From a fishery building shaped like a fish to a concert hall that looks like a piano, discover these unique mimetic structures.
Mimetic architecture is a style of building that – as the name suggests – physically imitates the function or purpose of the structure.
Oscar Wilde said that ‘life imitates art.’ But as these mimetic buildings show, sometimes it’s art that imitates life.
Ahead of #EngineeringSummer, these unconventional designs are a celebration of the best of bold, brilliant, and innovative thought.
1. The National Fisheries Development Board, Hyderabad, India
No, you’re not seeing bubble!
Fish Building, as it’s informally known, is the headquarters of India’s fisheries department.
This four-storey, 1,920 square-metre structure resembles a giant fish, with fins, scale-like windows, and glassy blue eyes.
Located near the bustling Hyderabad airport, the building’s façade is clad with stainless steel panels.
Raised off the ground by pillars, it was designed to give the impression of a fish swimming in mid-air.
At nighttime, it’s illuminated with blue-purple spotlights, making it resemble a fish swimming through the darkest of oceans.
2. Mimetic House, County Leitrim, Ireland
Located in the village of Leitrim County in Western Ireland, Mimetic House, by architect Dominic Stevens, reflects its green surroundings. pic.twitter.com/vCYL3ZgkHg— Arch Journal (@ArchJournal) March 17, 2017
Are you looking at an actual house or is it an optical illusion?
That might be a question you ask yourself when you first see Dominic Stevens and Brian Ward’s brainchild, Mimetic House.
Contrary to the crowding associated with urbanisation, Stevens and Ward designed Mimetic House to reflect and incorporate the natural world.
Constructed in 2007 in Dromahair, County Leitrim, Ireland, it has semi-reflective glass designed for solar control, meaning that the house mirrors the environment outside.
The areas for sleeping and working are also built into the ground, giving Mimetic House a Hobbiton-like mystical quality that could be straight out of a Lord of the Rings film!
3. Piano House, Shannan district, China
Piano and Violin House, Huainan, China pic.twitter.com/DNxOhWV7BR— RΛMIN NΛSIBOV (@RaminNasibov) January 5, 2019
This mimetic building is dazzling in scale and construction.
Located in the Shannan district of Huainan, China, it comprises a piano-like structure with a violin leaning against it.
Designed by architectural students from Hefei University of Technology, the piano was built using black glass panels with white glass strips that serve as the windows.
The violin forms the entrance to two concert halls – and the building is also an exhibition space for development plans for the district of Shannan.
It also has a roof terrace, sheltered under a canopy shaped like a propped-open lid of a piano.
Piano House hits the right notes for the residents of the Shannan district.
It’s a popular tourist spot for newlyweds to pose in front of, leading to some calling it ‘the most romantic building in China.’
4. Kansas City Public Library, Missouri, United States
If you love books as much as we do, you’ll delight at the sight of Kansas City Public Library.
Built in 2004, the exterior of the parking garage is designed to look like a giant bookshelf.
Impressively, the whole project was a collaborative community effort, with the citizens of Kansas asked to help choose the 22 titles that would form the façade.
With classics ranging from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird to Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, this eye-catching structure reflects the diversity of its books and Kansas City's people.
5. Dancing House Hotel, Prague, Czech Republic
Prague attracts tonnes of visitors each year with its stunning baroque and gothic architecture, fantastic cultural experiences, and sheer beauty. It’s also home to the incredible Dancing House Hotel.
This mimetic building has a rich and complex history.
Architects and engineers built it in the exact location of a house that was destroyed by the U.S. bombings of Prague back in 1945.
The story behind the building
By the late 1980s, architect Vlado Milunić proposed the idea for the project to Václav Havel, a political dissident.
Then, the Velvet Revolution brought an end to the one-party government of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. During the revolution, Havel was elected president.
His influence allowed the project to resume.
By 1992, Milunić and architect Frank Gehry were commissioned to work on Dancing House Hotel. They had the financial support of the ING Group.
At the time, it was nicknamed the Fred and Ginger, after the dancers Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers. The stone tower symbolised Fred and the glass tower depicted Ginger.
A symbolic form of mimesis
Mimetic buildings often provide visual representations of their function for marketing purposes. Instead, Dancing House Hotel is a symbolic form of mimesis.
Its static and dynamic parts represent the transition from communist rule to parliamentary democracy.
Built out of 99 concrete panels of varying shapes and sizes, it also has protruding window frames that give it a 3D effect.
The result is a piece of structural wizardry worthy of the dreamy surrounds of the Rašín Embankment.