I read recently that babies cry and couples quarrel more often in bright yellow kitchens. Maybe that explains why, when we painted our bathroom bright yellow some years ago, Rich and I loathed the new look yet argued for days about whether we should repaint or try to live with it. Somehow the charming buttercup paint we’d purchased had morphed into a radioactive glare that seemed capable of damaging our retinas, if not killing us outright. I can only assume it was originally intended for use on nuclear power plant warning signs rather than human dwellings. Rich (who hates painting) insisted it would be easier to start wearing sunglasses whenever we needed to use the bathroom, but I wasn’t sure anything less than a hazmat suit would provide adequate safety. In the end, cooler heads (well, mine) prevailed, and we repainted with a softer hue. Whew!
Apparently, scientists could have predicted our tempers would flare in a confined space painted nuclear buttercup. Researchers have also discovered that bright red walls make us better at picky, left-brain tasks. Sky blue walls double our creativity while eroding our ability to balance our checkbooks. Pink walls encourage us to relax; sports teams often paint the visitors’ locker room pink in hopes of taking the edge off their aggression. (Parents of unruly teens may want to try this at home.)
Ambitious architects, and the city planners who hire them, are paying attention to test results suggesting that undulating curves are more alluring than right angles. They’ve thrown out the old rulebooks to make city skylines more sinuous, causing residents to gawk and travelers to reroute their itinerary so they can gaze at the latest eye-popping landmarks.
“From London's 'Gherkin' to the 'Marilyn Monroe' Towers in Ontario,” noted CNN, “when traveling through most of the world's major cities, you'd be forgiven for thinking that town planners had tried to baby-proof new buildings by imposing a strict ban on right-angles.”
It has not escaped notice that many of these curvaceous buildings seem to be imitating portions of the female anatomy that are seldom on public display. When Zaha Hadid revealed her design for the Qatar 2022 World Cup stadium, the voluptuous contours were so suggestive of female genitalia that it unleashed a storm of controversy; her protests that the design was based on the flowing sails of a dhow, the traditional Qatari fishing boat, have fallen on deaf ears. But even this debacle hasn’t slowed city planners and architects filled with dreams of glory. They’re defying the limits of construction materials, gravity, and their clients' budgets to construct outrageous landmarks that are being compared to giant pebbles, flames, Chinese fans, roller coasters, fjords, and Möbius strips, as well as various parts of the male and female anatomy.
Reading about all these wild new buildings has added many cities to my travel wish list. My top choices:
Den Blå Planet (The Blue Planet) in Copenhagen, Denmark, the largest aquarium in Northern Europe, shaped like a whirlpool. Completed 2013.
The Flame Towers of Baku, in Azerbaijan, giant skyscrapers covered in LED screens that flicker like torches all night. Completed 2012.
The Batumi Aquarium, whose form imitates giant river rocks washed up on shore of the Black Sea in the Republic of Georgia. Projected completion date: 2015
The Mothership, Apple’s new flying-saucer-shaped headquarters in Cupertino, California. Projected completion date: 2016
I can't wait to take a gander at these and other flamboyant new buildings on the horizon. In the meantime, I’m studying the psychology of color and thinking about my plans to repaint my home office. Do I want high-focus red? Imagination-liberating blue? I know I don’t want fight-with-your-husband yellow. Would pink be delightfully soothing or make me lose my edge? Hmmm. Maybe for now I’ll stick with the tawny neutral I have and give it a bit more thought.
Seen any eye-popping monuments lately? I'd love to hear your thoughts about them! Leave a comment below.
Winner of the 2023 Firebird Book Award for Travel
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TO I'm an American travel writer based in Seville, Spain.
Wanderlust has taken me to more than 60 countries. Every week I provide travel tips and adventure stories to inspire your journeys and let you have more fun — and better food — on the road
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