World's Weirdest Looking Skyscrapers
Let's ride the elevator to the top of the world's weirdest looking skyscrapers!Design
While most modern skyscrapers look tall, boxy, and dull, architects and developers are constantly coming up with increasingly crazy concepts so that their buildings will stand out from the crowd. From rotating towers to death star designs, let’s take a look at some of the strangest skyscrapers you’ll ever lay your eyes on!
When we think of a typical skyscraper, we tend to imagine soaring vertical structures, maybe made of gray concrete or blue glass panels. However, a building in China has flipped both of these features on their heads!
‘The Guangzhou Circle’ is a round, golden-colored skyscraper, and, at 453 ft tall, it’s the tallest circular building in the world! But it didn’t come cheap, with construction efforts costing some $160 million when it was completed back in 2013.
So, the ultimate question is; why place a giant, 160 ft hole in the middle of such an expensive circle? It turns out, the entire design is based on an ancient Chinese symbol known as a Bi, which are flat disks made of glass or jade that could only be afforded by the elite.
But it’s not the only part of the design associated with money! Located on the banks of the Pearl River, the golden circle casts an impressive reflection on the water beside it, creating a giant figure of eight! This is another symbol popular in Chinese culture for its association to good fortune and prosperity.
This is pretty ingenious, because the skyscraper serves primarily as the headquarters of two billion-dollar entities; the Guangdong Plastic Exchange, and Hongda Xingye Group. With millions of dollars being managed here every day, they need all the prosperity they can get, no matter what shape it comes in!
Ring Of Life
Most skyscrapers have multi-purpose uses; they will include hotels, shopping malls, or offices. But not China’s brand-new, $16 million Ring of Life. At 515 ft tall, with a circumference of more than 1617 ft, making it longer than the empire state building is tall, this massive circular structure doesn’t house a single habitable room.
Originally, it was going to serve as a bungee jumping facility, but at 515 ft tall, it was deemed too high, and was instead replaced with an observation deck. Today, the 3000-ton steel ring’s main feature apart from its size is the 12,000 LED lights that can light up the night sky in various colors. While it looks really cool, it remains an awfully odd way to spend $16 million.
Any number of things can inspire a skyscraper’s design; the shape of the Burj Khalifa, for example, was inspired by the leaves of the Spider lily. The Marina Bay Sands drew it’s design from a house of cards. And the Sarcostyle was based on muscle tissue.
Called the Sarcostyle, a 689 ft tall conceptual skyscraper was put forward to fill a space on New York’s iconic harbor front. Designed by Hayri Atak Design Studio, they aimed to make it look similar in shape to the surrounding structures, but distinctly biological in nature.
Construction of such dramatic shapes would require structural tubes on each corner of the building, to allow the inside to look like it had folded in on itself through a series of giant voids.
While it certainly stands out, it’s not exactly clear how things like elevators would reach each of the 60 floors, or what the floor layout of those middle tubes could possibly be used for. Still, for a building inspired by muscle tissues, it’s one hell of a flex!
In the middle of Chicago, there’s a building that, from afar, looks like it’s made of water. Well, despite being called ‘Aqua Tower’, it isn’t built on liquid foundations. The 876 ft skyscraper completed back in 2009, with some $300 million, is cleverly composed so that it looks like vertical waves are running down the entire length of the building!
The architect stretched the balconies on each floor by as much as 12 ft and used varying-sized concrete slabs across the tower to emphasize each curved, undulating wave. So as the sun moves across the building, so do these shadowy waves!
The separate sizes and shapes of the slabs also allow residents inside to maintain access to sunlight and stunning views of the city.
Not only is it a residential building, but its 1.9 million square ft spread over 82 floors also houses offices, a hotel, and one of Chicago’s largest green roofs. And with those wild waves, it certainly sticks out from Chicago’s other more traditional towers!
You wouldn’t necessarily think that an entire skyscraper could be just one home, but over on billionaires row in Mumbai, India, that’s exactly what’s been built! Called Antilia, or more commonly Ambani House, the entirety of this 27-floor skyscraper is valued at an insane $2 billion and is home to just one single family!
It’s one of the most expensive private residential properties in the world, occupied by one of the richest people on the planet; Mukesh Ambani, along with his wife, and three children. There’s also enough space to house 600 live-in staff to maintain this mansion!
That may seem like overkill, but each of them have jobs maintaining this skyscraper mansion’s health spa, gym, multiple swimming pools, ice cream parlor, nine elevators, a fifty-seat cinema, ballroom, and a temple! It also contains an underground private car park and not one, not two, but three helipads. Suddenly, having 600 staff on hand to help out doesn’t seem that outrageous!
Its odd shape is yet another feature that sets this mansion apart from any other, looking like an uncontrollable game of Jenga! But it isn’t nearly as easy to knock down, as it’s been specially designed to withstand an earthquake of eight on the Richter scale, one of the highest magnitudes recorded!
Azerbaijan’s Full Moon Tower
We’re off to outer space for this next skyscraper, because it looks like a full moon. While it may look like the Death Star, this is actually Azerbaijan’s Full Moon Tower!
From the front, the concept certainly looks spherical, but it’s actually designed to be thin, more like a disk than a moon! Still, at 515 ft tall, this soon-to-be luxury hotel form was conceptualized as part of Baku’s crescent bay, which, at its opposite end, has another moon shaped building aptly called The Crescent Hotel.
But it seems like this was too many moons for Baku to handle, because before work could begin on this eye-wateringly expensive $500 million project, the architects scrapped their original plans, focusing all efforts onto the Crescent Hotel instead. Apparently, that one 545 ft novelty moon-shaped hotel was enough! Who’d have thought.
TV companies all over the world have their headquarters, offices and studios located in some pretty iconic buildings: like the BBC’s broadcasting house, or the NBC tower. But few come close to the conceptual craziness of the China Central Television Headquarters!
This gravity defying structure is built on a web of diagonals, which are denser in areas of greater stress, allowing around a quarter of the building to look like it’s floating without any support underneath.
Built back in 2008, it was specially created to accommodate all the TV coverage that came with hosting the Olympic Games in Beijing that year. Unlike traditional vertical high-rises, this building utilizes two towers, one 767 ft tall and another some 636 ft tall, that lean against each other and are connected on their upper floors by a cantilevered link level.
This linked level features 13-ft-wide glass floors allowing visitors to look down a 530 ft drop, for that additional fear factor!
To create this wonderfully weird design, the construction company had to figure out a way to ensure the towers could bend at 90 degrees to form this continuous loop. This led to the towers being built at different heights, to balance all the elements out.
But thanks to this strange shape, it now has a variety of nicknames such as ‘The Pants’ and ‘Big Pants’. Considering it cost a mammoth $900 million to build, they might just be the most expensive pair of pants on the planet!
King Power MahaNakhon
The 8-bit way of life is coming back in style if this next skyscraper is anything to go by! Located in Bangkok, the MahaNakhon or ‘King Power’ was completed back in 2016, and designed to reveal its interior through a winding architectural pixel design.
Standing at 1,050 ft tall, the swirling design makes it look like a 1981 Donkey Kong has taken a swipe at it! But in reality, each pixelated section is made of a series of glass skyboxes and balconies, each one giving occupants both indoor and outdoor living spaces that are well-suited to Bangkok’s climate!
Alongside this fun feature, the 150,000 square foot scraper contains 79 floors, the majority of which are luxury residences and hotel rooms. From certain angles though, it can look like residents are living in floating boxes, with the building’s inner structure cleverly hidden from view.
But to make this work, more than 30% of the tower floor plates have been built to work as cantilevers, with just one end of each plate supported in a way that allows the rest of the beam to hang free!
To further support this, the core of the building is wrapped in a series of mega columns, connected at several transfer floors. All this allows the pixel indents to spiral up the building without any problems!
So we’ve established there are insane skyscrapers, there are crazy concepts, and some super odd designs but this next one might just take the award for weirdest looking building on the planet.
Built on the outskirts of Beijing, China, the Tianzi Hotel is a 136 ft tall, 10-story structure which is also the biggest image building in the world. It depicts three gods from Chinese mythology, with each deity representing an attribute that’s necessary for a good life!
The white-haired god on the far left is Shou, who can control life spans and is associated with longevity; Fu stands in the middle, representing fortune, and next to him, the god Lu embodies prosperity, rank, and influence.
You might think it’s some sort of temple, or religious center designed to encourage people to pay homage but this is, in fact, a hotel! No joke; guests enter through Shou’s right foot, and can stay in rooms located anywhere from the feet, all the way to the god’s heads! They can even book a room inside “the peach” that Shou is holding.
Aldar HQ Building
When it comes to strong shapes, triangles, squares, and hexagons top the list, which is why so many architects use them in their designs. But despite circles being one of the weaker shapes, that didn’t stop the designers of The United Arab Emirates’ Aldar HQ from building one huge spherical circular skyscraper.
Located in Abu Dhabi, it was the very first building of its kind to grace the Middle East when it was completed back in 2010. More than 360 ft tall with 23 floors, this distinctive design comprises two circular convex facades which are linked by a middle layer of indented glazing. A bit like a giant glass penny that’s miraculously landed on its side!
The curved glass skin of this skyscraper could cover the area of four entire football fields! But all that glass doesn’t stay up on it’s own. Instead, the building relies on a triangular diagrid of steel to keep everything in place, the very first of it’s kind used in the UAE!
All of this means that while the building only has 23 floors, it provides roughly the same floor area as a 40-story tower. I wasn’t a fan of circular buildings, but I guess you could say this design has brought me round.
Liebian Waterfall Building
Here’s a fun question: what happens if you cross a skyscraper with a waterfall? Chaos? Destruction? A movie directed by Michael Bay? Well, in this case, it’s actually The Liebian International Building.
Situated in Guiyang, China, construction of this impressive skyscraper began back in 2012, and while the building itself is yet to be finished, a dramatic water feature built into it was completed back in 2016.
Standing at nearly 400 ft, this skyscraper incorporates one of the world’s tallest artificial waterfalls running down the side of the building! The waterfall itself uses a blend of recycled tap water and rainwater, powered by four pumps.
However, the first time the fall was turned on, major water leaks were reported by local residents. It also reportedly costs over a hundred dollars to run per hour, and so despite taking more than 4 years to complete, the fall itself has only been turned on a handful of times!
Zayed National Museum
If you had to think of an iconic museum, you’d probably imagine something like France’s Louvre, New York’s Guggenheim, or Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum. In the close future, all of these iconic buildings will be competing with the otherworldly Zayed National Museum!
Aiming for completion by 2025, it’s been designed as a homage to the Founding Father of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. Reaching a top height of 374 ft tall, the leaning towers that look like giant air vents are shaped specifically to resemble falcon wings, in honor of Zayed’s love of falconry.
Its base will be constructed to imitate the landscape of the Emirates, and the five steel structures will not only act as decoration, but as solar thermal towers! Balancing the vertical wings out, a central, pod-like lobby dug into the ground will hold the main exhibition area.
And with almost half a million square feet of floor space, this gigantic project will include a large auditorium, entertainment venues, and of course, gallery spaces. All of these different shapes almost feel like three different ideas in one! It’s a game changing design to see in any building, let alone a skyscraper!
The Dynamic Tower is a concept skyscraper designed for the city of Dubai back in 2008. Each floor making up the 1378 ft tower is able to rotate clockwise and anticlockwise a full 360 degrees, with a complete turn taking ninety minutes. What’s more, you can actually control the direction and speed of the floor inside your own floor independently!
But how on earth would they build this? Amazingly, the plan was to have a whopping 90% of the structure pre-built inside a factory and then shipped to the construction site. Each unit would then be loaded onto a central column and attached in segments, with elevators running up and down the central columns to transport residents up and down the tower!
It’s a hell of a zany design, one that was projected to cost approximately $1.2 billion! Well, somewhere between the insane design and the even more insane price tag, this development has been placed on hold indefinitely.
It’s no secret that Qatar has a vision to become the most prosperous nation in the world by 2030. They’re investing heavily in major infrastructure overhauls, such as the $45 billion development of Lusail City, the jewel of which is the iconic Katara Towers hotel!
By day, each of the 700 ft towers can be seen across the city for miles, and by night they light up the bayside! The design of this ambitious project was based around the shape of the two traditional scimitar swords in Qatar’s national seal.
To build such an unconventional shape, table lifting systems had to be modified to incorporate the inclined arches, and more than 100,000 square ft of construction tables had to come in custom sizes. Home to the Doha Fairmont Hotel, which opened in late 2022, its aim is to attract the attention of tourists and locals alike with its unusual style and quirky features.
You can hardly imagine hotels or shopping plazas actually fitting inside the Katara Towers because of its shape; it looks like everything would get squashed up! Fortunately, the towers each have a floor area of around 25,000 square ft, so there’s plenty of room the further up you go even as you go further up!
Bahrain World Trade Center
There are some buildings that look so futuristic and cool, you’d think they were the Avengers’ new headquarters! But while the next skyscraper certainly looks like it could have been built by Tony Stark, for Superhero antics, what goes on inside couldn’t be more different.
It's none other than the World Trade Center of Manama in Bahrain! Reaching 787 ft in height, the two towers of this building are connected by three skybridges, each one containing a 95 ft diameter wind turbine.
Inspired by traditional Arabian wind towers, the sail-shaped towers funnel the strong sea breeze from the Persian Gulf into the three wind turbines, which provide around 15% of the building’s total power!
When it was opened back in 2008, it was the very first skyscraper in the entire world to have incorporated this kind of wind turbine into its design. And while it looked a little whacky, it’s inspired more skyscraper designers to incorporate wind turbines into their builds, like Pearl River Tower and Hess Tower, to reduce their reliance on non-renewable fuels.
REN People's Building
So, we’ve learned about skyscrapers that share a base, and split off into two towers. But have you ever seen a building that shares a tower, split over two different bases? Well, that's the concept of the Ren Building! Proposed for a spot on the Shanghai skyline, the REN building was initially conceived as two towers merging into one.
The first tower is designed as if emerging from the water itself, and fittingly will house a water culture and sports center. The second is dedicated to conference centers and boardrooms. And where the two meet in the middle to form an arch, a 1,000-room hotel would be located.
This sounds like a perfect mix of spaces, but what’s the story behind this unusual shape? Well, the structure cleverly forms the traditional Chinese character for ‘People’, making this public building a standout landmark! The Ren was a proposal for the World Expo China 2010, but sadly never became a reality. Still, you could say this design certainly had a lot of character.
If you have trypophobia, then you may not want to learn about the next building! But for those of you who aren’t afraid of endless, tightly packed holes, say hello to Miami’s Cor Building. The 400 ft tall conceptual skyscraper was presented back in 2005 as the first sustainable, mixed-use condominium in the whole of Miami.
The holey exoskeleton of the building was designed to be thermally insulated, which at the top layer would also house a series of wind turbines. This would help the building be as green as possible, with the trade-off being that it looks like a cursed block of swiss cheese!
Other smart features such as recycled glass flooring, bamboo-lined hallways and recycled concrete foundations are also mentioned in the brief; making this design sustainable from the bottom of its foundations all the way up to its wind-turbined lined roof garden! Sadly, this concept never got the greenlight, to the relief of the trypophobes out there!
City Portraits By Victor Enrich
You don't need to be an architect to know that a skyscraper can’t just bend 90 degrees without all the relevant cantilevers in place. So with that being the case, can you imagine what is happening with the building in the image below?
That air conditioning unit is holding on for dear life! God knows how the elevators in this place work or the stairs, for that matter! I bet the inside looks like some MC Escher hellscape! Luckily, this isn’t actually real. This is all the work of digital artist Victor Enrich, who’s taken classic skyscraper design to some unimaginable limits.
In his City Portraits collection, he takes pictures of classic buildings and manipulates them until they look like concrete slinkies! He picks out key details and manipulates them, like stretching out the balconies or highlighting another feature!
In the image below, he's transformed three relatively ordinary concrete and glass towers into different shaped portals to another dimension!
It’s a wonderful look at a world completely unconstrained by constructs like gravity. These buildings look like they’d be so much fun to live in, assuming I wouldn’t immediately fall to my death!