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Image of Randy's Donuts and the space shuttle Endeavor.
Randy's Donuts and the space shuttle Endeavor.

How Art Shapes Our Lives: Unusual Architecture – Part I

By Sal Maccarone

Architecture has come a long way since builders first discovered how to pile stones on top of one another. In our age of information, and openly shared ideas, the sky seems to be the limit in terms of what can be done. Each time that a new building material is found, or a different way of thinking is introduced to the world, it will be just a matter of time before someone sets out to do something astonishing. With that in mind, I would like to explore – in two parts – some unusual architecture that is specifically designed to turn heads. From the road-side attraction to the modern skyscraper, there are some interesting buildings to ponder.

Image of the Longaberger Building.

Longaberger Building.

Unconventional, eccentric, abnormal and anomalous, Novelty architecture is designed to get a point across. Sometimes incredible, these structures are usually built to advertise a product, or service. A delightful example of product advertising through architecture would have to be the Longaberger building in Newark, Ohio. Built in 1997, it is the world headquarters of the Longaberger Basket Company. Located right on State Route 16, the building is an exact replica of one of the company’s handcrafted baskets – except that it is one hundred and sixty times larger, and cost about thirty million dollars to build. Large rectangular windows are ingeniously placed within the weave of this seven story, basket-shaped building. To give an idea of scale, each of the huge upright handles weighs in at seventy-five tons, and must to be heated during cold weather to prevent damage from ice.

Image of the Kansas City Public Library.

Kansas City Public Library

Then there is the parking garage for the Kansas City Public Library. Shaped like a bookshelf, (with books on it), this utilitarian building was an early part of the revitalization of the downtown. The huge bookshelf, which is the facade of the structure, showcases twenty-two titles which reflect a wide variety of reading interests. Suggestions for what books to showcase were submitted by Kansas City readers, and then approved by the library Board of Trustees. Some of the titles for what is now called, “The Community Bookshelf”, include: Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 and E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web. Each of the book spines measure approximately nine feet wide by twenty-five feet high. The aluminum substructure, which includes clear windows, was molded through the center of the books. Favorably promoting the central library, this building is truly a work of art!

Randy’s Donuts

Closer to home, the iconic “Randy’s Donuts” store in Inglewood, Ca. is a landmark building that was constructed in 1953. Situated under the final approach to LAX, this building really stands out from the rest. Many a passenger has gazed down upon the giant 32 foot diameter gunite donut before landing in the City of Angels. As a backdrop for many movies and events along the way, Randy’s Donuts has seen its share of excitement during these last 67 years. Consider the famous picture of the Space Shuttle Endeavor rolling by the building in 2012 as it worked its way through Los Angeles on its way to the museum.

There were actually ten Randy’s Donut stores built in, and around Los Angeles during the 1950’s, but this is the only one that is still called Randy’s. Six of the other buildings came under the wrecking ball, and three have been repurposed, but still survive.

I believe that we are all inclined to contemplate a building that is unique rather than one that is not……

Sal Maccarone



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