From Victorian to Romanesque to Postmodern, architectural style is something that has evolved throughout the years, either to better serve its function or to correspond more closely with the popular aesthetic of the time. Though many structures stay well within the confines of what the common rules are, there are those that option to break new ground, potentially serving as the start of an entirely new school of thought.
With the ability that technology has given us to share ideas and watch them spread like wildfire, new styles are able to emerge and make themselves instantly known in the larger world. Many structures capture the public interest immediately with their uniqueness, like Frank Gehry’s deconstructivist Guggenheim Bilbao or Jean Nouvel’s sleek and stylish Torre Agbar, but some have actually turned the structure of the building on its side, and revamped the old rules as a result.
Though Leandro Erlich’s partial building is more art than architecture, it serves to show us how a unique art object can rearrange our sense of the way things are. On the other hand, Peter Jungmann’s Ufogel literally flips the familiar view of a house while maintaining the essential elements of what makes it a home. While many architectural structures of the day can shock and amaze, the following have managed to disassemble the ideas of what a building can look like.
The Dancing House
Located in the city of Prague, Czech Republic, the once aptly named “Fred and Ginger” building, referring to dancing partners Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, was completed in 1996 and stands as a representation of architect Frank Gehry’s aesthetic. Designed in the deconstructivist style, the building was inspired by the transition of Czechoslovakia to a democracy, with the sense of movement worked into the building a symbol of that change. While the building has not become the centrepiece of Prague society that it was expected to be, it is featured on the Czech koruna for the “Ten Centuries of Architecture” series and serves as a popular landmark for visitors.
The Furniture Lift – The Ultimate Moving Out
This art installation created by Argentinian artist Leandro Erlich might not function as a building, but it still manages to emulate one that might have had the misfortune of being caught in high winds. A 30-foot high sculpture that was designed for the Art Journey Festival in Nantes, France in 2012, the half-torn away room is held up by a mock ladder that appears to be leaning against it. While the piece may not fit the criteria of being an actual structure, its design and suspension make it a gravity-defying feat that fuses art and architecture and gives us a sense of how a new concept can capture attention.
Designed by the modernist German Architect Mies van der Rohe, the Farnsworth House was completed in 1951 and sits in the town of Plano, Illinois, a sleek, white structure among the near emptiness of the natural scenery. Built as a retreat for Edith Farnsworth, the house features the familiar minimalism of van der Rohe’s work and is held 5’3” above the ground on steel white columns as if it’s floating above the ground, separate from the scene. While the house was restored in 1972 and 1996, today it remains a popular landmark and is one of 29 Historic Sites cared for by the National Trust.
Commonly known as “the crooked house”, the image of Krzywy Domek might appear like a serious camera malfunction, but the building is an entirely real structure in the city of Sopot, Poland. Constructed in 2004 and designed by Szotyńscy & Zaleski, the building vaults viewers into the fairy-tale world the architects imagined that seems more mirage than facade. Though the 4000 square meter structure is host to a portion of the Rezydent Shopping Center and features a number of stores, restaurants and retail spaces within, it maintains its magic as an almost inimitable structure and was voted number one among the “50 Strange Buildings of the World” by the website, Village of Joy.
Located outside of Vienna, Austria in the village of Nussdorf, this small 45-square meter house was designed in 2013 by Peter Jungmann and tips the familiar kind of house on its head, literally speaking. Created with the ethos of complimenting the natural environment and having minimal impact, Ufogel is made completely of larch wood set on stilts, and features all of the amenities of the common home from a fresh perspective. With its floor heating and automatic sun protection system, Ufogel is an uncommon structure that can be rented throughout the year for an organic, architectural experience that shows the possibilities of untraditional form.
Designed by one of the most significant American architects in history, the Fallingwater House is a testament to Frank Lloyd Wright’s style and is his most recognized structure. Built in 1935 and located close to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the home, built over a waterfall, represents the perfect synthesis of Wright’s philosophy that “form and function are one.” In large part due to its cantilevered planes that appear almost as one with the surrounding natural scenery, Fallingwater was named as the “Building of the Century” in 2000 by the American Institute of Architects.
Home to China’s primary television broadcaster, the CCTV headquarters located in Beijing stretches approximately 234 metres and rises 44 storeys high, appearing like a loop as if to symbolize the process of television production. The uniquely shaped three-dimensional building, which was fully completed in January 2008, was designed by Rem Koolhaas and Ole Scheeren of OMA and has an irregular structure which perfectly serves as a modern response to the traditional ideas of what a skyscraper can be.
Appearing much like a game of Jenga come to life, the Wozoco apartment complex in Amsterdam, Netherlands has been a unique structure in the city since its completion in 1997. Designed by the firm MVRDV and commissioned by Het Oosten Housing Association, this building might appear organic enough but its unique structure actually arose out of a need to make 100 units, instead of the planned-for 87, without blocking out the natural light. While the structure is eye-catching, it also manages to be a good representation of a building that stuck, quite untraditionally, to its initial function.
Niterói Contemporary Art Museum
Designed by Oscar Niemeyer and structural engineer Bruno Contarini, the Niterói Contemporary Art Museum located in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil takes its inspiration from the idea of a flower. Completed in 1996, the spaceship-style structure rests on a cylindrical base that seems miniscule in comparison and sits atop a cliff overlooking Guanabra Bay. While the 50-meter diameter of the building might seem like a hard fact to minimize, a reflecting pool that stretches directly below the building imbibes the structure with a certain lightness that perfectly represents its inspiration.
Sharp Centre for Design
Designed by renowned British architect Will Alsop, the Sharp Center at the Ontario College of Art and Design is an inimitable building located in Toronto, Ontario. Completed in 2004, the centre houses the Faculty of Design and features a tabletop structure in crossword-style black and white that sits 26 meters above the ground. While the conspicuous structure constitutes a simple enough square, 12 coloured steel legs at odd angles are jammed into it like pencils and serve to hold the structure up. Striking even among the most unique of buildings, the centre received the Excellence Award in the “Building in Context” category by Toronto Architecture and Urban Design in 2005.