Edifice Complex

The following is an article from the newest volume of the Bathroom Reader series, Uncle John's 24-Karat Bathroom Reader.

Think the old woman who lived in a shoe had weird taste in housing? It turns out she was just ahead of her time. Buildings can look like all sorts of things, even...


(Image credit: City Profile)

Crouched on the Parks Highway about 180 miles outside of Anchorage, Alaska, is a hulking, four-story igloo. Its dome can be spotted from an airplane flying at 30,000 feet. Built in the 1970s, the igloo was meant to give tourists a chance to visit a "real" Alaskan igloo. Igloo City, as it's known, has been a convenience store, a gas station, a makeshift triage clinic for a man attacked by a grizzly bear, and an emergency airplane refueling stop (a small plane once landed on the highway and and taxied in for gas). But other than part of the ground floor, the igloo itself has never been used. It was supposed to be a motel, but the couple who built it forgot something important: building codes. The structure never passed inspection, and its owners went broke.


In the 1920s, the High Point, North Carolina, Chamber of Commerce built its first building-size chest of drawers. Twenty feet tall, the chest served as the Chamber's Bureau of Information and helped to promote the city's image as the "Furniture Capital of the World." In 1996 the chest was augmented, making it 38 feet tall. In 2010, upset with the city's refusal to help with the upkeep of the landmark, Pam Stern, the building's owner, had the chest measured for a giant bra: 20 feet of silk, Spandex, and underwiring. (Get it? A chest of drawers.) HanesBrands, Inc., maker of Playtex bras, sent engineers over to take the chest's measurements. Whether the city will permit the chest to wear the bra remains unknown at this time.


(Image credit: Flicker user Brent Moore)

A 56-foot tall chicken head juts from the roof of the Kentucky Fried Chicken at the corner of Roswell Street and Cobb Parkway in Marietta, Georgia. Locals use it as a landmark when giving directions: "Turn right, after you pass the Big Chicken." The architectural whimsy, built in 1963, was a Johnny Reb's Chick, Chuck and Shakes fried-chicken restaurant until 1966, when the owner, Tubby Davis,  sold it to his brother, who turned it into a KFC. In 1993 the chicken suffered wind damage and might have been demolished were it not considered too important to be axed. Reason: pilots use the building as a reference point when approaching Atlanta and nearby Dobbins Air Reserve Base.


In 2006 a young family in Mexico City decided to ditch their conventional home and build one more in harmony with nature. From above, their new house looks like the perfect spiral of a nautilus shell. From the lawn, it looks like a soft-serve ice cream sundae. The frame for the building consists of  steel-reinforced chicken wire that's covered in a two-inch layer of stucco. Stained glass bubbles in the walls sparkle like sunlight on water. A stone walkway spirals from room to room on a bed of live plants, creating the sensation of floating above the ocean floor. The bathroom's sandy walls and blue tile offers user the illusion of being underwater. Family members say the Nautilus House makes them feel "like a mollusk in its shell, moving from one chamber to another."


(Image credit: Oran Viriyincy)

In 1986 Thai architect Sumet Jumsai designed the new Bank of Asia in Bangkok to reflect the computerization of banking going on at the time. Result: the $10 million, 20-story building looks like a giant LEGO robot. The "robot" has two antennae that serve as lightning rods, and glass eyes with louvered metallic lids that serve as windows. Jumsai wanted the building to "free the spirit from the present architectual intellectual impasse and propel it forward to the next century." The inspiration for what has been called a post-high-tech miracle? His son's toy robot.


(Image credit: vercruysse frederik)

The owner of a European ad agency wanted to add an office next to her lakeside home in Belgium, and hired the design firm dmvA to come up with something organic-looking that could be built without cutting down a single tree. Local authorities refused to issue a building permit because city council members thought the design was too weird: The building -nicknamed "the blob"-  looked like a giant white egg. To get around the council, the designer turned the egg into a mobile unit so it would qualify as a work or art, not a building. The structure consists of a wooden frame covered with a polyester skin and an ultra-modern grid of niches molded into the interior for storage. The interior features lighting, a sleeping shelf, a kitchen, and a bathroom. The pointy end of the egg (the egg is on its side)opens up to create a porch. After the project, known as the Blob VB3, was completed, the unique structure appeared in a Belgian newspaper under the heading "Art skirts building regulations." The next day, some at the building council showed up to warn the owner that if the egg was placed near the house, there would be consequences. Dubbed the "rovin' ovum" by its fans, the Blob VB3 went on the auction block in 2010. (No word as to whether anyone has the huevos to buy it.)


Architect Terunobu Fujimori has a weird way of getting approval for his unique designs. He invites clients to join him in his tiny Takasugi-an -his "Too-High Teahouse." Perched 20 feet in the air, the 30-square-foot private teahouse in Chino, Japan, balances on two forked tree trunks that resemble spindly chicken legs. Once clients have climbed the ladders to the house, he shows them his hand-drawn plans. "If they don't like my design, I shake the building!" he says with a laugh.


The 150-foot-tall water tower outside Gaffney, South Carolina, was built to catch the eye of motorists speeding by along I-85. It looks like a gigantic peach. In 1981, when the tower went up, the local economy depended on peach orchards. Townspeople wanted it known that Cherokee County, where Gaffney is located, grew more peaches per year than the whole state of Georgia (the "Peach State"). Macro-artist Peter Freudenberg studied local peaches for many hours and used 50 gallons of paint in 20 different colors to make the peach hyper-realistic. Features include a 7-ton, 60-foot-long leaf, and an enormous vertical cleft in its backside, leading to the nickname "Moon over Gaffney."


The article above was reprinted with permission from the newest volume of the Bathroom reader series, Uncle John's 24-Karat Bathroom Reader.

Since 1988, the Bathroom Reader Institute had published a series of popular books containing irresistible bits of trivia and obscure yet fascinating facts.

If you like Neatorama, you'll love the Bathroom Reader Institute's books - go ahead and check 'em out!

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You're missing a couple of my favorites (and living in L.A. for 40 years, local to me), "Tail of the Pup", the hot dog stand shaped like a hot dog
(and the name was a take-off of a popular restaurant/bar unironically named "Tail of the Cock"), and "The Brown Derby", which was shaped like... guess what...
My father worked in an office building across the street from the original hat while I was growing up and when I'd visit him at work, guess where we ate lunch. (And for a fancy restaurant, it served some kid-pleasing chili)
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