New Buildings Drawn from Unusual Inspirations

Le Architecture By Aedas 3
Lè Architecture

The philosophy of “form follows function” guided architecture for much of the 20th century. Now, even in a time when building performance is being scrutinized as never before, architects and developers are paying a great deal of attention to buildings’ form. Building science often is cloaked in a great deal of art.

Examples of building designs with unusual inspirations abound around the world. Following are some recent examples.

The MahaNakhon Tower stands out among other buildings in Bangkok’s financial district. At around 1,030 ft (314 m), it is the tallest building in Thailand. However, as much as its height, the building’s unusual appearance draws attention. It was designed to look like it was made from thousands of individual cubes, similar to LEGO structures or constructs in the popular video game Minecraft. Some of the “building blocks” are even missing, giving portions of the tower a jagged, unfinished look that has been described as “pixelated.” Designer Ole Scheeren is reported as saying he hopes the design will challenge the more typical monolith style of many towers and create “the visual effect of disintegration.”

The MahaNakhon Tower

Pace Development


Lè Architecture, in Taipei, Taiwan, is nearing completion. The 18-story office building, designed by multinational architecture giant Aedas, is inspired by the form and striations of river pebbles. This form is apropos to one of the building’s intrinsic functions. It is meant to be a centerpiece of the revitalization of the Nangang business district, which is along the Jilong River. Lè Architecture is designed to minimize energy use. Daylighting is extensively used to reduce reliance on artificial lighting. Green planters hung on the west side create a 60 m (200 ft) green wall.

Lè Architecture



A similar, yet more exotic, take on that philosophy imbues another Aedas project, which has an unusual anchor tenant. Chongqing Xinhua Bookstore Group Jiefangbei Book City is a complex of retail, residential, office, and hotel space. The Xinhua Bookstore will be its centerpiece. The design of the structure is meant to evoke images of scrolls. The designers draw upon an ancient Chinese saying that “knowledge brings wealth” to integrate the concept of a book with the cultural elements of one of the five national central cities in China.

Chongqing Xinhua Bookstore Group Jiefangbei Book City



French architects are planning to build a "wheel hotel" on the banks of the Seine with "room capsules" that rotate constantly. Maxime Barbier and Luc Delamain, of the agency SCAU (Design Society of Architecture and Urbanism), said each of the ferris-wheel-inspired hotel’s 19 rooms will be 12 ft (3.7 m) long, soundproof, and have its own fully padded sleeping chamber, bathroom, and window. The wheel will rotate at a rate of one full loop every 30 minutes.

"Wheel hotel" exterior (L) and interior (R)

SCAU (Design Society of Architecture and Urbanism)


A skyscraper designed to evoke the popular block-stacking game Jenga is under way in Vancouver, BC, Canada. The residential building features several levels reaching outward horizontally to fully "engage the space of the city." Earlier this year, the height of the proposed tower was reduced from 500 ft (152 m) as originally proposed to 436 ft (133 m). The reduction was not based on fears the edifice might fall like its game inspiration, but municipal policies. The taller height would have penetrated “view cones” that allow the full skyline to be visible.

The "Jenga" skyscraper

Bosa Properties


In August, Spanish architecture studio Bakpak unveiled its proposal for The Pottery Courtyard, a multipurpose building that takes its inspiration from the work of local ceramics artisans. The building's exterior features sharp edges and angles, and its interior surrounds a curved courtyard, the design for which was inspired by the shape of a potter's wheel.

The Pottery Courtyard

Bakpak Architects


One of the oddest inspirations for a building will begin to take “shape”—literally—later this year when construction begins in Melbourne, Australia. Grammy Award-winning singer Beyoncé has inspired the design of The Premier Tower—a 68-story, 741 ft (226 m) structure designed by Elenberg Fraser and developed by Singapore-based Fragrance Group—was modeled on visuals of the singer. The Ministry of Planning approved the mixed residential and hotel tower, which at 249 m and 78 stories, will become one of the tallest buildings in Melbourne. There is actually some function to the chosen form. “It’s [a] clever, contemporary design that maximizes floor space and enhances sweeping views, while minimizing downdraft—a stunning new addition to Melbourne’s cityscape,” the developer said.

The Premier Tower

Fragrance Group

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