8 Silly Structures - What Were These Architects Thinking?

These Buildings May Be Famous But They Sure Look Silly

OK, architects aren't perfect. Even the greatest architects design buildings that are impractical, absurd, or just funny-looking. But do tastes change over time? Here's a short list of famous structures that stirred controversy, outrage, and sometimes laughter when they were built. Which buildings look silly now?

Lopsided buildings
The Ray and Maria Stata Center, designed by Frank Gehry, is an odd jumble of lopsided buildings. The Center houses three departments at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge. Photo © Rick Hyman / iStockPhoto

It was bad enough when neighbors complained about Frank Gehry's overly bright Disney Concert Hall. But the negligence suit that MIT filed against Gehry Partners is enough to make any architect run for life. Apparently, Gehry's famous, startling Stata Center at MIT has so many cracks and leaks, the amphitheater had to be rebuilt - to the tune of $1.5 million. More »

Town Hall in Celebration, Florida
Town Hall in Celebration, Florida, designed by Philip Johnson. Photo © Jackie Craven

Philip Johnson was probably spoofing classical architecture when he designed the many-pillared Town Hall for the Disney planned community at Celebration, Florida. You just have to chuckle. More »

Needle-like towers rise from the fabric roof of the Millennium Dome in Greenwich, England
Millennium Dome in Greenwich, England. Photo by Heritage Images / Hulton Archive / Getty Images
Designed as a one-year, temporary structure, the Millennium Dome was doomed to be associated with the crazy panic that surrounded the changing of the centuries. After the official start of the new millennium, the funny looking Dome closed and Great Britain spent several years looking for ways to use it. For architect Richard Rogers, the Millennium Dome was not his proudest accomplishment. More »
Hollow, tapered stainless steel spire in Dublin, Monument of Light, 393 foot shiny cone
The Monument of Light, also known as the Spire of Dublin, is a 393 foot (120 meter) hollow stainless steel cone. Photo by www.Epicimages.ie/Moment Collection/Getty Images
Also known as the Monument of Light, the 393-foot (120-meter) Spire of Dublin was supposed to welcome the new millennium like the Dome in England. But Dublin's stainless steel tube was mired in controversy and construction wasn't completed until 2003. Now Dubliners are saying, What's the point? More »
I.M. Pei, Architect - Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University
I.M. Pei, Architect - Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University. Photo © Jackie Craven

Architect I.M. Pei placed massive concrete slabs in the midst of a scenic mountain view. Some critics call the museum bold and transparent. Others just shake their heads. More »

I.M.Pei-designed glass Louvres Pyramid, Paris, France
I.M.Pei-designed Louvres Pyramid, Paris, France. Photo by Harald Sund/The Image Bank Collection/Getty Images
I. M. Pei strikes again. His glass pyramid would look great somewhere else, but seems odd next to a Renaissance palace. More »
The Farnsworth House by Mies van der Rohe - Plano, Illinois - 1946 to 1950
The Farnsworth House by Mies van der Rohe - Plano, Illinois - 1946 to 1950. Photo by Rick Gerharter/Lonely Planet Images Collection/Getty Images
The glass house that Mies van der Rohe designed for Edith Farnsworth is beautiful, sure. But could she actually live in it? Could you? More »
Esplanade Theatre Roof Detail in Singapore
Esplanade Theatre Roof Detail in Singapore. Photo by Krzysztof Dydynski/Lonely Planet Images Collection/Getty Images

Is it a metal helmet? An armadillo? A porcupine with a brush cut? Or just a hard nut to crack? More »

Readers' Respond:

Wait just a minute. One of our readers says these buildings aren't silly. "These structures are fun pieces of architecture," says Maria. "I have been to some of the buildings listed in this article and they are memorable spaces to see or walk through. Some of them are inviting and I really do not think that some of them are so out of the ordinary." Other readers disagree with Maria and have given us even more examples of silly structures:
  • The Experience Music Project (EMP) in Seattle, Washington is another one of Frank Gehry's designs that is supposed to look like a smashed guitar, but is more of a blob.—Guest Kathleen
  • Winchester Mansion, of course. The strangest building in the world, in San Jose, California, has 4 floors, hundreds of stairs that don't go anywhere, and doors that don't lead anywhere.—Guest Hodari
  • National Theatre, Iganmu Lagos Nigeria. The building was built purposely to host the world Festival of Art & Culture tagged FESTAC '77....Aesthetically the building was good because it took the shape of a military cap (the rank of general), but the Comfortability & Functionality aspects of it were nowhere to be found -- no good ventilation & lightning system. In fact nobody could afford to stay indoors for an hour. It's not only funny but also a failure.—Guest Muhammed Hammed