The Wackiest Novelty Buildings in the World

You know that friend of yours that gets into Halloween a little too much, who starts planning their costume in August and spends $1500 on Hollywood-quality makeup? When those people become architects, buildings like these happen. I kind of like wacky buildings though, if only because they give me something to take a selfie in front of when I go on vacation, so all my high school classmates and ex-coworkers and other people I don’t care about on social media will be fooled into thinking I’m living a full, happy life. And in 2016, isn’t that what really counts?

1024px-Dunmore_pineappleTHE DUNMORE PINEAPPLE HOUSE

The original novelty house! But why on earth would there be a pineapple building in Scotland, of all places? Well, after Columbus discovered the New World, one of the objects he brought back to Europe was a pineapple. The fruit became super-trendy, and because the importation of them took so long that 90% or more spoiled during the Transatlantic crossing, the price of one was sky-high. (Almost $15,000 in 2016 dollars.) Having a pineapple in your home became a way to signal to others that you were wealthy and well-connected.  If you were an aristocrat, and you threw a dinner party without a pineapple as the centerpiece, all your guests would laugh and say horrible things about you after they left. (They’d still say horrible things and laugh at you if you had a pineapple, the horrible things would just be non-pineapple-related.) The famous French writer Honore de Balzac actually went bankrupt after investing his entire fortune in a get-rich-quick scheme to grow pineapples in Paris greenhouses.

Anyway, with pineapples being so trendy, images of the fruit filtered into the art of the time – including architecture. Basically, the owner of the Dunmore House decided to take a passing trend and incorporate it into a home that would last centuries. It’s like the architectural equivalent of a tribal armband tattoo.

1024px-Newark-ohio-longaberger-headquarters-frontTHE LONGABERGER BASKET BUILDING

Do you know what a “Longaberger basket” is?  I don’t. And yet at their peak, the Longaberger company was pulling in a billion dollars a year selling them. Let’s just pause for a moment and feel dumb that we haven’t gotten rich selling random knickknacks to the American public.

Anyway, what do you do when you’re pulling in a billion a year selling baskets?  Build a huge basket big enough to house your corporate headquarters, of course. (It’s like a weird corporate fairy tale or something.) This seven-story, 180,000 square foot office building in Newark, Ohio was designed by the Longabergers themselves;  can you imagine the builder’s face the first time they saw the plans?  I wonder if, twenty minutes into their initial meeting, they were like, “okay, seriously though, can I see the real plans?” It’s actually sort of quaintly literal, like if Ford headquarters was a big car, if Apple’s headquarters was a big iPod.  The Longaberger company has since fallen on hard-ish times (revenue has fallen from a billion to year to a “mere” $100 million), but at least they know that if it gets really bad, they can sell this building.  Oh wait, no they can’t, because it’s a huge ridiculous basket.

30070A5700000578-0-image-a-21_1452507683269THE TAIWANESE SHOE BUILDING

Oh look, it’s a huge glass high-heeled shoe. What would you guess it is? A shoe store? A strip club? A podiatry clinic? Nope.  It’s a church.  The official line is that they built it in the shape of a shoe to attract more women to church, but I’m not sure if that logic really passes the smell test. Even if we assume that yes, all women love shoes, I don’t see how building a church in the shape of a shoe is going to lure women to church. Why not take that money and give every woman who comes to church a $100 Zappos gift certificate or something? Way more effective. I’d belt out some serious hymns for a $100 Zappos gift certificate. This being in China, I almost suspect that someone had an extra shoe-shaped building gathering dust in a warehouse somewhere, and then bribed the local council into commissioning a shoe-shaped church.

A-Cat-Shaped-School-For-Kids-in-Germany-1-thumbKINDERGARTEN WOLFARTSWEIER

As you might have guessed from the name, this awesome cat-shaped kindergarten is in Germany. The mouth is the front door, the eyes are windows, and the tail, in back, is a slide. The school is in a tiny, ancient German village called Wolfartsweier, and as soon as I typed that sentence, I instantly knew that the cat shape is related to some ancient pagan cult ritual. (Or possibly I just watch too many bad movies.)

This kindergarten is way better than mine, which was a one-story penitentiary-like brick building with no windows and low, asbestos tile ceilings. On one hand, I think it might have been nice to go to school in a whimsical, fun building like this, but on the other hand, the low-ceilinged, fluorescent-lit no-windows school did prepare me for adulthood, most of which is spent in low-ceiling, fluorescent-lit no-windows offices.


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