Illusory techniques and deceptive appearances are not just children’s tricks or an ingredient for magic shows, designers are taking the concept to the next level. The world of design has no bounds and displays courage with every opportunity.

Illusion art culture has made its comeback through the most fascinating and awe-struck pieces which have shaken people all over the world. Not just artists and designers are seen in their game but architects have too stepped into this world of mind trickery, as most say it. 

Architects continue to push the boundaries of the 3-dimensional perspective. The ever-changing relations of lines and forms in architecture vary with the viewpoint introducing varied illusions. What might stun you is the fact that optical illusion is not a new culture, it was first used by the Greeks in the course of history to make their structures look symmetrical and perfectly proportionate with the illusion of slanting roof and dense column. 

From classical architecture, where architects displayed a highly developed knowledge of geometrical illusions, to the present time of contemporary architecture where new illusory effects are introduced through the developing digital technology.

These illusory architectural designs are few mesmerizing examples of how the use of optical illusions has created a mind-boggling impression on the spectators.

1. The Melting Building

You aren’t tripping as this building is a temporary mural created by artist Pierre Delavie in 2007. It was made during the renovation of the Classical Haussmannian ve building located at 39, George V Avenue in Paris, France. Delavie brought a printed canvas, come to life as the façade was draped into distorted illusion to conceal the construction site. 

It creates an optical illusion of a highly realistic image, rather than just a two-dimensional painting.

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Melting House_©Ryan Baumann-Flickr

2. Mark’s House by Two Islands

This floating house isn’t suspended in the air but rather a reflective game of mirrors. The temporary pavilion is set into a downtown parking area in Flint, Michigan representing abandonment, loss, and the importance of shelter. 

This mylar-clad structure is designed to raise awareness of the city’s continued efforts in revitalization as demolishing thousands of houses forced many families out of town. The overhanging bottom surface features hundreds of photos on lightboxes of global supporters of the project.

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Mark’s house by Two Islands_©Architizer

3. Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection Building

The mirrored façade of the Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company at One State Street in Hartford, Connecticut seems to multiply itself to the point where one can distinguish between the real and reflected faces of the high-rise structure. 

This auto multiplying feature of the façade is a result of the glass panels used as an exterior material choice.

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Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection Building_©

4. Kiral Apartments, Mexico City

The multi-story residential project in Mexico City has a wavy facade designed by Arqmov Workshop by accentuating the regularly-spaced railings. Elements of optical illusion are used to mimic movement as a wave-like ripple effect can be seen enveloping the building.

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Kiral Apartments_©Rafael Gamo

5. Baltyk Building by MVRDV

The Baltyk Building by MVRDV located in Poland seems to be a precariously balanced structure. But as soon as you shift your angle of vision, the off-centered narrow support at the base carrying a heavy and wide top comes as a total surprise! 

A mixed-use building different from all four sides!

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Baltyk Building_©Ossip van Duivenbode

6. The Flatiron building

We are all too familiar with the narrow Flatiron building, considered one of the first skyscrapers of New York City. The sleek structure was inspired by the concept of a classical Greek column. 

The enhanced height and narrowness of the Beaux-Arts style building are enforced through a particular angle. This optical illusion plays with natural depth perception of the appearance of the building.

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Flatiron Building_©wikimedia commons

7. Potemkin Stairs

A similar trick was applied to create a perspective effect with the Potemkin Stairs in Odessa, Ukraine as it appears much longer and even endless, standing at the foot even though the staircase was designed much wider at the top 21.7m than at the bottom 13.4m. 

The calculated perceptual distortion underlines the effect that the staircases seem to end in the sky which makes the urban backdrop at the foot of the staircase look mightier from up top.

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Potemkin Stairs_©Amusing Planet

8. The Dancing House

This famous building by architect Vlado Milunic’s collaboration with architect Frank Gehry in Prague, Czech Republic, is representing two iconic dancers, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. 

The glass tower, “Ginger” was designed to bend gracefully towards the concrete tower, “Fred,” who is topped with a metal cupola hair.

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9. The Comic Café

As soon as you step foot in Cafe Yeonnam-dong 239-20 in Seoul, you have suddenly entered a 2-dimensional comic world. The artistic, monochrome design was inspired by a Korean show which clashes between “two worlds”—the real one and a fantasy world. 

The black-white themed comic strip furniture, walls, floors, and even the cutlery look like flat line drawings.

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YND 239-20_©Forbes

10. Artechouse

ARTECHOUSE is an innovative art space for interactive art exhibitions by artists experimenting with new technology and new forms of creative expression. Machine Hallucination, Anadol’s first large-scale installation in New York City. 

A mixed reality experience through simulating the spatial experience and machine intelligence into human senses through a cinematic experience of architectural hallucinations in 1025 dimensions. This is the future of illusion in architecture!

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The expression of art and architecture never ceases to amaze with its bold attitude and outranging creativity giving a multidimensional perspective to the human experience. 


Rashi Jain is an architect by profession and a writer by passion. She thinks every wall has a story that needs to be told. Her admirations vary from intricate sculptures of heritage buildings to the glamour of set designing. She believes that words have the power to change the world.