From dog-shaped cafes to crocodile-shaped hotels, BD presents a survey of animal-shaped buildings from around the world.
In the final chapter of Noah’s Arkitecture, we look at the oldest and most fearsome creature of all to have inspired towering structures in its image: the dinosaur.
When completed in 1970, Dinny the Dinosaur, built to the north of Interstate 10 in Cabazon, California, was described by its creator as “the first dinosaur in history, so far as I know, to be used as a building.”
The brainchild of sculptor Claude K Bell, the 14m high creature was designed to attract customers to his Wheel Inn Café. Fabricated from spare metal salvaged from the construction of the highway, covered with expanded metal mesh and sprayed with shotcrete, the dinosaur was originally designed with glowing red eyes and a mouth that would spit fire at night. “It’ll scare the dickens out of a lot of people driving up over the pass,” chortled Bell.
A second dinosaur, Mr Rex, was constructed next to Dinny in 1981, complete with a giant slide in its tale - later filled with concrete for fear of instability. A third woolly mammoth sculpture and prehistoric garden were drafted, but never completed due to Bell’s death in 1988.
Dinny now plays host to a museum of creationism, complete with a gift shop that sells toys dinosaurs under the slogan “Don’t swallow it! The fossil record does not support evolution.”
Closer to home, London narrowly missed out on what would have been one of the most spectacular animal buildings ever constructed, in the form of David Foster’s design for the Natural History Museum extension.
His vast ferro-cement dinosaur for the South Kensington site was one of two winning proposals in the 1975 ideas competition. Foster’s project envisaged locating the structure to the west of Waterhouse’s building, where it would have contained a museum centre complete with observation deck in the head, coffee bar and restaurants in the neck and chest, an exhibition hall with real dinosaur in the belly and a cinema/lecture theatre in the lower stomach. The structure would incorporate built-in glass tubes disguised as warts to allow light through into the body.
The judges, who included Peter Smithson, John Piper and BD editor Peter Murray, remarked: “Mr Foster’s dinosaur pauses among the trees to cast a backward glance in the direction of Albert Hall. London deserves such a splendid creature and Queen’s Gate firmly defined by its avenue of trees could safely harbour such a benign monster in the gardens of the Natural History Museum.”
If built, this would have been the world’s largest dinosaur building - but, as it stands, that accolade goes to a model T-rex in the town of Drumheller in the Canadian province of Alberta. Towering 25m high and stretching 46m, this steel and fibreglass version is approximately four times bigger than a real T-rex.