The great tradition of “phallic architecture” has been celebrated since Greco-Roman times. Yep, the Greeks and the Romans – notorious for their naughty streak – built tons of monuments shaped like sexual organs. They may have just enjoyed injecting a bit of sex into the daily metro-boulot-dodo routine, but they rationalised the architectural aesthetics convincingly – the sexual organs promote power, authority and assertiveness and who wouldn’t want that in a home or workspace? But we live in a more prudish age, and now a building shaped like a man’s private parts is more likely to evoke giggles than awe. Boys snicker, girls blush, and said building becomes a symbol of mockery and the butt of many jokes. While we at The Richest certainly respect the classical aesthetic, we’re not below a few genital-jokes ourselves.
So, with a fond nod to our Grecian ancestors, these are eight of the biggest phallic symbols that have been ‘erected’ throughout the last century.
Ypsilanti Water Tower – Ypsilanti, Michigan – 1890
First ‘up’ is the Ypsilanti Water Tower, built in 1890. Labeled as “the brick dick” by the locals of this small town in Michigan, it was selected as the winner for “The Most Phallic Building” contest held by Cabinet magazine in 2003. Often ridiculed, maybe, but the building’s resemblance to male genitalia has drawn plenty of curious tourists, and has become a landmark of the town.
Dixon Christian Science Church – Dixon, Illinois – 1903
An hour and a half west of Chicago is the small town of Dixon, Illinois. Known as the city in which President Ronald Reagan grew up, it has recently made news for other reasons. Originally formed in 1903, the newly built Dixon Christian Science Church has gained attention for its striking resemblance to the male trouser region. The architects and owners of the church say it was built that way to preserve a tree on the property. This impressive – if unintentional – tribute to the phallus is worth an estimated $1 million dollars.
30. St Mary Axe – The Gherkin – London – 2003
Nestled in London’s financial district, The Gherkin is one of the most famous buildings on the London skyline. Construction on this building cost nearly $225 million dollars, and it’s the sixth tallest building in London. Construction on the Gherkin was completed in 2003 by British architect Norman Foster. Recently, London activists of the art collective “Shift // Delete” banded together in protest against the financial sector’s influence on the British government; their tactic? Gathering by night to project a giant penis on The Gherkin. Zero points for subtlety. Check it out here:
Torre Agbar – Barcelona, Spain – 2005
The Torre Agbar was built in 2005 by French architect Jean Nouvel. Since its completion, it’s become an architectural staple in Barcelona. A popular symbol throughout the city, it hasn’t escaped the inevitable playground nickname-calling, drawing attention to the building’s stark parallels with the phallus. It’s, rather unoriginally, known as “El pene de Barcelona”, or “The penis of Barcelona”. The architect Nouvel has taken it in his stride. When asked what inspired the building’s design, he cited the Montserrat, a mountain near Barcelona, as well as the shape of a geyser rising into the air, and – indeed – the male genitalia. So while many buildings on our list can claim only accidental resemblance to the fertility symbol, Torre Agbar bears the accolade with intent and pride. An expensive erection, at over $176 million.
Virgin Galactic Spaceport – New Mexico – 2005
Switching gears, next on our list is the Virgin Galactic Spaceport. Virgin Galactic and the State of New Mexico announced in 2005 their plans to develop the world’s first commercial Spaceport. With $200 million of state funded dollars, construction is well under way. It seems that the building’s architect Norman Foster has an aesthetic attachment to the phallic symbol – his company also masterminded London’s Gherkin.
Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower – Shinjuku, Tokyo – 2008
A recent entry, Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower opened its doors in 2008. Conceived by architecture firm Tange Associates, this building is particularly fertile with genital comparisons – it arguably resembles both male and female genitalia combined. The building hosts three educational institutions and is currently one of the tallest buildings in Tokyo. In 2008, Emporis.com voted The Cocoon Tower Skyscraper of the Year but the cost of the building hasn’t been made public knowledge.
Al Wakrah Stadium – Qatar – 2013
This one draws marked comparisons with the female genitalia. The Al Wakrah Stadium in Qatar in still unfinished, but we’ve obtained a sketch developed by world-renowned female architect Zaha Hadid. Hadid has recently fired back at criticisms made against her design for the venue of the 2022 World Cup; “Honestly, if a guy had done this project, critics would not be making such lewd comparisons.” Hassan al-Thawadi, The General Secretary of Qatar’s 2022 committee, declined to comment on the projected costs of the lady-flower-shaped sporting stadium.
People’s Daily Tower – Beijing, China – 2013
Last on our list is the People’s Daily Tower in Beijing, China. Still under construction, People’s Daily Tower has garnered lots of attention from tourists who apparently enjoy the phallic comparisons. Zhou Qi, the architect behind the project, has defended the building – he says it won’t look be quite so similar to the male genitalia once the project is completed and the scaffolding at the top of the building is removed. The building is scheduled to open in May 2014 and the projected cost of the building is a staggering $250 million.
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