Novelty architecture, also called programmatic or mimetic 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 exist, such as the planned but never completed Parisian Elephant of the Bastille, the style generally became popular in the United States, and spread to the rest of the world as travel by automobile increased in the 1930s. 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 and the Big Duck are, respectively, a 10.7 metres (35 ft) 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 resembling objects or creatures
Mimetic architecture, or buildings designed to imitate a giant object or creature, sometimes having to do with what is being sold or showcased inside, were popular in the United States at one point, but also exist in other parts of the world. See, for instance, the High-Heel Wedding Church in Taiwan, the Mr. Toilet House in South Korea, the Museum of Tea Culture in China, the National Fisheries Development Board and the Chowdiah Memorial Hall auditorium in India, the Elephant Building in Thailand, or the Wolfartsweier Cat Kindergarten and the BMW Headquarters in Germany, to name but a few.
Buildings styled after famous landmarks
Novelty architecture in the form of famous landmarks has been built in China, Georgia, Japan, and the United States, for instance. 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 Batumi on Georgia's Black Sea coast, new high-rise landmark buildings and the renovation of the Old Town have incorporated novelty buildings. Many of these constructions are novelty architecture, including the Sheraton Hotel, designed in the style of the Great Lighthouse at Alexandria, Egypt; the Alphabet Tower (145 metres (476 ft) high), celebrating Georgian script and writing; Piazza, a mixed-used development in the form of an Italian piazza; and buildings designed in the style of the 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, another replica of Venice's St Mark's Campanile, a 2.1 kilometres (1.3 mi) canal with gondolas, and a 553-meter indoor-outdoor roller coaster. In Japan, there is the Huis Ten Bosch theme park near Nagasaki, which has 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 bottles, and sauce bottles; and fishing bobbers and strawberries.
Several breweries and other businesses have designed holding tanks in the shape of giant cans of beer or other containers.
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, the 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, balls, or tires; musical instruments, such as guitars; clothing, 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 baseball bat outside the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory and the giant "paper" aircraft at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.
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 include McDonald's original golden-arches design and the self-referential 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".
Buildings in the United States
Buildings around the world
- Heimann, Jim (2001). California Crazy and Beyond: Roadside Vernacular Architecture. Chronicle Books. ISBN 0-8118-3018-7.
- Dinah Spritzer, "Next Stop: Glamour revives port of Batumi", New York Times, September 9, 2010.
- "Sheraton Hotels & Resorts Debuts in the Black Sea Resort Destination of Batumi", Starwood Hotels and Resorts site
- Matthew Benjamin and Nipa Piboontanasawat (April 17, 2007). "China's mall glut reflects an unbalanced economy". The New York Times. Retrieved February 8, 2010.
- Donohue, Michael (2008-06-12). "Mall of misfortune". The National. Abu Dhabi Media Company. Archived from the original on 2011-03-09. Retrieved 2010-01-12.
Location: Dongguan, China Year Opened: 2005 Gross Leasable Area: 7.1 million square feet
- "The Not-So-Great Mall of China: Welcome to the world's largest (and loneliest) shopping centre". Daily Mail. October 29, 2009. Retrieved February 9, 2010.
- Salingaros, Nikos A. (2008). Anti-Architecture and Deconstruction (3rd ed.). Umbau-Verlag. pp. 135, 217.
- Anicic, John Charles (2005). Fontana: Images of America. Mount Pleasant, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing. p. 83. ISBN 0-7385-2900-1. Retrieved 2011-02-06.
- "Roadside America. ''Fontana, California - Giant Orange Stand''". Roadsideamerica.com. Retrieved 2010-12-22.
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