The paper contains a brief historical review of application of thin-walled plastics and composite polymer shells in architecture. Concrete examples show the possibilities of using polymer composites as general (basic) elements of erections of industrial and civil purposes. Potential possibilities of polymer composite shells in architecture are illustrated with 23 pictures. It is shown that thin-walled plastic and composite polymer shells can be used in dwelling domes, spherical radio-parent hangars for radars, large-span covers over markets and exhibitions, high-mountain inns, semi-transparent semi-spherical inns for tourists, transparent sky-lights on the roofs of industrial buildings, and temporary summer cafes. Pneumatic and tent erections made of synthetic materials are not examined in the paper. They are under consideration in other paper of the author. Brief information and the latest references presented in the paper on existing methods of strength analysis of composite thin-walled shells will help to plan the subsequent researches of considered structures. This paper would be useful for researchers who want to begin to work with polymer composite thin-walled structures, for lecturers giving a course of studies on ‘composites in architecture’, and for architects. © 2017, © The Author(s) 2017.