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15 Buildings That Don’t Look Like Buildings

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on November 9, 2012

Pyongyang’s Ryugyong Hotel resembles a giant ballistic missile. As the so-called “Hotel of Doom” prepares to open in 2013, TIME looks at 15 buildings that don’t look like buildings

Ryugyong Hotel


After more than three decades of on-and-off construction, the sinister-looking Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang is finally poised to open in mid-2013. The pyramid-shaped structure, which rises 105 stories, will be the world’s tallest hotel — and one of the few that evokes an intergalactic warhead. Reto Wittwer, the chief executive of Kempinski Hotels, is over the moon that his firm won management rights. “This pyramid monster hotel will monopolize all the business in the city,” he said recently. “I said to myself, ‘We have to get this hotel if there is ever a chance, because this will become a money-printing machine if North Korea opens up.’”

Indira Gandhi Planetarium

UPRNN / Aga Khan Award for Architecture

The Indira Gandhi Planetarium isn’t out of this world; it’s in Lucknow, India. Opened in 2003, the garish building mimics Saturn by bringing together a large sphere — diameter 70 ft. (21 m) — and a series of rings in varying shades of brown, orange and yellow. It’s unclear why officials named the structure after the former Prime Minister, who presumably knew more about international relations than interplanetary ones. Were she alive, though, Gandhi might point out one glaring error: Saturn has seven rings, but the building has only five.

National Fisheries Development Board Building

Noah Seelam / AFP / Getty Images

From the organization that promotes fisheries in India comes this marine monstrosity. Opened in February 2012, it has the unfortunate appearance of a shark that has swallowed a blimp. The building’s left pectoral fin doubles as an awning above the main entrance. At night, bluish-purple spotlights pointed at the building give the impression it’s swimming through Hyderabad.

Chang Building

JARCJE You don’t have to speak Thai to realize that chang means elephant. This Bangkok landmark opened in 1997 and rises 32 stories over the city’s northern business district. Offices fill two of its towers, while apartments and luxury penthouses rest in its other tower and top floor. Eyes and yellow tusks imbue the structure with a cartoonish quality, but its creators took the design process very seriously. The building honors an animal that Thais revere for helping defend the kingdom early in its history.

Aldar Properties Headquarters

ALAMY Aldar, a real estate development and investment company in Abu Dhabi, exists to turn a profit. True to form, its futuristic HQ resembles a giant coin. Inside, 12 high-speed elevators help employees move up 23 floors that include office spaces, two cafés, prayer rooms and male and female gyms. The world’s first circular skyscraper, it’s held together by a diagonal grid of steel.

Longaberger Basket Company Home Office

Doral Chenoweth III / Columbus Dispatch / AP

The folks at Ohio’s Longaberger Basket Company take pride in their handcrafted maple-wood baskets. So much so that founder Dave Longaberger decided to move the company’s corporate offices into this massive basket — a steel structure plastered over with stucco.

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