6 Buildings That Look Like Vaginas

Yesterday, Zaha Hadid released her design for Qatar’s new World Cup Stadium. Everyone freaked out because it looks like a vagina. What other architects have defied the phallic building norm?


Zaha Hadid sent shockwaves over the Internet yesterday when she released her design for Qatar’s new World Cup Stadium. Headlines that sounded like a chorus of giggling Beavis and Butt-Heads all agreed: Qatar’s World Cup 2022 Stadium Looks Like A Vagina.


AECOM, a firm Hadid is partnering with on the project, reportedly said that the stadium was inspired by “the dhow boat that carried generations of local fishermen and pearl divers.” They insist its resemblance to genitalia was accidental, but what if it wasn’t? SO THE HELL WHAT? The world’s phallic versus vaginal building ratio could use some balancing out. Practically every city is a ragingly Freudian cluster of glass, concrete, and stone cock. (Fun fact: There are so many phallic buildings that, in 2003, Cabinet Magazine launched a Most Phallic Building Contest. After writer Jonathan Ames claimed that Brooklyn’s Williamsburg Bank Building was the world’s most phallic, defensive readers attacked him, claiming that their city’s dick-like building was the most dick-like in the land. The score was settled by voting, and Michigan’s Ypsilanti Water Tower, AKA the Brick Dick, emerged as the proud winner.)

So what of more feminine architecture? If Hadid’s flowery stadium is indeed built, it will boost the world’s small cadre of vulvar buildings:

1. Chicago’s Crain Communications Building

Popularly referred to as “The Vagina Building,” the apocryphal story goes that this vertically slitted structure was designed by a woman to intentionally fight skyscrapers’ phallocentrism. The actual architect, Sheldon Schlegman of A. Epstien and Sons, is a man. A flustered rep of the firm told Chicago’s 606 Magazine that designers “never had that thought in mind. It was never their intention. I assure you, absolutely not.” But the name stuck.


2. Rem Koolhaas’s CCTV building

After the new CCTV headquarters was built in China, online forums were abuzz with jokes about how it looked like a figure sitting on a toilet, and it was nicknamed “The Big Underpants Building.” But things took a racier turn when Rem Koolhaas had to fight rumors that he’d intentionally designed the building and its annex to look like a woman bent over, next to a penis. A critic named Xiao Mo wrote an essay called “The Structural Similarity of the CCTV Headquarters and Hindquarters,” and dug up some pornographic images from the book Content, in which women are posed explicitly next to pictures of Koolhass’s building. Koolhass claims the CCTV building “has no hidden meaning.”

3. San Francisco MoMA

This museum, by Swiss architect Mario Botta, kind of looks like a minimalist metal vagina peeking out of a pile of cardboard boxes. Fourth-wave feminism! Or something!

4.The Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland, California

This pudenda-like glass structure by Craig Hartman won a competition for the design of Oakland’s Cathedral of Christ the Light. The pious architect says its shape is meant to mimic that of either a Jesus fish or a Bishop’s mitre (those fancy teardrop-like hats they wear). Some people say the cathedral resembles “a beehive, an inverted basket or a nuclear reactor.” Others say it looks like a vagina.


5. Norman Foster’s Spaceport

Located in New Mexico’s desert, the spaceport was designed by Norman Foster for Richard Branson. Viewed from above, it’s supposed to evoke Virgin Galactic’s brand logo of the eye, with “an elongated pupil.” Whatever you say, Norman Foster.

What buildings did we miss? Tweet #vaginabuilding at @fastcodesign with your submissions, or note them in the comments below.

About the author

Carey Dunne is a Brooklyn-based writer covering art and design. Follow her on Twitter.