Novelty Architecture: Buildings That Don't Look Like Buildings

By: Robert Thomson


Novelty architecture is actually a real type of design. It refers specifically to designing constructions that look like other items. Usually such endeavours are related to promotional purposes, but there are plenty of examples including less than glorious landmarks or works of eccentric owners. Here are some of the most famous, or infamous depending on your viewpoint, examples of novelty architecture.

The Grand
Vegas, particularly the strip is awash with examples of this type of novelty building design. There's the New York New York Hotel and Casino that is built to be like the Big Apple's skyline and does a sterling job of it. There is also the Luxor Hotel, a massive resort built in the shape of an Egyptian Pyramid. And while these grand examples are ever-impressive they're at the less romantic end of the spectrum. It's all very well for a multi-million pound entertainment and leisure business to build something spectacular to distinguish itself in a commercial capacity, however when Randy, the guy who owns the donut shop does it - now that's novelty.

The Less Grand
Predominantly novelty architecture exists on the roadside to entice weary travellers to pull over and sample a shop's wares whatever they may be. Randy's Donuts is an eminent example of this. Located in Inglewood, California and built in 1954, the donut shop sports atop its roof a giant donut. It's pretty cool and hard to miss. It even features in numerous movies and other pop culture, from the Simpsons to the video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. While Randy's remains arguably the most famous, in the US there are other instances that include a hot dog shaped hot dog stands and a pharmacy in Kentucky shaped like a mortar-and-pestle.

The Water Tower Modification
Water Towers are fairly conspicuous architectural structures without having to be altered by the way of novelty. This however seems only to increase their desirability when it comes to a bit of modification. Less likely to be commercially inspired these structures are quite often changed to represent the town in which they stand. Notable examples are alterations that have given towers the look of a peach held aloft in towns across South California, Georgia and Alabama. There's a tower that looks like a fishing float in Minnesota and in Iowa a tower that resembles a coffee pot.

Scaled Up
Novelty Architecture doesn't just have to be buildings. There is also quite a movement in the way of everyday items scaled up to mammoth size. This is a particularly notable trend in Australia where road side objects of unnatural size vary from pineapple to potato and prawn to pelican; and that's only things beginning with the letter P. The US follows trend, while also focusing efforts on things that were pretty big to begin with, notably dinosaurs.

Novelty Architecture might be loathed and loved in fairly equal measures, but there is no denying it's been brightening up skylines for a long time and will continue to do so for a fair while yet.

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David James is big fan of novelty architecture, which ties nicely in with his day job of researching novelty gifts for the online shopping site Find Me A Gift.

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