Architecture stories that made us smile in 2022

WTF Moments

Architecture stories that made us smile in 2022

Bjarke Ingels Group's VIA 57 West is among the buildings illuminated orange as part of the Doritos marketing campaign. (Frito-Lay North America)

At the end of the year we traditionally reflect on the biggest news and the stories that seemed to capture zeitgeist. That’s all well and good, but it’s also important to look back on the news that made us chuckle.

From gaudy sex dungeons to an oversized hot dog hut to designer dog houses, here are the funniest architecture and design stories of 2022:

Doritos illuminates three triangular buildings to replicate colossal tortilla chips

Doritos, the loud and highly addictive tortilla chips coated with a cheesy dust and tasty seasoning, are, as the brand likes to put it, taking the umami-loaded snack and its three-cornered shape to “Another Level®.™” A marketing campaign-slash-nationwide hunt by Frito-Lay North America encouraged the public to spot triangles within their own surroundings, including on buildings, and use the Snapchat-based Triangle Tracker program to scan triangular forms within the immediate environment.

In August Doritos illuminated three triangular-shaped buildings in bright orange, giving the structures the appearance of a Godzilla-sized chip. The three buildings set aglow were Bjarke Ingels Group’s VIA 57 West in Manhattan (pictured at top), the pointed chevron shape at the top of Atlanta’s 101 Marietta Street skyscraper (formerly the Centennial Tower), and the Memphis Pyramid, a former sports venue-turned-Bass Pro Shop on the banks of the Mississippi River. The projections were quite lifelike, replicating not just the distinctive Dorito hue, but also its crunch-making texture.

(© Omar Franco)

Costco in Mexico City’s Santa Fe district is topped by and fused with a sprawling urban park

In 2016, the residents’ association of Santa Fe, a shiny glass tower–studded modern business district on the western fringes of Mexico City, struck a deal with the city government to create a generous swath of open green space at the former site of a colossal sand mine (and later landfill).

Several years later, Parque La Mexicana has welcomed its marquee anchor retail store, and it’s one with a rather outsized physical footprint at that.

Opening late last year and spanning more than 524,000 square feet including the main shopping area and a three-level parking structure, Santa Fe’s Costco Wholesale location is one of the latest—and reportedly largest—Mexican outposts for the warehouse club-style big-box retailer headquartered in suburban Seattle. It’s also arguably the most inconspicuous and lush—yes, lush—Costco in the world, thanks to an almost 145,000-square foot green roof.

The erstwhile Rainforest Cafe in Chicago’s River North neighborhood. (artistmac/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0)

Chicago’s giant mushroom–festooned Rainforest Cafe will become a cannabis dispensary

In April AN reported that shuttered Rainforest Cafe with a beloved but garish facade in the River North neighborhood of Chicago could become a medical and recreational pot dispensary. In November, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that the Chicago Zoning Board approved Progressive Treatment Solutions’ plan to convert the erstwhile 22,000-square-foot restaurant at 605 N. Clark St., but unfortunately for decorated shed devotees, the new proprietors are replacing the goofy jungle-themed facade that features giant mushrooms and monkeys swinging from tree branches.

Photo of the original doghouse (Courtesy Marin County)

Doghouse design by Frank Lloyd Wright finds forever home at Marin County Civic Center

At the age of 12, Jim Berger wrote a letter to Frank Lloyd Wright asking if the American architect, who had designed his family’s residence, in San Anselmo, California, would design a house for Eddie–his loyal Labrador Retriever. In his correspondence the young boy provided specifications for the architect to reference, including the dog’s measurements—“two and half feet high and three feet long.”

The design for the 4-square-foot structure was quickly sketched on the back of the envelope of Berger’s second letter—a common practice of Wright’s. Similar to the Usonian-style residence the architect had been commissioned to design for the Berger’s, the doghouse is quintessentially Wright, featuring a triangular form with a protruding roofline.

In June Berger donated the humble kennel to the County of Marin. It is now a part of the permanent collection at the Marin County Civic Center in San Rafael, California, which is ironically the largest Wright building still standing, and also his only commissioned U.S. government building.

A giant print of metallic, creamsicle-colored lips crown the mantle of Wesley and Hannah’s sex room flanked by curtains printed with the backside of a black-and-white sexy lady and a deep pink Tantra Chair. (Caleb Alvarado/Courtesy of Netflix © 2022)

The delightfully kitschy interiors of Netflix reality show How to Build a Sex Room

What if HGTV’s Extreme Home Makeover and an underground sex club had a love child? That is the premise of How to Build a Sex Room, a Netflix series released this year where contractors and a sex coach help couples transform bedrooms, basements, and bonus rooms into the pleasure dens of their dreams.

The result? Participants are surprised with play palaces fully kitted out with BDSM accouterment, farmhouse-inspired sex sheds, giant custom beds, couches that foil bodily fluids, and other selections customized to the couples’ fantasies. We admired the sweet and earnest couples who shared the most personal details of their sex lives with a national audience, but we did have a good laugh at goofy decor like mantle-crowning oversized mouth paintings and leather daddy votives.

What are we calling that gigantic flamingo at Tampa International Airport?

Officials at the Tampa International Airport (TPA) enlisted the public’s help to name the giant flamingo in the airport’s Main Terminal. The larger-than-life sculpture by artist Matthew Mazzotta is called HOME. Reflective panels above the flamingo seemingly put visitors underwater with the bird, who stares at travelers with a gimlet eye. His work was chosen from over 700 submissions and was erected last year.

The public will be able to vote on the top three entries in late December. After voting concludes, the airport will announce the winner on social media.

The lucky winner of the Name The Flamingo Contest will score four roundtrip tickets on Silver Airways, VIP passes to Busch Gardens, and be feted at a naming ceremony for the 21-foot-long bird. (Hopefully there will be shrimp cocktails, a nod to the diminutive brine shrimp that give flamingos their characteristic pink feathers.)

(Courtesy Eric Moss Architects, Big Outdoor)

Seven forthcoming billboard designs for West Hollywood to rival Tom Wiscombe’s Sunset Spectacular

West Hollywood’s fabled Sunset Strip has long played host to more common iterations of large-scale urban advertising, with massive rectangular screens and canvases hoisted above the Southern California streetscape to market television shows, luxury products, and personal brands including that of Angelyne.

In 2019, the City of West Hollywood launched its Sunset Arts & Advertising Program, an initiative that reimagines outdoor advertising along the Sunset Strip. That program birthed Tom Wiscombe Architecture’s (TWA) Sunset Spectacular, a multimedia billboard towering 67 feet above 8775 Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood, has been turning heads since it was completed last year. Through the program, the city hopes to further establish the area as a cultural location with seven upcoming billboard designs slated to touch down on Sunset Boulevard over the next few years.

Twitter’s newest office amenity is a bedroom

It’s well-known that, like architecture, the tech field is known for a grueling work culture where 60-plus hour workweeks are the norm. Even in these environments, employees usually leave the office to sleep in the comfort of their own beds. But with a new amenity, Twitter’s soon-to-be-stepping-down CEO Elon Musk seems to be taking this essential element of life out of the work-life balance.

Employees recently shared with Forbes that some conference rooms had been converted into bedrooms with queen beds, a nightstand, and two armchairs atop bright orange carpets. Sleeping quarters down the hall from one’s desk will reduce commuting time to one minute or less, a move that presumably helps foster Musk’s “extremely hardcore” vision for Twitter 2.0.

The refreshed and revived Tail O’ the Pup in West Hollywood. (Courtesy 1933 Group)

Tail o’ the Pup, L.A.’s iconic hot dog–shaped hot dog stand, reopens after years in storage

Last fall, Los Angeles novelty architecture aficionados and fast foodies alike (together, a powerful contingent) came together in celebration with news that Tail o’ the Pup, a frankfurter-peddling duck of utmost prestige, would reopen in 2022 at a new location along a Route 66-designated stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood.

Tail o’ the Pup version 2.0 comes courtesy of historic preservation-minded L.A. hospitality company 1933 Group, which acquired the timeless work of midcentury mimetic architecture from the Valley Relics Museum in 2018 and has spent the last several years sourcing new locations and prepping for its grand return.

(Courtesy the Art Institute of Chicago)

The Art Institute of Chicago’s bronze lions return from a spa vacation refreshed and with a renewed sense of humor

After a month at the spa, the Art Institute of Chicago’s beloved bronze lions returned in July to their plinths at the front entrance of the museum. Staff members in hardhats watched as the harnessed south lion was the first to be hoisted back onto its pedestal, with the north lion following close behind. The pair on lions shared details of their spa trip on their very active, and smile-inducing Twitter account.

Renovations underway at zoo-themed McDonald’s in Dallas will strip the restaurant of its animal motifs

A safari-themed McDonald’s located across from the Dallas Zoo has announced it is undergoing a exterior and interior redesign that does away with the kitschy exotic animal statuary and zoo motifs that have rendered the hamburger joint something of a local landmark. The location, which has no affiliation with the zoo across the way, will be revamped with digital self-service kiosks and furnishings that align with the corporation’s austere modern rebrand.

When the news was announced, Craig York, owner of the McDonalds, told the Dallas Morning News: “While we were saddened to see the animals of the zoo location leave the building, the new restaurant upgrade allows us to better serve our customers, including self-ordering kiosks that allows you to browse the menu at your own pace, inside table service and upgrades to our drive-thru and curbside pick-up.”

Rendering of the Snøhetta-designed Museum of Sex, Miami. (Courtesy the Museum of Sex)

Snøhetta designs Museum of Sex outpost in Miami

This month the New York–based Museum of Sex and the architects at Snøhetta revealed they will convert a 32,000-square-foot warehouse in Miami’s Allapattah neighborhood into a museum with three galleries, a shop, and a bar. While the Museum of Sex may sound as frivolous as a Tinder hookup, the 20-year-old establishment is known for thought-provoking exhibitions on human sexuality that balance serious historical inquiry with playful engagement.

How to bury your loved ones on a golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey

One of the most cartoonish WTF moments came courtesty of former President Donald Trump. The disgraced pol seemingly one-upped his buffoonery this summer, when he buried his deceased ex-wife Ivana Trump in a solitary grave near the first hole at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey.