The progression of time and the advancement of architectural knowledge have given rise to many buildings designed by architects that are 'unconventional.' Innovations are made to create unique structures, supported by a diverse range of building materials.
Here are some modern and unique buildings by architects. These buildings stand out due to their unusual designs, differing from typical structures, or having a story behind their creation. All the buildings listed were completed from the 2000s onwards.
Walt Disney Concert Hall by Frank Gehry
Location: Los Angeles, USA
Completion Year: 2003
The Walt Disney Concert Hall (WDCH) is home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestra and was designed by Frank Gehry. WDCH stands as a landmark in architecture and is one of the most advanced concert halls acoustically in the world.
Like Gehry's other designs, the building is instantly recognizable by its signature style. Its exterior is composed of wavy stainless-steel panels that can reflect light. At night, these panels reflect the ambiance and city lights. The undulating arrangement of the steel panels symbolizes the movement of music. The building's structure is made of steel, creating an interior that is column-free. For its acoustics, Gehry collaborated with Yasuhisa Toyota, an acoustic consultant. Concert hall partitions and curved wooden panel ceilings are integral parts of the acoustic system.
Khan Shatyr Entertainment Center by Foster and Partners
Location: Astana, Kazakhstan
Completion Year: 2010
The Khan Shatyr Entertainment Center is a multifunctional entertainment complex encompassing various features, including a city-scale park with a 450-meter jogging track, shopping and recreational facilities, such as restaurants, cinemas, cafes, retail spaces, and entertainment areas accommodating various events, including an artificial beach. Designed by the British architect Norman Foster, Khan Shatyr adopts the form of a tent, inspired by the traditional nomadic tents in Kazakh history. The name "Khan Shatyr" translates to 'Khan's Tent.' With a total area exceeding 100,000 square meters, the structure is composed of a tent-like membrane reaching a height of 150 meters, making Khan Shatyr one of the tallest tensile structures in the world.
A tubular steel tripod structure supports a suspended network of radial and circumferential cables, coated with a three-layer ETFE panel, providing a highly lightweight, economical, and thermally efficient solution. The transparent ETFE material allows sunlight to penetrate the interior while protecting it from extreme weather conditions. During winter, a combination of temperature control mechanisms directs warm air upwards to prevent ice formation on the inner surface of the tent. The building is designed to maintain a comfortable interior temperature throughout the year, irrespective of external weather conditions.
Metropol Parasol by Jurgen Mayer
Location: Seville, Spain
Completion Year: 2011
Located in La Encarnacion Square, a plaza in the old town of Seville, Metropol Parasol is the world's largest wooden structure designed by architect Jurgen Mayer. The area was once occupied by a local market, but after its demolition, it left a significant void in the urban character of the city center that remained unoccupied for over thirty years. Mayer, along with the Arup firm, endeavored to address this issue by revitalizing the square and making it an appealing destination.
Metropol Parasol consists of six giant mushroom-like structures inspired by the domes of the Seville Cathedral and the ficus trees near Plaza de Cisto de Burgos. The aesthetics of the building are striking, with mushroom-shaped structures serving as protective canopies that provide shade, immediately noticeable to visitors. The interior of the structure offers various functions, including a market, restaurants, and a panoramic terrace at the top. The unique form, the functionality of the building, and its strategic location make Metropol Parasol a highly favored landmark in the city.
Heydar Aliyev Center by Zaha Hadid
Location: Baku, Azerbaijan
Completion Year: 2012
As part of the former Soviet Union, Azerbaijan, since its independence in 1991, has had a mission to develop a more modern infrastructure and architecture, departing from the rigid and normative Soviet legacy. Zaha Hadid was chosen as the architect to translate this mission through the Heydar Aliyev Center, a building that serves as a vessel to explore the history and culture of Azerbaijan.
The Heydar Aliyev Center, located in Baku, is an 11-hectare complex comprising a museum, exhibition spaces, and an auditorium. President Ilham Aliyev named the building after his father, Heydar Aliyev, a former president and the ideological architect of the state. The design of the Heydar Aliyev Center is highly distinctive, featuring a flowing and fluid form comprised of panels that establish a continuous relationship between the surrounding plaza and the building's interior. In essence, the Heydar Aliyev Center consists of two collaborating systems: a concrete structure combined with a space frame system.
The harmoniously flowing panels on the exterior and interior sides are intended to convey the message that the Heydar Aliyev Center is a shared space that welcomes all segments of society. It represents one of the manifestations of their modernization efforts and reflects the optimism of a nation looking towards the future.
The Interlace by Ole Scheeren
Completion Year: 2013
Interlace is a 1000-unit apartment complex located in Singapore. Ole Scheeren, in collaboration with OMA, designed an apartment that deviates from the typical ones found in Singapore. Instead of creating numerous vertical towers like conventional apartments, Scheeren chose to construct 31 rectangular-shaped, horizontally stacked, hexagonal apartment blocks, allowing for interconnected masses.
Scheeren's applied design ensures the privacy of each apartment resident through significant distances between the building blocks, a feature challenging to implement in tower-massed apartment designs. The design also incorporates communal spaces for shared activities. Each apartment block provides a rooftop garden, granting residents access to open spaces without descending too far from their units. The rooftop facilities, combined with lush vegetation, offer opportunities for social interaction, relaxation, and recreational activities among the residents.
World Trade Center Transport Hub Oculus by Santiago Calatrava
Location: New York City, USA
Completion Year: 2016
Calatrava, renowned for his phenomenal works that embrace organic forms inspired by living organisms, designed a transportation center in New York City known as the WTC Transportation Hub. This station has the capacity to accommodate 200,000 passengers daily. Spanning 800,000 square feet, the structure includes various retail spaces and provides access to four underground stations.
Calatrava's architectural focus on space, form, and lighting is evident both inside and outside the building. Externally, the structure consists of steel ribs and glass panels forming a pair of wings reaching a height of 350 feet. Inside the Oculus, visitors are greeted by a bright main hall. Utilizing white color and skylights, the area feels spacious and well-lit. From this hall, one can glimpse a portion of the Manhattan skyline through its skylight. The sunlight entering through the skylight is an essential architectural element, illuminating the space in an aesthetically pleasing manner. This sunlight also carries symbolic significance. Every September 11th at 10:28 AM—when the second tower collapsed—the sunlight shines through the skylight, illuminating the central axis of the main hall. This alignment with the longitudinal axis of the Oculus signifies the end of the 9/11 tragedy and the beginning of the reconstruction era.
LEGO House by Bjarke Ingels
Location: Billund, Denmark
Completion Year: 2017
Who doesn't know LEGO? One of the most beloved toys by children (and even teenagers and adults) worldwide. LEGO, in collaboration with Bjarke Ingels of the BIG architecture firm, transformed this small-scale toy into a large-scale structure known as the LEGO House, located in Billund, Denmark. Billund itself is the city where LEGO originated. This giant playhouse, standing on a 12,000 m2 area, serves as an exhibition space and a public area for LEGO enthusiasts of all ages. The building is designed to be a new landmark for Billund.
Comprising 21 rectangular blocks resembling LEGO bricks stacked together, each block's rooftop serves as a terrace and a large play area. LEGO House is divided into four play zones based on colors: red, blue, yellow, and green. All activities within the building are crafted to stimulate innovation and creativity in alignment with the LEGO philosophy. Regardless of where visitors are within the structure, whether in the outdoor area or the restaurant, there is something to engage them in play.