For a real fright this Halloween nothing beats the worst excesses of modern architecture

There was a time long ago when Halloween had a deeply sacred and spiritual relationship with architecture. In the early Christian church and even today in much of the Catholic Latin world, All Hallows Eve was a solemn moment to remember lost loved ones and commemorate the brief lifting of the veil between the human and spirit worlds. Anyone who has been lucky enough to visit the wedding cake majesty of the Iglesia Todos Santos in Cuenca, Ecuador, or marvel at the mosaic splendour of Holy Souls Chapel in our own Westminster Cathedral cannot fail to be struck by the awe and beauty with which architects once responded to the haunting sceptre of the afterlife.

However, those times are past. Today Halloween has been firmly parked in the much safer and commercially malleable territory of plastic face masks and supermarket confectionery.

But, consumerist pop culture aside, architecture can still be relied on to serve up ghoulish horrors of its own. So if you’re feeling brave, take a look at these frightening buildings from around the world, and count yourself lucky that for you Halloween comes round just once a year and isn’t a permanent nightmare …

Piano House

Piano House, China

Piano House, China

Location Huainan, China
Architect Hefei University of Technology architecture students
Function Concert hall / Urban planning museum
Completed 2007

Literalistic, kitsch buildings have taken a critical beating since the heady days of eighties and nineties post-modernism, when literally anything from a postage stamp to an eyebrow was fair game for an architectural concept. However, a group of students from a prominent Chinese university are clearly intent on reviving this strand of late 20th-century culture and have designed a musical performance studio shaped like … a grand piano and a violin.

Most architecture students’ projects end up on a wall. But this being China, this one was actually built, complete with a glazed “violin” atrium and a roof terrace inserted under the strung-back “lid”. Critics may sneer but the 50:1 scale pavilion has proved a hit with locals and tourists alike and scores higher in the amusement stakes than on the terror factor. One can only hope that plans are afoot to build an extension in the shape of a pianist.


Look out for more ghoulish buildings throughout the week ahead of Friday’s full feature in print, online and on our tablet app