Mimetic architecture: ten buildings that look like real objects

When architects explain their sources of inspiration, it often requires a stretch of the imagination to understand. After all, some things that inspire modern architects – like water, wind, music, or sustainability – can only be represented in abstract forms when applied to the physical form of a building.   Mimetic architecture is when a structure mimics something else. This could be a copy of the Eiffel Tower or a building that looks like a fish. The buildings below all take the latter approach, copying their muses very literally. There’s no need to squint, ponder, or even tilt your head to the side – these buildings really look like the objects that inspired them.
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Published on 18.12.2019

Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Florida, USA

Completed in 2019, the latest flagship building of the Hard Rock franchise was designed by architect Steve Peck from Klai Juba Wald Architecture – based on an off-hand suggestion from Hard Rock Chairman Jim Allen. The 450-foot-tall guitar building features luxurious hotel facilities, fine dining, and a Las Vegas-worthy casino.

The Lotus Building, Wujin, China

In 2013, studio505 architects designed a public building to look like a lotus blooming in the water. The public center and surrounding “People’s Park” are meant to inspire creativity and foster a stronger emotional bond to the city. The building is perched on an artificial lake, which in turn rests on top of a two-story subterranean municipal facility.

Lotus Building Wujin

The Dubai Frame, Dubai, UAE

The Dubai Frame is essentially two 150-meter-tall “skinny buildings” connected by a 93-meter-long skybridge at the top. As the name suggests, it is literally designed to look like a frame that outlines the skyline of Dubai. The observation deck in the skybridge features glass floors and offers visitors striking views of both the modern and the older parts of the city.

Dubai Frame

BMW Headquarters, Munich, Germany

Austrian architect Karl Schwanzer designed the “BMW four-cylinder” to resemble the cylinders of a car engine. The tower was completed in 1972, just in time for the 1972 Summer Olympics. The building’s futuristic form even won it a cameo appearance in the 1975 sci-fi classic “Rollerball”.

BMW Headquarters

Sun Cruise Resort & Yacht, Jeongdongjin, South Korea

There are actually many buildings around the world designed to look like sailboats or ships, but none look as realistic as the Sun Cruise Resort & Yacht hotel on the eastern coast of South Korea. Perched atop a cliff facing the sea, the cruise ship building offers breathtaking views of both the sunrise and sunset. The hotel has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country.

Cruise Resort

High-Heel Wedding Church, Budai, Taiwan

While most Christian churches choose typical shapes and the usual adornments like crosses and steeples, this church in Taiwan stands out as the only one shaped like a shoe. According to Guinness World Records, this building holds the prestige of being the “world’s largest shoe-shaped structure.” Perhaps it is the romantic connection to the story of Cinderella losing her shoe that makes it such a famous venue for tying the knot.

High Heel Church

The Elephant Building (Chang Building), Bangkok, Thailand

If you ever find yourself driving along the expressway in Bangkok, be prepared for a big distraction. You might pass by this 335-foot-tall elephant. Completed in 1997, the three connected towers of Bangkok’s preeminent pachyderm are a pre-curser to the hanging city concept. It is also a perfect example of a building that would benefit from the MULTI elevator’s ability to travel sideways.

Elephant Building

Inntel Hotels Amsterdam Zaandam, Amsterdam, Netherlands

A building that looks like a building is nothing special. But what about a building that looks like a whole bunch of separate colorful buildings glued together? The Inntel Hotels Amsterdam Zaandam looks like somebody stole the houses from an entire Dutch neighborhood and stacked them all up vertically.

Zaanstad Inntel Hotel

Torre Telefónica in Santiago, Chile

Built in 1993, the architects could not have predicted how radically the appearance of their source of inspiration would change over the years to come. Cell phones looked very different in the 90s, but anyone who lived through that decade should recognize the charmingly retro shape of the Torre Telefónica.

Torre Telefónica Chile

National Fisheries Development Board building, Hyderabad, India

If you’re designing a building for a government agency dedicated to the development of fisheries, it only makes sense to make the building look like a fish. Form follows function, as they say.

Fish Building