Interesting and Unusual Buildings Around the World

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Travel Features >> Interesting and Unusual Buildings Around the World

Interesting and Unusual Buildings Around the World

October 13, 2011

Four walls and a roof are all that’s needed to create a building. That is, if you want to stick to the basics. But when you’re aiming to design a building the world will look at- with admiration, disbelief or whatever- you’ve got to be different. You’ve got to come up with something people will come from across the globe to gape at. So this is it. The definitive list of the strangest, most unusual edifices on Earth. Some are architectural marvels- beautiful, impressive buildings which dominate the skyline; others are downright bizarre. A combination of the weird and the wonderful, the loopy and the lovely: the one-of-a-kind buildings.

The Apple Store, New York City, USA
The paradigms of architectural genius have shifted in the 21st century. The signature Apple Store on the corner of 59th street and 5th Ave in New York has seen to that. The whole store is built underground and ever since its construction in May 2006, has been a crowd puller – not only for the products but also for the architectural genius.

A bold statement is made by the 32ft x 32ft glass cube that serves as the entrance to the Apple store. Tread down the spiral glass staircase or take the all glass elevator down and enter into the world of IPads and Macs. Conceived by Peter Bohlin of architectural firm Bohlin Cywinski Jackson this five year old structure has become almost a must-see sight in New York. The store is manned by 300 trained sales agents who set up demos, answer all your questions and assist you in making your purchase. And purchase you will. One just cannot go to the Apple store and come away empty handed!

The Apple Store is located at 767 on 5th Ave, tel: (212) 336-1440, open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, so if you feel like making your visit to the store at 4 in the morning, you can be sure it will be open and the staff will willingly assist you. On display are over 200 ipods, and all the latest accessories to complement your Mac or Ipad. This store is truly a computer geeks dream come true!

Click here for more information on New York, USA

Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, Spain
Bilbao, in Spain, is a city of many faces- and the most contemporary of them is the Guggenheim Museum. Inside it is one of Europe’s best collections of modern art; but what we’re concerned with is the building itself, and that is truly spectacular. The Guggenheim Museum sits, like a metallic rose, on the bank of the Nervión River, one side of the building being actually pierced by the Puente de La Salve bridge. Designed in 1997 by Frank Gehry, the museum was modelled on a blossoming flower- petals and all. A solid frame of limestone and steel supports an exterior sheathing of titanium, shimmering and glittering in the sunshine (or the illumination, depending upon what time it is). The sheath consists of half-inch thick titanium `fish-scale’ panels which are supposed to last for a hundred years.

As you approach the Guggenheim Museum, you’re greeted by a 10mt tall figure of a dog, crafted from flowering plants. It stands at the entrance to the museum and is called, rather unimaginatively, `Puppy’. Beyond this canine efflorescence towers the gleaming bulk of the museum, all white and silver and very futuristic. The roof curls, curves and billows in a row of breathtakingly beautiful swirls; glass walls and skylights let in light. Inside, a series of curving pathways and glass elevators connect the 19 galleries which form the Guggenheim Museum. Walk through the museum if you must; but do spend some time looking at the building- it’s one of the best around.

The Guggenheim Museum is situated at Abandoibarra Et. 2, Bilbao (Tel: 34-9443590 80). It’s open between 10 am and 8 pm, Tuesday to Sunday, and from 9 am to 9 pm during July and August.

Click here for more information on Spain

Lloyd’s of London Building, London
St Paul’s and the Houses of Parliament may have typified London’s architecture a century ago, but the contemporary face of Britain’s capital is definitely the spectacular Lloyd’s of London Building. Leadenhall Street in central London is where this magnificent building stands- a shimmering tower of polished steel and glass.

At night, carefully placed lighting transforms Lloyd’s, making it sparkle and shimmer in a dozen colours. The buildings around are the usual office blocks- sedate and functional; but Lloyd’s is different.

Designed to house the offices of insurance giant Lloyd’s, this building was designed by Richard Rogers & Partners (one of Britain’s leading architectural firms) in 1979, and was completed in 1985. The main philosophy behind the design was to build an intelligent building- which the architects certainly managed to achieve.

What is most fascinating about Lloyd’s is the fact that every structural detail of the building is on full display. Huge steel pipes for water, drainage and ventilation climb up the outside of the building, instead of being hidden away within walls. Inside, the tower is divided into 16 floors- all carefully arranged in the form of concentric galleries, so that if you’re standing in the atrium on the ground floor, you can actually look straight up, at the ceiling 84 mt above. Glazed elevators and moving conveyor belts connect different levels, and functional areas- kitchens, toilets, fire escapes and more- sit in a separate tower for convenient maintenance.

The building of the 21st century? Lloyd’s definitely qualifies.

You can visit Lloyd’s only if you have a prior booking; and you might be charged an entry fee for the privilege. Call 44-0-207623 7100 if you’re interested.

Click here for more information on London.

The Bah’ai House of Worship, New Delhi
The youngest of the world’s independent religions, the Bahá’í faith came into existence only about a century ago, and though it’s still a fairly little-known religion, it has to its credit one of the most beautiful religious buildings on Earth: the Bah’ai House of Worship in New Delhi.

The Bahá’í faith has seven houses of worship, scattered across the continents, and the newest- as well as the best known- is the one in Delhi. Designed by Canadian architect Fariborz Sahba, the Delhi House of Worship was inaugurated in 1986. Since then, it’s received a number of accolades and architectural awards, with some even referring to it as `the Taj Mahal of the 20th century’.

Call it what you will, it’s undoubtedly lovely. More popularly known as the Lotus Temple, it was inspired by the lotus flower, and is easily the most distinctive feature of Delhi’s skyline. Like all the other Bahá’í houses of worship, the temple in Delhi is nine-sided and topped by a central dome. A dazzling white structure, it stands in the form of a 27-petalled lotus, its petals arranged in groups of three along the nine sides of the edifice. Each petal is crafted from white concrete, reinforced with galvanized steel, and clad with fine white Greek marble. Nine arches surround the central hall, and beyond the arches are nine pools of blue-green water, encircling the temple. The Lotus Temple towers to a height of 35 mt, and is surrounded by green lawns, occupying a total of 26 acres. Seen from above, the resemblance to a lotus blooming amidst green leaves is unmistakable, if a little abstract.

The Lotus Temple is located at Bahapur, Kalkaji (Tel: 6444029) and is open seven days a week from 9 am to 7 pm from April 1 to September 30, and from 9.30 am to 5.30 pm the rest of the year.

Click here for more information on Delhi

The Burj-al-Arab Hotel, Dubai
Whether this building should figure in `Striking Structures' or `Room with a View' was something we couldn't really decide on- for it's a bit of both. A stunning edifice, literally the leading light on Dubai's skyline; and a hotel with a difference. The Burj-al-Arab hotel is the place to stay in Dubai (if you've got the money for it) and the place to photograph in Dubai (if you don't).

Designed by the British architectural firm W S Atkins International, the Burj-al-Arab Hotel is everything you'd expect of a building in wealthy, flashy Dubai. Towering to a massive height of 321 mt, this hotel's the tallest in the world, and also lays claim to the world's tallest atrium. It stands off the shore of the Persian Gulf, on a manmade island- a distinctive sail-shaped structure, made from Teflon-coated fibreglass, highly reminiscent of the ponderous dhows which once sailed these seas. But that's where the similarity ends, for the Burj-al-Arab is the ultimate in swank- and looks it.

Every surface reflects-in more ways than one- the glitter and wealth of Dubai. Rare Brazilian granite forms the basis of the hotel's 202 suites, each of which spreads over two floors; a below-sea level restaurant offers diners a peek onto the coral reef outside; and some 9,000-odd square metres of gold leaf, marble, granite and crystal decorate the building. Lifts travelling at the speed of 7 mt a second take guests up the hotel, while leaping flames across the hotel entrance greet visitors to the hotel.

Stunning? You bet it is. And you can visit it, even if you aren't staying there- but watch out: the fee to cross the private bridge which connects Burj-al-Arab to the mainland is a hefty $70. The hotel's situated 15 km south of Dubai city, and can be contacted at 971-4-348-0000.

Click here, for more information on Dubai.

Trulli Houses, Alberobello, Italy
Tucked away in the `heel’ of Italy’s boot is the province of Apuglia- and here, along the long coastline, pockmarked with karsts and cliffs, is one of the most interesting architectural styles you’re likely to see in Europe: the trullo. The trullo (`trulli’ is plural) dates back to the 14th century, and is a brilliant example of drywall, mortarless masonry- no cement, no water and no concrete was used to build these distinctive houses, with their cone-shaped roofs.

South-east of the historic city of Bari lies the town of Alberobello, a region of olive groves and ancient villages, dotted with the trulli houses typical of this area. Trulli homes are seen all across Apuglia, but Alberobello has the greatest concentration of these unusual buildings: almost 1500 houses. Aja Piccola and Monti are the two main quarters where you’ll see trulli. The houses, hand-made from blocks of limestone, have white-washed walls and a conical vaulted roof, with a hole at the top to allow smoke out. Originally, the limestone blocks used to construct a trullo were collected from the Apuglian countryside, then skilfully placed one atop the other without any mortar being used.

No new trulli houses have been built for the past sixty years, but that doesn’t mean the art has died out. Trulli masters in Apuglia still practice their craft, passing on the knowledge from father to son, and usually using their craft to make repairs to existing structures.

Click here for more information on Italy.

The Corn Palace, Mitchell, South Dakota, USA
This is the prime example of what an architect with a corny sense of humour can do, given the time and the space- and the material, of course! The town of Mitchell in South Dakota has always prided itself on the fine corn it grows, and they’re so proud of the stuff they actually decided- way back in 1892- to make a building to honour the source of their daily bread. What emerged from the collective thinking of so many corn lovers was a building as bizarre as can be- the Corn Palace.

Originally built in 1892 as the `Corn Belt Exposition’ building, the Corn Palace is a huge auditorium, constructed of steel and decorated all over the outside with murals which are made primarily of corn. Every year, kilos and kilos of corn- and plenty of subsidiary materials, including grasses, grains, wild oats, rye, straw and wheat- are painstakingly arranged in huge designs which cover all of the exterior. You’ll see some interesting murals here: pictures of the Wild West, of the South Dakota countryside, of anything that shows you what Mitchell is all about. Annually, the last year’s murals are stripped and replaced by new designs. Photographs of previous designs can be seen in the gallery of the Corn Palace Convention Centre.

The Corn Palace is at 601 North Main, Mitchell (Tel: 605-996-5031 or 1-866-273-2676) and is open to visitors from 8 am to 5 pm throughout the year, free of charge. The gift shop attached to the Corn Palace has plenty of corn memorabilia on sale, and a special Corn Palace Festival, featuring a series of entertainment and sports events, is held every year in August or September.

Click here for more information on the USA

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