Astronaut Theology: Unidentified Flying Architecture

Some of you are probably familiar with the curious Wat Phra Dhammakaya Buddist temple in Thailand, which has become famous for its unique design. It's really stunning to see the tens of thousands of worshippers praying around what most people would immediately recognize as a replica of a flying saucer. But it's part of a global trend in architectural design, a trend that includes some of the most significant organizations in the world. 

The flying saucer design of the temple might normally be a curiosity, but it's one of the largest active temples in Asia. The numbers are staggering:

The community living at Wat Phra Dhammakaya now numbers 3,000 monks, novices, laymen and laywomen - making it the largest temple in Thailand in terms of inhabitants. Congregations on Sundays and major religious festivals reach 100,000, which since 1985 exceeded temple capacity and influenced the temple's decision to expand the site to one thousand acres (4 km²) with the building of the World Dhammakaya Centre project.
There's also this arena in Shanghai, China, which Mercedes Benz- one of the largest automobile manufacturers in the world-- currently has the naming rights to. You might be thinking it doesn't look as much like a UFO in the daytime, but perhaps we should look at it at night...

...there, that's better. What was this arena originally built for? For China's version of the World's Fair:

Expo 2010, officially the Expo 2010 Shanghai China, was held on both banks of the Huangpu River in Shanghai, China, from 1 May to 31 October 2010. It was a major World Expo in the tradition of international fairs and expositions, the first since 1992. The theme of the exposition was "Better City – Better Life" and signifies Shanghai's new status in the 21st century as the "next great world city".   

It had the largest number of countries participating and was the most expensive Expo in the history of the world's fairs. The Shanghai World Expo was also the largest World's Fair site ever at 5.28 square km.
That's the funny thing about this list here; superlatives like "largest" keep popping up.

In a stunning coincidence, Mercedes Benz also sponsors one of the original flying saucer megaplexes, the New Orleans Superdome. Speaking of superlatives:

Because of the size and location in one of the major tourist destinations in the United States, the Superdome routinely makes the "short list" of candidates being considered for major sporting events, the Super Bowl, College Football Championship Game and the Final Four.
Bonus Secret Sun Sync: the numerals of my birthday-- 7/01/66-- are also the zipcode of the Superdome.

As you can see the effect of the lighting of the Superdome closely resembles classic illustrations of flying saucers (it also kind of reminds me of that odd water tower in Pushing Tin).

What exactly is going on here? Aren't UFOs supposed to shut-ins and tinfoil hat types? Why are we seeing them used as design inspiration for these buildings? It's strangely reminiscent of the alien themes used in the Olympic Games, both overtly and covertly.

I suppose a UFO megaplex in Astana, Kazahkstan shouldn't surprise anyone familiar with the futuristic architecture of that city. In this case the building is used for an unexpected purpose; the renowned State Circus of Kazakhstan. Of course, the "circus" in question is nothing like a traditional American circus, more like the Cirque du Soleil; a collection of acrobats, dancers and daredevils:

The circus staff is 320 people, most of whom are actors. The troupe includes both young circus performers who were awarded various prizes in Kazakhstan as well as honored masters of circus art, the winners of international festivals and competitions. Besides, within the frames of cooperation among creative teams, Astana circus performers tour in Russia, Uzbekistan, Turkey, and Japan. 

Kazahkstan is an extremely interesting country, not only because it was rumored a few years back to be building an alien embassy. The country also plays host to the world's busiest spaceport:

Baikonur Cosmodrome is the world's first and largest operational space launch facility...It is leased by the Kazakh government to Russia (until 2050) and is managed jointly by the Russian Federal Space Agency and the Russian Aerospace Defence Forces ... Under the current Russian space program, Baikonur remains a busy spaceport, with numerous commercial, military and scientific missions being launched annually. All crewed Russian spaceflights are launched from Baikonur.

Reader Rick sent this mind-boggler- the Singapore Supreme Court building. What's the symbolism at work there?

Speaking of international games, Brazil refurbished this curious building (the Maracanãzinho) next to the stadium used for the 2014 World Cup. It now gives the impression of Jesus greeting a flying saucer. 

How about that for symbolism?

Also in Rio is the Niteroi Contemporary Art Museum, which looks like the craft from the Betty and Barney Hill case.

Speaking of the arts, Reader Andrew points out the Century II concert hall in Wichita, Kansas, another extremely interesting design.

Gordon from Rune Soup reminded me of this building- the Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe, arguably the most important religious icon in Mexico. A classic, 1940s kind of design, like something you'd see in an American International picture.

The world famous Space Needle, the symbol of the City of Seattle, was openly modeled on a flying saucer and built at a time when Seattle was one of the most important centers of the aerospace industry. 

Today Seattle is a world leader in information technology but may soon be on the cutting edge of aerospace again: Elon Musk plans to base the Mars Mission division of SpaceX in Seattle. Will the city build a new monument to mark the occasion?

The Pacific Northwest is the birthplace of the modern Flying Saucer Age. Kenneth Arnold had his famous sighting in the Cascade Mountain range, an event which was predated by the controversial Maury Island incident, in which ring-shaped saucers ejected molten slag, allegedly hitting a salvage boat. 

That incident would eventually lead to the deaths of two Air Force officers and become the topic of heated debate in the endlessly contentious UFO community.

Perhaps the Maury Island incident is less controversial among the movers and shakers of British intelligence, given the fact that their nerve center looks very much like one of the UFOs witnessed at that event. It's also somewhat similar to the Mercedes Benz logo with the indication of the three-pronged fork. Isn't that an interesting coincidence? 

What's the purpose of this building?
The Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) is a British intelligence and security organisation responsible for providing signals intelligence (SIGINT) and information assurance to the British government and armed forces.
Oh yes, just a marginal bunch of UFO hobbyists, surely.

As it happens the future headquarters of Apple Computer shares a similar design, and has been called "the flying saucer" by many observers. Apparently the design was chosen by Steve Jobs himself. For those of you who need a reminder:

Apple is the world's second-largest information technology company by revenue after Samsung Electronics, and the world's third-largest mobile phone maker. On November 25, 2014, in addition to being the largest publicly traded corporation in the world by market capitalization, Apple became the first U.S. company to be valued at over $700 billion.[4] As of 2014, Apple employs 72,800 permanent full-time employees, maintains 437 retail stores in fifteen countries,[5] and operates the online Apple Store and iTunes Store, the latter of which is the world's largest music retailer.
I think the old expression needs to be revised: "Millionaires don't believe in flying saucers, billionaires do."

Toronto City Hall boasts a more traditional flying saucer design, more similar to that of the Superdome. Toronto is the most important city in this G8 country, a major hub for industry and finance:

As Canada's commercial capital, (Toronto) is home to the Toronto Stock Exchange and the headquarters of Canada's five largest banks. Leading economic sectors in the city include finance, business services, telecommunications, aerospace, transportation, media, arts, publishing, software production, medical research, education, tourism, and engineering.   Toronto is considered an alpha world city by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network and is placed among the Global Leaders in the Global Financial Centres Index.

Then there's this interesting detail at the entrance to Sony Pictures in California. Sony is another one of the top corporations in the world, manufacturer of the immensely popular PlayStation gaming console and several other varieties of consumer electronics. Sony Pictures is one of the major studios in the Hollywood system, having acquired Columbia Pictures and several other production companies.

So what's going on here? None of these choices are made lightly. In many cases consultants are paid hundreds of thousands of dollars just to offer their opinion on the design of corporate buildings. Why open their client to ridicule by choosing a design that is based in (an ostensible) marginal subculture?

Every one of these designs was approved by committees and board members and all kinds of important, well-paid individuals. These designs are chosen only after long, exhaustive processes and done so in order to express a message to the world about the entity it represents.

Think about that. Think very, very carefully about that.

UPDATE: Reader Bruno drops some links in the comments section, including this oddity in Brasilia, which looks like a still from The Day the Earth Stood Still.

UPDATE: Hesperia Hotel in Barcelona. Thanks to a reader.


  1. Fascinating post, Chris. Syncs with a post I made the other day on the Dhammakaya temple - a structure not without controversy. Being from Wichita, Kansas, a city linked to Seattle via the aerospace industry, we had Century II, a saucer-shaped convention hall which has long been a draw in Kansas' largest city. And also note the once-popular "Futuro" houses in the 1960's and 70's, popular in the Australian capital city of Canberra and in Scandinavia.

  2. Circles and domes are the most efficient shapes in terms of area covered vs. materials used... and they always look cooler.

    1. That's right. You just keep telling yourself that....

    2. If that is true, why aren't all new constructions circular? I mean, if it's so efficient in terms of materials and area covered (which would mean lower costs presumably) shouldn't it be the gold standard by now (since the knowledge would have undoubtedly been around for a very long time)?

  3. I'd also add, as a sometime physics teacher, that the efficiency of materials and heating is a separate issue from the efficiency of construction. There's a reason that 90 degree angles are called right angles, and that you don't get buildings like this until the 20th Century, for the most part. Without modern materials and technology, it's very hard to build workable buildings that are circular or oval (it can be done--some pagodas and stupas were more or less circular, but they were built from religious motivations, and still weren't as perfectly circular as modern buildings). Even with modern technology, it's relatively expensive to build them; and it's debatable as to whether any efficiencies of heating or volume are offset by the cost of construction and maintenance.

    Thus, I'd agree with Chris that whatever's going on, efficiency, real or imagined, is not it, or is at best a tiny, tiny part of something bigger going on.

    1. Indeed. It can be tested fairly easily too. Try building a box. Then try building a sphere. Which is easier?

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Brasilia is no stranger to this type of architecture...

    The National Congress building:

    The digital TV tower:

    The National Stadium:

    The National Museum:

    The Cathedral seen from above:

    The federal attorney's offices:

    And another shot of Congress, on the occasion of International Water Day:

    - Bruno

    1. What a wild city! Amazing architecture. Thank you, Bruno.

    2. Brasilia, the capital of Brazil, is a modern version of the Egyptian sacred city, Akhetaton.

    3. Got a 404 on that link- you have a backup?

    4. The one which looks like a still from The Day the Earth Stood Still also resembles the houses in a painting of a Mandan village by George Catlin, ca. 1833. Amazing how they made that village.

    5. Pictus I read a couple of lines from this link yesterday -
      Got to the bit about the parallels 15 and 20 and it dawned on me they may relate to biblical parallels.

    6. Chris, I elaborated a little bit:

  5. Not trying to be silly here, but I did want to point out the sponsorship (sponsor's ship?) of several UFO-shaped halls by a major German industrial powerhouse cannot help but raise the stench of that old Sci-Fi bugaboo, the Nazi UFO. I am in no way advocating that Iron Sky stuff, but I will point out that Washington State, home of Boeing, is a perfect and (in the 1940s) nicely remote place to bring some captured Axis tech for test runs and R&D. Hence, the visions of Saint Kenneth.

    Many of those old Nazi scientists came to work for us here in the good ol' USA. Perhaps there is a grain of truth to the Wunderwaffe stuff, prototypes and ideas that didn't see fruition until some American elbow grease was applied to the equation? Decades later, we might finally be past the R&D stage.

    By the 1970s we were all snug in the NATO bed together, and relations between the two nations were a lot better by that point, so the US may have asked Mercedes to join in the project, even lead some aspect of it. They certainly have both the tools and the talent to contribute. The pride in being a part of the project, maybe even being the ones to bring it to fruition, and its sense of homecoming, having started in Germany to begin with, might have inspired some insiders to want to brag about it in a wink-wink way that only the cognoscenti would recognize.

    1. Interesting, but I really don't think there's a connection here. Especially since I am certain the Nazis never built flying saucers.

    2. I also do not believe the Nazis built any "flying saucers", but having seen examples of their "wonder weapons" at the Smithsonian which include a (rather decrepit) surviving Flying Wing, I do suspect they were working on a next-generation family of radar-resistant jet fighters that were barely past the prototype stage at war's end. I suspect we took possession of the development team and the existing materiel and ran with it. I wonder if that's what Kenneth Arnold saw that day - not "saucers", which was more his description of the flight's movement than their shape, but rather a formation of experimental flying wing aircraft whose unconventional designs left even the experienced observer perplexed. Certainly such aircraft and their descendants would be something for which Mercedes was well-suited to develop, if not in whole then for some key components.

      As for Mercedes' sponsorship of UFO-shaped buildings, I might also hazard a guess that this is more a mascot move, same as some companies might employ fanciful Buck Rogers ships or heroes of antiquity to represent some strength or skill they want the consumer to see in them. A representation of advanced, even alien technology is certainly fanciful but in line with an image of an industry-leading and innovative producer of transportation.

      Note that these above whimsies are not exclusive - that Mercedes may have done these things for these reasons yet also be involved in other endeavors. In fact, were they in need of camouflage such concurrent projects and PR would make an excellent smoke screen. Egad, I might be doing their work for them!

    3. Did the wonder weapons fly several thousand miles an hour like the objects clocked by Arnold? No. And Mercedes isn't in the aerospace business anymore so I'm afraid I really don't see the connection.

    4. I have to say I file "Nazi UFOs" in the same drawer as Von Braun Revelations and Project Blue Beam- the counterintelligence disinformation drawer. I think I've proven both B-Beam and the UFOs to be hoaxes, and I think any intelligent person can use their best judgement on Rosin being alive as to the veracity of her claims, whether or not she believes them. Spook disinformation on the topic cuts both ways, in fact it cuts the Pilky-Wilky way more often than not these days.

  6. Well, if I was going to hide a broadbased test using particle accelerators, I would build it like that.

    It would be interesting to talk to the contractors involved in basement construction. Usually, that is very compartmentalized. Funny how the specs for delivery systems tend to match those not really designed for water, or waste, or what usually works.

    The plumbers in Las Vegas use special grade stainless steel, oversized, for water.

    It is not what is on top, it is what is underground. I guess the gothic construction has become techno.

  7. Sigh....Just when I'm ready to turn my back on Terence McKenna and his crazy talk about the U.F.O. being a transcendental object at the end of time, blah, blah, I visit The Secret Sun and find the Billionaires have been building mother-ships. Is this what the world looks like when a Cargo Cult has access to billions of dollars?

    1. It would seem so. And it would seem Robert Bigelow is not in fact an outlier.

  8. Wow. That sony one looks a bit like Apple's, if you look a the structure.

    I think those two resemble some of the Dogon tribes buildings, it's the pillars I reckon.

    1. Funny about the architects. I don't think too many people lose sleep what they think these days.

  9. I suppose this is predictive prep for the "alien" phase Von Braun warned of- I wonder how tolerant the aliens will be of that billionaire predatory parasite schtick once the "elect" take off for Beta Antares 4- Wouldn't it be a hoot if that Hostess Sno-Ball on Sunset Blvd., the Cinerama Dome, was closer to the proper design? Stick two of those together and you have the Death Star- An orb always seemed the natural design for space objects that mattered- (Synch-toid: If you run my social security number in sequence, 3 digits/2 digits/4 digits, you get a matching pair of 9-11's)

    1. What's the Hostess Sno-Ball? Got a link?

    2. I think this is what he's talking about:

      Bonus Kubrick sync (Barry Lyndon poster)

    3. Ah, that's your standard type of dome. See my "Dome Obelisk" posts for more on that.

  10. For a second there I was worried that the new visitor centre they are building at Stonehenge will be a spaceship too! It's interesting similar but less glam.
    It's very spaceship like inside though despite being a weird shape on the exterior; interesting lighting.

    About the spaceship drawings from the Dogon Tribes caves ('These drawings show a flying saucer - it looks like that very familiar shape - coming out of the sky and landing
    on three legs, then it shows the beings in the ship making a big hole in the ground, filling it with water, jumping out of the ship into the water, and coming up to the edge of the water. ' )

    Well I can think of a couple of other alien invasions involving three legs. The tripods and The Day of The Triffids.

    That story also me think of the ditch (moat) that's dug around castles and places such as avebury, and how the Pyramids are said to have been surrounded with water.

    I'm straying.

    1. Oh Chris I have too much to say I know but this is so funny.
      If you look at the triffids on the front cover of this book...
      It's almost certainly inspired by this...
      (Yaie Masquerade, Bansie Village, Burkina Faso, 2006)


  12. First post after years of lurking. One of the best blogs on the net. Thankyou.

    Now to the point. All this reminds me of:


  13. The Bean - Chicago.

  14. Hey Chris with the work you've done in the past regarding Nine - Have you come across The Universal House of Justice, which is a nine-member body, elected every five years by the entire membership of all national Bahá’í assemblies.

    1. Domes are a whole other very interesting conversation. Another weird cargo cult atavism from who knows when...

    2. Caral in Peru - said to be the oldest town in the world and it looks like that moulton spewing spaceship crash landed there.
      I took a look at the plans for the visitor centre and I'm not too keep on the similarities but I don't think it will ever literally take off but they both resemble a
      I've also been looking at the reviews for Tomb Raider which I never got around to watching (late I know!) and it lead me straight to Angkor which in an odd way tides in. So what would happen if this is just a trend, unlikely as I feel we are all being influenced by fate but what if... and people build temples without knowing it but don't treat it like one I wonder.

  15. I think it's an interesting and possible connection - that would speak more of the billionaire mindset than actuality of UFO's, but hey...a couple things to consider: that realistically, a round, modernized UFO shape stands out, so that is a possibility. Simply that they wanted a building to be very very visible. Then there is the whole Bucky Fuller geodesic dome, which inspired many designs. However, even if I ignore stadiums, because hey, the hemisphere is a natural standard for any stadium (I mean really - were the Romans then aware of UFOs because of their stadiums?) there remains a compelling argument for the sheer weirdness of many of these designs. I also suspect that the message may be less a 'shout out' to UFOs, or indicative of knowledge of such, than just the UFO, in art, in conceptual thought, almost always represents the future - as well as a proving ground for architects, given the difficulty in construction. Still, given all those quiet realistic points, there i s indeed a rather startling and deep resonance I experience when looking at them. One that I can't quite place any specifics on...something dreamily nostalgic/homesick/far futuristic-ish. Kind of an inexplicable longing. Which makes me think ofthe circle as a very very deep part of the human psyche - medicine wheels, campfires, that sort of mythic level. square buildings do not make me wonder like that. Intriguing, very intriguing.

  16. Some very interesting opinions. Thank you for this.

  17. This post was pure excellence and so were the comments.

  18. Hesperia Hotel tower in Barcelona

    Old Mythology joining New Mythology (UFO landing at the top of the UN?)


    "The construction of The Egg began in 1966 and was completed twelve years later in 1978. The Egg was designed by Wallace Harrison for all the people of New York State and to accommodate many events and performances.

    Architecturally, The Egg is without precedent. From a distance it seems as much a sculpture as a building. Though it appears to sit on the main platform, the stem that holds The Egg actually goes down through six stories deep into the Earth. The Egg keeps its shape by wearing a girdle – a heavily reinforced concrete beam that was poured along with the rest of the shell. This beam helps transmit The Egg’s weight onto the supporting pedestal and gives the structure an ageless durability that belies its nickname.
    The building’s curved exterior defines the interior statement as well. There are virtually no straight lines or harsh corners inside The Egg. Instead, walls along the edge curve upward to meet gently concave ceiling light for celestial effect. The backs of performing areas are fanned – inviting one inward – providing an intimacy impossible in a conventional theatre. And throughout, walls of Swiss pearwood veneer add warmth and enhance the acoustics in the theatres."

  20. Vimanas...

  21. Wow!

  22. it is quite fascinating that these buildings inspire a fair amount of thought...if I follow my prior reasoning, I seem to be considering combination of realistic explanations and some more esoteric considerations. on an esoteric level, I would think some of Jung's UFO theory as having a connection to these. What actually happened mentally, when I was writing out my thoughts about realistic aspects -futurism, architects just wanting to make a stand out building etc, was tat I initially had in mind a disagreement with what you were proposing - until I realized that you weren't proposing anything specific. Which led me to an understanding that the purpose of many of your posts is to generate thought about a particular subject or idea, concept and that sort of thing. Which I now see is the purpose of many of your posts. well, for me anyway. Since I naturally tend towards a kind of lateral thinking, where I play connect the dots in whatever manner I see fit, synchronism (I prefer to call it that, not because I don't believe there's anything mystical, but because I rather doubt i have attained anything mystical) makes sense to me. So it's no longer quiet disagreement, it's "Hmn, never thought about it that way." Bravo!

  23. There is "The Egg" in Albany, NY which overlooks the Nelson A. Rockefeller Empire State Plaza Performing Arts Center:

  24. Why is our government hiding crashed UFOs from us? Find out more in The Blue Planet Project:

  25. As usual, coming to this conversation late. Vegas in the late 60s to early 70s had a bunch of these. Two that I couldn't find pictures of were the Cinedome Theatre and Von Tobel Junior High. But off the Strip were the Landmark and the Convention Center shown in this picture next to each other. h t t p ://

  26. For about six months, I lived next to this place, in a city in southern Poland called Katowice.

    It's name, the Spodek, literally translates in Polish as "saucer." It also plays the theme from Close Encounters every hour on the hour. Sooo... it was a bit of a surreal time.

  27. I am really interested by this blog. There are many things to make me think of things in some different way.

    Perhaps I am missing something here because my English is not 100%. You write about the man who says-

    "I am an Atheist, and always will be. But I believe that your belief is your belief. The only thing we can share is our own experiences and let people make up their own mind. People need to stop forcing their own beliefs onto others."

    "That last statement is curious, given the general live and let live attitude of near-death experiencers. It would seem the fellow is one of those types who thinks anyone disagreeing with him is an intolerable threat, something we see all too often these days."

    When does the man say that anyone disagreeing with him is a threat? does he not say that people need to make up their own mind?

    Just a little bit confused.

    Thank you.

  28. The following structure is greatly missing from the above list:

    Thats a Spodek Arena (literately Saurcer)in Katowice, Poland. You'd be surprised its 45 year old (opened in 1971)