Alternately lauded as the future of architecture or dismissed as pure folly, revolving buildings are a fascinating missing chapter in architectural history with surprising relevance to issues in contemporary architectural design. Rotating structures have been employed to solve problems and create effects that stationary buildings can't achieve. Rotating buildings offered ever-changing vistas and made interior spaces more flexible and adaptable. They were used to impress visitors, treat patients, and improve the green qualities of a structure by keeping particular rooms in or out of the sun.
The follow-up to his critically acclaimed book A-frame, Chad Randl's Revolving Architecture: A History of Buildings that Rotate, Swivel, and Pivot explores the history of this unique building type, investigating the cultural forces that have driven people to design and inhabit them. Revolving Architecture is packed with a variety of fantastic revolving structures such as a jail that kept inmates under a warden's constant surveillance, glamorous revolving restaurants, tuberculosis treatment wards, houses, theaters, and even a contemporary residential building whose full-floor apartments circle independently of each other. International examples from the late 1800s though the present demonstrate the variety and innovation of these dynamic structures.
Chad Randl is an architectural historian working at the National Park Service. He is the author of A-frame and has written for Old House Journal, Adirondack Life, the journal of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and other publications. In the fall of 2007, he will begin pursuing his PhD in architectural history at Cornell.