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From beehives to baskets: awesome buildings inspired by everyday objects

It's not unusual for buildings to gather affectionate nicknames, especially when they bear a striking resemblance to commonplace objects.

Brilliant and bizarre architectural doppelgangers


By Kim Easton-Smith, Lovemoney

It's not unusual for buildings to gather affectionate nicknames, especially when they bear a striking resemblance to commonplace objects. We've scoured the globe for some of the most innovative and interesting structures, where the inspiration – or unintentional result – is an uncanny look-a-like of an everyday item. From scaled-up screwdrivers to towering teapots, here are some of our favorite doppelganger structures.


High-heel church, Chiayi County, Taiwan


No prizes for guessing this building's look-a-like. Located in Chiayi County, Taiwan this shoe-shaped structure is, in fact, a church. Sculpted from over 320 tinted glass panels at a cost of $686,000, the result is pretty astounding.


High-heel church, Chiayi County, Taiwan


Commissioned by the local government, the church was built to commemorate the Blackfoot Disease outbreak that struck Taiwan in the 1950s. Opened to the public in 2016, the super-structure measures 58 feet high (no pun intended) and 83 feet in length.


High-heel church, Chiayi County, Taiwan


Famed as the country's most unique wedding venue, the church was recognized by the Guinness World Records in 2016 as the world's largest high-heel shoe-shaped structure.


The Beehive, Wellington, New Zealand


‘The Beehive’ is what the New Zealand Parliament’s Executive Wing building is more commonly known as, thanks to its uniquely tiered honeycomb shape. Located in the capital of Wellington, it's where the Prime Minister and Cabinet Members’ offices are based.


The Beehive, Wellington, New Zealand


The initial design by Scottish architect Sir Basil Spence didn't prove popular in 1964 when construction began. The Prime Minister at the time, Robert Muldoon, formally opened the building in May 1977 and the government moved into the upper floors in 1979.


The Beehive, Wellington, New Zealand


The Beehive is 236 feet high, with four subterranean floors and a roof made from a whopping 20 tons of copper. With Wellington prone to earthquakes, it's also been designed to withstand tremors of up to 7.5 on the Richter scale. After it's lukewarm beginnings, it's now considered an iconic building and a source of national pride.


The Gherkin, London, UK


30 St Mary Axe got its nickname ‘The Gherkin’ thanks to its elongated vegetable-like design. The brainchild of British architect Norman Foster, it’s been open since 2004 as company offices and is occasionally open to the public for special events such as Open House London.


The Gherkin, London, UK


The towering structure is 591 feet tall, covering 41 floors, with 18 passenger lifts that travel up to 20 feet a second. Alternatively, you can take the 1,037 stairs if you're feeling fit. Mainly built in steel, the building weighs a hefty 10,000 tons.


The Gherkin, London, UK


The Gherkin has become one of the most widely recognized pieces of modern architecture in the City of London. It’s won several awards for its design, with architect Norman Foster awarded the RIBA Stirling Prize in 2006. In 2005, fellow architects also voted the tower the most admired new building in the world as part of the esteemed BD World Architecture 200 survey.


The Armadillo, Glasgow, UK


Perched on the banks of the River Clyde, the SEC Armadillo was built in 2000 in Glasgow, Scotland. The auditorium, which seats 2,000 people, was designed by architects Foster and Partners.


The Armadillo, Glasgow, UK


The architects' inspiration for the design, which is often compared to the Sydney Opera House, was an interlocking series of boat hulls, paying tribute to the Clyde's shipbuilding heritage. However, it's not difficult to spot the hard shell of an armadillo in the structure either.


The Armadillo, Glasgow, UK


Now used for a variety of performances and TV shows, including Britain's Got Talent and The X Factor auditions, it's also a venue for sports, such as the weightlifting events at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.


The Teapot, Washington


An example of novelty architecture, this teapot-shaped gas station in Zillah, Washington was intended as a reminder of the 1922 Teapot Dome Scandal during Warren G Harding's presidency. The debacle saw the fraudulent leasing of the Teapot Dome oil fields by the US Interior Secretary Albert Fall, for which he was later imprisoned. 


The Teapot, Washington


The little gas station was built in 1922 on what would later become US Route 12. The 1920s and 1930s saw an increase in similar novelty roadside structures as the national highway system expanded.


The Teapot, Washington


Though it ran as a fully-serviced gas station for several years, the building has been relocated several times and was eventually bought by the city of Zillah in 2007. Restored to its former glory but no longer in operation, it was moved in 2012 to 117 First Avenue.​


The Cheesegrater, London, UK


Another of London's unusual skyline designs, this iconic office block is officially known as the Leadenhall Building. However, it's informally referred to as 'The Cheesegrater' thanks to its distinctive wedge shape and serrated-looking edge, just like the kitchen implement. It won the RIBA London Award 2018 and RIBA National Award 2018.


The Cheesegrater, London, UK


The building was designed by Richard Rogers, with planning permission granted in 2005. However, the construction didn't begin until 2011 over concerns about its impact on the skyline. Up close, the flat side is encased in glass, giving Londoners a unique view of the building's inner electrical workings, such as the colored lift shafts.


The Cheesegrater, London, UK


Standing at 738 feet tall and boasting 48 floors, the structure towers over pedestrians below. The architecture is unique, built around a steel 'mega frame' to ensure stability. One of the building's downsides is its relatively small floor space on each level, however, its narrow width reduces the impact on the protected sightline of St Paul's Cathedral.


The Egg, Beijing, China


Formally known as the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA), The Egg is a huge dome made of titanium and glass, surrounded by an artificial lake. Thanks to its reflection in the water, the structure takes on the appearance of an egg – albeit one that is perfectly oval.


The Egg, Beijing, China


Designed by French architect Paul Andreu, the 130,000-square-foot structure has a 696-foot dome from end to end and is 151 feet high in the center. Construction began in December 2001 and its inaugural concert was held in December 2007.


The Egg, Beijing, China


Its futuristic design caused controversy at the time, built in an area of the city better known for its traditional Chinese architecture. To combat this, Andreu's building was designed to melt into the landscape, with the lake and numerous trees complementing the red walls of the ancient buildings and the nearby Great Hall of the People.


The Walkie-Talkie, London, UK


In London, 20 Fenchurch Street is the official name for the ‘Walkie-Talkie’ building, nicknamed for its distinctive look-a-like shape. It was finished in 2014, with a three-floor sky garden and accompanying restaurant opened to the public in early 2015. It’s the 12th-tallest skyscraper in Greater London.


The Walkie-Talkie, London, UK


Designed by Uruguayan architect Rafael Viñoly, the 38-floor building stands at 525 feet, though it was originally proposed to reach 656 feet. This was rejected over concerns it would affect the skyline around nearby St Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower of London.


The Walkie-Talkie, London, UK


The building was not without controversy. Even with its revised height, it was the subject of a public inquiry thanks to continued concerns over its impact on the surrounding area. Though the inquiry ruled in the developers’ favor, the structure hasn't been universally popular, winning the Carbuncle Cup for the worst new building in the UK in 2015.


The Iceberg, Aarhus, Denmark


An apartment complex in Aarhus, Denmark, the Isbjerget (iceberg) building is part of the district’s plans to transform the former port town into a vibrant new neighborhood. Completed in 2013, the structures house 7,000 people and 12,000 workplaces, making it one of the largest harbor-front developments in Europe.


The Iceberg, Aarhus, Denmark


The building is unusual in this list, as it was designed to look like an iceberg intentionally, rather than nicknamed by locals. The design makes the most of the spectacular views out over the bay and maximizes the amount of sunlight reaching every apartment – which is especially important in the dark northern winters.


The Iceberg, Aarhus, Denmark


The unusual geometry allows for a range of dwelling types, from two-story townhouses and small studio flats to exclusive penthouses in the iceberg's 'peaks'. The project won Best Residential Development at the MIPIM Awards 2013.


The Picture Frame, Dubai, UAE


The Dubai Frame, rising 142 feet high from Dubai’s Zabeel Park, holds the record for the largest frame in the world. Part of the city’s famous skyline, the structure frames Dubai's other iconic buildings and skyscrapers, including the Burj Khalifa.


The Picture Frame, Dubai, UAE


As well as a 305-foot viewing platform featuring glass walkways, there’s also a neon vortex tunnel that invites visitors into an interactive, augmented reality exhibition on Dubai’s past, present and future.


The Picture Frame, Dubai, UAE


The project was conceived by Fernando Donis, who wanted to create a void that framed the developing city and highlighted its already impressive collection of old and new buildings. However, the building is currently in the middle of legal wrangling over intellectual property, as Donis has alleged he has not been compensated for the design.


The Screwdriver, Shanghai, China


With a twisted design that calls to mind this commonplace tool, the Shanghai Tower has the world’s joint-highest observation deck at almost 1,845 feet, while the tower itself is over 2,000 feet tall.


The Screwdriver, Shanghai, China


Conceived by international design firm Gensler, the building is owned by the Shanghai City Government. It joins the city's other look-a-like skyscrapers – the bottle opener, cooking syringe and egg whisk – which are often nicknamed the kitchen cabinet.


The Screwdriver, Shanghai, China


Construction began in 2008 and was completed in 2015, although the sightseeing deck was only opened to the public in 2017. The structure comprises nine cylindrical buildings stacked atop each other. The building's 128 floors are all enclosed by an inner layer of glass, while the outer glass façade twists as it rises to create the screwdriver effect.


The Eye, Valencia, Spain


The Eye, or L'Hemisfèric as the building is officially known, is the centerpiece of the City of Arts and Sciences complex in Valencia, Spain. The complex sits at the end of a former riverbed which was drained and rerouted, turning the old site into a picturesque sunken park.


The Eye, Valencia, Spain


Designed by Santiago Calatrava and Félix Candela, the building has real wow-factor. The roof acts as an eyelid, opening up to a surrounding pool of water. The bottom of the pool is lined with glass, creating the illusion of a whole eye thanks to the reflection.


The Eye, Valencia, Spain


The shutter is an aluminum awning that curves along the eye, opening to reveal the dome, or the ‘iris’, which houses a theater. Inside, there's also a planetarium, where the building's curved ceiling represents the night sky.


The Bottle Opener, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia


Resembling a bottle opener (or a vegetable peeler if you prefer), the Kingdom Centre stretches 992 feet over Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. This vast structure is the fifth-tallest super-skyscraper in the country.


The Bottle Opener, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia


Developed by Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, it was designed by architects Ellerbe Becket and Omrania and was completed in 2002. Due to its towering height, the building was constructed using two types of stability systems – reinforced concrete columns and a steel frame structure.


The Bottle Opener, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia


The most intriguing part of the tower is its ‘bottle opener’ top – an inverted parabolic arch. The 300-ton sky bridge, which joins the two sides of the tower together, forms a long window-lined corridor for members of the public to take in the incredible views.


The DNA building, Moscow, Russia


Evolution Tower, which looks like the double helix of a DNA strand, is a key piece of business real estate in Moscow. It was bought for $1 billion in 2016 by the Russian state-owned transport company Transneft as its headquarters.


The DNA building, Moscow, Russia


This 55-story office building reaches a dizzying height of 837 feet, covering a total area of 1,820,000 square feet. Noted in Moscow for its futuristic shape, the building was designed by British architect Tony Kettle in collaboration with University of Edinburgh's Professor of Art, Karen Forbes.


The DNA building, Moscow, Russia


Each of the building's floors is rotated three degrees further than the previous, creating the structure's distinctive twist. Though it’s compared to a DNA strand, Kettle has stated his main inspiration was, in fact, Auguste Rodin's sculpture, The Kiss.


The Basket, Ohio


Another example of novelty architecture, the Basket Building in Newark, Ohio is the former headquarters of the Longaberger Company, who manufactured baskets, fittingly. It was created as a large-scale replica of the Longaberger Medium Market Basket. Initially, architects proposed a design that subtly referenced the basket, but David Longaberger insisted that it be built to look like the real thing.


The Basket, Ohio


The basket is seven stories high with a floorplan of 180,000 square feet; 160 times larger than its "medium market basket" inspiration. It cost $30 million to build and was finished in 1997. Inside, there's a central atrium which brings in natural light through a glass roof at the top of the basket.


The Basket, Ohio


After the company folded, local developer Steve Coon bought The Basket for a reported $1.2 million in 2018, significantly less than the asking price of $7.5 million. However, local residents are fond of the building and hope to get it put on the National Register of Historic Places.

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Finance Magazine: From beehives to baskets: awesome buildings inspired by everyday objects
From beehives to baskets: awesome buildings inspired by everyday objects
It's not unusual for buildings to gather affectionate nicknames, especially when they bear a striking resemblance to commonplace objects.
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