Architectural Slants: Tilting Towers and Leaning Buildings


Earlier this week, we learned about the leaning houses of Canada’s Dawson City — the second largest city in Yukon. Website Boing Boing explained the reason for the architectural anomaly:

“Dawson City exists in a subarctic climate, the sort of place with a lot of permafrost—soil that remains frozen year round. In order for permafrost to happen, the mean annual temperature has to be colder than 0 degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit). But, in Dawson City, as in other parts of the Arctic, climate change has brought with it warmer mean temperatures. That means melting permafrost, a problem that affects the structural integrity of buildings built on the once-solid ground.”

Many slanted structures shift because of natural phenomenon, but others were intentionally designed to tilt. Bent on exploring this architectural slant, we rounded up other leaning buildings past the break.

Capital Gate, Abu Dhabi

The Guinness Book of World Records certified Capital Gate as the “world’s furthest leaning man-made tower.” The 35-story, Abu Dhabi-based skyscraper stretches an impressive 520 feet into the air, boasts an 18-degree slant, and was built using 49 piles drilled about 100 feet into the earth’s surface. It’s a dramatic, modern wonder to behold.

Gate of Europe, Madrid

The twin towers that make up the Gate of Europe in Madrid look like something out of a sci-fi film thanks to their striking and imposing dark color with electric blue and red outlines. The structures have actually made appearances in several films (like The Day of the Beast and Sivaji), but when they aren’t in front of the camera, the second tallest Spanish towers are simply office buildings. There could be worse fates than shuffling papers in a 26-story, 374-foot tall, 15-degree slanted marvel.

The Dancing House, Prague

Although Prague’s Dancing House (aka Fred and Ginger, and the Drunk House) looks like a cruddy Photoshop job, we assure you that the downtown Nationale-Nederlanden building is the real deal. Designed by architect Vlado Milunić in cooperation with architect Frank Gehry, the slanted building initially caused a big stir since it stands in striking contrast to the baroque and art noveau buildings around it. Milunić’s goal with the design was to convey a kind of yin and yang, symbolizing the transition of Czechoslovakia from a communist regime into parliamentary system.

The Montreal Tower, Montreal

Jutting into the Montreal cityscape at the base of the Canadian city’s Olympic Stadium is world’s tallest slanted structure, The Montreal Tower. The 574-foot high-rise is considered a feat in organic modern architecture, its curved spine mirroring that of plant and animal forms. It also boasts a multi-story observatory with a funicular cabin that climbs to the upper deck for a stunning view.

The Klein Bottle House, Mornington Peninsula, Australia

Architect firm McBride Charles Ryan created this slanted beach house, which was developed with topological mathematics in mind. It’s about a two hour drive from Melbourne, features a central courtyard, grand staircase, and has won several awards for its unique design.

The Bella Sky Hotel and Conference Center, Copenhagen

3XN Architects created these dramatic towers that gently twist and lean away from each other. The exterior triangular pattern, while awesomely psychedelic, was actually intended to minimize solar heat gain and maximize energy efficiency. The Bella Sky is one of the largest hotels in Scandinavia, providing an exceptional view of the surrounding sea and meadows.

Leaning Tower of Suurhusen, Germany

The Guinness World Records once called this late medieval steeple the most tilted tower in the world, but it recently lost that title thanks to our previous entry, the Capital Gate tower in Abu Dhabi. Located in a village in northwestern Germany, the Leaning Tower of Suurhusen beats the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa by 1.22 degrees in terms of unintentional tilting action. So what happened to the 14th-century church? Its foundation of oak tree trunks was built on marshy land and preserved by groundwater. That drained during the 19th century, the wood rotted, and the tower — closed to the public since 1975 — started to shift. This was the Middle Ages, so don’t hold it against them.

Puzzling World and the Leaning Tower of Wanaka, New Zealand

It’s a tourist attraction, but an unforgettable one that features multiple slanted structures, including the Leaning Tower of Wanaka, which balances at a 53-degree angle. The rooms in various buildings are full of mazes, insane optical illusions, and other Alice in Wonderland-esque shenanigans.

Leaning Tower of Nevyansk, Russia

Built during the 18th century, the leaning Nevyansk Tower is mysterious in that no one is certain of its exact purpose, date of construction, or architect. It’s been called a watchtower, bell tower, prison, and even laboratory for secret experiments. Many folkloric legends speculate on its incline — stories that involve famous Russian manufacturer Akinfiy Demidov hurling the architect off the top of the tower, crying walls, and other bizarre tales.

Neuer Zollhof, Düsseldorf

Well-known American architect Frank Gehry designed three separate buildings that make up the Neuer Zollhof in the redeveloped port of Düsseldorf. The slanted style wasn’t just a consideration for the trio’s facade. The floor plans were also given the tilted treatment. The stainless steel exterior of the central building reflects the eye-catching, inclined design of the other two towers and emphasizes the Neuer Zollhof’s wobbly vibe.

Strandkanten, Tromsø, Norway

Near the Tromsø strait is this striking, slanted residential building, which was part of a recent redevelopment plan to concentrate growth in the city’s center and reduce the need for transportation. We just love how it looks like it’s about to tip over into the water.

Menzis, Groningen, Netherlands

A health insurance company dominates this multi-purpose, 12-story building, which is intersected vertically by an atrium, each of the three segments bent 90º in relation to each other. Although an extreme design like this can initially inspire anxiety, the building’s use of natural materials, a surrounding magnolia garden, unique terraces, and multiple water and light design considerations creates a calming atmosphere.

Polaria Museum, Tromsø, Norway

We probably don’t have to explain why the world’s most northerly aquarium in Tromsø, Norway is also known as the Dominoes Building. Its remarkable design represents ice floes that have been pressed up on land by the rough seas of the Arctic. Although the museum’s panoramic cinema sounds like a lovely attraction for visitors, we’d gladly just sit outside and stare at the building instead.