When it comes to the strange, bizarre, and perhaps downright goofy in terms of building designs, virtually every country in the world offers their own entry. The architects who manage to dream up crazy buildings are equalled in their imagination by the builders who somehow use the right materials to construct these creations.
Over the centuries, the construction of odd or unusual buildings have occurred in every major civilization. Whether by accident such as the Great Bent Pyramid of Egypt or on purpose such as the Longaberger Building in Ohio, architects continue to amaze everyone with their penchant for creating imaginative structures that still provide awe and wonder. Thanks to modern materials and innovative construction designs, there are more unusual buildings being constructed on a daily basis.
Of all the fascinating, weird, and bizarre buildings that have been created, there are five that really stand out from the rest. Each of them have their own unique character and continue to draw attention long after they are first seen thanks to their remarkable design and construction. For those who believe that quirky designs in buildings are tame, here are five that really stand out in alphabetical order.
Dancing Building – Prague, Czech Republic
A four year construction, the Dancing Building or “Fred and Ginger” as it is sometimes called was completed and opened in 1996 to rave reviews for its remarkable design. The non-traditional design of what appears to be two different buildings dancing together was the dream of architect Vlado Milunic and Frank Gehry on a vacant riverfront property.
The property itself was actually bombed during World War II and left abandoned for decades afterwards, having been fully cleared by 1960. The building or house as it is sometimes called was chosen as the site of the structure and Milunic managed to get Frank Gehry to cooperate to help design a building that took advantage of the small space available. The result was one side of the building being bowed inward like glass while the other offers a unique, almost comic-book appearance as a grandiose house. A connecting platform gives the appearance that the two sides are dancing together.
Initially, the design was somewhat controversial because it garnered so much attention away from the traditional Baroque, Art Nouveau, and Gothic structures quite common to Prague. However, it quickly became quite popular thanks to its richly imaginative design that still draws awe and respect to this day.
Habitat 67 – Montreal, Canada
Also called simply, “Habitat”, this community and housing complex was completed in 1967 just in time for the World’s Fair. Located at 2600 Avenue Pierre-Dupuy near the Saint Lawrence River, Habitat 67 is arguably the most recognizable structure in all of Montreal and perhaps Canada as well. Designed by Moshe Safdie, the building itself was first conceived as part of his Master’s thesis in architecture when he was studying at McGill University. While it was noted for its uniqueness at the time, it did not with the coveted Pilkington Prize normally awarded to such works because of its controversial nature.
Safdie kept the remarkable cubical design of the structure and eventually managed to develop the design thanks in large part to the approaching World’s Fair. The cubical nature combined with the off-kilter approach makes the structure look almost slapdash in appearance. The cubes sit atop each other in an half-hazard way that only adds to the overall charm and distinctiveness of the building itself. Consisting of 354 identical, prefabricated concrete cubes, the structure reaches 12 stories in height for the 146 residences that are in place. The idea was to bring in a sense of privacy while providing garden space and fresh air to the residents.
Despite its remarkable size, it was actually suppose to be much larger before funding cuts stopped the project. Still, it was proclaimed at the 1967 World’s Fair to be an incredible experiment and an architectural wonder that still amazes to this very day. Safdie has also gone on to a very distinguished career in designing more than 75 buildings around the world.
Hang Nga Guesthouse – Da Lat, Vietnam
Also called the “Crazy House”, this incredible building seems more like out of a fairy tale than an actual construction. Designed and built by Dang Viet Nga, the design of the building appears more like a very large, ungainly tree with sculpted natural elements. Using paintings as his resource instead of traditional blueprints like most architects, Dang Viet Nga has managed to create a structure that offers an expressionistic take on building design.
Originally conceived more as an experience of personal expression, the overall design incorporates the natural elements found around the city. The use of paintings and hiring non-professional craftsmen to create the structure, there are very few right angles found in the building itself. There is a kangaroo room, an eagle’s egg room, and most of the structure is dedicated to animal forms in one way or another. There is always much discussion about the connection of animals and nationalities that have been a part of the Vietnamese experience in this structure, including China and the US.
Opened to the public in 1990, the house itself was inspired by famed Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi and appears to be a cross between the works of Salvador Dali and Walt Disney, only more odd and unusual. It’s little wonder that the guest house routinely makes the lists of the strangest buildings in the world which is why it is here on this list as well.
Ideal Palace – Hauterives, France
One of the most unusual and certainly evocative buildings ever crafted, this remarkable palace was the singular work of one man, Ferdinand Cheval who was a simple French postman. The palace is the result of a single incident in 1879 when he was walking fast along the sidewalk when something caught his foot and tripped him up. The unique stone which caused him to nearly fall was placed in his pocket and served as the inspiration for his remarkable palace.
Cheval began working on his ideal palace in April, 1879 after finding more of the sandstones in the same location. Each day he would pick up several unique stones and that night use them to construct his palace. He started by putting the stones in his pocket, then a basket, and finally a wheelbarrow and worked tirelessly through the night on his palace.
The palace itself is a unique combination of Christian and Hindu influences as each stone is bound together with mortar, lime, and cement. The Palace itself stands at roughly three stories tall and is imbued with a seemingly endless series of remarkable designs. For 33 years Chavel worked on his palace until it was finally complete just before the outbreak of World War One. However, for him to be buried in his palace he had to have a proper mausoleum under French law, so it took him eight more years to build that and he died not long afterwards in 1924.
The castle itself is quite beguiling and beautiful, a combination of natural design and unique craftsmanship from a man who had no formal training as an architect. Over the years, Chavel’s work has become greatly appreciated for its powerful design and the perseverance to create it. Today, you can visit the palace and even see the original stone put in place by Chavel himself that inspired him to build the Ideal Palace.
Longaberger Building – Newark, Ohio
The Longaberger Company creates and distributes distinctive, handcrafted maple wood baskets as well as many other lifestyle and home products. Since the company’s founding in 1919, they have specialized in a particular model of wood basket that became so identified with the company that in the mid-1990s the president, Dave Longaberger decided to create a new building in its shape.
The Longaberger “Basket” Building is a seven-story structure that looks exactly like the medium market basket that the company manufactures complete with the massive handles on top. The building offers 180,000 square feet of space and was built by Korda Nemeth Engineering. Completed and opened in 1997, the handles are actually heated during cold weather in order to prevent damage from accumulating ice. The building can be seen from miles around and drew national attention when it was completed.
After its completion, Longaberger wanted all of his company’s buildings to share the distinctive shape, but he passed away shortly after completion of the headquarters. Unfortunately, with the reduced number of employees, the Longaberger Company has recently moved from their unique building. While the future of this remarkable structure remains in doubt, it certainly made an impressive impact over the past two decades as a remarkable design.
Over the centuries, there have been many unique and strange buildings constructed which have fired the imagination. But few reach the pinnacles of the five strangest works each with their own wonderful inspiration. From a postman in France determined to fulfill his dream to the president of a basket-making company, the source of inspiration for architects of all types can be found in these five structures.