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Novelty architecture

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Subject: Australia's big things, Cabazon Dinosaurs, Teapot Dome Service Station, Roadside attraction, Folly
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Novelty architecture

Elephant of the Bastille, 1813-1846 Paris
Engraving of design for the head of the Statue of Liberty (1879) in the Champ de Mars, Paris, including diagram showing plans for human access

Novelty architecture is a type of architecture in which buildings and other structures are given unusual shapes for purposes such as advertising or to copy other famous buildings without any intention of being authentic. Their size and novelty means that they often serve as landmarks. They are distinct from architectural follies, in that novelty architecture is essentially usable buildings in eccentric form whereas follies are non-usable, ornamental buildings often in eccentric form.

Although earlier examples such as the Elephant of the Bastille exist, generally the style became popular in the United States and spread to the rest of the world as travel by automobile increased in the 1930s.[1] The Statue of Liberty in New York is a replica building that is part sculpture and part monument, which like many subsequent examples of novelty architecture, has an accessible interior and became a tourist attraction.

Constructing novelty architecture near to roads became one way of attracting motorists to a diner, coffee shop, or roadside attraction, so buildings were constructed in an unusual shape, especially the shape of the things sold there. "Mimic" architecture became a trend, and many roadside coffee shops were built in the shape of giant coffee pots; hot dog stands were built in the shape of giant hot dogs; and fruit stands were built in the shape of oranges or other fruit. Tail o' the Pup, mimics a hot dog-shaped hot dog stand; Brown Derby is a derby-shaped restaurant; Bondurant's Pharmacy is a mortar-and-pestle pharmacy; the Big Apple Restaurant, a 10.7 metres (35 ft) and the Big Duck are respectively a tall apple and a (now defunct) poultry store shaped like a duck.

Novelty or programmatic (mimetic) architecture may take the form of objects not normally associated with buildings, such as characters, animals, people or household objects. Lucy the Elephant and The Longaberger Company's head office are examples. There may be an element of caricature or a cartoon associated with the architecture. Such giant animals, fruits and vegetables, or replicas of famous buildings often serve as attractions themselves. Some are simply unusual shapes or constructed of unusual materials.

Many examples of novelty architecture are designed to attract drive-by customers by taking the form of products sold inside. Others, such as casinos in Las Vegas and Macau, are copies of famous landmarks from around the world.


  • Buildings styled after famous landmarks 1
  • Water towers and storage tanks 2
  • Giant sculptures 3
  • Other styles 4
  • Deconstructivism 5
  • Gallery 6
    • Buildings 6.1
    • Statues 6.2
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9

Buildings styled after famous landmarks

Novelty architecture in the form of famous landmarks has been built in Japan, and the United States. Such replica buildings are extensively used in casinos, hotels or amusement parks such as Disneyland where the apparent playfulness and whimsy are intended to add to their appeal. In some cases, such as Carhenge, the structure is an adaptation of a well-known building.

Casinos on the Las Vegas Strip, in the form of novelty architecture include the pyramid-shaped Luxor Hotel and the New York-New York Hotel & Casino, a building designed to look like the New York City skyline; Paris Las Vegas whose front suggests the Paris Opera House and the Louvre; and Excalibur Hotel and Casino (1990), with its stylized façade of King Arthur's castle (Camelot). In Macau, The Venetian Macao, like its counterpart in Las Vegas, features a replica of St Mark's Campanile and other buildings in Venice.

In Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Acropolis, and an upside-down White House.

In China, the New South China Mall in Dongguan, features a 25 metres (82 ft) replica of the Arc de Triomphe,[4] another replica of Venice's St Mark's Campanile,[5] a 2.1 kilometres (1.3 mi) canal with gondolas,[4] and a 553-meter indoor-outdoor roller coaster.[6] In Japan, there is the Huis Ten Bosch (theme park) near Nagasaki which are replicas of Dutch landmarks like Huis ten Bosch and the Dom Tower of Utrecht.

Water towers and storage tanks

Water towers and storage tanks, often prominent features in a small town, are two types of buildings which have been shaped or decorated to look like everyday objects. There are many versions of these types of novelty architecture.

Water towers exist in many forms, among them peaches; coffee pots and teapots; corn cobs; wine and sauce bottles; fishing bobbers and strawberries.

Several breweries and other businesses have designed holding tanks in the shape of giant cans of beer or other container.

Giant sculptures

Sculptures of ordinary items scaled to building size are another aspect of novelty architecture. Such sculptures appear at roadside parks and attractions or museums in Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Philippines and the United States. They are likely to represent local animals, such as fish or other wildlife; local plants, such as apples or pineapples; well-known local people such as Paul Bunyan; food, such as the branded candy bars at the former Curtiss Candy Company; sporting or mechanical equipment such as giant bats and balls or tyres; musical instruments, such as guitars; clothes such as giant boots or popular creatures such as dinosaurs.

In some instances, the giant sculpture provides a reference for the building to which it is connected. Examples are the giant bat outside the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory and the giant "paper" aircraft at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.

Other styles

Architecture popular in the 1950s-1960s in southern California and in Florida featured sharp corners, tilted roofs, starburst designs, and fanciful shapes. This came to be known as Googie Doo Wop or populuxe architecture.

Long-established firms whose features are well-known could still qualify as novelty architecture. Examples are McDonald's original golden-arches design and the self-referencing design of the White Castle restaurants.


Critics of architectural deconstructivism such as Nikos Salingaros, argue that much contemporary architecture is actually Novelty architecture. Leading architects of "the populist, yet the aggressive" forms of Gehry, Libeskind and Hadid reverses architecture's main raison d'etre: to provide viable shelter" and appeal instead to "novelty, excitement and meaningless intellectual acrobatics".[7]




See also


  1. ^ Heimann, Jim (2001). California Crazy and Beyond: Roadside Vernacular Architecture. Chronicle Books.  
  2. ^ , September 9, 2010New York TimesDinah Spritzer, "Next Stop: Glamour revives port of Batumi", .
  3. ^ "Sheraton Hotels & Resorts Debuts in the Black Sea Resort Destination of Batumi", Starwood Hotels and Resorts site
  4. ^ a b Matthew Benjamin and Nipa Piboontanasawat (April 17, 2007). "China's mall glut reflects an unbalanced economy".  
  5. ^ Donohue, Michael (2008-06-12). "Mall of misfortune".  
  6. ^ "The Not-So-Great Mall of China: Welcome to the world's largest (and loneliest) shopping centre".  
  7. ^ Salingaros, Nikos A. (2008). Anti-Architecture and Deconstruction (3rd ed.). Umbau-Verlag. pp. 135, 217. 
  8. ^ Anicic, John Charles (2005). Fontana: Images of America.  
  9. ^ "Roadside America. ''Fontana, California - Giant Orange Stand''". Retrieved 2010-12-22. 

External links

  • Agility Nut: Novelty architecture site
  • Large Canadian roadside attractions
  • The Many Unusual Looking Buildings On Earth
  • Roadside America: Big Coffee Pots
  • Strange and Unusual Buildings (in the US and Netherlands)
  • The American Roadside: News and updates on America's fading roadside attractions
  • Tacky Tourist Photos
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