From the creative and eclectic to downright bizarre, some buildings definitely step out of the ordinary and seemingly defy all logic, architectural rules and maybe even gravity. Some of these architectural curiosities were clearly intended to stand out and make a statement about a concept, product or place. Other buildings are strange for no reason at all, other than to indicate that the owners or designers were probably very artistic and maybe just a little bit eccentric.
These are just a few of the many weird buildings that can be found throughout the world. It goes without saying that these buildings can either prompt great praise for being so unique and clever – or they will make visitors scratch their heads and wonder just what, exactly, the designer was thinking.
Winchester Mystery House, San Jose, California
Once the home of Sarah Winchester, the wealthy widow of gun magnate William Wirt Winchester, the Winchester Mystery House is indeed mysterious and definitely very creepy. Sarah began construction on the home in 1884 and continued nonstop for decades: she felt the need to relentlessly build and add on to her home. Sarah believed that the ghosts of the people who had been killed by the rifles her husband made haunted her family, and only by building nonstop could she actually please the spirits and avoid having those ghosts settle in her house.
She even built rooms and bizarre spaces in her home to confuse and trap the ghosts, such as doors and staircases that lead to nowhere and windows that look back into the interior of the home. As a result, the house is large, containing around 160 rooms including 40 bedrooms and 2 ballrooms, but it doesn’t have any logical floor plan or organization. The architectural details are luxurious, as Sarah often used fine woods and materials including Tiffany Glass. After Sarah’s death, the home was opened to the public – since it couldn’t really be used for anything else – and it is still open to tour groups.
Habitat 67, Montreal, Canada
The unique Habitat 67 is a residential building that was built for Montreal’s 1967 World’s Fair, Expo 67. The design was originally conceived as a part of architect Moshe Safdie’s thesis project: he hoped to create what he believed would be an ideal living community for the future. It contains 364 identical, prefabricated concrete forms arranged in various combinations to create a total of 146 residential spaces, each with different sizes and configurations. All units have at least one private terrace. Safdie’s vision was to create a new type of urban apartment building with units that had gardens, privacy and multileveled interiors, in contrast with other more standard apartment buildings. Although the architect also wanted it to be an affordable urban housing option, the famous building and unique nature of the units have made them highly sought after and more expensive than he had originally intended.
Turning Torso, Malmö, Sweden
The Swedish building, the Turning Torso, was designed by a Spanish architect, Santiago Calatrava, and is currently the tallest skyscraper in Scandinavia. City politicians originally wanted it to be built so it would become a new symbol of their city. The building has segments that are shaped like pentagons, which gradually “twist” relative to each other with the top segment twisted 90 degrees relative to the ground floor. Opened in 2005, the 54 story-tall private residential tower has 147 apartments, a spa, wine cellar and concierge service.
Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, Spain
Spain is filled with unique architecture that traces back to many different artistic movements over the centuries, from romantic to art nouveau to modern. The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao is a particular standout of modern architecture. It was designed by a Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry and has become famous all over the world for being a symbol of contemporary architecture. The curves on the exterior of the structure were designed to appear random. These interconnecting exterior shapes are made of stone, glass and titanium. Inside, there is an impressive atrium area and a lot of exhibition space, including unusual galleries that are irregularly shaped because of the exterior of the building.
Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia and Casa Batlló, Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona is famous for the giant Sagrada Familia basilica designed by Antoni Gaudí. Another famous Gaudí location in Barcelona includes the Casa Batlló, a house covered in mosaics and has been called a “house of bones” because it looks almost like a skeleton. Gaudí was known for creating very unique style of architecture influenced by forms from nature.
Compared to the sharp angles and straight lines of most buildings, Gaudí’s buildings are soft and have an organic, sometimes misshapen look to them. His work features details like turned stones and twisted iron sculptures that add to the natural appearance. He also adorned many of his buildings with coloured tiles in mosaics, which provide the structures with a lot of color and make his works look like something out of a fantasy or fairy tale.
Palaces in Sintra, Portugal
Like Spain, Portugal is another country filled with fascinating and bizarre architecture. The sleepy town of Sintra, not far from Lisbon, is characterized by Romantic style of architecture from the 19th century. The Pena National Palace stands on a hill that overlooks the region. It was once the royal palace and has often been used by the President to host state visits. The palace features an eclectic mix of vaulted arches, medieval and Islamic-spired architecture. Its main feature is its colorful reds and yellow exterior. This kind of mishmash of architecture can also be observed in other luxurious palaces in the region as well, such as the nearby Monserrate Palace with Moghul-inspired details and other “romantic” architectural details.
Palais Idéal, France
Palais Ideal was created by a French postman named Ferdinand Cheval. The postman spent 30 years building – literally with his own two hands – what he believed to be his “ideal” palace or dream home. The construction on his home began when he tripped over an unusually-shaped stone and saved it. Then he started picking up stones and carried them one by one to construct the outer walls of a building. He gradually used wheelbarrows to transport the stones on his own, binding them together with mortar and cement. Finally, decades later he completed the building, which has many detailed sculptures and intricate works of art made from stones on its exterior. Later, he constructed his own mausoleum using the same method. It’s inspiring to anyone who has ever wondered if they could build their own home – after all, this man literally made a palace by hand.
Eden Project, Cornwall, England
Opened in 2001, this network of geodesic domed structures houses plants that have been collected from around the world. Since the domes allow for diverse growing conditions, many different kinds of plants have been put on display in the complex. The whole complex is an ode of sorts to mother nature, including the “core” of the structure that contains an installation called “seed” which resembles an egg-shaped stone. All of the domes are made from hundreds of hexagonal and pentagonal plastic cells supported by steel frames.
30. St. Mary Axe, “The Gherkin Building,” London
Dubbed the Gherkin building, this skyscraper in London’s financial district is, as its name suggests, shaped like a giant pickle. Opened in 2004, it has quickly become an iconic piece of architecture in the English city. As another modern touch, the Gherkin Building is energy efficient: it has a special system that pulls warm air out of the building during the summer and helps warm the building in the winter. The work environments inside also benefit from a lot of natural light. The top level of the building features a bar that provides guests a 360 degree view of London.
Longaberger Headquarters, Ohio, United States
A manufacturer of handcrafted wood baskets in the United States decided to model their headquarters building after the design of one of their products. Located in Ohio along a rural state route, this novel basket-shaped building has become a tourist attraction. The building’s basket handles can actually be heated in the winter to prevent damage from ice. Originally, the founder of the company wanted all of the company’s buildings to be shaped like baskets, but only the headquarters ended up using this design.