To think out of the box is something that most of us have been encouraged to do at some point in our lives. Well, that is exactly what the architects who designed the following buildings did, creating some of the most unique and eye- catching buildings in the world.
Conch Shell House, Mexico
On the Isla Mujeres in Mexico is the Conch Shell House which imitates nature. Designed by Mexican artists and brothers Octavio Ocampo and Eduardo Ocampo, the house is of white colour, with two bedrooms and an outdoor pool. Construction of the house began in 2001 and lasted for three years. It was built out of recycled materials and concrete. The idea was to build a house that blended well with the surrounding environment. Besides looking like a conch on the outside, the interior was designed using coral and seashells. Paintings of mermaids done by Octavio are hung on the walls and the faucets and sinks are made out of seashells and coral. The headboard of the bed in one of the bedrooms is designed like a huge shell. There are no corners inside the house. The rounded walls indicate the flowing and fluid nature of the sea and ocean. The Caribbean Sea is only a few feet away, and the house gives you spectacular views too. Eduardo resides next door with his wife and rents out the Conch Shell House.
Cube Houses, Netherlands
After the Dutch architect Piet Blom’s successful designing of the Cube Houses in Helmond, he was asked to apply the similar designs at Rotterdam. During the Second World War, the Oude Haven was almost completely destroyed and Blom wanted to redesign the area with more character. So the Cube House, built in the 1970s, were designed to look like an abstract forest- the houses had triangular roofs which represent treetops. The houses are stand on concrete pillars (the elevated houses represents trees). The entire structure is three floors tall with the entrance lying on the ground floor. A kitchen lies in the first floor while the second floor contains bedrooms and a bathroom. Rooftop gardens lie on the third floor.
Situated right next to the Rotterdam Blaak Railway Station, there are numerous restaurants and cafes at the ground floor. A traffic-free pedestrian bridge connects the cubes. It also contains a number of offices, studios and a playground for children. The entire building has 270 houses and parking space for 300 cars, besides the shops and eateries. Inside the building, the walls are slanted. The cubes are insulated with rock wool. They were then sheathed with wood-fibre board and cement. Ever since the original completion of the building, changes have been made. In 1998, zinc roofs were added over the original roof. The curiosity of tourists proved so much so that one of the residence had been opened to visitors. One of the cubes, initially a school of architecture, was turned into a youth hostel, while another space was converted into social housing.
Standing 245 feet tall and visible throughout the city of Reykjavík is Iceland’s Hallgrímskirkja, a church of unique shape. Designed by the architect Guðjón Samúelsson, construction lased for forty one years- from 1945 to 1986. The design and shape of the church was inspired by the mountains, glaciers and trap rocks of Iceland. Samúelsson designed the building to commemorate the saint and poet Hallgrímur Pétursson who is known for his Hymns of Passion. While the whole church took 41 years to be completed, the tower was built first. The original design of the church was for it to be less tall, but the Church of Iceland’s leaders wanted it to outshine the Landakot’s Church, the Catholic Church’s cathedral in Iceland. After its original completion, the tower underwent a huge restoration in 2009. Visitors can go up to the viewing deck in the tower for great views of the city and mountains.
The tower’s sloping sides looks like flowing lava. A statue of Leifur Eiriksson, who is said to have discovered America first, stands outside. While the exterior looks grand, the interior is relatively simple. Huge pillars lead from the aisle to the altar. There are a long row of seats with upholstery. In 1992, a pipe organ which is 50 feet tall and made of 5,275 pipes was added. Weighing 25 tons, it was created by the German builder Johannes Klaishas.
Nautilus House, Mexico
When a couple with their two kids in Mexico wanted to live in something other than their conventional house, their wish was granted by Mexican architect, Javier Senosiain. The dwelling is in the shape of a giant spiral shell, named and designed after the nautilus cephalopod.
Built in 2007, the house is maintenance free and safe from earthquakes. Built out of ferro-cement, the frame is made of steel- enforced chicken wire which is coated with concrete. The material is lightweight and it is easy to form curves with it, so there are no straight walls inside, only circles, spirals and circular shaped rooms (like the inside of a shell). Though the house is relatively small and low on storage and space, it looks like something out of Alice in Wonderland. The inside is as pretty as the outside. Lining the ceilings and walls of the interior are hundreds of beautiful, rainbow coloured stained glass windows. The interior is illuminated by the natural light from the windows. Grass lines the floor, with stone paths that take the resident to numerous parts of the house.
The Big Basket, USA
The Big Basket was originally constructed as the headquarters for the Longaberger Company, an American company manufacturing wooden baskets and other products. The building takes after the design of the company’s most sold product, the Medium Market Basket.
Architects had presented Dave Longaberger, the founder of the company, with various designs of ordinary baskets. Longaberger wanted the design to look exactly as the product he sold most, and hence, the basket-shaped building came to be. The construction was completed in 1997. The top of the building has two handles as a real basket. Standing seven storeys tall, the building has a central atrium. The interior is lit by natural light coming in from a glass ceiling. The two handles are made of steel, equipped with heating elements so that they don’t freeze. Hence the glass atrium is protected from falling ice. Longaberger had wanted all the company’s buildings to be designed in the same shape, but only the headquarters was done so by the time of his death.
The company faced man financial problems and towards the end of 2014, it stopped paying property taxes. Employees left the company in 2016. In 2017, the iconic building and company was sold to Steve Coon, a local developer. A year later, he put the building on sale. But it remained unsold and shut for years, much to the lamentation of the locals, who considered the building to be a landmark of the city. Nobody knew what the fate of the basket building was to be, until in 2020, a one- day- tour was held and it was announced that it was to be converted into a luxury hotel.
Stone House, Portugal
Thanks to the Flintstones, there exists a house in Portugal made out of giant boulders called Casa de Penedo. It is said that the design was inspired by the American cartoon. The owner of the house, Vitor Rodrigues, initially used the building as a holiday home. But the unusual appearance of the house attracted countless visitors, due to which he had to move away. Today, it is a museum housing relics and pictures regarding the history of the house.
The construction started in 1972 and was completed two years later. Four boulders serve as the stone house’s foundation, ceiling and walls. Although it looks like something straight out of the stone ages, the house has windows, a shingled roof and a front door installed. Despite being situated near a wind farm, the house has no electricity supply. Owing to its appearance, the residence looks just like a giant boulder blending in perfectly with its surroundings. Apart from the boulders, smaller stones were used in the building. Inside the house, the staircase is made out of wood. To keep the house warm during the winters, a fireplace was built. There is a sofa made out of eucalyptus wood and concrete. Each of the rooms are of different shapes due to the walls of the house. A swimming pool was carved out of rock.
The Stone House isn’t without its share of problems. Vandals have regularly smashed the windows a number of times. The windows had to be replaced more than twenty times. To prevent any such further trouble, bullet proof windows were installed, which were further reinforced with metal bars. The front door was also replaced by a bullet proof steel door.
Crooked House, Poland
The Crooked House in Poland will remind you of those mirrors that make you look warped. It was designed by architects Szotynscy and Zaleski, who were inspired by the illustrations in the Polish fairy tales of Jan Szancer and Per Dahlberg. The Polish name of the building is Krzywy Domek (which when translated into English is ‘Crooked House.’)
Built in 2004, the building is part of the Rezydent shopping centre. It is made of warped walls, curved stain glass, windows with sandstone frames and a concave roof with blue- green emerald shingles. The roof was designed so as to give the impression of a dragon. Inside the building, the décor is stone- elevated. Although unusual on the outside, the interior is normal as it can be. The building houses shops, offices, a radio station, bars and restaurants and the Poland’s version of Hollywood Walk of Fame.
There are five entertainment centres called WonderWorks in USA, and the buildings are built upside down, as if uprooted by a tornado and dropped on its roof. The company has kept true to its slogan, ‘Let Your Imagination Run Wild’!
Combining both education and entertainment, the centres are interactive science exhibits based on Physics, Mathematics and space. The buildings were designed by the architect Terry O. Nicholson. Interestingly, there is even a lore dedicated to the unusual design. According to the lore, Professor Wonder, the world’s greatest scientist, was working in his ultra- secret laboratory in the Bermuda Triangle when he created an artificial tornado. Complications occur, the experiment goes wrong and way out of control and the tornado is unleashed outside, only to have it hurl the entire building from its location and deposit it at various locations. The buildings landed upside down and to this day, remain so!