The 17 most unusual buildings in the world
These unusual buildings have to be seen to be believed. We have searched around the world for unique houses, crazy architecture and special buildings and found what we were looking for. From whimsical to psychedelic to just plain weird, there’s something for everyone here.
Beagle Hotel, Idaho – a wacky dog-shaped house
Guests are very welcome to sleep inside this beagle. The unusual dog-shaped house is available to visitors in Cottonwood in the US state of Idaho from April to October and offers guests a fridge, microwave, free internet and a bathtub. The cost per night is actually very reasonable, with a one night stay for two people costing $132. The Beagle Hotel guarantees a memorable stay for both human and canine guests.
Dongdaeumun Design Plaza, Seoul – luminous techno sponge
Image copyright: Warren Whyte, published under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International licence.
This unique building, which has been lighting up the South Korean capital Seoul since 2014, looks like a giant neon sponge. Designed by star architect Zaha Hadid, the structure has become a popular photo motif for visitors from all over the world thanks to its flowing forms and greenish lighting. However, the amorphous Dongdaemun Design Plaza not only offers exceptional architecture thanks to its aluminium outer skin but also houses a museum, art halls, shopping facilities and parks.
The Bund Finance Center, Shanghai – extraordinary architecture in motion
This curious building constantly changes its appearance. Inspired by traditional Chinese opera, three curtains made of overlapping steel tubes move around the building several times a day. The event centre for exhibitions and conferences also attracts attention with its bronze and gold colour scheme. Located on the famous Bund in the metropolis of Shanghai, the architects Thomas Heatherwick and Norman Foster have created a monument for themselves with this unique building.
Hemisphere, Valencia – unique among unusual buildings
Image copyright: Diliff, published under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported licence.
The extraordinary architecture of the Hemisphere in Valencia represents a giant human eye, according to architect Santiago Calatrava. It’s a great comparison, because inside the structure is a 3D IMAX cinema. With its special design, the Hemisphere fits in perfectly among the surrounding unusual buildings. They are all also part of the City of Arts and Sciences, which is located in a drained riverbed.
Longaberger Basket Building, Ohio – a real basket-case of a building
Image copyright: Niagara 66, published under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International licence.
The name says it all in the Longaberger Basket Building. This monument of weird architecture goes back to Dave Longaberger, founder of the company of the same name, which specialised in the production of shopping baskets, among other things. Originally, the building was to be the first in a series of curious structures at all of the company’s locations. However, the company shelved these plans after the death of its founder. After several years of vacancy, the world’s largest house in the shape of a basket celebrated its reopening as a luxury hotel in 2020.
Dancing House, Prague – a swinging prize winner
Due to its resemblance to a dancing couple, this building by architect Frank Gehry was nicknamed “Fred and Ginger”. Critics see the unusual architecture as a break with Prague’s traditional cityscape. The building’s fans, on the other hand, praise the dynamic structure of the multi-award-winning building, which houses offices.
The crooked house, Poland – a wibbly wobbly retail unit
Image copyright: Аимаина хикари, published under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication licence.
The crooked house is part of a shopping centre in the Polish city of Sopot. Designed by Szotyńscy & Zaleski in 2004, this unusual building is one of the most photographed sights in the country. No wonder, as it gives viewers the impression of being drunk.
Stone House, Portugal – an unusually natural building
Image copyright: Pablo García Chao, published under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported licence.
The Casa do Penedos, or “stone house” in Portugal was built in 1972-74 between several large stone blocks. The inspiration for the unusual house is said to have been the animated series The Flintstones. Since then, the building with its prehistoric charm has become a tourist attraction. Inside, the curious structure houses a small museum.
Lotus Temple, New Delhi – a photogenic temple
Image copyright: Arian Zwegers, published under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic licence.
As the name suggests, the lotus blossom served as a model for the Lotus Temple in the Indian capital New Delhi. The temple’s unusual architecture features, among other things, 27 free-standing marble elements that were modelled on petals. The 40-metre-high building offers space for around 2,500 people and serves as a religious site for the Bahai.
Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Niterói, Rio de Janeiro
Image copyright: Dlaurini, published under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International licence.
Like a UFO, the Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Niterói (MAC) sits majestically on a cliff above Guanabara Bay. The sci-fi architecture of the building provides the ideal setting for the modern art exhibited in the museum. The Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer is responsible for the special architecture, including the 60-metre long and curved access ramp.
Sheraton Hotel, Huzhou – curving Hotel with a lake view
The Sheraton Hotel in the Chinese city of Huzhou is also called the “Horseshoe Hotel” by the locals because of its shape. The 102-metre-high building is picturesquely situated on a lake and offers guests 321 rooms, four restaurants, a fitness centre and a swimming pool for children.
Sheep and Dog Buildings, New Zealand – weird architecture attracts tourists
Image copyright: Phillip Capper, published by Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic licence.
The Sheep and Dog Buildings in the New Zealand community of Tirau have a fixed place in the category of unusual architecture. The curious buildings serve as visitor and information centres and are also intended to entice travellers passing through to make a stopover. With success – after the first two houses in the shape of a dog and a sheep were erected in 1990, another building in the shape of a ram was added in 2016.
Teapot House, China – a matter of taste
Some prefer things to be unusual, but houses like the infamous teapot in Wuxi, China, take it to the extreme. The giant teapot not only has elaborate lighting, but also rotates. Even for a tourist information centre, this is too much of a good thing, and following the opening of the teapot house, a state committee decidedto ban builders all over the country from building houses with “strange” or “bizarre” shapes.
Gate Tower Building, Osaka – offering excellent transport links
Image copyright: Kimon Berlin, published under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic licence.
In Osaka, Japan, there is a building that is as practical as it is unusual. In the Gate Tower Building, a section of the city highway runs between floors 5 to 7. The building has reinforced sound insulation so that the noise doesn’t affect the surrounding offices. However, the special architecture comes at a price. The motorway operator pays rent for the floors occupied by the motorway: the equivalent of around 15,000 euros a month.
Staircase to Heaven, Mexico – extraordinary house in a surreal setting
Image copyright: Rod Waddington, published under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic licence.
More sculpture than house is the “Staircase to Heaven” by the British multimillionaire and landscape artist James Edward. The eccentric designer built the extraordinary building as part of his garden “Las Posaz” in the jungle of Mexico. This crazy house also captivates visitors with columns overgrown with plants, tangled paths and stairs leading to nowhere.
Kunsthaus, Graz – the blue blob
Image copyright: Georg Mittenecker, published under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic licence.
The Kunsthaus in Graz is certainly one of the more unusual buildings in the Styrian capital. Its amorphous form is a stark contrast to the surrounding buildings of the old town centre, which is why the curious structure also attracts a fair amount of criticism. According to architect Peter Cook, the fact that the Blob of Graz divides opinion is intentional. Inside, the building displays modern art. Visitors can also visit a viewing platform.
Haines Shoe House, Pennsylvania – special architecture in the shape of a shoe
Image copyright: Lorie Shaull, published under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic licence.
In 1948, shoe salesman Mahlon Haines had an idea: to boost business, he had a house built in the shape of a shoe. In the fully furnished building, the living room is in the toe of the shoe, the kitchen in the heel area. Two bedrooms are also at ankle level. However, Haines and his family never lived in the giant shoe themselves and today, the unusual house is open to the public. It is definitely worth a visit, at least to the small ice cream shop hidden in one of its rooms.
More unusual buildings: Learn more about some of the world’s underwater buildings.
What’s behind the most unusual buildings in the world?
What makes an architect or developer want to build an unusual building? Sometimes it’s to achieve a new level of beauty, to try out a new sustainability concept. Sometimes it’s to make a sale or to increase tourist visits to a destination, and some people just want notoriety.
Here at PlanRadar, we love unusual buildings. We especially love those that combine a unique aesthetic with functionality and sustainability. If you’re looking to build unusual buildings then we can help. Our construction management software can support you to build your dream structure – no matter how strange or unusual it seems on the outside.