Today, iconic new buildings are likely to be as well-known (or in many cases, better known) for their nicknames, as they are for their design. In fact, it seems that as soon as work on a new building wraps up (and often before), the race to get a nickname that sticks is on.
Below is a series of illustrated postcards that depict some of the world’s most widely-recognised buildings as they are best known – by their nicknames.
Designed to extend the capacity of the SECC complex, this distinctive building in Glasgow was originally known as the Clyde Auditorium. However, it fast became so widely known as “The Armadillo” that its name was eventually changed.
The delayed and vastly over budget Stedelijk Museum earned its nickname “The Bathtub” long before completion, and it’s easy to see why – this unusual construction bears more than a passing resemblance to a 100,000 square foot bath. Saying that, nobody’s really sure why. Mels Crouwel – Stedelijk’s lead architect – states the design is a “nod to the old Stedelijk’s white rooms”, but that answer does little to explain its uncanny likeness to a bathtub.
Completed in 1994, the 33 storey AT&T building in Nashville is not only the tallest building in the city; it’s the tallest building in the whole state of Tennessee. It earned the nickname “The Batman Building” thanks to its unmistakable resemblance to Batman’s mask.
Few people hold the 60s and 70s in high regard when it comes to architecture. In fact, buildings from the period are frequently reviled, and are pulled down and replaced almost as often. New Zealand’s Beehive might be an exception. Originally conceived in 1964, the construction itself didn’t start until 1969. It was then built in stages until it was finally completed 10 years later, in 1979. Serving as the Executive Wing of the New Zealand Parliament buildings, the Beehive gained its name thanks to its shape, which is akin to a type of beehive known as a “skep”.
The Leadenhall Building offers 48 floors of commercial space in the heart of London’s financial district. Completed in 2014 it gained the nickname the Cheesegrater when the City of London Corporation’s chief planning officer, Peter Rees, saw the model of the building and told its designer that he could “imagine his wife using it to grate Parmesan”.
Another distinctive work of architecture in London’s financial district, in 2015 the Gherkin (formerly known as the Swiss Re Tower) secured the accolade of being the UK’s most recognisable building nickname. The building is home to 33 floors of offices but is also open to the public, housing a number of venues at which you can eat, drink and enjoy the view.
The Sponge is the unofficial name for Simmons Hall – a state-of-the-art halls of residence located on the grounds of MIT (The Massachusetts Institute of Technology). The sponge-like effect exists thanks to the thousands of two foot square windows that adorn the building and from a distance, create an effect not unlike the holes on a sponge – something that designer Steven Holl set out to do when he was commissioned to work on the building in 1999.