Most buildings have memorable features about them, even more so the architectural landmarks that decorate the world’s major cities. Whether it be their designs, extortionate budgets, history or residents, there’s usually something of interest to the general public. There are also landmarks that have inspired curious and affectionate nicknames. Once a new building is unveiled, city and town folk are forever eager to come up with an informal moniker. Here’s three landmarks with odd nicknames and one that triggered a presidential campaign to end the construction of strange-looking designs.
House of World Cultures, Berlin
On the banks of the river Spree and in the northeastern corner of Tiergarten park is the House of World Cultures (Haus der Kulturen Der Welt), lovingly called The Pregnant Oyster (Die Suchwangere Auster). American architect Hugh Stubbins designed the building in 1957 as the Kongresshalle conference center. Looking at it across the basin from the southern side, it is easy to note the similarities between the parabolic roof and the shell of an oyster. Henry Moore’s sculpture the Living Divided Oval: Butterfly, which is characterized by accentuated curves, stands in the basin. Could it be the oyster’s offspring? Probably not, but perhaps worth pondering.
While you are here, check out the venue’s year-round schedule of art exhibitions, concerts, educational programs, lectures and performing arts. There’s even an aptly named Auster (Oyster) restaurant, which has a menu packed with seafood dishes and traditional German fare.
Centre Pompidou Metz, Metz
Modern buildings often evoke imaginative nicknames, which is true for the Centre Pompidou Metz. The Chinese Hat is a hexagonal-shaped building with irregular geometric aspects and a spire rising out of its center, which stands 77 meters tall to commemorate the 1977 year of inauguration. Apparently the Japanese and French architects were fascinated with the technical details of the cane-work pattern of Chinese and Japanese hats. In order to recreate this pattern style, they used almost 10 miles of glued laminated timber. Upon seeing the whitewashed facade for the first time, the then mayor of Metz lobbied to call it The Smurf House. The architects' wish prevailed.
The building is a venue for modern and contemporary art exhibitions and is a sister institute of Paris’s Centre Pompidou. It draws on a catalogue of some 76,000 works to curate rotating expositions. There’s also guided tours, movie screenings, performing arts and talks.
China Central Television (CCTV) Headquarters, Beijing
It’s nigh impossible to not turn your attention to the Big Pants Building when wandering through the Beijing Central Business District. That’s because, to an imaginative mind, the 768-feet-tall CCTV Headquarters does resemble a pair of boxer shorts. Breaking from the traditional tower, this glass-fronted landmark is made up of a series of horizontal and vertical sections that produce a contorted 3D facade. A local critic once claimed that the tower replicates a naked woman on her hands and knees, although the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaus profusely denied it.
Ironically, this isn’t the only landmark in China that has been compared to underwear. Featuring twin spires that converge at the top, the British-designed Oriental Arc has an uncanny resemblance to a pair of pants. Both landmarks played a part in Chinese president Xi Jinping calling for an end to weird architecture in 2014.