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These odd, eye-popping structures—in England, China, and
elsewhere—are worth a detour.

If
the Eiffel Tower were done up with giant dime-store Christmas ornaments—shiny,
glowing spheres—it might rival the Oriental Pearl Television Tower for
eccentricity. Eleven habitable disco balls bulge out of Shanghai’s
1,535-foot-tall needle, which also includes a “space hotel” and a (perhaps
inevitable) revolving restaurant. When it comes to weird buildings, this
landmark is in a class by itself.

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.

Still, how
can any building be considered strange anymore? Sure, we’ve had time to digest
the CCTV headquarters in Beijing, the one that looks like a huge Möbius strip,
and we’ve acclimated to the implausible height of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.
And yeah, we’ve shrugged off our share of goofball novelties, like the Pyramid
Arena of Memphis or the Eiffel Tower of Las Vegas.

Sometimes
strangeness is a function of amazing architecture where we least expect it,
like the Selfridges Department Store in dowdy, downtown Birmingham, England,
that effectively out-Bilbaoed Bilbao. “The mother of all magic mushrooms” is
how Jonathan Glancey, architecture critic of the Guardian described it,
perfectly capturing its hallucinatory character.

More often, the
truly strange buildings are the outgrowth of an obsession: the stranger the
obsession, the stranger the building. Take Korean politician Sim Jae-Duck, for
example. He has spent his life campaigning for clean and beautiful toilets in
his home country and around the world. A few years ago, he tore down his own
home in the town of Suwon and replaced it with a new house shaped like a giant
toilet. The house, a showplace of toilet wonder, is named Haewoojae, which
means “a place where one can solve one’s worries,” Korean for sans souci.

And then there
are the projects by architectural visionaries, like the Austrian free spirit
Friedensreich Hundertwasser, who attract clients and major commissions despite
the fact—or perhaps because—their approaches to design are completely
outside anyone’s frame of reference. You stare at their buildings and marvel
that they ever got built.

Whatever the
variety of strangeness, we’re truly grateful for these buildings. We think that
it’s an honor to make this list and that it’s an extraordinary building that
can shake jaded observers like ourselves out of our complacency.
—Karrie Jacobs

World's Strangest Buildings

These odd, eye-popping structures—in England, China, and
elsewhere—are worth a detour.

If
the Eiffel Tower were done up with giant dime-store Christmas ornaments—shiny,
glowing spheres—it might rival the Oriental Pearl Television Tower for
eccentricity. Eleven habitable disco balls bulge out of Shanghai’s
1,535-foot-tall needle, which also includes a “space hotel” and a (perhaps
inevitable) revolving restaurant. When it comes to weird buildings, this
landmark is in a class by itself.

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.

Still, how
can any building be considered strange anymore? Sure, we’ve had time to digest
the CCTV headquarters in Beijing, the one that looks like a huge Möbius strip,
and we’ve acclimated to the implausible height of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.
And yeah, we’ve shrugged off our share of goofball novelties, like the Pyramid
Arena of Memphis or the Eiffel Tower of Las Vegas.

Sometimes
strangeness is a function of amazing architecture where we least expect it,
like the Selfridges Department Store in dowdy, downtown Birmingham, England,
that effectively out-Bilbaoed Bilbao. “The mother of all magic mushrooms” is
how Jonathan Glancey, architecture critic of the Guardian described it,
perfectly capturing its hallucinatory character.

More often, the
truly strange buildings are the outgrowth of an obsession: the stranger the
obsession, the stranger the building. Take Korean politician Sim Jae-Duck, for
example. He has spent his life campaigning for clean and beautiful toilets in
his home country and around the world. A few years ago, he tore down his own
home in the town of Suwon and replaced it with a new house shaped like a giant
toilet. The house, a showplace of toilet wonder, is named Haewoojae, which
means “a place where one can solve one’s worries,” Korean for sans souci.

And then there
are the projects by architectural visionaries, like the Austrian free spirit
Friedensreich Hundertwasser, who attract clients and major commissions despite
the fact—or perhaps because—their approaches to design are completely
outside anyone’s frame of reference. You stare at their buildings and marvel
that they ever got built.

Whatever the
variety of strangeness, we’re truly grateful for these buildings. We think that
it’s an honor to make this list and that it’s an extraordinary building that
can shake jaded observers like ourselves out of our complacency.
—Karrie Jacobs

Jeremy Pardoe/Alamy

World's Strangest Buildings

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