World's Strangest Buildings
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Between all the bubbly novelties that went up in pre-Olympics Beijing, and Dubai’s feverish invention over the past decade, nothing should surprise us. Except that some buildings still do. And these eccentric edifices, breathtaking in their strangeness, are worth a detour—if only to ginger up your worldview a bit.
Selfridges Department Store
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.”
Step Inside: The interior, with floaty white escalators crisscrossing in an open atrium, looks like a scene from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.
The Bar Code Building
Near the banks of the Neva River, this trade complex by Vitruvius & Sons transforms the world’s most ubiquitous symbol of commerce—the bar code—into a powerful architectural motif. It can be read as an update of American-style roadside classics like the giant Dixie Cup water tower of Lexington, KY, or Detroit’s giant Uniroyal Tire. The rust-red steel building brightens an otherwise bleak urban setting.
Strange Trend: There’s also a Barcode House by the Dutch architecture firm MVRDV on the outskirts of Munich, but it’s much more subtle.