Iconic buildings such as the Flatiron Building and the Empire State Building are revered for their historical and cultural significance. However, few people are aware of the equally important structures scattered around the world — structures that have survived time, nature, and the wrecking ball.
10. World’s Littlest Skyscraper
Picture: Futility Closet
A visitor to Wichita Falls in Texas is likely to come across the Newby-McMahon Building, which became known as the ” World’s Littlest Skyscraper.” The 12m building consists of four floors, with each floor taking up a space of only 11 square metres. The staircases alone occupy 25 per cent of its interior space, making the whole structure barely inhabitable. Who was crazy enough to invest in such a building? And why is it called a “skyscraper”?
The legend goes that the building was constructed during the oil boom days of 1919, when an oil field was discovered in a nearby city. Thousands of Wichita County residents grabbed the opportunity by selling their mineral rights, thus becoming millionaires. For the small Wichita Falls, however, there was an endless inflow of fortune seekers but little office space to serve them. Deals with oil companies were mostly made in tents erected on street corners. This continued until a promoter named J.D. McMahon proposed a solution. McMahon promised a multistory building that would stand close to the successful St James Hotel. After presenting his blueprints, he immediately sold $US200,000 in stock to investors.
However, what McMahon did not mention to the investors — who apparently were too excited to notice — was that the scale of his blueprints was specified in inches rather than feet. Once the building was completed, investors were shocked to find it was a lot smaller than they’d expected. By then, the promoter was nowhere to be found. The defrauded investors managed to track down McMahon and bring a lawsuit against him. However, they didn’t have a case, since McMahon had built the house exactly according to the blueprints agreed upon. With office space still in demand, oil companies had no option but to use the tiny building until the boom oil came to an end. The building was eventually abandoned when the Great Depression struck in 1929.
9. The Smallest House In Great Britain
Photo credit: NobleBuzz
“The Smallest House in Great Britain” is located in Conwy Quay, North Wales. The house is just 1.8m wide and 3.1m high. Nevertheless, it had been inhabited since the 16th century. A 1.9m fisherman named Robert Jones was the last occupant of the house. Hemoved out in 1900. The house is currently designated a tourist attraction, which adults pay as little as £0.75 ($1.38) to access.
Why would such a tiny house exist in the first place?
During medieval times, it was common practice to construct houses in rows against the town wall. Two rows were built from the opposite ends of the street and toward each other. The two rows often didn’t meet, so the gap between them was exploited to build new houses at minimum cost. Despite being tiny, the Smallest House in Great Britain is considered practical. Inside the house, there is enough space for a single bed, a coal bunker, and a fireplace.
8. Gate Tower Building
Picture: Bits On Beats
As governments continuously improve their public sectors, clashes with landowners over pieces of land become inevitable. In most cases, one of the two sides emerges victorious. But in others, such as the construction of Gate Tower Building in Osaka, compromise is the only solution possible.
Prior to the construction of the 16-storey building, the government had already designated the area for highway development, jeopardizing the project. But the landowners, who purchased the land in the mid-19th century, refused to give up on it. They fought until a compromise was struck: The building could be built, but a highway was to pass right through it. Remarkably, the addition of the highway has almost no effect on the business inside the building. The only impact of the compromise is that the owners had to install noise-proofing walls, and the elevators have to skip the four floors that are occupied by the highway.
7. Nakagin Capsule Tower
Picture: The Toque Girls
Following World War II and up until the 1970s, Japan saw rapid economic and cultural development. During this period, an architectural movement called “Metabolism” had emerged that promised to reshape the country’s urban sector. The movement’s name, adopted from biology, was based on the concept of urban environment that could grow, reproduce, and respond to its environment — just like a living organism.
The most notable implementation of Metabolism is the Nakagin Capsule Tower in Shimbashi, Tokyo. Built in 1972, the building consists of 140 concrete capsules plugged into two connected towers. Each capsule acts as an individual apartment. One side of the apartment has a wall of appliances, including a refrigerator, a stove and kitchen cabinets. On the other side is a large pinhole window with a bed underneath. The building was intended for bachelors living in the city.
Despite the cool concept behind it, Nakagin Capsule Tower was anything but practical. The promised flexibility of the structure was nothing but a theory. Replacing or adding capsules was deemed too expensive. Apart from that, living in these capsules was a grim experience for many. The tiny space meant only a single person could inhabit it comfortably. The large window, on the other hand, made the interior of a capsule fully exposed to the outside. All of these issues, in addition to the diminished influence of Metabolism, have obliterated any interest in renovating the building, which has fallen into disrepair.
6. The Living Bridges Of Cherrapunji
Picture: Living Root Bridges
The town of Cherrapunji in India is regarded as one of the wettest places on Earth. With over 11,430mm of annual precipitation, the region is filled with fast-flowing river and streams. For many years, this has posed a challenge for the locals needing to move around. With such an extreme climate, building traditional bridges was out the question. Nonetheless, the War-Khasis, one of the tribes in Cherrapunji, have found a solution to the problem, which was to grow bridges instead of building them.
The tribe noticed that the Ficus elastica (a tree found in India and neighbouring countries) could produce several secondary roots that extended above its trunk. The roots could easily perch atop big boulders and along riverbanks. The War-Khasis immediately saw the potential of these trees in helping to cross the rivers. However, to create a living bridge, root-guidance systems had to be installed, which required slight modification in the plant’s trunk. The bridge was then left to grow for several years before it became sturdy enough for use. The most unique of these living bridges is Umshiang Double-Decker Root Bridge that consists of two root bridges grown atop one another.