- Project plans
- Project activities
- Legislation and standards
- Industry context
Last edited 11 Jan 2020
Mimetic architecture, also known as ‘novelty’ or ‘programmatic’ architecture, is a style of building design popularised in the United States in the first-half of the 20th century. It is characterised by unusual building designs that mimic the purpose or function of the building, or the product it is associated with.
Mimetic architecture was particularly popular between the 1920s and 1950s, as cars became widespread and freeways were built across America. Some roadside architecture started to be seen as a means for advertising to passing cars. For example, a roadside restaurant might be designed in the shape of a giant hot dog, a coffee shop in the shape of a coffee pot, or a fruit stand in the shape of a piece of fruit.
While mimetic architecture fell from favour after the 1950s and many such buildings were redeveloped or demolished, their size and novelty means that many are now viewed as local landmarks to be preserved.
 Famous examples include:
Randy’s Donuts, California
The Big Basket, Newark
Mimetic architecture can also refer to the replication of famous landmarks. This is popular in China, Japan and particularly, the United States. Perhaps the place where this is most synonymous is Las Vegas where buildings have been constructed that mimic an Egyptian pyramid (Luxor Las Vegas), the New York skyline (New-New York Hotel and Casino), the Eiffel Tower (Paris Las Vegas), a cartoon-medieval castle (Excalibur), the Rialto bridge (Venetian), and Roman classical architecture (Caesar’s Palace).
 See our unusual buildings gallery HERE.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Architectural styles.
- Art Moderne.
- Big Duck.
- Britain’s greatest maverick building.
- Constructivist architecture.
- Dancing House, Prague.
- Dunmore Pineapple.
- Fish Building, India.
- Haines Shoe House.
- Historical versus Modern: Identity through imitation.
- Lotus Temple.
- Luxor Las Vegas
- Piano Building.
- Teapot building.
- Teapot Dome Service Station.
- The Big Basket.
- The Kelpies.
- The Oculus.
- Unusual building design of the week.
Featured articles and news
A quality perspective.
If buildings were people, they would be just starting to walk on two legs.
Air filtration and clean air standards.
The Dukes of Normandy and the second world war.
Conserving structures in historic designed landscapes.
Online platform to showcase acoustic solutions.
The drivers of value and how it is measured.
Do you know your Ionic from your Doric?
Construction output has been stronger than anticipated.
But blame is directed at the construction industry.
Health effects on children and young people.