District 9 director Neill Blomkamp is back with another political sci-fi thriller, Elysium, which opened in theaters this weekend. This time the class wars rage between the residents of ravaged planet earth and a luxurious space station. The space utopia frequently appears throughout science fiction — a symbol of progress, hope, and human curiosity. We don’t have to travel to the stars to enjoy futuristic architecture. There are plenty of bold, bizarre, contemporary buildings right here on earth that look like they belong on the set of a sci-fi movie. Here are 20 of them.
The 2010 UK Pavilion for World Shanghai Expo designed by Thomas Heatherwick was known as the Seed Cathedral. The meditative space was constructed of 60,000 fiber-optic rods with seeds implanted at the tips.
The United States Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel has 17 spires extending from towering tetrahedrons. Alien spaceship in disguise?
The Atomium in Brussels, designed by engineer André Waterkeyn and architects André and Jean Polak, represents an iron crystal cell magnified 165 billion times. The different spheres are accessible to the public.
A proposed New Orleans habitat called NOAH that would house 40,000 residents, schools, retail space, hotels, and casinos. It would sit along the Mississippi riverfront.
The Milwaukee Art Museum, by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, has been featured in films, videogames, and television. The wing-like structures open, stretching 217 feet wide, but are closed at night and for inclement weather.
Spain’s Auditorio de Tenerife seems to defy gravity, and its auditorium is bathed in twinkling light.
The futuristic Design Museum Holon in Israel.
French theme park Futuroscope could be a giant moon rock that crashed into the earth.
Beijing’s Galaxy Soho, designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, contains four dome structures and sixteen floors (offices, retail space, entertainment attractions). The design was inspired by nature — but the domes resemble giant pods à la Invasion of the Body Snatchers or Alien.
The Bahá’í House of Worship in India took its design from the shape of a lotus flower and has 27 free-standing marble “petals.”
The National Library of Belarus has its own public observation deck and can seat 2,000 readers.
The Cathedral of Brasília contains tunnels, a reflecting pool, spiral staircases, and stunning stained glass. The hyperboloid exterior resembles giant arms reaching up to the sky.
Everyone knows the Los Angeles International Airport is really the mothership.
A Chicago residence that belongs in a Kubrick film.
The Sanzhi UFO houses in Taiwan were built in the 1970s as a coastal vacation spot, specifically geared toward American soldiers. Construction was halted in 1980 for a variety of unfortunate reasons, and the abandoned pods became a tourist attraction. They were torn down in 2010.
The Graz Art Museum in Austria is a bulging, intergalactic amoeba dubbed “Friendly Alien” by creators Peter Cook and Colin Fournier.
The Shimizu Mega-City Pyramid is a proposed structure that would sit along the Tokyo Bay in Japan. Currently, there aren’t enough lightweight construction materials in existence to build it, but once erected, the pyramid would house one million people. The city within a city would contain its own transit system and skyscrapers (24 of them at the very least). The finished structure would be 14 times taller than the Great Pyramid at Giza.
Roca London constructed this futuristic, curvaceous gallery space to display their designs (bathroom fixtures), all of which reference water.
The New Beijing Poly Plaza — aka a building possibly torn from the set of Blade Runner.
A star-shaped hotel in Mumbai with alien crop circle-esque appeal.