One of Zaha Hadid's latest designs has been the talk of the internet due to what some people see as a resemblance to female genitalia – but as architecture leaves the straight lines and rigid materials of the past behind, it’s only natural our buildings are going to look, feel and function more like our bodies.
Ever since 30 St Mary Axe was unofficially rechristened 'the Gherkin', it's become a badge of honour for new buildings to acquire nicknames based on the things they remind us of. Now, of course, we have the Shard, the Cheesegrater and the Walkie Talkie - and that's just in London.
What, then, are we to make of one of Zaha Hadid's latest designs, the Al Wakrah stadium in Qatar, which hit the headlines when it was unveiled last week due to its uncanny resemblance (or so many people have thought) to a vagina?
Perhaps luckily for Hadid, there is already a 'vagina building', in Chicago. But that hasn't stopped the internet tittering and twittering. Unsurprisingly, the story went viral, with comments on Twitter ranging from facetious to complimentary.
One website also helpfully put together a list of six buildings that look like vaginas (thanks for that).
Where some people inevitably see an embarrassing lack of foresight on the part of those who designed the building (Hadid is adamant that any resemblance to female genitalia is purely coincidental), others see the stadium's likeness to female private parts in a positive light: a feminist riposte to the preponderance of penis-shaped buildings that dominate the skylines of our cities like some giant game of 'mine's bigger than yours'.
Indeed, Hadid herself has questioned whether the whole hoo-ha would have happened at all had this building been designed by a man (in fact it was designed by Hadid herself alongside Patrik Schumacher).
Picture: Zaha Hadid Architects
Writing in the guardian, Holly Baxter opined that there is 'something quite pleasing about a building shaped like a fanny'. She continued: 'The Qatari stadium's resemblance to a woman's private parts may be unintentional, but I for one applaud it. Perhaps the bigwigs who will be running the stadium should embrace this so-called faux pas and rebrand it as a deliberate nod towards the increasingly liberal Qatari policies concerning women in sport.'
Picture: Zaha Hadid Architects
So what's all the fuss? Well, although Qatar may be one of the more liberal of the Gulf States, its attitude to female nudity and therefore representations (however accidental) of female genitalia in architecture are likely to be rather more prudish than they may be in, say, Sweden.
There's also the fact that the resemblance of the stadium to the female genitalia is wholly unintentional; instead, the shape of the building was actually based (rather predictably, you might say) on the design of a traditional Qatari dhow boat.
Speaking to TIME magazine, Hadid said: 'It's really embarrassing that they come up with nonsense like this. What are they saying? Everything with a hole in it is a vagina? That's ridiculous.'
In fact, the comparison probably has more to do with Hadid's fluid, organic, natural looking architecture - the way her buildings seem to flow and undulate like something created by nature rather than by the hands of mankind.
In the end it's part of human nature to anthropomorphise - to see ourselves in the natural and man-made environments that surround us, and as everyone knows, nature is the best designer there ever was. The idea of 'organic architecture' is nothing new: the term was coined by Frank Lloyd Wright before 1960 and more recently architect and planner David Pearson proposed a sort of manifesto for the design of organic architecture including 'be inspired by nature and be sustainable, healthy, conserving, and diverse' and
'unfold, like an organism, from the seed within'.
As architecture continues to break free of the straight lines and rigid materials that have been imposed on us by limited technology and lack of imagination, it's likely that buildings will start to look, feel and function a lot more like our bodies.
That we see ourselves and other things in inanimate objects is testament to our playful and creative imaginations: celebrate it, laugh it, give it a nickname if you will, but don't let it embarrass you - after all, it's only natural.