World's Strangest Buildings

World's Strangest Buildings
Selfridges Department Store, Birmingham, England

The Birmingham branch of Selfridges is a billowy mattress of a building, clad in 15,000 shimmery aluminum discs like that famous Paco Rabanne dress. It was designed by Future Systems—the name tells you pretty much everything you need to know about the firm—to be a landmark and a catalyst for the revitalization of a largely moribund city center. “An ersatz urban cliff, a giant sea anemone, a friendly, blob-like alien, the mother of all magic mushrooms,” wrote Guardian architecture critic Jonathan Glancey. “This is the department store as unalloyed architectural entertainment.”

Ontario College of Art and Design, Toronto, Canada

This crossword puzzle checked box appears, at a distance, to be hovering Close Encounters–style above an otherwise mundane Toronto neighborhood. As you approach, its improbability only increases. British architect Will Alsop planted this collection of galleries and studio spaces on brightly colored columns so insouciantly angled and skinny that they barely look like they can support themselves.
Ontario College of Art and Design, Toronto, Canada

This crossword puzzle checked box appears, at a distance, to be hovering Close Encounters–style above an otherwise mundane Toronto neighborhood. As you approach, its improbability only increases. British architect Will Alsop planted this collection of galleries and studio spaces on brightly colored columns so insouciantly angled and skinny that they barely look like they can support themselves.
Bioscleave House, East Hampton, NY

Husband and wife artists Arakawa and Madeline Gins designed this intentionally unsettling house in 2008. With its bumpy, hilly floors and a wildly asymmetrical plan—even the electrical outlets are at weird angles—it’s supposed to stimulate the immune systems of its occupants by keeping them from ever becoming comfortable. This relentless “tentativeness,” the artists believe, is the key to immortality.
Ramot Polin Apartments, Jerusalem, Israel

Polish-born architect Zvi Hecker’s experiment in multi-unit residential construction is not as well known as the Habitat housing Moshe Safdie designed for Expo 67 in Montreal, but at 720 units is much larger. It was also an exercise in using prefabricated components, at least in the first two of its five phases. With its crazy pentagonal design, the Ramot Polin Apartments resemble a housing project for honeybees.
Columbus Lighthouse, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Under construction for some 40 years, and inaugurated in time for the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s initial landing in the New World (which was not on Hispaniola, but in the Bahamas), this monstrously spooky concrete monument, half a mile long and 688 feet tall, reputedly cost the impoverished nation some $70 million to build. The lighthouse contains what are purported to be the explorer’s bones.
Oriental Pearl TV Tower, Shanghai, China

Nothing else on earth quite looks like the Oriental Pearl. It was once the tallest structure on the Pudong side of Shanghai’s Huangpu River until it was overshadowed by the Shanghai World Financial Center in 2007. Designed by Jiang Huan Cheng of the Shanghai Modern Architectural Design Co. and completed in 1995, it stands 1,535 feet tall and is easily the world’s greatest assemblage of habitable disco balls (11!), housing several sightseeing observatories, a revolving restaurant, and a “space hotel..
 Spittelau District Heating Plant, Vienna, Austria

Highly eccentric painter and architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser, fond of bright colors, crooked lines, and overall visual cacophony, designed this garbage-burning heating plant on the Donau Canal to look like Vienna’s answer to the Magic Kingdom. With its crazy quilt façade, decorative columns topped with gold balls, and a pollution-scrubbing smokestack, it suggests a mirage rather than a working piece of urban infrastructure.
 Elbe Philharmonic, Hamburg, Germany
What’s really freakish here is the contrast between the new building—a liquidy-looking glass thingamajig—and the old building it uses for its podium: a stolid, workaday 1960s waterfront warehouse. This odd couple, united by the Swiss architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron and scheduled for completion in 2012, will be a new cultural complex for Hamburg’s harbor, featuring a public plaza on the old warehouse roof, a hotel, some apartments, and a wildly biomorphic philharmonic hall.
 The Atomium, Brussels, Belgium

A 1958 World’s Fair leftover, the Atomium is far more eccentric than the 1964 Unisphere in New York or the 1962 Space Needle in Seattle. Conceived by an engineer, André Waterkeyn, it is a gigantic replica of an iron crystal molecule and was intended to symbolize “the peaceful use of atomic energy for scientific purposes.” Five of its nine spheres are accessible to visitors, as is its maze of interconnecting tubes.
 Kansas City Public Library, MO

The south wall of the library’s parking garage resembles a bookshelf that would dwarf anything lining the walls of the 50-Foot-Tall Woman’s house: each book is around 25 feet tall and nine feet wide. It was constructed as an homage to 22 favorite literary titles, chosen by patrons of the library
Container City II, London

There have since been many copycats, but this colorful addition to the original “container city” (the first modular live/work structure of its kind when it was built in 2001) at Trinity Buoy Wharf in London’s Docklands stands out as an example of sustainable architecture (80 percent of the combined building is created from recycled shipping containers and other materials). Completed in 2002, its ziggurat shape and brightly colored exteriors, not surprisingly, have attracted many artists, who live and work here today.

House Attack, Vienna

At first glance, the base of the MUMOK is an unimpressive-looking stone slab, but look up and you’ll see the strange factor. Designed by artist Erwin Wurm, the installation piece is a sculpture of a one-family house that symbolizes “the everyday, privacy, as well as small-mindedness

Fuji Television Building, Tokyo

It resembles something created with an Erector Set, but this building—which took three years to complete and serves as the head office for Fuji TV—isn’t child’s play. It was designed to be sturdy enough to call itself earthquake-proof. Studio tours—there are 10 studios in this office—are offered for about $5 and grant visitors access to the 1,200-ton sphere on top, which houses an observation deck.
 Edificio Mirador, Madrid
Designed by Dutch architecture firm MVRDV—known for its unusual and striking construction—this residential building, set in the northeast part of Madrid, was designed as a frame for the distant landscape, but more resembles a Borg spaceship. Oh, and that open middle section? It also serves as an outdoor meeting area for residents to take in the unobstructed views.

Museum of Contemporary Art, Rio de Janeiro

Fret not! Even though this building strongly resembles a flying saucer—even more eerily true when it’s lit up at night—Rio has not been occupied by aliens, but rather by the design prowess of Oscar Niemeyer. After making their way up the winding red path to the entrance, visitors can enjoy views of Guanabara Bay, Sugarloaf Mountain, and the surrounding cityscape—along with museum exhibitions.

Druzhba Holiday Center, Yalta, Ukraine

Overlooking a popular beach in the faded Soviet resort town of Yalta, this hotel—built in 1984 by Ukrainian architect Igor Vasilevsky—may lack an imaginative name, but its hulking cylindrical mass is unmissable. Guests enter the property via a catwalk bridge surrounded by glass; inside the complex, which is supported by giant cement legs, a series of staircases and elevators connect public spaces and accommodations—many of which have panoramic views of the Black Sea.

Solar Furnace, Font-Romeu-Odeillo-Via, France

The ancient Egyptians and Greeks may have figured out how to harness the power of the sun using glass, but the solar scientists working in this sun-bathed town in the Pyrenees Mountains have perfected the process. The world’s largest solar furnace, on the exterior of this curious undulating building, uses some 10,000 mirrors to focus the rays and then bounce them off a gigantic concave mirror to produce temperatures above 5,430 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cube Houses, Rotterdam, Netherlands

Known locally as Kubuswoningen, these attached Piet Blom–designed residences on Overblaak Street were unveiled in 1984 to oohs and ahhhs. The architect tilted the traditional house structure, a cube, some 45 degrees, placing it on a hexagon-shaped pylon; all the walls and windows are angled at 54.7 degrees, and each apartment is about 900 square feet, but only 225 square feet of that is usable space.

Lloyd’s Building, London

Also called the Inside-Out Building, the controversial headquarters of venerable Lloyd’s insurance at One Lime Street has doubled as a tourist attraction since its completion in 1986 (it even has a gift shop). The towering steel-and-glass-framed building was conceived by Richard Rogers (of Pompidou Centre fame), who wanted to place all mechanicals, elevators, etc. on the building’s exterior—much to the amusement of passersby.

Kunsthaus, Graz, Austria

London architects Peter Cook and Colin Fournier created this avant-garde celluloid building—sometimes called the “friendly alien.” Hoping to create a “black box of hidden tricks” to inspire curators, the architects dotted the building’s sleek skin with adjustable lights to create external images belying the art museum’s interior collection. The valvelike nodes on the roof let in natural light—making this bio-inspired building eco-friendly too.

Office Center 1000 3 a.k.a. Banknote, Kaunas, Lithuania

Form certainly meets function at this bill-wrapped building in Lithuania’s second-largest city. Housing international bank offices and Lithuanian businesses within its capitalist walls, the structure fancies itself as “one of the Baltic region’s most daring and original construction projects.” The 10-story façade is hung with 4,500 painted enamel squares to create an image of the 1925 1000-litas banknote.

Blur Building, Yverdon-les-Bains, Switzerland

Ensconced in a perpetual swath of man-made fog, the Blur Building, designed by Elizabeth Diller and Ricardo Scofidio, was built for the Swiss Expo in 2002 on Lake Neuchatel. The 31,500 nozzles spray a fine mist that adjusts to changing weather conditions to create the same “blur” effect in all seasons. The inside space is as amorphous as the outside “walls,” and downstairs you’ll find a water bar to purchase artisanal water.

Agbar Tower, Barcelona

This 474-foot-tall tower may look like London’s Gherkin building, but its visionary, Jean Nouvel, says he was inspired not by Sir Norman Foster but by Spanish architect Antonio Gaudí. The Agbar’s more than 4,500 windows give it a geyser-like glimmer, while the structure is supposed to evoke the mountains around Barcelona

Cybertecture Egg, Mumbai, India

Architecture is so 20th century. Welcome to the age of cybertecture, which, according to the firm James Law Cybertecture International, is not just about “concrete, steel and glass, but also the new intangible materials of technology, multimedia, intelligence and interactivity.” The egg—which will house offices and is slated for completion in late 2010—uses less surface area than “old style” buildings and incorporates new technologies, like bathrooms that track workers’ weight and blood pressure

The Church of Hallgrimur, Reykjavik, Iceland

In the land of fire and ice, it makes sense that even the holiest places resemble natural phenomena. And when architect Guojon Samuelsson began this church in 1937, Icelandic basalt lava flows were what he had in mind. It’s hard to miss this imposing structure, located in the center of town, and you won’t want to miss the views from its observation tower.

Nakagin Capsule Tower, Tokyo

Remember the tales of Japanese bachelor salarymen living in pods? That was the idea behind these 140 cubes from architect Kisho Kurokawa, finished in 1972. It kicked off the capsule architecture movement, with cozy spaces 8 x 12 x 7 feet that were designed for minimalist living at its most minimal, with a bed, a wall of appliances, a tiny bathroom, and a small circular window. While the building has fallen into disrepair as of late, it still stands, says the New York Times, as a “powerful reminder of paths not taken, of the possibility of worlds shaped by different sets of values

Montreal Biosphere, Montreal

There’s nothing like a World’s Fair to inspire odd architecture. That’s exactly what happened for the 1967 World’s Fair in Montreal, when architect Buckminster Fuller designed this geodesic dome. His structure bubbles up from the trees on Saint Helen’s Island to 200 feet high and 250 feet in diameter. It was an enclosed structure until a fire in 1976 destroyed the outer layer. Today, the thin-shell structure is owned and run by Environment Canada as a museum, with interactive exhibits on biodiversity and climate change.

Wonderworks, Pigeon Forge, TN, and Orlando, FL

Who doesn’t love an upside-down building? No, it’s not a cutting-edge design from some wunderkind architect—it’s just an amusement park, complete with a slightly terrifying “Hoot N’ Holler Dinner Show" and the “Outta Control Magic Comedy Dinner Show

Haewoojae, Suwon, South Korea

Better known as the toilet-shaped house, this showcase of superior plumbing was built by Korean Assembly Representative Sim Jae-Duck—a.k.a. Mr. Toilet—and his World Toilet Organization. It’s intended to celebrate the cultural centrality of the toilet and raise awareness of the plight of the world’s toilet-less. “We should learn to go beyond seeing toilets as just a place for defecation,” the late Mr. Sim once said, “but also as a place of culture where people can rest, meditate and be happy.” And who can argue

Zombie ants fall victim to mind-control fungus

Zombie ants may sound like the title of an Ed Wood movie, but, according to National Geographic, they are quite real.
Oddly, there's nothing very zombie-like about the actual ants. It's only when a particular fungus takes over the ant's brain that things get weird.
Once the "stalk of the newfound fungus species Ophiocordyceps camponoti-balzani infects an ant, the ant gives up control over its own body. After the fungus is in control, it forces the ant to scamper toward "a location ideal for the fungi to grow and spread their spores." Then, it's lights out for the ant. Who knew a fungus could be so diabolical.

Lodged in a zombie ant's brain, the fungi species 'direct' the dying ants to anchor themselves to leaves or other stable places, as pictured above—providing a stable 'nursery' for the fungus. For instance, as the Ophiocordyceps camponoti-balzani fungus is about to kill the ant, the insect bites down hard into whatever substance it's standing on. This attachment is so strong that a dead zombie ant can remain stationary even when hanging upside down, the scientists say.

White fungus stalk begins to poke
A white fungus stalk (left) of the Ophiocordyceps camponoti-rufipedis species begins to poke through the head of a zombie ant two days after death. Also noticeable are faint, white, slightly fuzzy fungal growths on the ant's joints. Once the insect dies, the fungus rapidly spreads through the body. During the first couple days, though, very little evidence of the fungus is visible from the outside.

Later stages of Ophiocordyceps camponoti-rufipedis ...

During later stages of Ophiocordyceps camponoti-rufipedis infection, the fungus rapidly consumes the nutrients inside a zombie ant and begins to colonize the outside of the ant's body, as pictured. The fungus stalk growing from the back of the head (upper right) also becomes longer and more noticeable.
Mature fungus stalk, shown, differs

Final stalk: The mature fungus stalk, shown growing from a zombie ant's head during the final stage of infection, differs among fungi species.

These wild discoveries were made by a group in Brazil headed by entomologist David Hughes. National Geographic published a series of pictures of ants that have "lost their minds" to the fungus. You can check out a sample of them below. Not for the squeamish.

Lake Lights Up at Night

Lake Lights Up at Night

Bioluminescent splash
What happens to lakes in an area hit by forest fires and floods? Some will glow in the dark.
For a cluster of lakes in Australia's eastern Victoria, the combination of the fire and then the rain washed ash and nitrogen-rich soil into the water. The Gippsland Lakes experienced a rise in sea level. That caused the lakes to mix with sea water, which also raised the salinity.
This recipe led to the introduction of a species of algae called Noctiluca scintillans, commonly known as "sea sparkle." The bioluminescent brew gave the water a nocturnal glow.

Algae lights up shore

Man stands still

A man stands still as others splash algae-laden water behind him.

Bioluminescent algae, Noctiluca Scintillan
Bioluminescent algae, Noctiluca Scintillan, in waves lapping at a beach on the Gippsland Lakes. This was a 1.5 hour exposure.
Bioluminescent algae in eastern Victoria
Bioluminescent algae at Camp Cooinda on the Gippsland Lakes in eastern Victoria

Back Trough Time


Back Trough Time

People don’t change no matter how old they are is a message being conveyed in this article.