Future Habitats

The world’s most unusual public buildings

By Anna Schaverien 11 October 2017

Because why wouldn't you hold a meeting in a giant golden egg?

The Grand Designs treatment isn’t typically applied to government-owned buildings.

But there are always a few exceptions to the rule.

Here are five examples proving the design of a public building doesn’t have to be boring.

1. Sweden’s Golden Egg town hall

In the small Swedish mining town of Kiruna, you’ll find this unusual meeting space.

Kiruna's Solar Egg: meeting hall and sauna. Credit: Jean-Baptiste Béranger

The Solar Egg is the most unusual combination of spaces you’re likely to come across: this giant golden egg serves as a town hall…

But it’s also a sauna.

Inside the sauna that's also a town hall. Credit: Jean-Baptiste Béranger

Mixing business with pleasure doesn’t seem to be a worry for this Arctic town, as residents and officials come here for a steam and a quick catch-up on local politics.

But the Egg sauna can only accommodate eight people at a time, making each meeting intimate in more ways than one.

2. The space-inspired city hall

San Jose’s City Hall in California cost an enormous $343m to build.

It might even be America’s most expensive city hall.

Its controversial transparent dome houses a public meeting space, whereas the 18-storey building overlooking it serves as the office for the town’s local government.

San Jose's futuristic city hall.

As much as we want to blame its design on the 80s and an unhealthy obsession with Back to the Future, it was actually created in 2005 – shame on the noughties for this ‘unique’ design.

3. Home of the giant Beer Cans


The 'Beer Cans' of Kazakhstan's capital, Astana.

If you had to hazard a guess as to where these absurd public buildings could be found, I doubt you’d even think of Kazakhstan.

But its capital city Astana is where you’ll find these futuristic designs.

There’s the 60-metre tall glass pyramid named the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation and a 100-metre tall tower that resembles a lollipop.


Astana's famous Lollipop Tower.

Renowned architect Norman Foster is responsible for some of these monstrous buildings which house an opera house, assembly chamber, and shopping centre among them.

We’re not sure how many Kazakhstan citizens appreciate the architecture, though, as the university’s building is nicknamed ‘The Dog Bowl’.

The Dog Bowl's design does actually merit its name. Credit: Ken and Nyetta.

4. Poland’s crooked house

Head to Sopot in Poland and ponder how this building came to be.

Did it melt? Did something fall on it? Was it really constructed to be like that?

Poland's Crooked House. Credit: Dmitriy Gadasyuk

The “Crooked House” is a shopping centre and office block that attracts thousands of visitors each year.

Designed as a tribute to children’s book illustrator Jan Marcin Szancer, it certainly captures your childlike imagination.

5. The Austrian oddity

The 'micro nation' of Kugelmugel in Vienna. Credit: Peter Gugerell

This spherical house isn’t just a public building…it’s a micro-nation.

Or that’s what its creator Edwin Lipburger said to the Austrian government when he built it in 1984 and started printing his own stamps.

He declared it a nation after refusing to pay his taxes and he was almost sent to jail.

Luckily, the Austrian president at the time saw the funny side and pardoned Lipburger.

Originally constructed in central Vienna, the Kugelmugel (or “Spherical Hill”) house is now a tourist attraction in the city’s Prater amusement park.

Breaking the mould

Stepping away from the nondescript and uninspiring design of some public buildings can only be a good thing.

Even if that means sitting in a sauna with your local politician.