Of blobs, bubbles, beehives and … balls

Blobitecture’s liquid forms are changing our cities. Gigantic, alien-looking buildings are taking over the city centres of the world. These strange structures call to mind images such as a melted guitar, a mushroom-like parasol, or a UFO that has landed among us. Their unconventional, right-angle-free geometric shapes are made possible by state-of-the-art computer-aided processes.

Emporis (emporis.com), the international provider of building data, has now compiled a list of the most spectacular examples of Blob Architecture, or Blobitecture. One of the world’s best-known buildings in this style is the Experience Music Project in Seattle. “The Blob,” as it is fondly referred to, combines the most important aspects of the architectural movement of the same name – soft, flowing forms that come together to produce a complex whole. The metallic facade reflects a breathtaking play of colours from gold to silver to luminous violet. A further typical representative of blobitecture are the Golden Terraces in Warsaw, whose wavy roof, created from 4,700 separate glass elements, rests like a frozen liquid over the atrium of this multi-story shopping centre.

Emporis’s selection demonstrates clearly how drastically blob buildings stand apart from their direct surroundings. In the case of the Kunsthaus Graz this visual contrast is particularly noticeable as the building is ringed by red tile roofs in the middle of Graz’s old town. The famous gallery’s unique “bubble” is reminiscent of an outsized drop of water or an enormous soap bubble. Thus it is unsurprising that the expression “liquid architecture” is used as a synonym for blobitecture.

The local public, at any rate, tends to come up with fitting – and mostly bizarre – nicknames for these sculptured structures. For instance, the futuristic Selfridges Building, a shopping center in Birmingham, England, is also known as the Beehive due to its honeycomb-like facade and the busy to-ing and fro-ing of visitors to the building. A former mayor of London, on the other hand, described the new London City Hall with derision as a “glass testicle.” More polite contributions have the city administration meeting in a misshapen egg, a motorcycle helmet or an onion.

It is an incontestable fact, however, that blobitecture, with its organic, flowing forms, stands like no other design movement for a shift away from conventional architectural ideas – and is able to surprise time and again. Next year, the exhibition building Fondation Louis Vuitton pour la Création, designed by the star architect Frank O. Gehry, is due to open in Paris. At first sight, the immense glass structure is reminiscent of a huge ship with a multitude of sails. What exactly is to be seen, though, depends – as with every blob building – on our own individual perspective and the power of our imagination.


Metropol Parasol; Architect: J. Mayer H.

The Metropol Parasol is considered the world’s largest wooden structure. Located in Seville, Spain, it stands in stark contrast to the city’s historical and urban environment. Its architect, J. Mayer H., received the internationally renowned Red Dot Design Award in 2012 for its sophisticated design.

Kunsthaus Graz; Architect: Spacelab Cook-Fournier GmbH

The Kunsthaus Graz, also known by the name “Friendly Alien,” was built to mark the city being named European Capital of Culture for 2003. The exhibition building has a technoid media facade of just under 900 conventional fluorescent lamps on which images and animations can be shown.

Experience Music Project; Architects: Frank O. Gehry; LMN Architects

The building’s remarkable architectural form and the sophisticated play of various colours and textures can be traced back to a melted Stratocaster guitar that served as inspiration to the star architect Frank O. Gehry. The Experience Music Project was endowed by Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft.

New York by Gehry at Eight Spruce Street; Architect: Frank O. Gehry

The facade of the skyscraper, which won the 2011 Emporis Skyscraper Award, is composed of 10,500 stainless steel panels, some flat, some undulating. In order to better integrate the eye-catching building into its urban context, the bottom five stories of the tower are clad in brick.

Selfridges Building; Architect: Future Systems

A shopping center, the Selfridges Building is completely clad in 60cm-wide, shimmering pieces of aluminum. The idea of a “cave-like” shopping universe was the starting-point for the building’s futuristic design. The architects, Future Systems, won a total of six prizes for the design, including the 2004 RIBA Award for Architecture.

The Sage Gateshead; Architect: Foster + Partners

Under its curved glass mantle, the Sage Gateshead houses three concert halls of varying size, all equipped with high-end technology. Since its completion in 2004, the organically shaped event complex has been an attraction of the area around the English city of Newcastle.

De Admirant Entrance Building; Architect: M. Fuksas architetto

Floor areas vary with the building’s flowing shape, going from 950 square metres on the ground floor to 250 square metres on the top floor. Reminiscent of an egg, the De Admirant Entrance Building is part of a newly developed retail quarter of Eindhoven.

Golden Terraces (Zote Tarasy); Architect: The Jerde Partnership

Golden Terraces is a complex of buildings and is part of Warsaw’s most expensive real-estate project to date. The shopping centre has a sophisticated glass roof that consists of 4,700 separate glass elements and extends in the form of a wave over the complex.

City Hall; Architect: Foster + Partners

City Hall in London is the seat of the Greater London Authority and the Mayor of London. With the opening of the building, designed by Norman Foster, the city gained a further attraction. City Hall’s oval shape has its root in the wish to build as sustainably as possible. Through the choice of this particular shape, the building’s surface area is reduced, this enabling a high level of energy efficiency.

DZ Bank Building, Pariser Platz: Architect: Frank O. Gehry

The simple facade of Frank O. Gehry’s DZ Bank Building is a consequence of the strict provisions for the historical reconstruction of Pariser Platz, a square in Berlin. What makes this building special, apart from the fish-like shape of the glass roof, is the stainless steel-clad, mussel-shaped auditorium that “hovers” in the atrium.


Emporis is a leading database of information about building and construction projects, based in Germany. For over a decade Emporis has helped companies, organizations and individuals stay informed about the building industry. The Emporis Skyscraper Award is the world’s most renowned prize for high-rise architecture.

For more info visit  www.emporis.com