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From a Pineapple to a Six-Pack, 23 Buildings that Resemble the Things They Sell

The Darkroom, a camera-shaped camera store, in Los Angeles (1972) (photo by Marvin Rand/Library of Congress)
The Darkroom, a camera-shaped camera store, in Los Angeles (1972) (photo by Marvin Rand/Library of Congress)

A combination of roadside attraction novelty and greater architectural freedom resulted in some very strange 20th-century buildings. Claire Voon recently covered the saga of the Longaberger Company basket building, shaped like a seven-story version of the company’s maple picnic basket. As founder Dave Longaberger succinctly declared: “If they can put a man on the moon, they can certainly build a building that’s shaped like a basket.” He proved that it can indeed be done; however, the building is now vacant, and it’s unclear if anyone else really wants to work in a basket.

Not everyone is a fan of such literalism in design. In the 1972 book Learning from Las Vegas, authors Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour pit the “duck” against the “decorated shed” — that is, a structure that’s expressive in its intentions versus one reliant on decoration. But this “duck” has been taken to extremes, such as the 1931 Big Duck building on Long Island, a poultry shop shaped like a gargantuan bird.

Below are 23 examples of this novelty architecture. In almost all the cases, the owners wanted to use their buildings to proclaim what they were selling inside. The guidelines are that the object must be part of or encompass the whole building, not just sitting nearby or on top of it (sorry, Randy’s Donuts). This is not meant to be comprehensive — there’s an extraordinary number of ice cream–shaped ice cream stands, for instance — but to give a taste of this distinct type of heavily branded architecture.

Longaberger Company Headquarters

Newark, Ohio

The Longaberger Company headquarters in Newark, Ohio (photo by Derek Jensen/Wikimedia)
The Longaberger Company headquarters in Newark, Ohio (photo by Derek Jensen/Wikimedia)

To start with, here’s the former Longaberger Company headquarters, mentioned above and complete with handles for a giant Yogi Bear to grab.

National Fisheries Development Board Building

Hyderabad, India

National Fisheries Development Board in Hyderabad, India (courtesy NFDB)
National Fisheries Development Board in Hyderabad, India (courtesy NFDB)

The National Fisheries Development Board in Hyderabad, India, opened its fish-shaped building in 2012.

The Big Duck

Flanders, New York

The Big Duck in Flanders, New York (photo by Joel Kramer/Flickr)
The Big Duck in Flanders, New York (photo by Joel Kramer/Flickr)

The Big Duck in Flanders, Long Island, was built in 1931 by a duck farmer to sell poultry and eggs, and is now a tourist shop. Its eyes are Model-T tail lights that were designed to burn red in the night.

The Darkroom

Los Angeles, California

The Darkroom Store in Los Angeles (photo by Carol M. Highsmith/Library of Congress)
The Darkroom store in Los Angeles (photo by Carol M. Highsmith/Library of Congress)

The Argus camera–shaped Darkroom on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles was built in 1935 as a camera store. It’s now a restaurant.

2BH Radio Building

Broken Hill, Australia

The 2BH radio building in Broken Hill, Australia (photo by Mattinbgn/Wikimedia)
The 2BH radio building in Broken Hill, Australia (photo by Mattinbgn/Wikimedia)

2BH radio station’s home base in Broken Hill, New South Wales, is shaped like an old radio, with windows at the on/off, tone, tuning, and volume knobs.

BMW Headquarters

Munich, Germany

BMW Headquarters in Munich (photo by Diego Delso/Wikimedia)
BMW Headquarters in Munich (photo by Diego Delso/Wikimedia)

Opened in 1973, BMW’s Munich headquarters was designed by architect Karl Schwanzer to mimic the shape of the company’s four-cylinder engine. A cylinder head alongside it holds a museum.

Pig Stand

San Antonio, Texas

The pig building in San Antonio, Texas (photo by Leonard J. DeFrancisci/Wikimedia)
The pig building in San Antonio, Texas (photo by Leonard J. DeFrancisci/Wikimedia)

One of numerous pig stands built in the 1920s and ’30s, Frank’s Hog Stand in San Antonio is now closed, but its swine structure survives.

Capitol Records Building

Los Angeles, California

The Capitol Records Building in Los Angeles (photo by Downtowngal/Wikimedia)
The Capitol Records Building in Los Angeles (photo by Downtowngal/Wikimedia)

Although architecture firm Welton Becket and Associates claimed it didn’t mean for the 1956 Capitol Records Building to look like a stack of records on a spindle, the first circular office building in the world does strongly resemble the music company’s wares.

Phoenix Financial Center

Phoenix, Arizona

Phoenix Financial Center in Phoenix, Arizona (photo by Ixnayonthetimmay/Wikimedia)
Phoenix Financial Center in Phoenix, Arizona (photo by Ixnayonthetimmay/Wikimedia)

The 1963 Phoenix Financial Center is nicknamed the “punch card” building for its resemblance to the old computer system; however, its architect, Wenceslaus Sarmiento, claimed the similarity was an accident (just like the case of the Capitol Records Building). He said he was more inspired by falling raindrops.

Coney Island Hot Dog Stand

Bailey, Colorado

The Coney Island Hot Dog Stand in Bailey, Colorado (photo by L. T. Hanlon/Wikimedia)
The Coney Island Hot Dog Stand in Bailey, Colorado (photo by L. T. Hanlon/Wikimedia)

Colorado’s Coney Island Hot Dog Stand reopened this summer in its fully loaded 1950s structure.

Gibeau Orange Julep

Montreal, Canada

Gibeau Orange Julep in Montréal (photo by Khayman/Wikimedia)
Gibeau Orange Julep in Montreal (photo by Khayman/Wikimedia)

The goliath Gibeau Orange Julep in a Montreal parking has operated from its fruit-shaped sphere since 1966. There are also orange-shaped buildings that sell citrus food in Kissimmee, Florida, and across California.

United Equipment Office

Turlock, California

United Equipment Company in Turlock, California (photo by Mark Holloway/Wikimedia)
United Equipment Company in Turlock, California (photo by Mark Holloway/Wikimedia)

The 1976 office for United Equipment Company in Turlock, California, is shaped like the construction machinery the company rents and sells.

Twistee Treat

Florida

Twistee Treat in San Carlos Park, Florida (photo by Kai Schreiber/Flickr)
Twistee Treat in San Carlos Park, Florida (photo by Kai Schreiber/Flickr)

The Twistee Treat ice cream chain started in Florida in the 1980s, with each of its outposts shaped like an ice cream cone. New buildings have LED sprinkles.

Chowdiah Memorial Hall

Bangalore, India

Chowdiah Memorial Hall in Bangalore, India (photo by Akshai Srinivasan/Wikimedia)
Chowdiah Memorial Hall in Bangalore, India (photo by Akshai Srinivasan/Wikimedia)

Bangalore’s Chowdiah Memorial Hall for music and art was designed in the 1970s as a giant violin, in tribute to the late violinist T. Chowdiah. It includes strings, keys, a bridge, and a bow.

Giant Artichoke

Castroville, California

Giant Artichoke in Castroville, California (photo by Dana Payne/Wikimedia)
Giant Artichoke in Castroville, California (photo by Dana Payne/Wikimedia)

The Giant Artichoke restaurant sells the leafy vegetable within and is based in Castroville, California, home of the Artichoke Festival.

The Clam Box

Ipswich, Massachusetts

The Clam Box in Ipswich, Massachusetts (photo by Edward O'Connor/Flickr)
The Clam Box in Ipswich, Massachusetts (photo by Edward O’Connor/Flickr)

Erected in 1938, the Clam Box in Ipswich, Massachusetts, resembles a takeaway box full of fried clams.

AT&T Building

Nashville, Tennessee

The AT&T Building in Nashville, Tennessee (photo by Kaldari/Wikimedia)
The AT&T Building in Nashville, Tennessee (photo by Kaldari/Wikimedia)

Nashville’s AT&T Building is nicknamed the “Batman” building for its pointy ears, but designers Earl Swensson Associates intended the 1994 skyscraper to express the telecommunications business of the structure. It also suggests a 1990s cell phone — and, to this writer, a taser. It truly is a Rorschach building.

Torre Telefónica

Santiago, Chile

Torre Telefónica in Santiago, Chile (photo by Klausiee/Wikimedia)
Torre Telefónica in Santiago, Chile (photo by Klausiee/Wikimedia)

AT&T wasn’t the only telecommunications company that took a bit of cell phone inspiration into its design. The 1993 Torre Telefónica tower in Santiago, Chile, is distinctly shaped like a 470-foot-tall mobile phone.

The Donut Hole

La Puente, California

The Donut Hole drive-through in La Puente, California (photo by Carol M. Highsmith/Library of Congress)
The Donut Hole drive-through in La Puente, California (photo by Carol M. Highsmith/Library of Congress)

The 1968 Donut Hole has its La Puente customers drive in through one doughnut and out through another.

Hood Milk Bottle

Boston, Massachusetts 

Hood Milk Bottle in Boston, Massachusetts (photo by openroads/Flickr)
Hood Milk Bottle in Boston, Massachusetts (photo by openroads/Flickr)

Built as an ice cream stand in 1934, the 40-foot-tall Hood Milk Bottle is now located at the Boston Children’s Museum.

The Big Chicken

Marietta, Georgia

The "Big Chicken" Kentucky Fried Chicken in Marietta, Georgia (photo by Jud McCranie/Wikimedia)
The “Big Chicken” Kentucky Fried Chicken shop in Marietta, Georgia (photo by Jud McCranie/Wikimedia)

Nicknamed the “Big Chicken,” this Kentucky Fried Chicken shop in Georgia incorporates a 56-foot-tall steel chicken. It was built in 1963 for what was then Johnny Reb’s Chick-Chuck-‘N’-Shake restaurant and has a beak and eyes that move.

The World’s Largest Six Pack

La Crosse, Wisconsin

The World's Largest Six Pack in La Crosse, Wisconsin (photo by Earl R. Shumaker/Flickr)
The World’s Largest Six Pack in La Crosse, Wisconsin (photo by Earl R. Shumaker/Flickr)

The defunct G. Heileman Brewing Company in La Crosse, Wisconsin, had beer can–shaped metal tanks constructed to hold over 22,000 barrels of beer. They were painted like an Old Style six-pack and are now an advertisement for La Crosse Lager, with vinyl instead of paint.

The Big Pineapple

South East Queensland, Australia

The Big Pineapple in Queensland, Australia (photo by Stonestreet's Couches/Flickr)
The Big Pineapple in Queensland, Australia, in a field of pineapple plants (photo by Stonestreet’s Couches/Flickr)

The Big Pineapple in Queensland, Australia, was opened in 1971 to sell tropical fruit from the surrounding farm.

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