Can architecture be surreal? At first, it sounds as an absurd notion. With the quintessential element of architecture being structural linearity, it is difficult to imagine buildings that seem to come out of hallucinations. Yet, that hasn’t stopped people from endeavoring into surreal architecture.
Surrealism is a movement that concerns itself with dreams and abstract creations, taking a swing at political, sexual and social liberation. In art and literature this liberating form with no boundaries seems to be a perfect fit. Well, as hard as it is to imagine how surreal architecture will work in reality, there are many crazy buildings in the world that celebrate this movement. Hence, in today’s installment of this series we are taking you to a madcap journey in 6 wonderful and surreal buildings.
Dancing House, Prague
In Prague, architects Vlado Milunic and Frank Gehry, designed in 1992 a building that defies the conventional styles of the city. Prague is famous for its Baroque, Gothic and Art Nouveau buildings, but the surreal architecture of the Dancing House came to shake the foundations of the historic city.
If one looks close, the house seems to be embraced in a form of dance, hence its nickname. In fact, Gehry named it originally Fred and Ginger, from the infamous stars Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Despite the initial controversy that sprouted with Fred and Ginger, the extraordinary facade of the building has become a part of Prague’s architectural landscape. Nowadays, the nine-store building houses office and a French restaurant at the top.
The Crooked House, Poland
You might be tempted to believe that the architectural design above was spawn out of a Photoshop app. However, the Krzywy Domek, or Crooked House, in fact swirls and curves without the need of technology.
The surreal architecture of the building was designed by Szotyńscy & Zaleski and it serves as a shopping center in Sopot, Poland. Its cartoonish contour is something born out of fairy tales, creating an animated appeal that deserves the term surreal. Especially during the wintertime, the Crooked House acquires a dreamlike essence that invites adults to relive their childhood fantasies. It is fantastically outstanding.
Casa Mila, Barcelona
In Barcelona, the Casa Mila was constructed by Antoni Gaudi between 1906 and 1912. The stone carvings of its façade, springing to mind an open quarry, has given to the building its world-famous nickname “La Pedrera”(stone quarry).
This surreal architecture has become a landmark of recognition in Catalonia, receiving its stamp of legacy and artistic approval by entering the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1984. The building has become a reference point in the historic city and houses the headquarters of the Catalunya-La Pedrera Foundation and a cultural centre. The Casa Mila is undeniably a beacon of artistic heritage that breaks the boundaries of what is perceived as possible in the realm of architecture.
Upside down house, Austria
If you feel an urge to flip your screens, then know that this house was intended to be upside down. Architects Irek Glowacki and Marek Rozhanski have intentionally created this house as a tourist attraction in Austria.
Everything in the house are dizzyingly upside down, from the kitchen, to the bedroom and the living room. It even sports a garage with a car hanging from its wheels. Observing the house from afar, one can spot the remains of a basement where the roof should have been. This surreal architecture took it’s designers about 8 months to complete it and given its disorienting model, is really no wonder why it took so long. Visitors can enter the house through an upstairs window, after strolling by a suspended porch.
Hotel Marqeus de Riscal, Elciego Spain
The second surreal architecture that Frank Gehry had a say was the Hotel Marqués de Riscal in Spain. The design of the hotel bares no equal. Walls that tilt, windows that curve like a snake and cathedral-high ceilings combine to create a true work of art.
If there is ever a benchmark in surreal architecture for hotels, then the Marques de Riscal has definitely set it. The luxurious contemporary retreat has 43 rooms and suites for a few lucky people that can witness its awe-inspiring design up close and personal.
The Ferdinand Cheval’s Ideal Palace
Finally, the last surreal architecture has literally came out of a dream. The lore says that Ferdinand Cheval, a rural postman, during his causal rounds tripped on a rock and inside him a forgotten dream was awaken. He spend 33 years of his life bringing that dream into reality in his back garden. The end-result was a castle that fits into no known category of man.
What did his dreams entail? Ferdinand envisioned a castle that was not populate by humans rather by extraordinary beasts. Giants, fairies, elephants, caiman, bears, octopus and many other creatures from all over the world would become the habitats of this truly madcap castle.
Ferdinand could have boasted that his castle was the epitome of surreal architecture, following neither trends nor rules for its construction, which was completed in 1912. Its uniqueness was recognized by France in 1969, with the then French Minister of Cultural Affairs, Andre Malraux, classifying it as a Historical Monument.
So, can architecture be surreal? The answer is pretty obvious by now. Our dreams can be shaped in architectural form and make our lives just a little bit more weird. After all, the world needs some madness, otherwise we run the risk to become nothing more and nothing less other than boring.
If you likes our surreal architecture article then check our Valentine’s edition of this series.