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World's Strangest Buildings

Selfridges, Birmingham by Future Systems

Jeremy Pardoe/Alamy

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.”

Step Inside: The interior, with floaty white escalators crisscrossing in an open atrium, looks like a scene from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.
—Karrie Jacobs


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