11 of Europe's most bizarre buildings


11 of Europe's most bizarre buildings

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As one of the only remaining symbols of the 1958 Brussels World Fair, this extraordinary structure, conceptualized by late engineer André Waterkeyn, represents an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times. It features nine spheres interconnected by 20 tubes. While three spheres contain either permanent or temporary exhibitions from around the world, it's the highest, at 92 meters (300 feet), that offers a spectacular panoramic view of the city.

Capturing visitors' imaginations with its progressive vision of the future, Atomium receives an average of 600,000 visitors each year.
(Image: Courtesy Atomium A© www.atomium.be - SABAM 2012 - Frankinho)

Inaugurated in 2008 with the inconspicuous job of housing offices (official name, Office Center 1000), this remarkable building features more than 4,000 titles of enameled glass, all pieced together like a puzzle.

The quirky design represents an antique 1,000 litu banknote, which bemuses by day and enchants by night -- the building is lit by an impressive display of primary colors.

Widely known as La Pedrera (The Quarry), this iconic building recently celebrated its centennial year. Renowned Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi designed it for a wealthy couple, complete with innovative features of the time including private elevators, staircases and an underground parking garage.

After years of neglect, Casa Mila was restored to its original glory in the late 1990s and today features a one-of-a-kind terrace and exhibition center created by the current owners, the Caixa Catalunya Foundation.

The tiny Brittany town of Plougrescant's claim to fame is a puzzling little house situated between two granite rocks by the sea.

The residence was built in 1861 with a specific goal in mind -- to ward off the destructive heavy winds and storms the area is often troubled by.

After a postcard of the property created to boost local tourism caused such a stir with tourists that the private residence suffered damage, visitors can now only admire its unique form from a distance.

Built in 1974 on the site of the town's former theater, this inventive building holds the world's largest collection of Salvador Dali artwork.

Those not familiar with the surrealist artist's work might think that the large egg sculptures perched atop a dome and surrounding brick "castle" might just be a gimmick. Once inside, however, you realize the flamboyant façade pales in comparison to the wacky curiosities awaiting visitors.

More than 20 years after Dali's death, Figueres -- the town where he was born and later died -- continues to honor the eccentric master with a crypt containing his grave in the center of the museum.

Nicknamed the "Dancing House," or occasionally "Fred and Ginger," it's hard to imagine that this comical edifice was once at the center of a controversy.

The original site had great historical significance for its residents; it had been bombed by the Americans during WWII and the neighboring plot was owned by the first Czech Republic president, Václav Havel. So when local architect Vlado Milunić collaborated with his celebrated contemporary Frank Gehry, the resulting structure lay in sharp contrast with its more classical Art Nouveau and Baroque neighbors.

The building's unique design eventually won over locals -- in 2005, it was immortalized on a special gold Czech 2,000 koruna coin. (Image: Courtesy Remi Ercolani)

Symbolizing rock crystals thrusting out of the earth, this alluring building is one of the original pavilions created for the unique leisure park, Futuroscope.

It houses one of the park's many IMAX theaters -- with a screen measuring 6,458 square feet (the size of two tennis courts) and a 440-seat capacity. Great care was taken before the creation of this architectural marvel; a large-scale Plexiglas model was built using 3,000 plates -- thousands of hours were spent calculating its complex angles on computerized simulators. Even maintenance requires special skills. All window cleaners are required to be professional mountaineers.
(Image: Courtesy Gerald Buthaud, D Laming, Architects, Futuroscope)

Inaugurated with great fanfare in 1997 -- King Juan Carlos I personally christened the building -- Bilbao's Guggenheim Museum continues to charm visitors from around the world. Given carte blanche to design something "innovative" by the museum's director, legendary architect Frank Gehry created a seamless-looking structure made of limestone, glass and titanium that dramatically captures the light when viewed from the adjacent Nervión River.

The museum was featured in the James Bond film "The World is Not Enough," Mariah Carey's music video "Sweetheart" and in the computer game Sim City 4.

Known as the "Crooked House," this cartoon-like edifice houses a mall, restaurants and office buildings.

Built in 2004 by the design team of Szotyńscy & Zaleski, this whimsical building is said to have been inspired by the work of two distinguished Polish artists, illustrator Jan Marcin Szancer and children's literature author Jan Brzechwa.

Krzywy Domek has become so popular with visitors that an interior wall has been designated as a "wall of fame" where participants of cultural events are asked to autograph their names.

Designed in 2003 to commemorate Graz's year as the European Capital of Culture, Kunsthaus Graz has since become synonymous with the forward-thinking city itself.

British architects Colin Fournier and Peter Cook built a distinctive structure to represent the city's role as a cultural center for contemporary art since the 1960s.

The sizable complex (11,100 square meters/120,000 square feet) is affectionately known as the "friendly alien" by locals for its nozzles and snouts. Most surprising is the way it can change with each new exhibition -- both exterior and interior can be altered according to a curator's whim.

Taking nearly six years between concept and opening, the ambitious Eden Project opened to the public in March 2001. The attraction features two immense plastic and steel enclosures that emulate natural biomes and house thousands of plant species.

In the last decade, the complex has hosted concerts, marathons and weddings. The addition of a sustainable education center, a giant "robot" made from scrap electronics and, more recently, a "rainforest lookout" aerial tower, have all contributed to Eden's popularity.
(Image: Courtesy Lawrie Cate)

Designs truly and completely capture the imagination
Designs vary from molecule representations to cartoon-like edifices,
Many designs were hit by controversy during construction
Some house art exhibitions and museums

(CNN) -- Bizarre is in the eye of the beholder.
With modern architecture, that can mean just about anything.
Some of the extraordinary edifices above were designed to entice a reaction -- contemporary museums and exhibition centers come to mind -- while others astound by their mere existence.
The most controversial are the buildings inspired by whimsy; designed by architects with free reign to exercise their creative impulses on ordinary spaces.
Whether you consider the buildings above awe inspiring in their architectural complexity or hideous monstrosities, there's no question they capture your attention.
Inspirational, intriguing or visually grating? What do you make of our selection of buildings above? Let us know your favorite bizarre buildings.
Europe's hottest destinations for 2013
Where to see the buildings
1. Atomium: Atomiumsquare B1020, Brussels; +32 (0) 2 475 47 77; open daily 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; www.atomium.be
2. The Banknote Building: Taikos str. 88a, Kaunas, Lithuania (office building)
3. Casa Mila: Provença, 261-265. 08008, Barcelona; +32 (0) 2 475 47 77; open November 5-February 28: daily, 9 a.m.-6:30 p.m., March 1-November 4, daily, 9 a.m.-8 p.m.; www.lapedrera.com
4. Castel Meur: Brittany, auto route D25, 29260 Kernouës, France. (Private residence not open to public)
5. Dali Theatre-Museum: Plaza Gala-Salvador Dalí, 5 17600, Figueres, Spain; +34 972 67 75 00; open November 1-February 28, 10:30 a.m.-6 p.m., March 1-June 30, 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m., July 1-September 30, 9 a.m.-8 p.m., closed Mondays; www.salvador-dali.org
6. Nationale-Nederlanden Building: Rašínovo Nábřeží 80, 120 00 Prague 2. (It's an office building and not open to the public, but there's a restaurant/bar on the top two floors, details here.)
7. Futuroscope: Avenue du Téléport (avenue René Monory), 86360, Chasseneuil-du-Poitou, France; +33 (0) 549 493 080; opening times vary, check website for dates and times; futuroscope.com
8. Guggenheim Bilbao: Avenida Abandoibarra, 2 48001, Bilbao, Spain; +34 (0) 944 35 90 80; Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; www.guggenheim-bilbao.es
9. Krzywy Domek: ul. Haffnera 6, 81-717 Sopot, Poland; +48 (0) 58 55 55 125; krzywydomek.info
10. Kunsthaus Graz Museum: Lendkai 1, 8020 Graz, Austria; +43 316/8017-9200; open Tuesday-Sunday: 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; www.museum-joanneum.at
11. Eden Project: Bodelva, St Austell, Cornwall, UK; +44 (0) 1726 811911; opening times vary, check website for dates and times; www.edenproject.com

Source: 11 of Europe's most bizarre buildings

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