In times gone by, single buildings tended to be one of three shapes: square, rectangular or round. The birth of true civilisation saw a greater awareness of building design and shape with the larger more striking examples intended purely to impress. Today, buildings come in all shapes and sizes in order to make them stand out from the crowd. The ground plan still generally follows one of those three standards but there are a number that break the conventions and go for something a little more striking like a hexagon. Here are ten noteworthy examples of hexagonal buildings.
Fort Jefferson, Florida
Located in the Florida Keys, it is the largest masonry building the Americas. It was built in the mid-19th century as a defensive base to protect the USA against incursions by foreign powers. It had been in development hell for nearly twenty years until completed under President Jefferson. It was in active use between 1860 and 1930 and remained in Unionist hands during the American Civil War. It became a quarantine site in the 1930s and was declared a national monument by FD Roosevelt.
Berlin-Tegel Airport, Germany
It is the main airport of the capital city of Germany and the fourth busiest airport in the country. It is the main terminal that is hexagonal shaped with the gates fanning around the outside of the building. Construction began in the 1960s and it opened in 1974; three aircraft were flown in especially for the inauguration. Its first commercial flight departed at 0600 on the 23rd October 1974 and since then the airport has expanded but the main hexagon is still present.
Langport Workhouse, England
Made famous by the works of Charles Dickens, workhouses were places that the poor and disenfranchised of the Industrial Revolution went to earn a living and obtain a roof over their head when they couldn’t support themselves elsewhere. Many were built across the industrial centres of England and this particular example from Somerset was built with several arms fanning out to a hexagonal surrounding wall. It was used as a detention centre during WWII and is currently derelict.
Canberra Civic Centre, Australia
This is not actually an individual building but a complex of buildings that contain a park, the shopping centre, the Australian Legislative Assembly and the Australian Supreme Court all within a hexagonal circuit. The city is famed for its construction along geometric shapes and this particular area is considered the core of the city. It is designed to be a striking and distinct architectural feature in a city that holds such distinctions as its core philosophy.
Greensville Correctional Center, Virginia
This highly distinctive building located in Virginia opened in 1990 as a maximum security prison. It houses the state’s death row inmates and has hexagonal shaped walls but the buildings inside are arranged in a triangular formation. It is believed that the hexagon allows maximum 360 degree viewing coverage for security purposes; more examples of this design exist across the USA with more planned in the future.
The Wheatley Pyramid, Oxfordshire
This bizarre six-sided pyramid was built in the early 19th century at a time that educated Europeans were excited about the discoveries of Ancient Egypt. Whether that was an influence on the builders of this is anybody’s guess but it was not built as a tomb, it was a lock-up to put prisoners in overnight before facing justice the following morning. It has a heavy wooden door and today is a tourist attraction that will gladly lock you up for a few minutes and give you a certificate marking the occasion.
New York Supreme Court Building, USA
It is the building of the highest court in the state and aesthetically looks very much like a Roman Pantheon temple complete with faÃƒ§ade. As the highest court, it has supreme jurisdiction in criminal and civil prosecutions across the state. Interestingly, it is also the oldest Supreme Court and retains much of the powers given under the original legislation (modern changes mean in most cases, the Supreme Court of a state is not necessarily the highest legal or civil authority).
Museum of Jewish Heritage, Manhattan
Also in New York, located in Lower Manhattan, this small hexagonal building with a pyramid on top is a living memorial to holocaust victims, celebrating every aspect of Jewish faith and culture in the modern age. It opened in 1997 and focuses more on modern experiences of being a Jew than the history of the faith. Items surviving from the Second World War are the prime focus of the museum and its regular exhibitions. It is said to have welcome over one and a half million visitors by 2012.
Cirencester Hexagon, England
The smallest building in this collection, it is a park gazebo in the Roman town of Cirencester. Built in 1736 by designer Lord Bathurst, it is a door-less building with an open archway on every side. It looks like many similar building features found in Regency and Colonial era parks up and down the country built at a time when parks and gardens were all the rage. It is raised on a plinth with steps and open to the public all year round.
The Hexagon Theatre in Reading, England
Designed in 1977 by the same architects and builders as the Royal Festival Hall, the Hexagon Theatre was designed for acoustics and to limit conventional problems of limited visibility for some seats. It was quickly discovered that the acoustics were not as good as expected. However, some events find the design beneficial while some others find them an obstruction. The seating capacity is in the region of 950 though that increases to 1200 for all-seat events and with standing room, approximately 1700.
Here we have a list of ten buildings that share a common shape. What is interesting is that there are a variety of reasons for the designers to have chosen that shape. Though they all stand out, not all are designed that way purely to impose. Some are functional, some are aesthetic and some are hexagonal merely to stand out or above everything around it. There are many more examples and each is attractive in its own right.