In a world of bland, corporate buildings, thank goodness for those architects and designers who express their individuality. They brighten up our world. From works of art to the downright wacky, here is a list, some of which I have been fortunate to see in the flesh.
10. Guggenheim Museum – Bilbao, Spain
No list is possible without the architect Frank Gehry. Built alongside the Nervion River, the curves are typical Gehry and were designed to catch the light. The museum, opened to the public in 1997, exhibits Spanish and international artists and the unusual design made it an important tourist attraction for the town. Gehry wanted the design to resemble a ship in honour of Bilbao’s status as a port. The building is made of limestone and glass, and titanium panels made to look like fish scales.
9. Dali Theatre and Museum – Figueras, Spain
Another Spanish art museum, this houses the largest collection of Salvador Dali’s artwork in the world. Figueras was the artist’s birthplace and he wanted to rebuild the old theatre from the ruins left by the bombs of the Spanish Civil War. The museum opened in 1974 and was expanded through the 1980s. Dali supervised the design, which matched the eccentricity of his paintings and sculptures, particularly in the giant eggs on the roof. Dali’s crypt is in the basement.
8. Turning the Place Over – Liverpool, England
This is an art installation contained within a derelict building, which has served as an attraction during Liverpool’s tenure as European City of Culture. Sculptor Richard Wilson’s creation surprises passers-by. An oval shaped 8-metre diameter section of the wall was cut and made to spin round on a pivot to reveal the interior of the building.
7. The Mushroom Tree House – Cincinnati, Ohio
This other worldly construction looks as if it was transplanted from a children’s picture book. It doesn’t appear to have been built at all and looks like it sprung up from the ground. The effect was achieved by the former Professor of Architecture and Interior Design at the University of Cincinnati, the late Terry Brown. Brown’s students helped with the project and were graded for it. It can be found in the Hyde Park district of the city.
6. Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Building – Branson, Missouri
The Branson museum is one of a chain of museums, housing the bizarre artifacts owned by the Ripley franchise. The building was designed to commemorate the devastating earthquake, which registered over 8.0 on the Richter Scale, in 1812 in New Madrid, Missouri. The crack across the building gives the impression that it has just survived its own earthquake. The Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum in Orlando, Florida is designed to appear as if it is sinking into the ground.
5. The Robot Building – Bangkok, Thailand
The robotic design, by the architect Sumet Jumsai, houses the United Overseas Bank headquarters. Located in the Sathorn business district, it was completed in 1986 when contemporary design was in vogue. It’s a friendly looking robot with lidded eyeballs for windows. The architect’s remit was to design something that made a statement about the modern, computerised nature of banking.
4. Sagrada Familia – Barcelona, Spain
Many visitors go to Barcelona just to see the work of the architect, Antoni Gaudi. He didn’t like straight lines and he avoided them whenever possible! His most ambitious construction, the Sagrada Familia Roman Catholic Church is still to be finished. Gaudi worked on it from 1852 until his death in 1926. It is scheduled to be open to the public for worship in 2010. Its towers are the most iconic image of Barcelona and it looks as if it belongs in a fairy story. The church is full of Christian symbolism, dedicated to the saints. Gaudi’s other famous Barcelona landmarks include Casa Mila and Park Guell.
3. The Basket Building – Newark, Ohio
Not many people get to work in a replica of a hand woven gift basket! This environment is headquarters to the Longaberger Company, a successful basket manufacturer. The founder, Dave Longaberger, wanted all his company buildings to be in the shape of a basket but his daughters countered his wishes following his death. However, this 7-story replica of one of the company’s products is not the only giant Longaberger basket in the area. Dave had also instigated the Apple Basket in Frazeysburg, the house sized Picnic Basket in Dresden, and the Big Easter Basket in Lorain.
2. The Crooked House – Sopot, Poland
The architectural firm of Szotynscy Zaleski took inspiration from fairytale illustrations and from the designs of Spanish architect, Antoni Gaudi to design this remarkable construction. The appearance of slate roofing is actually covered with bluish green enamelled shingles that look like dragon scales. The interior is conventional and contains bars, shops and cafes.
1. The Dancing House – Prague, Czech Republic
Tourists from all over the world come to marvel at the beautiful churches and other historic buildings in Prague, so they are surprised to find this contemporary gem. It houses the Nationale-Nederlanden insurance company and was designed by Vlado Milunic and Frank Gehry. Construction was between 1992 and 1996 and was endorsed by the President of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Havel. A French restaurant occupies the roof, affording magnificent views over the city. Other nicknames for the building include the Fred and Ginger, and the Drunk House.
Written by Anne Iredale