5 Casa Batllo
You can’t leave Antoni Gaudi off a Top 5 list of bizarre architecture, because he pioneered it. His Casa Batllo in Barcelona, Spain, is also known as “House of Bones” for its skeletal look. Gaudí built it between 1904 and 1906 for Josep Batllo, who made his money in textiles.But there’s much more to the building than skinny appendages resembling femurs. Covered with bright tiles and turrets, and predominantly white, green, blue, orange, yellow and purple, the magical-looking Casa Batllo is one of Barcelona’s famous landmarks.
Korean Assembly Representative Sim Jae-Duck built Haewoojae, which means “a place where one can solve one’s worries,” to raise public awareness of the worldwide shortage of sanitary toilet facilities. To make his point, the house is shaped like a giant white toilet bowl. Floor-to-ceiling glass walls encase the house’s central bathroom so that it’s totally visible to everybody in the living room—that is, until a sensor recognizes a person has entered. Then an opaque fog and classical music soundtrack kick in, ensuring privacy. Sim, who calls himself Mr. Toilet, claims to have been born in a bathroom. His influence has spurred people to add paintings, flowers and small gardens to public bathrooms throughout South Korea.
3 Bioscleave House
While the blocky, colorful exterior of the Bioscleave House in East Hampton, New York, is unusual, the interior is what really puts this house on the map of strange. Artists Arakawa and Madeline Gins designed the house’s architectural features — bumpy concrete floor, crooked electrical outlets, 40 shades of paint, multi levels and no interior doors for privacy—to keep occupants permanently uncomfortable. The artists developed a theory that comfort led to complacency, aging and death. The Bioscleave House, also called Life Expanding Villa, aims to do the opposite. Once the built the house, they found it surprisingly hard to sell.
As you might guess from the name, Atomium is shaped like a giant silver atom. Nine steel spheres form iron’s atomic crystal structure. Engineer André Waterkeyn designed the Atomium for the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels, Belgium. Escalators connect the spheres, which contain a dormitory for schoolkids, a restaurant and exhibition spaces. Visitors can visit five of the nine spheres and ride the escalators.
1 Tianzi Hotel
China’s 10-story Tianzi Hotel holds the title for world’s biggest image building. That means a building that looks like something else—in this case, three old Chinese men, one bald, two in hats, dressed in blue, orange, red and green Chinese robes. They are the Fu, Lu and Shou, gods of fortune, prosperity and longevity. Enter the Tianzi through Shou’s right foot. The peach he’s holding contains a suite. Built in 2000, the Tianzi is a must-see if you find yourself in Hebei Province, which surrounds Beijing and is in northern China.