10 Beautiful Buildings Inspired by Famous Books


Truly wonderful books have a habit of growing and changing years after they’ve been written, worming themselves into places you might not expect — our decisions, our aesthetic and cultural sense, and even, with the right kind of care, our physical world. Case in point: Orhan Pamuk’s Museum of Innocence, which opened in Istanbul last weekend, is an extensive museum (reportedly, he spent almost all of his 1.5 million Nobel Prize dollars on it) devoted to expanding on and complementing his recent novel, The Museum of Innocence. Since we can’t make it to Turkey to experience the place for ourselves, we’ve collected a few other amazing buildings born from books — whether inspired by particular novels, stories, or a writer’s entire oeuvre — to tide us over. Click through to see our gallery of real-life architecture inspired by literature from all over the world, and let us know if we’ve missed your favorite literary tribute in the comments.

The Museum of Innocence, inspired by Orhan Pamuk’s The Museum of Innocence

In Pamuk’s best-selling novel The Museum of Innocence, a man, Kemal, falls in love with a woman, Fusun. After a short affair and a long obsession, wherein he begins to collect things she has touched or that have some meaning to him, she leaves him forever. He buys her family’s house and begins to fill it with the things he has collected, turning into a museum to her and his passion. Pamuk has created a museum of the same kind in Istanbul’s Çukurcuma neighborhood, representing memories from the book entwined with his own. Our favorite exhibit has to be the collection of Fusun’s 4,213 cigarette butts, each dated and affixed to a canvas that covers an entire wall. “The Museum of Innocence is not an illustration of The Museum of Innocence the novel. Neither is the novel an explanation of the museum. They are deeply intertwined because they are both made by me, word by word and object by object,” Pamuk said at the museum’s opening. The book comes with a free ticket to the museum, although those who purchased it upon its release in Turkish in 2008 have been waiting a long time to use it. Find out more at the museum’s website.

El Castell, inspired by Franz Kafka’s The Castle

This apartment block, built in 1968 by architect Ricardo Bofill in Barcelona, is in part an homage to Franz Kafka — with all those harsh cubes and confusing gateways, we think the influence is clear. Even the complex’s name, “El Castell” is Catalan for “The Castle,” after one of Kafka’s novels.

Hotel Tres Sants, inspired by Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities

On the Spanish island of Menorca is a little hotel built by Menorquin architect Fernando Pons Vidal and Italian designer Chiara Fabiani to evoke Calvino’s classic set of tales about imaginary cities discovered by Marco Polo. Each of the eight guest rooms is designed to represent a different city, often quite literally. Photos via Architecture Week.

House at Martha’s Vineyard, inspired by Moby Dick

Architect Steven Holl’s house at Martha’s Vineyard was inspired by a very specific scene in Moby Dick: “Melville describes an Indian tribe, which made a particular type of dwelling on the island. Finding a beached whale skeleton, they would pull it to dry land and stretch skins over it, transforming it into a house. Inspired by this practice, the house is an inside-out balloon frame structure, elevated over the landscape. The wooden ‘bones’ of the frame carry an encircling veranda affording ocean views.”

The Hobbit Motel, inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit

The world’s first Hobbit motel is in operation at Woodlyn Park in Waitomo, New Zealand. We don’t think we have to explain any further. Book your stay here.

Lichtenstein Castle, inspired by Wilhelm Hauff’s Lichtenstein

Though it looks like it could have been inspired by any fanciful tale of glory in the Middle Ages, this castle was actually erected in homage to a specific tale. In 1840, Duke Wilhelm of Urach, inspired by Wilhelm Hauff’s then-popular novel Lichtenstein, a romantic and patriotic view of German chivalry, commissioned a castle to be built on the ruins of the rumored ancient stronghold of the knights of Lichtenstein. The castle itself, a rather lovely if crumbling neo-gothic confection, was created by the architect Carl Alexander Heideloff.

Villa Peet (The Rabbit House), inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

This minimalist house in Lelystad, the Netherlands, designed by Amsterdam’s Studio Klink, is not what you’d first expect when imagining a building based on Carroll’s trippy and colorful classic. But the concept, according to the architects, was much more cerebral: “Villa Peet was designed as a sequence of contrasting spatial experiences,” they explain. “These contrasts create a feeling of entering new worlds behind a series of rabbit holes.” Well, that tracks — and all the white rabbits don’t hurt either.

Walden, inspired by Henry David Thoreau’s Walden: Or, Life in the Woods

Designed by Nils Holger Moormann, this unique portable garden shed was inspired by Thoreau’s simple life and self-reliance, and “invites one to live outdoors.” According to Moormann’s website, “Determined garden-owners are able to store various tools such as shovel, rake and wheelbarrow in this ‘wooden box’ of unusual proportions. Easy goers have to decide whether to take a seat at the table in the seating cabin, or climb a ladder to the upper level. There it’s possible to enjoy the view or to stretch out and guess cloud shapes or count stars under the sliding sun roof. The obligation of a campfire is created in a swinging fire cauldron, and right beside it, the necessary space for firewood.” Sounds good to us.

The Knut Hamsun Center, inspired by the writings of Knut Hamsun

Another project by Steven Holl, this is not just another slapped-up museum to honor a writer’s life, but rather a considered synthesis of “Knut Hamsun’s literary sensibility, Steven Holl’s architecture, Hamaroy’s natural environment in Northern Norway’s dramatic landscape, and a specific regional cultural policy.” Erik Fenstad Langdalen writes, “Rather than the surroundings shaping the building, the building shapes its surroundings, not unlike the way Knut Hamsun’s writings create a new understanding of the Nordland landscape. Through his fiction he helped transform and re-create the landscape that is familiar to us today.”

Francisco de Blas home, inspired by the poetry of Luis Cernuda

In 1999, Literature professor Francisco de Blas hired architect Alberto Campo Baeza to build him a home in Sevilla la Nueva, Madrid, Spain pressing into his hands a copy of Luis Cenuda’s complete poems for inspiration. Cenuda’s work is infused with themes of dreams, freedom, sweeping landscapes and the contrast between the internal and external life, and we think (if we squint) we can totally see all those in this lovely home.