10 Buildings Shaped Like What They Sell

iStock/CJMGrafx
iStock/CJMGrafx

Looking for a good way to advertise your business? Why not shape your headquarters like what you sell or offer? It’s worked out pretty well for these businesses and groups.

1. The Hood Milk Bottle

This one’s a Boston institution. In 1933, Arthur Gagnon wanted to open an ice cream stand in nearby Taunton, and he designed his new business to look like a giant milk bottle. After several changes in ownership (and a sail from Quincy to Boston proper), the structure is now known as the Hood Milk Bottle and resides at the Children’s Museum. It’s 40 feet tall and could hold 58,000 gallons of milk.

2. The Longaberger Company, Newark, OH

Longaberger is known for its handcrafted maple baskets, so its headquarters are obviously shaped like a giant basket. Not just any old basket, though. It’s a Longaberger Medium Market Basket that’s been blown up to 160 times its normal size. The basket includes a seven-story atrium, heated handles that prevent ice formation, and two 725-pound gold leaf Longaberger tags. Want to take a look the next time you’re in Ohio? Longaberger has visiting hours!

3. Twistee Treat Ice Cream

Between 1983 and the mid-1990s, Twistee Treat opened 90 or so ice cream shops around the country, and each one is shaped like a delicious cone of soft-serve vanilla. Want your own towering cone? A completely stocked one in Zephyrhills, Florida, is on the market for a mere $475,000. Or, if you’re on a budget but good with tools, the same listing also offers “A Separate Dismantled Ice Cream Cone Building” at the bargain price of $40,000.

4. Kansas City Public Library’s Parking Garage

Parking garages are usually eyesores, but this one’s beautiful. The garage for Kansas City’s Library is cleverly concealed behind what look like the bindings of 22 giant books. What’s really terrific is that local residents got to help pick what books would get the nod for 25-foot renderings on the side of the garage. Some of the tiles that made the cut: Catch-22, Invisible Man, The Lord of the Rings, Silent Spring, and Charlotte’s Web.

5. House of Free Creativity, Ashgabat, Turkmenistan

Kansas City doesn’t have a monopoly on book-shaped buildings, though. Turkmenistan cut the ribbon on this open book in 2006 as part of an effort to create a comfortable environment for journalists. Of course, “free creativity” may be a bit of a stretch. The journalists in question all work for Turkmenistan’s state-run press, and the country had no foreign or private media and very little open Internet access when the building opened during the reign of the late dictator Saparmurat Niyazov.

6. United Equipment Company, Turlock, CA

United sells and rents heavy equipment like compactors and excavators, so it’s only natural that the company’s headquarters building is shaped like a two-story yellow bulldozer. The bulldozer building, which opened in 1976, is “using” its redwood treads and giant blade to move a pile of boulders. 

7. The Phoenix Financial Center, Phoenix, AZ

Financial services made early use of massive punch-card-driven computers, and the Phoenix Financial Center looks as if it’s offering an odd tribute to this antiquated technology. The entire building has narrow slits for windows and looks like an oversized punch card. According to Phoenix’s municipal government, though, the resemblance was purely accidental; the narrow windows are there to minimize the effects of the hot desert sun on the building’s air conditioning bills. Nevertheless, local residents still refer to it as “the Punchcard Building.” 

8, 9 and 10. And the Rest!

Furnitureland South's 85-Foot Tall Highboy is more statue-attached-to-building than building itself, but the North Carolina landmark is still worth a mention. As is BMW's Four Cylinder building in Munich, which architect Karl Schwanzer designed to stand out next to the eye-catching Olympic buildings in the area. And while Japan's Banna Park Birdwatch isn't an egg store, we just couldn't leave it out. Birdwatchers on Ishigaki Island can view their avian friends from the comfort of an enormous egg. Visitors can even climb up to the top level of the egg to get some fresh air and a view from the broken tip of the shell.
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These certainly aren't the only buildings shaped like what they sell. Have you seen any examples in your travels?

Mapping Technology Reveals 'Lost Cities' on National Geographic

Lin uses his iPad to visualize scanning data of a crusaders' fortress at the lagoon in Acre, Israel.
Lin uses his iPad to visualize scanning data of a crusaders' fortress at the lagoon in Acre, Israel.
Blakeway Productions/National Geographic

Imagine what Pompeii looked like before the lava hit, or Mayan pyramids before the jungle took over. In the past decade, scientists have been able to explore human settlements long since abandoned by using a new wave of accessible technology. Instead of needing an expensive plane and crew to fly aerial sensors, for example, explorers can mount them on cheaper drones and pilot them into previously unreachable areas. The resulting data can tell us more about the past, and the future, than ever before.

That’s the premise of Lost Cities with Albert Lin, a new TV series premiering on National Geographic on Sunday, October 20.

Lin, an engineer and National Geographic Explorer, uses cutting-edge tools to shed light on centuries-old cities in the most beautiful places on Earth. Ground-penetrating radar reveals buried structures without disturbing the landscape. A drone-mounted remote sensing method called LIDAR—short for "Light Detection and Ranging"—shoots lasers at objects to generate data, which Lin visualizes with 3D mapping software. The results suggest what the ruins probably looked like when they were new.

Albert Lin and crew in Peru
Thomas Hardy, Adan Choqque Arce, Joseph Steel, Duncan Lees, Albert Lin, and Alonso Arroyo launch the LIDAR drone at Wat'a in Peru.
National Geographic

“It’s like a window into a world that we’ve never had before,” Lin tells Mental Floss. “It’s shooting millions of laser pulses per second through a distance of air. By digitally removing the top layer of everything above the ground—trees, brush, cacti—you’re washing away the past. All of the sudden you’re left with these fingerprints—experiments in how we organized ourselves through time.”

For the six-episode series, Lin and the expert storytelling team were dispatched to the South Pacific, the Middle East, the Andes, the Arctic, and other destinations. Lin explains that while most of the sites are known to archaeologists, they’ve never been so precisely mapped in three-dimensional detail.

In the first episode, Lin travels to Nan Madol, an enigmatic complex of temples and other structures on the Micronesian island of Pohnpei. With the help of local researchers and indigenous leaders, Lin and the team scan the ruins and digitally erase trees, water, and forest undergrowth to unveil the complex's former grandeur.

“Technology and innovation have always been that gateway to go beyond the threshold, and see what’s around the corner,” Lin says. “Seeing these worlds for the first time since they were left, it’s almost like reversing the burning of the library of Alexandria. We can take the synthesis of knowledge of all these watershed moments of our human journey, and imagine a better future.”

Lost Cities With Albert Lin premieres Sunday, October 20 at 10/9c and resumes on Monday, October 21 at 10/9c on National Geographic.

What's the Difference Between Cement and Concrete?

Vladimir Kokorin/iStock via Getty Images
Vladimir Kokorin/iStock via Getty Images

Picture yourself walking down a city block. The sidewalk you follow may be obscured by shuffling feet and discarded gum, but it’s clearly made from something hard, smooth, and gray. What may be less clear is the proper name for that material: Is it concrete or cement? Is there even a real difference between the two words?

Though they’re often used interchangeably, concrete and cement describe different yet related elements of the blocks, flooring, and walls that make up many everyday structures. In simple terms, concrete is the name of the gray, gritty building material used in construction, and cement is an ingredient used in concrete.

Cement is a dry powder mixture that looks much different from the wet stuff poured out of so-called cement trucks. It’s made from minerals that have been crushed up and mixed together. Exactly what kind of minerals it’s made from varies: Limestone and clay are commonly used today, but anything from seashells to volcanic ash is suitable. After the ingredients are mixed together the first time, they’re fired in a kiln at 2642°F to form strong new compounds, then cooled, crushed, and combined again.

Cement
Cement
lior2/iStock via Getty Images

This mixture is useless on its own. Before it’s ready to be used in construction projects, the cement must be mixed with water and an aggregate, such as sand, to form a moldable paste. This substance is known as concrete. It fills whatever mold it’s poured into and quickly hardens into a solid, rock-like form, which is partly why it’s become the most widely-used building material on Earth.

So whether you’re etching your initials into a wet sidewalk slab, power-hosing your back patio, or admiring some Brutalist architecture, you’re dealing with concrete. But if you ever happen to be handling a chalky gray powder that hasn’t been mixed with water, cement is the correct label to use.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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