Breaking the mold: Top 10 architectural oddities

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Outstanding architectural oddities from around the world

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For architects, thinking outside the box often goes hand-in-hand with the job description, but sometimes the box doesn't even come into the equation. These occasions can result in some very memorable, innovative and thought-provoking projects, and with this in mind and the end of the year in sight, Gizmag celebrates ten notable architectural oddities.

Guangzhou Circle Mansion

Although the Guangzhou Circle Mansion bears more than a passing resemblance to something you'd expect to find in Homer Simpson's lunchbox, it is definitely a completed building.

Based in an industrial district of Guangzhou, China, the Circle Mansion was designed by Italian architecture firm A.M. Progetti. It serves as home to the Guangdong Plastic Exchange, and also hosts a number of office units and a hotel. The Guangzhou Circle Mansion rises to a height of 138 m (452 ft) high, and casts a reflection in a nearby river that makes it look like the number 8 – a very lucky number in Chinese culture.

S-House

Tokyo regularly punches above its weight in the weird architecture stakes, but the S House remains an oddity even by that city's standards. Taking up a footprint of 50 sq m (538 sq ft), the house features a completely transparent glass facade – and presumably a very high window cleaner's bill. Impractical? Very, though at least the bathroom and master bedroom are sunk beneath street level and so is less open to passers-by than the photos may suggest.

"I'm trying to present [S-House] as a prototype of architectural space suitable for the age of the network and information," explains architect Yuusuke Karasawa (via Google Translate).

Take my lightning but don’t steal my thunder

You could make a decent argument for including all of Alex Chinneck's projects in this roundup of odd architecture, but we'll limit ourselves to just one. The British architectural artist recently left visitors to London's Covent Garden scratching their heads with an amazing building that appears to float in mid-air.

Titled Take my lightning but don’t steal my thunder, the prefabricated building is primarily made from CNC'd polystyrene, and appears to levitate 10 feet in the air, completely unsupported. A 14 tonne (15.68 US tons) steel framework and a 4 tonne counterweight were used in the project, and Chinneck also had help from a large team of specialists to make his vision become reality. Alas, the installation was only temporary and as of writing is no more. JF-Kit House

The JF-Kit House by Spanish collective Elii Architecture draws its inspiration from fitness icon Jane Fonda. The project imagines a future of parasitic architecture that operates off-grid – not with solar power or other renewable energy, mind you, but with a good old-fashioned workout.

Elii Architecture envisions such off-the-wall ideas as a hand-cranked email station, an energy-producing dance floor, a hand-cranked kitchen, and a greenhouse that's somehow watered by performing squats. Clearly, it isn't going to be a practical method of living any time soon, though is a definite example of what can happen when architects let their imaginations run wild.

SkyHouse

Money can't buy you happiness, but it can buy you a huge penthouse apartment in Lower Manhattan that features a massive 24 m (80 ft) slide, a climbing wall, glass floors, and a private elevator – which is perhaps the same thing after all ...

Renovated by architect David Hotson, the SkyHouse takes up the top four floors of one of New York City's oldest skyscrapers and features choice views of some of the city's best landmarks, including St.Paul’s Chapel, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the Empire State Building.

Starwars House

That wise sage Yoda once said "Do or do not. There is no try." Clearly this spirit of committing to the task in hand was taken on board by South Korean architecture firm Moon Hoon when it embarked upon building this Star Wars themed home. Starting with its droid-like exterior, the aptly-named Starwars House pays homage to several aspects of Star Wars design.

The project was built for a family of four at a total cost of 200 million KRW (around US$192,000), and despite its outward appearance, is actually a practical family home, comprising a total floor space of 131 sq m (1,410 sq ft), split over three floors.

Multi

ThyssenKrupp's Multi, is billed as the world's first cable-free elevator and while that may sound a little odd, it could have massive implications for the future of tall buildings.

The elevator can move both horizontally and vertically, providing an obvious boost to versatility and providing a platform upon which architects can begin to seriously rethink the way that tall buildings are conceived. The elevator is powered using the same basic mechanism as Shanghai's super-fast Maglev Train, though thankfully will run much slower.

MIT's Tetris building hack

Back in 2012, students hacked the 90 m (295 ft) Building 54, Home to the Institute's Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Science (EAPS), the building's grid-like windows proved a good fit for bringing the classic multi-platform game onto a grander scale.

Antoine

We've reported on a smorgasbord of tiny homes and shelters in recent years, but Bureau A's Antoine is definitely the first such structure that could be mistaken for a boulder.

Located in the Swiss Alps, Antoine is inspired by a novel written by Swiss writer Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz, and was built to host visiting artists. The shelter is constructed from wood and encased in a concrete shell, while inside it sports a wood burner, and fold-down furniture – though unfortunately no toilet.

Survival Condos

Some people believe that a nuclear strike/asteroid impact/zombie apocalypse-type disaster is inevitably going to wipe out a large chunk of the population, and want to be prepared. The Luxury Survival Condos offer such people an opportunity to live out the end days in style.

Built in obsolete US Atlas missile silos, Survival Condos can, according to the developers, withstand winds of up to 500 mph (805 km/h). Each full-size silo houses up to 70 people, and comes with a five year supply of freeze-dried and dehydrated food (per person), in addition to some big TV's, home automation systems, and jacuzzi baths. A full-floor condo suite costs US$3 million, while a half-floor suite fetches $1.5 million.

You can check out each of these architectural oddities in more detail in the gallery.

If we've missed any weird and/or wonderful feats of architecture that have caught you eye in recent times, shout out in the comments section below.

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