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Catching the Wave: Blobitecture's liquid forms are changing our cities

Hamburg, Oct 02, 2013 - Gigantic, alien-looking buildings are taking over the city centers of the world. These strange structures call to mind images such as a melted guitar, a mushroom-like parasol, or a UFO that has landed among us. Their unconventional, right-angle-free geometric shapes are made possible by state-of-the-art computer-aided processes. Emporis (<a href="http://www.emporis.com">www.emporis.com</a>), the international provider of building data, has now compiled a list of the most spectacular examples of Blob Architecture, or Blobitecture.

One of the world's best-known buildings in this style is the Experience Music Project in Seattle. "The Blob", as it is fondly referred to, combines the most important aspects of the architectural movement of the same name – soft, flowing forms that come together to produce a complex whole. The metallic facade reflects a breathtaking play of colors from gold, to silver, to luminous violet. A further typical representative of blobitecture are the Golden Terraces in Warsaw, whose wavy roof, created from 4,700 separate glass elements, rests like a frozen liquid over the atrium of this multi-story shopping center.

The selection demonstrates clearly how drastically blob buildings stand apart from their direct surroundings. In the case of the Kunsthaus Graz this visual contrast is particularly noticeable as the building is ringed by red tile roofs in the middle of Graz's old town. The famous gallery's unique "bubble" is reminiscent of an outsized drop of water or an enormous soap bubble. Thus it is unsurprising that the expression "liquid architecture" is used as a synonym for blobitecture.

The local public, at any rate, tends to come up with fitting – and mostly bizarre – nicknames for these sculptured structures. For instance, the futuristic Selfridges Building, a shopping center in Birmingham, England, is also known as the Beehive due to its honeycomb-like facade and the busy to-ing and fro-ing of visitors to the building. A former mayor of London, on the other hand, described the new London City Hall with derision as a "glass testicle". Politer contributions have the city administration meeting in a misshapen egg, a motorcycle helmet or an onion.

It is an incontestable fact, however, that blobitecture, with its organic, flowing forms, stands like no other design movement for a shift away from conventional architectural ideas – and is able to surprise time and again. Next year, the exhibition building Fondation Louis Vuitton pour la Création, designed by the star architect Frank O. Gehry, is due to open in Paris. At first sight, the immense glass structure is reminiscent of a huge ship with a multitude of sails. What exactly is to be seen, though, depends – as with every blob building – on our own individual perspective and the power of our imagination.