Contact Us

10 Buildings With The Perfect Nicknames

Some buildings are known for their design, or their tenants or their history. Then there are the buildings known for their nicknames. Across the world, despite developers' best marketing efforts, there are properties whose names have taken on a life of their own. We rounded up the 10 best. 

Walkie Talkie Building, London 

20 Fenchurch Street, aka the Walkie Talkie Building, in London.

Designed by architect Rafael Viñoly, 20 Fenchurch St. features a distinctive top-heavy form that appears to burst upward and outward. The tower was originally proposed at nearly 200 meters (656 feet) tall but its design was scaled down after concerns about its visual impact on the nearby St. Paul's Cathedral and Tower of London, a common problem for skyscraper developers in London. Upon completion, it was discovered the concave form focuses light onto the streets to the south. Temperatures in direct line with the reflection became so intense that a reporter was able to fry an egg in a pan set out on the ground. The architect also designed the Vdara hotel in Las Vegas, which reportedly has a similar sunlight reflection problem that some employees called the "Vdara death ray."

The Marilyn Monroe Towers, Mississauga 


The curvy, hourglass-like figures of two residential towers at Absolute World in Mississauga, Canada, resemble the '50s-era sex symbol. The City of Mississauga had a highly publicized international design competition for the proposed project. Yansong Ma, the founder of Chinese design firm MAD, was the winner. The towers top out at 50 and 56 stories. 

The Cheesegrater, London 

The Cheesegrater Building, London

One of London's newest skyscrapers, 122 Leadenhall St. is known as the Cheesegrater for its wedge shape. The look is more than aesthetic. It was hoped that the slanting wedge-shaped design would help the 48-story building have less impact on the protected sightline of St. Paul's Cathedral when viewed from Fleet Street and the west. The main drawback of the design is the small floor space for a building its size, coming in at just 909k SF. The project was built by Laing O'Rourke, designed by Graham Stirk of Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners and developed by British Land and Oxford Properties.

The Batman Building, Nashville


The AT&T Building in Nashville was dubbed the Batman Building due to its dark coloration and resemblance to the Dark Knight. Designed by Earl Swensson Associates and developed by The Mathews Co., the 33-story, 690k SF building is an icon in Tennessee. Recently the state incorporated it into the design of its driver's licenses.

The Big Pants Building, Beijing 


The 44-story HQ of China Central Television is an architectural oddity. Rem Koolhaas and Ole Scheeren of the Office of Metropolitan Architecture are the minds behind the building that resembles an over-starched pair of pants. Construction was delayed dramatically when a fire broke out at an adjacent building during a fireworks festival. The fire landed the project director and 19 others in prison for negligence.

Legoland, London 


The home to the British Secret Intelligence Service, often called MI6, is the blocky structure on the Thames known as Legoland. The previous MI6 HQ, Century House, was officially classified, though many considered it to be London's worst-kept secret. In 1985 the UK government deemed the location "irredeemably insecure." Officially completed in 1994, Legoland is laid out over numerous layers that create 60 separate roof areas. Due to the clandestine nature of spies, much of the building is below street level. A tunnel between the building and Whitehall is rumored to exist. 

Mini Me, Atlanta


The thing that makes the 24-floor Regions Plaza architecturally odd is its stature. The building is a near replica of the 50-story One Atlantic Center right next door. The pair resembles the comical villain Dr. Evil and his tiny clone from Austin Powers, earning the building its nickname. Imitation is the highest form of flattery, if not the tallest. 

The Gherkin, London

London skyline with the Gherkin

London is the capital of weird building nicknames. The 30-story 30 St. Mary Axe building was dubbed the Gherkin as early as 1999, nearly five years before its completion. The Millennium Tower was originally planned for the plot, but at nearly 1,300 feet tall, was ultimately deemed out of scale for the City of London. In its place, Foster + Partners worked with Arup and Skanska to design and build what has become one of London's most iconic buildings. 

The Lipstick Building, NYC


Officially known as 53rd at Third, the 34-story building's design is functional at its core. The setback on three different levels is in response to Manhattan's zoning regulation that requires buildings to recede from the street within their spatial envelope. In between floors is a thin red band which recalls the red color of lipstick. The building was designed by John Burgee Architects with Philip Johnson.

The Sponge, Boston


Simmons Hall, which houses 344 undergrads at MIT, has architects bitterly divided over its beauty. The structure is one massive reinforced concrete block, perforated by 5,500 SF of windows. The building has received plenty of attention from architects and designers who are often found wandering the halls attempting to observe student life in the building. Standard procedure is to escort them out if you find any snooping around. 

Related Topics: Instagram