Architecture always had a secret penchant for surrealist thoughts. The idea of embracing irrational, unconscious desires always made an artistic appeal to great architects from both classical and contemporary worlds. From Rossi to Corbusier, many eminent architects have taken inspiration from surrealist artists and their arts. The ever-expanding and growing technology is reinvigorating the relationship between Architecture and Surrealism. In an era of ‘smart’ facades and 3D printed houses, the settings for contemporary architecture are nothing but surreal!
Here is a list of modern, surrealistic buildings that leave the viewers in a daze, with their dream-like qualities.
1. The Villa Girasole
This 1935 modernist house on the first look may seem like a normal product of futuristic or functionalist architecture, but what gives it it’s surrealist quality is the brilliance of the construction technology. The top portion of the house rotates to follow the arc of the sun with the aid of two motors. The villa seeks surrealism in more creative ways than in visual and formal oddities. Driven by the rationale of engineers to solve a clearly defined problem, the villa is more of a surrational object than a surreal one.
2. Casa Malaparte
It is one of the best-known examples to advocate for the legitimacy of Surrealist architecture. This pure red, trapezoidal structure seems to come out directly from Chirico’s metaphysical paintings like a slab of concrete stranded on a deserted shore. The owner/architect, who was a patron of Surreal artists, recontextualized common Italian vernacular elements like wall, sail, stairs, door, the color red to create dramatic effects.
3. TWA Terminal
Eero Saarinen’s TWA terminal is an excellent example of how conventional architecture can acquire surrealist characteristics while fulfilling its spatial functions. The fluid and open interiors embracing the nuances of art and the grand sweeping canopies challenging the laws of physics, add a bit of surrealism to the entirety of construction.
4. Palais Ideal
This naive piece of architecture, with its slender spires, cupolas, and gargoyles, rises from the land like a fairytale castle. Designed and constructed by a common man from his dreams of an ideal palace, it is surrealistic in the true sense. Inspired from diverse sources like Khmer temples, Swiss chalets, medieval castles, and Hindu shrines, this wholly surrealist structure was hailed by many artists and intellectuals, from surrealists like Max Ernst and Andre Breton to Pablo Picasso.
5. Las Pozas
Built within a deserted coffee plantation deep in the jungle, the sculpture garden of Las Pozas is the brainchild of the Surrealist poet Edward James. The unfinished bridges, the spiral staircases that lead to nowhere, pavilions with undetermined levels render the place with a feeling of ‘ready-made ruins’, reminiscent of an unheralded civilization. As dictated in the first Surrealism manifesto, the place is not exercised by any reason or aesthetic or moral concern, but rather proposes a sense of discovery.
6. See-Through Church
This see-through church in Belgium appears to come straight out of a Surrealist painting. Erected as a long term public installation, it seeks to create a balance between indoors and outdoors, art and architecture, and function and aesthetics. The 100 stacked layers of 2000 steel plates create a diaphanous effect, giving the impression of walking through the walls.
7. Sharp Center for Design
The table-top superstructure hovering above the streetscape reinvigorated the Victorian urban fabric of Toronto. It is designed by Will Alsop, the architect famous for his eccentric and surrealist buildings. The artistically bold, black and white pixelated facade mounted on twelve steel pipes blurs the distinction between floor plates and the scale of the building.
8. The Imprint
These dual buildings in Seoul look like a subject Chirico would have loved to paint. The buildings use sculptural draping and 3D imprinting to make the facade expressive and contextualize it with the surrounding structures. These monolithic structures do not have a single window, but the curtain-like lifted facades near the entrance provide a sneak-peak into the interiors.