architects have an internal need to create things that haven’t been created before, just like other creatives. And when they’re given free rein to design a building, the results are often awe-inspiring, even if the design is somewhat eccentric, at times..