What You See Is What You Get: 15 Examples Of Novelty Architecture

Raquel Laneri Raquel Laneri

Who doesn’t love novelty architecture? Ice cream parlors that look like milk bottles, OJ stands that resemble oranges, a film development lab shaped like a point-and-shoot camera, or—in the case of Arrested Development—a banana stand that looks like, well, a giant banana. In their seminal 1977 book Learning from Las Vegas, Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown coined a name for these literal, often kitschy structures that dotted much of the Western US landscape: “ducks,” after the famous Long Island duck that greets vacationers on the way to the Hamptons. (It once did sell actual ducks and duck eggs.)

The Big Duck (1931)
Hampton Bays, Long Island, New York

Built in 1931 by a farmer, this structure once functioned as a retailer of ducks and duck eggs. Now, it’s a popular tourist destination, as well as a national landmark.

The Donut Hole (1963)
La Puente, California

According to the book Roadside Giants, this drive-through donut shop is particularly popular among wedding parties, which seems like some pretty blatant sexual symbolism to us.

Longaberger Basket Home Office (1997)
Newark, Ohio

The Longaberger Company, which manufactures (yup) wooden baskets, designed the interior and exterior of this prime example of novelty architecture. According to the company’s website, the building’s handles are heated to prevent ice from forming.


Simone Handbag Museum (2013)
UAD and Charlie Smith Design
Seoul, South Korea
Read our post about this building here.

Benewah Milk Bottle (1935)
Designed by W.G. Myers
Spokane, Washington

Just one of many milk-bottle-shaped creameries in the US.

California Piano Supply Company (1920s-30s)
Los Angeles
Photo: via Retronaut

The Big Apple
Ontario, Canada
Photo: via The Big Journey

This roadside attraction offers freshly baked apple pies, as well as (oddly) a petting zoo.

The Big Chicken (1963)
Designed by Hubert Puckett
Marietta, Georgia

Shell Service Station (1930)
Designed by Frank L. Blume & Co.
Winston-Salem, North Carolina

The Shell Oil Company developed a series of shell-shaped service stations in the 1930s and ’40s in order to attract customers. But out of the eight built in the Winston-Salem area, this is the only one still standing.

Shutter Shack (1970s)
Los Angeles

Crayola Factory (1996)
Designed by Binney & Smith
Easton, Pennsylvania

Randy’s Donuts (1953)
Designed by Henry J. Goodwin
Inglewood, California

Originally a Big Donut Drive-In, a now defunct chain of donut drive-throughs, Randy’s is probably the most iconic of Southern California’s many donut ducks.

Times Square Stamp-selling Booth
New York City
Photo: via the Library of Congress

The Coffee Pot (1927)
Bedford, Pennsylvania

Chili Bowl (1931)
Los Angeles
Photo via Design Coma