Alphabet-Inspired Architecture Around the World

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Axis Architects’ created the H-House — a modern, Salt Lake City residence designed to capture the expansive views of the valley. “The volumes of the house follow the slope of the terrain and reinforce the integration of the house into its environment,” the architects write on their website. The end result is a subtle succession of H-shaped lines, emphasizing the home’s unique character.

Alphabet-style architecture has been around for centuries, originally created to minimize the distance to the structure’s exterior walls, and maximize natural light and ventilation. Since then, architects have found new and creative ways to incorporate the ABCs in all they do, and we’ve explored the design trend of syllabary structures after the break.

Image credit: Darrell Godliman

Taking up two residential blocks, the VM Houses are appropriately named since they form the letters V and M from above. The V is mirrored in the spiky, triangular balconies, which — along with the building volume — provides optimal air, natural light, and panoramic views to the south. The architects describe the central corridors, which function as a public social meeting place, as “bullet holes” penetrating the building.

Dutch architects MVRDV designed a creative industries office building in Amsterdam that features alphabet cutouts along the building’s facade. Each letter is a window and signifies the address extension for the occupying business. The side of the building is covered in windows that form the number 52, relating to the address. Every letter is represented, apart from I and Q, and the project is scheduled to be completed this year.

Designed by Korean architectural firm Mass Studies (working with the theme “convergance”), the 2010 Shanghai World Expo’s Korean Pavilion combined the Korean written language and 3D sculptures of the Korean alphabet (Hangul). Many of the characters jut from the building, playing off the positive and negative spaces of the design. It’s bold, colorful (using 40,000 bright pixel shapes), and incredible to behold. Sadly, it was a temporary structure for the celebration only. The below artwork shows that the letter theme extended to the roof.

The Veenman Printer building in the Netherlands was designed by Neutelings Riedijk in cooperation with graphic designer Karel Martens and features a wrapping facade of text. It’s created from serigraphed glass and displays words by Dutch poet K. Schippers.

European architect J. Mayer H. is known for conceptual, contemporary designs and an experimental approach that centralizes around patterns, numbers, letters, and logos — described as “information mist.” The distinct language has been translated to a canteen for a college in Germany. The intersecting support beams are echoed in the interior design, resembling trees (like the nearby forest).

Image credit: Chris LaBrooy

This typographic 3D design by Chris LaBrooy was inspired by the work of renowned Japanese architect Tadao Ando. LaBrooy paid homage to the creator by basing the expressive letter forms of his creation, Tadao, after the architect’s Chikatsu-Asuka Historical Museum, the Honpuku Temple(Water Temple), and the Naoshima Contemporary Art Museum.

The Minnaert Building, part of Utrecht University, uses its name as steel structural support columns. The middle of the building features a large pond that collects rainwater and is used as a cooling device for the rest of the communal staff and student gathering place.

Image credit: Charlott_L

Berlin’s Gardens of the World recreational park is home to The Christian Garden — a structure made entirely of letters. Each character is about a foot tall and is stacked 11 lines high, composed of writing from within Christian and occidental cultures, forming a traditional ambulatory as seen in medieval cloisters. The letters cast ghostly shadows on the walkway, and the text feels spacious and organic despite being made of metal.

Image credit: Yelena_YK

The Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel in Vancouver is wrapped with text designed by British artist Liam Gillick, reading:

“Lying on top of a building, the clouds looked no nearer than when I was lying in the street.”

Image credit: Lucy Reynell

Budapest’s House of Terror is a monument to the horrors suffered by the fascist and communist doctoral regimes in 20th century Hungary. It’s a solemn addition to the architecture on Andrássy Avenue, and the shadows created by it’s open, overhanging text add to the poignancy.

Image credit: davidhanddotnet

Allow us to indulge our inner geography geek for just a moment. Website geoGreeting creates words by using Google Maps’ satellite photos of letter-shaped buildings around the world. You can also contribute to the project and send e-cards to people. It also makes it easy to see the number of alphabet-inspired architecture that exists — and many accidental examples, too. Software engineer and computer sciences grad student Jesse Via created the project.