When you picture a building, what comes to mind? A floor and ceiling, for starters. You’ll want a couple walls, too, and a roof to keep the rain out. Of course, that’s only one way to build a structure. There are plenty of others, and some of them are so far outside the box, you’ll wonder if they know there was a box there to begin with. Today, we’re shining the spotlight on six buildings that have to be seen to be believed.
Bubble Palace – Théoule-sur-Mer, France
Gazing at the Bubble Palace feels like taking a glimpse into another world. The architecture of this sprawling villa—with its lack of straight lines and defiance of conventional shapes—is a surrealist’s dream, complete with a gorgeous view of the Bay of Cannes. The brainchild of Hungarian architect Antti Lovag, the palace was built for French industrialist Pierre Bernard, before fashion designer Pierre Cardin purchased it as a holiday home. Following Cardin’s death in 2020, there have been talks of repurposing it into a public art venue.
Sedlec Ossuary – Kutná Hora, Czech Republic
The Sedlec Ossuary is equal parts unusual and unsettling. Step inside, and you’ll be greeted by elaborate displays made from human remains, including a giant chandelier incorporating every bone in the human body. It’s estimated that between 40,000 and 70,000 skeletons comprise the chapel’s furnishings, lending the structure a macabre atmosphere. For some, the thought alone turns the stomach, let alone the sight; for others, the boney decor might prove uniquely fascinating.
The Crooked House – Sopot, Poland
This one does exactly what it says on the tin. The Krzywy Domek—Polish for “Crooked House”—was made to resemble the fairytale illustrations of Jan Marcin Szancer and Per Dahlberg. As a result, the building appears warped; its windows vary in shape and size, while its roof bends and slopes at odd angles. Would you believe the whole affair is attached to a shopping center? Make it past the vertigo-inducing exterior, and you’ll be met with shops, eateries, and a radio station.
Atomium – Brussels, Belgium
We know what you’re thinking. Yes, the Atomium looks—and sounds—like something straight out of science fiction. The landmark structure was put together for the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair, designed to resemble a unit cell of iron. Escalators connect its six spheres, which serve a variety of functions; the bottom sphere houses exhibitions, the central spheres can be rented out for conferences or parties, and the top sphere is a restaurant with a spectacular view of the surrounding city. Awe-inspiring and multi-purpose, the Atomium is a true marvel.
Kunsthaus Graz – Graz, Austria
At a glance, it could be mistaken for a deep sea creature, or some bizarre wind instrument. In reality, Kunsthaus Graz is an Austrian art museum, dedicated to displaying works from the 1960s onward. Brought to life by Colin Fournier and Sir Peter Cook, the structure is a prime example of blobitecture – an architectural style defined by organic, amoeba-like designs. Thanks to its shape and color, the museum has earned a charming moniker among locals: the “Friendly Alien.”
Habitat 67 – Montréal, Québec
Habitat 67 was conceived as a master’s thesis project, then constructed as an exhibition for Expo 67. Today, the interconnected concrete dwellings lie a stone’s throw from the St. Lawrence River, ready to wow any who come across it. The habitat is composed of 354 identical forms, which are arranged in myriad ways and linked by walkways. At some points, Habitat 67 reaches twelve stories tall. The structure is best admired from the neighboring port, in all its dizzying intricacy.