Discover 10 of the World's Zaniest Buildings

Explore what happens when architects rip up the rule book

By Google Arts & Culture

By Michael RougierLIFE Photo Collection

Not all buildings are built equal, and over the decades many architects, bored with the mundane, cuboid structures we’ve become accustomed to, have taken matters in their own hands and created buildings that buck every traditional trend. So check out these 10 buildings that defy logic, taste, and in some cases gravity.

Casa do Penedo, Guimarães, Portugal

Squished between two boulders in the Portugese countryside, Casa do Penedo, or the Stone House, in Guimarães was originally inspired by The Flintstones. Construction started in 1972 and it was completed in 1974. The building is unique in the way that just four large boulders serve as the foundation, walls, and ceiling of the house. Initially it was a holiday home for the unknown architect, but is now a small museum with relics and photographs from the area.

The Crooked House, Sopot, Poland

Designed by Szotyńscy & Zaleski, the Crooked House in Sopot, Poland was inspired by the fairytale illustrations of Jan Marcin Szancer and Per Dahlberg. Built in 2004, its warped structure appears as though you’re looking at the building through a funhouse mirror, and visitors are often cautious when entering. The Crooked House is part of the Rezydent shopping center and a range of shops, restaurants, and a radio station can be found inside.

Atomium, Brussels, Belgium

The Atomium in Brussels was originally constructed for the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair and was designed by the engineer André Waterkeyn and architects André and Jean Polak. The strangest thing about this building is it barely looks like a building, but that’s kind of the point. It’s structure, formed of nine 18m diameter stainless steel clad spheres, which are connected by tubes, emulate the shape of a unit cell of an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times.

The connecting tubes enclose stairs, escalators and a lift, which allows access to five of the spheres where visitors will find exhibit halls and other spaces. The top sphere includes a restaurant with a panoramic view of Brussels.

Kansas City Library, Missouri, USA

Founded on December 5, 1873, Kansas City Library is the oldest and third largest public library system in the metropolitan Kansas City area. While the main buildings are relatively standard in their style of architecture, it's The Community Bookshelf that is the most striking and strangest feature of the city’s downtown area. Running along the south wall of the Central Library’s parking garage, a giant bookshelf was created to bring some character to the structure.

The book spines ,which are around 25ft by 9ft, showcase 22 titles that reflect a wide variety of reading interests as suggested by Kansas City readers. Some well-known titles include Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee and Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White.

The Cube Houses, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

The Cube Houses are a set of innovative dwellings designed by architect Piet Blom and based on the concept of “living as an urban roof”, which essentially means high density housing with sufficient space on the ground level. To achieve maximum inside space with maximum amount of houses, Blom tilted the cube of a conventional house by 45 degrees and rested it upon a hexagon-shaped pylon.

His design is supposed to represent a village within a city, where each house represents a tree and all the houses together, a forest. Located in Rotterdam above the Blaak Subway Station, there are 38 small cubes and two so called 'super-cubes', all attached to each other. As residents are disturbed so often by curious passers-by, one owner decided to open a "show cube", which is furnished as a normal house, and now makes a living out of offering tours to visitors.

The Church of Hallgrimur, Reykjavik, Iceland

The Church of Hallgrimur is the largest church in Iceland and among the tallest structures in the country. The church is named after the Icelandic poet and clergyman Hallgrímur Pétursson (1614–1674), author of the Passion Hymns. Designed by the then state architect Guðjón Samúelsson and commissioned in 1938, he is said to have designed it to resemble the trap rocks, mountains and glaciers of Iceland’s landscape.

It took 41 years to build and during construction it was criticised as being too old-fashioned and a untidy blend of different architectural styles. Today, it stands as one of Iceland’s most striking man-made structures.

WonderWorks Museum, Orlando, Florida, USA

WonderWorks is a series of entertainment centers focused on making science fun for kids. It has five locations in the United States and each one is designed to look as if an existing building was ripped free of the ground by severe weather and dropped upside down on its roof. This unique design was brought to life by architect and Orlando native Terry O. Nichoson at Wonderworks’ original location. Nichoson went on to be the main design consultant for all subsequent WonderWorks locations.

The Longaberger Company old headquarters, Ohio, USA

The Longaberger Company was an American manufacturer and distributor of handcrafted maple wood baskets and other home and lifestyle products. It was one of the primary employers in the area near Dresden, Ohio, with more than 8,200 employees. The old headquarters of Longaberger emulates the shape of the company’s biggest seller, the medium market basket” and could be the most zany office building.

A perfect example of novelty architecture, the seven-story building was designed internally by the company. Opened in 1997, the basket handles alone weigh almost 150 tons and can be heated during cold weather to prevent ice damage. Originally owner Dave Longaberger wanted all of the Longaberger buildings shaped like baskets, but on the headquarters was completed at the time of his death.

Snail House, Sofia, Bulgaria

Painted in swirls of red, orange, green, blue, and brown, Bulgaria’s Snail House is five stories tall and is said to have “no straight walls, corners, or edges.” The building is residential and sits within a relatively quiet neighborhood on the outskirts of Sofia, not known as a hotspot for tourists. Built by architect Simeon Simeonov, the structure may seem like a bit of fun, but each feature of the abode has been carefully thought through.

For instance, the door of the Snail House is painted to be the slug’s mouth, requiring residents to be “swallowed alive” before entering. Simeonov also substituted a standard chimney with a big yellow bee on the snail’s back. In addition to conducting smoke, the bee’s horns double as both night lights and lightning arresters. The house’s air and gas ventilate through the snail’s eyelids and exit through the snail’s big red eyes. The most important aspect of the house though, is the fact it is constructed entirely with lightweight and eco-friendly material, making it truly energy efficient.

Ideal Palace, Hauterives, France

Le Palais Idéal or Ideal Palace is the result of 33 years of work by French postman Ferdinand Cheval, who started the building in 1879. After dreaming of building a palace years ago, Cheval came across an odd looking stone on his mail route, which reignited his desire to build one. He continually went back to collect more stones once stating: “Since Nature is willing to do the sculpture, I will do the masonry and the architecture”.

For the next 33 years, Cheval picked up stones during his daily mail round and carried them home to build the Ideal Palace. He spent the first 20 years building the outer walls and he often worked at night by the light of an oil lamp, binding the stones together with lime, mortar, and cement. It’s regarded as an extraordinary example of naive architecture and the palace mixes different styles together with inspirations from Christianity to Hinduism.

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