Famous Cylindrical Buildings

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Buildings come in all shapes and sizes and with modern building designers attempting all sorts of ground-breaking designs. Most recently, The Shard in London has divided critics about what modern buildings should be like and whether such modern designs are futuristic or an eyesore. Some building designers prefer to stick with classic designs such as rectangles, squares or cylinders. The following list is some of the world’s best-known cylindrical buildings.

1. Floreasca City Sky Tower: Bucharest, Romania

This 137m tall tower is part of a modern city centre construction that is a shopping centre, office block and apartments in one complex. The Sky Tower is the tallest building in Bucharest; it has a restaurant and conference centre occupying its top two floors and most of the rest of the tower are offices. It is an interesting design in that its lower floors are opaque (for privacy) and the higher floors are almost entirely transparent (for the better view). There are separate elevators for the lower and higher floors.

2. BT Tower: London, England

bt tower
Some have compared it to Doctor Who’s Sonic Screwdriver; this interesting structure was once known as The Post Office Tower but today is owned by communications giant BT. It was initially built to carry microwave transmissions across the country. Following a bomb incident in the 1980s, it was closed to the public, which means that London remains one of the world’s major cities not to have a revolving restaurant. It is still used for communications today and the functions are as diverse as monitoring air traffic to London’s pollution levels. The BT Tower is 191m tall.

3. Menara Komtar: Penang, Malaysia


The tallest building in the city and the sixth tallest in the country, the Kompleks Tun Abdul Razak is immediately identifiable. It has a mix of functions from private offices, shopping and is the central block for the government’s administration of public transport and various other government services. It is 65 storeys and 232m tall and when built in 1974, was considered one of the most advanced buildings in the world. Though the tower itself is thriving, the adjoining buildings slowly fell out of use during the financial crisis of the last few years.

4. Shanghai Tower: Shanghai, China

Looking like a slightly twisted, slightly bent bit of lead pipe from the board game Cluedo, this fascinating construction has yet to be complete at 2014 (though it has been topped out, meaning it won’t get any taller with only the interiors to complete). It stands at 632m tall and is presently the second tallest building in the world (behind Burj Khalifa in Dubai). Due to its unusual shape, it was constructed as nine separate cylinders all stacked on top of each other. Each area has a publicly accessible atrium with restaurants, shops and public gardens.

5. Leaning Tower of Pisa: Pisa, Italy

leaning tower
The oldest building on our list, it was built in 1173 as a bell tower for the adjacent Cathedral. The iconic lean began during construction and only the halting of construction work for over a century (due to The Republic of Pisa being persistently at war) allowed the soil to settle and stabilise the foundations. Over the centuries, it deepened further until restoration work between 1990-2001 slowed the rate of tilt. In 2008, engineers removed a lot of soil, stabilised the ground beneath it and finally declared it had stopped moving. It is believed to be stable for another two hundred years.

6. BMW Headquarters: Munich, Germany

This, an icon not just of the city, but of the success of the German car manufacturer, is not one but four interconnected cylinders. It was built between the late 1960s and early 1970s and in 1999 declared a protected building. Perhaps designed to look like a stack of car tyres, the four pillars are suspended on top of a single large pillar at the base. Due to its distinct and futuristic design, it featured in the films Suspiria and Rollerball.

7. Burj Doha Tower: Doha, Qatar

In 2012, it won an global CTBUH award for Best Skyscraper. Unusually, commentators have pointed to its phallic shape considering the nature of the conservative Islamic beliefs in the state of Qatar. Designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, it is the world’s first building to feature reinforced concrete interiors and designed with protection against heat and sandstorms kept in mind. It is an office block owned by Sheikh Saud bin Muhammed Al Thani and its enthusiasts say it represent traditional Islamic art design while looking to the future.

8. Round House: Somerville, Massachusetts

round house
Built in 1856 by a hardware manufacturer, this is the smallest building on our list. It has two stories with a third smaller roof extension set behind mock battlements. The ground floor has four rooms, the first floor has six rooms and the top extension has four rooms. It was listed as endangered in the latter part of the 20th century and had been unoccupied for a number of years. Within the first decade of the new century, it was purchased and the new owner promised to restore it to its former glory.

9. European Parliament Building: Strasbourg, France

One of the most curious and most important buildings on this list is the deliberately incomplete tower at the Parliament Building (named Louise Weiss). It is 60m tall and at the time of its construction, turned slightly towards Eastern Europe (a time when no countries in that part of the world had joined the EU). Bizarre conspiracy theories have since sprung up all over the internet, likening it to the Biblical Tower of Babel and suggesting an esoteric and insidious nature of the Parliament.

10. ÅžiÅŸli Plaza: Istanbul, Turkey

This 46-floor building is mostly residential. The bottom four floors are retail outlets and the top two are for nationwide communications, meaning that 40 of the floors are apartments. It is an interesting ‘rocket’ design, three cylinders, each one on top of the next and slightly smaller than the one beneath it. The front of the building appears to have a portion ‘cut out’ while the back appears to be a normal cylindrical building.


In a world pushing the boundaries of architectural design, it is always good to seeing new constructions come back to basics and build something new and eye-catching on simple, classic designs such as a cylinder. With new construction techniques, some of the examples above show that we can create eye-catching designs that push the boundaries of art and architecture.

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