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Skiddoo Blog

Feb 2015

Provocative Buildings Around The World


Around the world there are magnificent examples of ancient and modern architectural wonders that are awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping and gravity-defying, even. But then again, there are buildings that defy definition, that make you laugh and scratch your head in wonder and some that, when viewed at certain angles look different or seem to resemble some other forms, which in some cultures and instances could be called rude. It was not the intention of the architects for the buildings to be viewed as such, but the minds of the onlookers are fertile. Come to think of it, most buildings are seen as a symbol of the male anatomy, so in effect you can say that all buildings are rude, but without intending to be so, some of the designs of modern buildings are more suggestive than others, so let take a look at some of them.

People’s Daily Headquarters, Beijing

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Beijing is the capital of China and a very important transport hub. The city is viewed as China’s cultural, educational and political center. The city attracts millions of international visitors, specifically wanting to visit the world-famous Wall of China, the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square and the Palace Museum, to name a few. Beijing has over 3,000 years of colourful history and if you look around, there is almost no principal building in the city that does not have a place in its history. But these are buildings that belong to Old Beijing. The New Beijing is exciting and fascinating, touched by Western modernity, with its shopping malls, business centres, restaurants, bars, theatres and modern high rise concrete and glass buildings.

One such building is the headquarters of the People’s Daily newspaper, which from all angles, look like a phallic symbol, particularly when rows upon rows of scaffolding were still wrapped around it. The round building that narrows to a blunt point at the top is 150 metres high. It’s the place where breaking news get printed and circulated, but it also made the news because of its very suggestive shape. It was constructed near the China Central Television (CCTV) building, which many people have dubbed as “Big Underpants.” Symbolically these two buildings could represent yin and yang. The CCTV building is the yin (female, negative), while the People’s Daily building is the yang (male, positive). Of course for those with dirty minds, they represent something else. The architect, Zhou Qi had defended the design, saying that when the scaffolding has been removed, the building will no longer look like a giant phallus.

The Gherkin, London

Fly me to London

London was intended to be a centre of communication when the Romans founded it in 43 AD. Since olden times, its narrow streets were lined with shops and houses and various buildings. It became the centre of culture, a flourishing empire and a major economic centre. London has its share of great and magnificent architectural masterpieces, such as the Tower London, the London Bridge, Palace of Westminster, Victoria Tower, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and St. Paul’s Cathedral. In recent years, the streets of London are filling up fast with more modern skyscrapers. While most buildings follow traditional designs, one that particularly stands out is 30 St Mary Axe, more popularly known as “The Gherkin,” a name for pickled cucumber. The building actually resembles a colorful and fat cigar, but most people with more fertile imagination think of it as a phallic symbol.

The eye-catching building was commissioned by the reinsurance company, Swiss Re to be their headquarters. The 41-storey high building was constructed in 2004, based on the design of Foster and Partners. It was formerly named the Swiss Re Building, but when it was sold in 2007, it was renamed 30 St Mary Axe after its location. It has become a London icon and more popularly known by its nickname than its formal name. The award-winning building is energy-efficient, with its exterior swirling striped pattern allowing the air to flow into its wells under the spiral. It also maximises daylight and requires only about 50 percent energy compared to other same-size buildings. While it affords a great view of the city, it is not open to the public. It is currently owned by Brazilian billionaire, Joseph Safra.

Spaceport America, New Mexico

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Most of New Mexico was acquired by the United States in 1848. Since 1945 the state had been a leader in the development of broad experiments in geothermal, solar and nuclear areas and in energy research. Majority of the industries in the state are in the field of manufacturing, from electrical machinery, chemicals, food products and transportation equipment. Agriculture and livestock are also major industries in New Mexico. It also has several natural attractions that bring residual income to the state.

But one man-made structure is getting more attention today. It is called Spaceport America, a state-of-the-art modern building right in the desert region of New Mexico. Designed by world-renowned architect Norman Foster, the building, which at eye level looks like a flat brown beetle crawling out of the desert sand, was commissioned by Sir Richard Branson. The purpose-built spaceport was supposed to look like the logo of Virgin Galactic – an eye with an elongated pupil. What made it to the rude building list is its shape when viewed from above, as it resembles the female genitalia.

Casa Mila, Barcelona

casa mila
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Barcelona is a favorite destination of sun-seeking international tourists. It is a city known for its unique personality, traditions and culture. The Spanish city is known for its beaches and its wonderful cuisine. Barcelona is a city that cherishes modern art, where many artists and painters have stayed and worked, such as Joan Miró and Pablo Picasso. Barcelona is also the place where Catalan native Antoni Gaudí, an architect who became world famous for his very distinctive and unique architectural style, had left several samples of his creative genius. Was Gaudí a surrealist or was he just fanciful? One of his buildings in Barcelona is called Casa Mila, an undulating apartment building commissioned by Pere Milà i Camps and his wife Roser Segimon i Artellis in 1912. It was the last civil work done by Gaudí, which showed his innovation in creating a building with floors and columns that were free of load-bearing walls. What was bizarre and rude about the World Heritage Site? Well, there are weird sculptures there that look like phallic symbols, but are actually functional vents and chimneys.

Teufelsberg, Berlin

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Despite its tumultuous past, Berlin has become a very vibrant city that is one of the most exciting destinations in Europe today. It has a multicultural population, a nightlife that is pulsatingly alive, a flourishing underground scene, and a very liberal attitude. It’s also a creative hub. The very modern city still retains much of its past history with buildings and monuments that tell a different story from what you can see today. On Teufelsberg, an artificial hill, is one of such remnants of history. On top of the pile of rubble and debris is an installation of large orbs and a tall circular tower that from some angle do resemble male genitalia composed of shaft and two balls.

In reality these installations, now abandoned and desecrated, used to be the Listening Station that was built by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA). The complex has three huge white globes and a tower. The British and American intelligence agencies used the Listening Station during the Cold War to learn about what is going in Germany, which at that time was under Russian control. While looking for the best place for a permanent location they found that Teufelsberg offered the best vantage point for their operations. It remained in operation until the Berlin Wall was taken down. Today the place is empty of all the intelligence-gathering equipment but touring the site could only be done with the aid of a guide.

Lotus Temple, New Delhi

Fly me to New Delhi 

For more than a thousand years, New Delhi has been associated with all aspects of Muslim culture. There are several Muslim monuments in New Delhi, such as the Qutub Minar, Humayun’s Tomb, Red Fort, Jama Masjid and the Fatehpuri Masjid. These and the other beautiful monuments and buildings in the city are testaments to the cultural impact the Muslims have in India and their competencies in architecture. A temple that stands out is the huge Lotus Temple, also known as the house of worship of the Bahāʾī Faith. It was the last of the seven important Baha’i temples that were constructed in several parts of the globe. Built with pure white marble, the structure, which resembles a huge lotus flower, was designed by architect Fariborz Sabha of Iran. Nine pools of water are placed between the lower petals. He said it was a common symbol among various faiths, including Islam, Jainism, Buddhism and Hinduism. People of any faith are free to visit the temple to meditate or to pray.

The 40-metre high structure has 27 individual lotus petals, grouped together to create nine sides, with nine entrances. The petals are arranged in groups of nines in three concentric layers, with the petals so shaped and arranged to provide cover for the entrances, the halls and the central prayer hall. But while it does look like a floating lotus flower because of its platform and elevated position, its design definitely reminds you of the soaring sails of the world-famous Sydney Opera House.

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