American architecture reflects the rich diversity that has shaped all areas of life in the United States. From Spanish-influenced southern architecture to the English-inspired designs of Virginia and Massachusetts, the suburban arts and crafts style and the Victorian grandeur of early 20th-century homes, American architecture has varied significantly overtime to reflect a range of styles, building materials and influences. The following seven buildings do not fit neatly into any one style but reflect the sometimes whimsical, ingenious and innovative spirit of American design.
The Basket Building
This Newark, Ohio landmark may be the world’s most unique office building. Home to the Longaberger Basket Company, the building is a 180,000 square-foot replica of the company’s best-selling basket. While the real thing is less than $50, the building cost $30 million to construct. No one took owner Dave Longaberger seriously when he proposed constructing a seven-story replica of a basket, but employees moved into the new office on December 17, 1997. The building is a faithful replica, using stucco over steel to achieve a more authentic wooden appearance. The interior is less whimsical than the exterior but is no less impressive. A grand staircase and marble flooring lead to the seven-story atrium that fills the space with light.
The Kansas City Public Library
All libraries are full of reading materials, but this Missouri library actually looks like them. The library garage’s exterior was designed to look like a bookshelf, complete with massive book bindings. Locals voted on their favorites and chose the Lord of the Rings, Charlotte’s Web, The Invisible Man and other tales to create the library’s intriguing facade. The mylar book spines measure nearly 25 feet tall and nine feet wide.
This Pigeon Ford, Tennessee building turns American architecture on its head, literally. The upside-down building rests on its roof while the floor faces up to the sky. The topsy-turvy space houses over 100 interactive exhibits for families to enjoy, including laser tag, educational shows, magic demonstrations and a ropes course.
Chapel on the Rock
Seamlessly blending modern architecture with nature, this Arizona Catholic chapel sits within the red rocks of southern Sedona. The building’s designer, Marguerite Brunswig Staude, was heavily influenced by her teacher, famous American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The chapel reflects their love of nature, open spaces and geometric design.
Welcoming visitors to the Milwaukee Art Museum is this stunningly futuristic design from Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. The dramatic 142,050-square-foot space reflects both modern design and old-world craftsmanship. Hand-built concrete flying buttresses, vaults and arches create impressive wings that actually close automatically when high winds are present. The 217-foot long wings are constructed of 72 massive steel fins that make a startling contrast with a blue sky and glisten in the sun. Designed to resemble a ship, the space overlooks nearby Lake Michigan with enormous floor-to-ceiling windows.
Rose Center for Earth and Space
A true architectural wonder, the American Museum of Natural History’s Rose Center for Earth and Space is a stunning example of American ingenuity and design. Located near Central Park in New York City, the center revamped the Hayden Planetarium’s design in 2000. The enormous glass cube houses the Space Theater, designed by architects James Polshek and Todd Schliemann. The redesigned space is six stories tall and seems to float in midair. The hidden complex truss work below supports the 333,000-square-foot structure. The museum’s Western Pavilion is just as stunning and allows visitors to enter the museum through a four-story archway of white glass.
The old woman that lived in a shoe would feel right at home in this Pennsylvania home. Designed to look like a shoe, the 1948 home is 48 feet long, 17 feet wide and 25 feet tall. An actual home, the space features three bedrooms, a kitchen, living room and two full baths. Designer Mahlon Haines originally intended the space to be used as an advertising gimmick but it later became a guest house. Today, the house draws tourists from all over the country that hope to sit at the kitchen’s curved breakfast table, which is located in the shoe’s heel, and to gaze out over the shoe’s tow from the second floor.