"It’s legendary for being the most hated building in Paris."
June 10, 2015 12:53 PM   Subscribe

 
"It’s legendary for being the most hated building in Paris."

Tour Montparnasse?

*reads link*

Got it in one.
posted by backseatpilot at 12:58 PM on June 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


A couple of those look fine (the two in NY)
posted by Yosemite Sam at 12:59 PM on June 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Missing MIT's Stata Center.
posted by Melismata at 1:01 PM on June 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's a little late, and I didn't parse the text properly - I thought all seven architects where talking about the first building. Saw the first photo, had kind of a meh reaction. Then I scrolled down, and thought Oh this is SO COOL, must be a different article.
posted by Dr Dracator at 1:02 PM on June 10, 2015


I was wondering what happened to the Pompidou Center, which still hurts my eyes every time I see it (though it is perfectly fine inside) and was glad to see it still makes the list.

My own top nomination is either the science center at my former college (also quite pleasant inside) or our city library, which I dislike intensely both inside and out.
posted by bearwife at 1:02 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


They forgot the MetLife Building in NYC (formerly the PanAm building), a monstrosity that's not only hideous in its own right but also completely ruins what would otherwise be a beautiful view up Park Avenue.
posted by holborne at 1:02 PM on June 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


"It’s legendary for being the most hated building in Paris."

Hah, I had no idea it was hated. When I was a kid my family went to the restaurant on the top floor and watched a beautiful sunset, with all the diners applauding the moment the sun disappeared. It was one of my best memories of Paris.

My Dad later recommended a sunset dinner for my brother to propose marriage to his girlfriend, but the weather was bad and the magical moment was not repeated. He had to improvise and propose at the Eiffel Tower or something I think.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:02 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


When I was a kid my family went to the restaurant on the top floor and watched a beautiful sunset, with everyone in attendance applauding the moment. It was one of my best memories of Paris.

Best view of Paris from there. Because you can't see the frackin' Tour Montparnasse from there.

I love how the author doesn't defend the tower so much as criticize the disgusted response to it causing other problems in Paris.
posted by ocschwar at 1:04 PM on June 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


Is the BT Tower "hated"? The Londoners I know seem quite fond of it.
posted by sobarel at 1:06 PM on June 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


I actually really like Empire State Plaza, too. I went to school nearby and would stay on campus during Spring Break, and one of my activities every time was to take the bus into downtown Albany and wander around the plaza.
posted by backseatpilot at 1:06 PM on June 10, 2015


Yosemite Sam: "A couple of those look fine (the two in NY)"

I will take this opportunity to vigorously disagree with you.
posted by Chrysostom at 1:07 PM on June 10, 2015


I hadn't seen the Empire State Plaza one before, I quite like it, its imposing in a way that would fit with quite a few capitals. The Tour Montparnasse looks like something an alien overlord would put down as a reminder of the lack of control over their lives of the oppressed. The Neapolitan estate could be any run down estate, doesn't seem especially interesting.

The BT tower is the one I'm most familiar with, I'm not sure it is any worse than some of the other crap thrown up in London since, the sort of out of date tech look doesn't help of course. Familiarity breeds Meh I expect.
posted by biffa at 1:07 PM on June 10, 2015


Where's Toronto's OCAD building?
posted by Behemoth at 1:09 PM on June 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


It’s legendary for being the most hated building in Paris. I want to defend it not because it’s a particularly beautiful tower, but because of the idea it represents.

Um what? Is this a reason to defend something? Shouldn't you be saying "The architect fucked up something really important and now Paris is probably screwed because this architect fucked up?"

As usual architects defending buildings as if they're talking about art for art's sake and us no-nothing users who just don't get it man. Instead of as users who need buildings to be usable as well as beautiful and full of theoretical statement and so on. And not beautiful in a theoretical sense.
posted by bleep at 1:10 PM on June 10, 2015 [13 favorites]


RTFAing more...Wait people hate Pompidou too? Apparently I am a bigtime contrarian when it comes to Parisian buildings.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:10 PM on June 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


Missing MIT's Stata Center.

At this point nobody's going to defend it. After 10 years, the thing is collecting slime in the various nooks and crannies.
posted by ocschwar at 1:11 PM on June 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


Jeeze, the Tempelhof Airport looks like a prison. Sort of nice looking, as prisons go, but it definitely looks like a prison. I can understand the cases made for all the other buildings (and indeed rather like the starkness of the Empire State Plaza), but I'm not seeing much that's architecturally redeeming for Tempelhof.
posted by yasaman at 1:13 PM on June 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


When I read most hated buildings, I first thought of this.
posted by Zalzidrax at 1:13 PM on June 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


It may be too small of a town to note, but the Martin Tower in Bethelehem, PA should be on the list. It was the last gasp of a dying steel giant, and remains a dark, empty, unoccupied asbestos-ridden black hole on what would otherwise be a lovely small town landscape.
posted by Dashy at 1:15 PM on June 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


I grew up in Albany and here's what I had to say about the south mall aka Empire State Plaza to my friends when this came out.

I do like the state plaza in a certain way. But it is alien and has a nasty cultural import that has only magnified as it echoes to today. Not only did those it displaced lose their homes and communities but they were shunted and concentrated into poor neighborhoods which in many cases have continued to spiral downward.
Still, it was, in part, the contrast of the plaza, brownstone neighborhoods, historic churches, the city and state capital buildings and Washington park that attracted my interest and curiosity (and eye for the myriad potentials and possibilities of public buildings) that drew me to become an architect. So, it is hard to hate a thing that is a part of you.

In general, I think these architects do a pretty poor job defending the creations they write about. Maybe it's enough to say that we learned from all these buildings , but perhaps neither public not architects always learned the right things.
posted by meinvt at 1:15 PM on June 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


I'd like to know what people hate about the Empire State Plaza. Is it the interior spaces? The exterior design looks fine to me.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:15 PM on June 10, 2015


Best view of Paris from there. Because you can't see the frackin' Tour Montparnasse from there.

I used to feel the same way about Tulane's Goldring/Woldenberg Hall. The patio was a lovely place to read because—especially because—you couldn't see the rest of the building from there.

Of the listed seven, the only ones I really dig are the OC Center, the Tempelhof Airport, and the BT tower.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:17 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I expected a list completely made up of Brutalist buildings. Hated by the public, loved by architects. (I really wanted to see the Boston City Hall in here, which I really like.)

People tend to dislike trendy architecture from 20-40 years back. Then architects start to like it again, then the public grows to like it. Brutalism will be reclaimed just as Googie was reclaimed.

I didn't realize that the Pompidou is disliked.
posted by painquale at 1:18 PM on June 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


The BT Tower is the setting of a classic Doctor Who serial that we saw a few months ago. There was a very interesting feature about it narrated by Tony Benn, who was involved in its development. It'd be hard for me to hate on it after that.
posted by immlass at 1:19 PM on June 10, 2015


Thorzdad, it is huge and may thought it out of scale. But, also it replaced many square blocks of "slums" including some real shambles but also some handsome if decrepit housing. All of which was occupied by the disadvantaged and easily displaced. And it was a government project pushed by a governor with a huge personality. Over time the political criticism can be remembered only as cultural objection.
posted by meinvt at 1:19 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I really wanted to see the Boston City Hall in here, which I really like.

Not to be contrary, but God, what an awful building.
posted by Chrysostom at 1:20 PM on June 10, 2015 [13 favorites]


I didn't realize that the Pompidou is disliked.

Lots of people care a lot more about the contents about the Pompidou than about the building itself.

Same deal with the Barbican in London.

they're both crimes against their host cities, however.
posted by ocschwar at 1:21 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I like the Orange County Government Center, but then I also like the Boston City Hall, so I should probably be executed. I imagine the interiors of both buildings to be dreadful, though. Our Brutalist public library was extensively renovated recently and it still looks funny but is lovely inside now.
posted by selfnoise at 1:22 PM on June 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Seconding the hate for Boston City Hall. In part because of the open, desolate brick plaza in front of it.
posted by Hactar at 1:23 PM on June 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


The Tour Montparnasse is actually some sort of monolith left by an alien intelligence to confound the primates in its midst.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:23 PM on June 10, 2015



I like the Orange County Government Center, but then I also like the Boston City Hall, so I should probably be executed.


Just banned from public hearings about proposed buildings.

The only good thing about Boston CIty Hall is that when people hold demonstrations outside it, you cannot question their sincerity.
posted by ocschwar at 1:24 PM on June 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


For those who love the Pompidou, here's a good idea of what it replaced.
posted by bearwife at 1:25 PM on June 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


I know a guy who worked on a D.Liebeskind project. His name is also Daniel, the architect, when addressing him, always called him Peter or Mike or anything other than Daniel. Because he was the Daniel. Defending that pile of poop? Yes, makes perfect sense.

Also Tempelhof is a stupidly large building but the runways/park it has been turned into are fantastic. And the whole thing is a really nice building, good spaces, interesting.
posted by From Bklyn at 1:26 PM on June 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Best view of Paris from there. Because you can't see the frackin' Tour Montparnasse from there.

This gag, which is also alluded to in the article, has a long history in Paris:
Guy de Maupassant was one of a fair number of 19th-century Parisians who did not care for the Eiffel Tower. He often ate lunch in the restaurant at its base, not out of preference for the food but because it was only there that he could avoid seeing its otherwise unavoidable profile.
I wonder if before that there was a story about a monk who hated Notre-Dame so much he ate his lunch in a belltower, etc.
posted by Ian A.T. at 1:28 PM on June 10, 2015 [20 favorites]


Yeah, upon review, note that all of the buildings listed are from essentially the same time period (60s-70s). They're all in the middle of the wave of unpopularity that follows architecture throughout history. Time will vindicate most of these buildings. But OK, maybe not the Boston City Hall, no matter how much I like that threatening ogroid block in a huge brick wasteland.

For a modern building that architects admire and nearly everyone else loathes, I nominate the new Barclay's Center in Brooklyn. (Like the Boston City Hall, it would also make a good setting for a camp of cannibals in a Fallout game.)
posted by painquale at 1:28 PM on June 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


As usual architects defending buildings as if they're talking about art for art's sake and us no-nothing users who just don't get it man. Instead of as users who need buildings to be usable as well as beautiful and full of theoretical statement and so on. And not beautiful in a theoretical sense.

There is a rising voice of critics wishing to stop the demolition of modern architecture from the 50s and 60s. They say that the buildings are classics and that a lot of the hatred for those buildings is as misplaced as the earlier hatred for Victorian architecture and old townscapes. Yet they fail to admit that those who once wished to demolish old streets and Victorian buildings are the very same people who built the monsters of the 50s and 60s.

As for Boston City Hall, it might please folk to learn that its rip-off, Birmingham Central Library, has lately been demolished. And yes, some silly fools wanted to preserve it.
posted by Thing at 1:28 PM on June 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


I really wanted to read a defense of the Ryugyong Hotel
posted by T.D. Strange at 1:28 PM on June 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


The Tour Montparnasse is actually some sort of monolith left by an alien intelligence Egyptian Gods to confound the primates in its midst.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:31 PM on June 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Barclay's Center in Brooklyn

I like it, it rounded out the hard brutalist angles that made previous Star Destroyer models less approachable.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:33 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


More disturbed by the fact that these buildings are displacing neighborhoods full of people. I'd never seen that pre-Pompidou photo before, huh.
posted by Melismata at 1:36 PM on June 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


I really wanted to read a defense of the Ryugyong Hotel

It actually looks great now, as long as you don't ask too many questions about the interior.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:36 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I was lucky enough to fly into Tempelhof not too long before it closed. Most of it was already closed and the main hall was kind of messed up because they lowered the ceiling to about half its original height. But the most interesting thing was landing, in a not-too-small commercial jet, that then seemingly taxied inside the terminal building since the cantilevered curve described in the article basically acted as a carport for jets. The building is stupifyingly large.
posted by lagomorphius at 1:37 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]




I just feel like instead of "Oh well, people always hate buildings of the past, so popular criticism must be meaningless, we should ignore it, no one knows what they're talking about" we should be hearing more of "We are still not that good at designing buildings that people really like and find usable. We should be doing better."
posted by bleep at 1:38 PM on June 10, 2015 [15 favorites]


Centre Pompidou is great if you're trying to get the historical weight of Paris off you for a little bit. It's like a palate cleanser.
posted by leotrotsky at 1:42 PM on June 10, 2015 [12 favorites]


At this point nobody's going to defend it. After 10 years, the thing is collecting slime in the various nooks and crannies.

I like to think this is a response by the city's immune system to slowly encase it in slime and begin to break it down into useful nutrients.

I swear walking around inside that felt like being in a buggy video game.
posted by The Whelk at 1:43 PM on June 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


The Pompidou has to be the ugliest building I've ever seen. I looks like mad-man's attempt to create a human-sized hamster maze or that he had to throw together a model from erector sets and old vacuum cleaner parts. Add to that the charmless concrete slab reflecting heat and sunlight into all it's glorious dinginess...

yeah, that's a part of Paris I hope I'll never see again.

Did I mention that I'm not a fan?

I feel like so much of the aesthetics of the 60s-70s in art, architecture, clothing, literature, etc, was focused on "shock" and "challenge" and "confronting social norms" and now just feels like having to listen to someone's angry protest 40 years after it stopped being relevant.
posted by ghostiger at 1:43 PM on June 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


OK, now do Boston City Hall! I dare you!
posted by leotrotsky at 1:43 PM on June 10, 2015


> Where's Toronto's OCAD building?

I'll see that and raise you the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal. That fucking thing looks like a Transformer in mid-transform, and the inside is just as ugly and dysfunctional.
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:44 PM on June 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


Tour Montparnasse?

Now I have to say that this is a damned ugly building, but the beauty that you see from it - particularly at sunset - makes it an architectural marvel. One of the most marvelous structures in Paris.
posted by three blind mice at 1:45 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I feel like so much of the aesthetics of the 60s-70s in art, architecture, clothing, literature, etc, was focused on "shock" and "challenge" and "confronting social norms" and now just feels like having to listen to someone's angry protest 40 years after it stopped being relevant.

And the modern art inside! It's all just a bunch of different colored squares! My toddler nephew could do that!
posted by Drinky Die at 1:46 PM on June 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


Defended by people who don't have to work in these places.
posted by Ideefixe at 1:46 PM on June 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


I always felt that if evil aliens or supervillians were plotting world domination their first step would be secure office space at The Shard. I find that building terrifying.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 1:47 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Best view of Paris from there. Because you can't see the frackin' Tour Montparnasse from there.

I lived in Hell's Kitchen for many years and when they put up the "zebra building" directly in our view, I suggested to my wife that we move into it for this very reason.
posted by JaredSeth at 1:49 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


People who like Boston City Hall: I'm curious. Have you been inside, and if so, did you have some goal you needed to accomplish while there?

I am not adverse to Brutalism in general, and I can sort of, maybe, see an argument for the aesthetic appeal of Boston City Hall's exterior. Maybe. If I ignore the useless, wind-swept, plaza surrounding it. But the interior is horrifying -- it makes no sense, the building systems do not work properly, and the use of space is appalling. It's the kind of public structure where you really do expect to find a "Beware of Leopard" sign (and that just while looking for the restrooms, which were in some bizarre semi-basement accessible only via one stair). It fails at the goal of being a comfortable building for human beings to exist within.

Interestingly enough, Boston City Hall also has a very divided Yelp page.
posted by pie ninja at 1:49 PM on June 10, 2015 [9 favorites]




Based entirely on that photograph, which I would imagine presents it in the best possible light, I like the Empire State Plaza.
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:53 PM on June 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's the kind of public structure where you really do expect to find a "Beware of Leopard" sign (and that just while looking for the restrooms, which were in some bizarre semi-basement accessible only via one stair).

See, that sounds awesome. It sounds like Hogwarts.
posted by painquale at 1:54 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I was expecting more postmodern stuff in the list. But maybe they couldn't find architects to defend it. (I like most pomo stuff, but architects seem to hate it.)
posted by persona au gratin at 1:59 PM on June 10, 2015


I really wanted to read a defense of the Ryugyong Hotel

Somebody built a defense of it in London. That fucking Shard is so derivative of it.
posted by ocschwar at 2:00 PM on June 10, 2015


Related, sort of. People REALLY hate the Portland Building. You really have to see it in person to appreciate how much the blue tile makes it look like a giant public toilet.
posted by peep at 2:01 PM on June 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


And the modern art inside! It's all just a bunch of different colored squares! My toddler nephew could do that!

hehe, touche

speaking of brutalist, I'm a little sad my Alma Mater didn't make the list with the ever warm and inviting Wean Hall
posted by ghostiger at 2:03 PM on June 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


I was all ready to get my eyesore on but awwwww, I love the BT Tower. Is there a building version of being a crouton petter?

I have a pretty serious love-hate relationship with Béton brut, though, if anyone wants to get into a yelling match about that (either side!) I'll be right here.
posted by everybody had matching towels at 2:03 PM on June 10, 2015


I totally do not get the hate for the EMP building in Seattle. It's lovely, playful, and exactly what it should be.

Then again, I think the Centre Pompidou is a breath of fresh air.
posted by teleri025 at 2:04 PM on June 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


Oh, one of the man of twists and turn's links included the Hoover FBI Building in DC, I'd forgotten about that. A stunningly awful building.
posted by Chrysostom at 2:05 PM on June 10, 2015


the Hoover FBI Building in DC, I'd forgotten about that. A stunningly awful building.

Unlike some of the others mentioned, that one might not be too much longer for this Earth. The FBI is actively looking for somewhere, anywhere else to go, and I can't imagine whoever buys the property once they've vacated will keep it around.
posted by Copronymus at 2:11 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah, upon review, note that all of the buildings listed are from essentially the same time period (60s-70s). They're all in the middle of the wave of unpopularity that follows architecture throughout history. Time will vindicate most of these buildings.

No. It won't.
posted by ocschwar at 2:15 PM on June 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


This is mostly Architectural Pornography, concerned with the look of the facade, and not how well they worked for people to inhabit and communicate in. Other than the Vele di Scampia this is entirely about how buildings look as a photograph in a facile Architectural Magazine.
posted by nickggully at 2:20 PM on June 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


I didn't dislike the aesthetics of any of the buildings on the list, actually I like most of them. Maybe it's because they seem iconic, and have such a powerful sense of self...?
posted by nikoniko at 2:22 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I used to despise the EMP building, however recently I went back to Seattle and realized it does have a certain goofy charm. And it is rather lovely when the light strikes it just right.

If you want ugly, try Evergreen State College. The entire campus looks like someone dropped an East German military installation into the forest.
posted by evilcupcakes at 2:22 PM on June 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


ROTFL

Related Posts
...
new theories regarding depression

posted by Melismata at 2:24 PM on June 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


Minnesota represent. I give you Saint Paul's Spruce Tree Center.

More commentary.

A less-flattering wintertime view.
posted by gimonca at 2:27 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


"Connections to Hitler" explains a lot of these.
posted by turbid dahlia at 2:36 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Brutal.
posted by sexyrobot at 2:38 PM on June 10, 2015




Any conversation about ugly buildings that references the EMP but ignores the monstrosity that is the new Seattle Central Library is wrong.

I walk past that blight on the landscape every day and I never hate it less.
posted by dotgirl at 2:44 PM on June 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


Dublin:

Hawkins House

River House (about 200 metres from my house)

Newman Building, UCD

DIT Kevin Street
posted by kersplunk at 2:47 PM on June 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


Dublin wins.
posted by JohnR at 2:51 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'll see that and raise you the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal. That fucking thing looks like a Transformer in mid-transform, and the inside is just as ugly and dysfunctional.

The older building the Crystal is attacking engaging in dialog with is quite nice.
posted by sebastienbailard at 2:56 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think that neither the Montparnasse tower or the Pompidou are "hated" today

I challenge you to find a postcard featuring the Montparnasse in any Paris bodega.

You might find some for the Pompidou, but the affection people have for it is because of the art inside.

People just don't have the energy to rant about these buildings all the time, when they can't get the money together to demolish them and replace them with something better. But they are hated. And will be hated until they are torn down.
posted by ocschwar at 2:56 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


The problem with most of these examples are not the buildings per se, but that they lack context within the cityscape surrounding them (which could still be regarded as a failure of architecture, buildings don't exist in isolation). Slap the Tour Montparnasse downtown in just about any other city in the world and it would be completely unremarkable.

One of my favourite recent developments in Sydney is Central Park, not because of my opinion on the aesthetics of the complex itself, but because it gives the unloved UTS Tower standing next to it some context. Where before the UTS tower was standing alone on the southern fringes of the CBD it now has a neighbour that echoes its mass on the skyline, however wildly different their architectural styles. Really changed the way I thought of both buildings when I saw them together. It's is worth noting that the Tower was originally conceived as a group of 3 or more matched buildings, which again would have given the tower some kind of relationship with the city around it.

But then I am the kind of joyless swat who loves a lot of brutalist architecture and thinks the Barbican is amazing. I really don't think that cities should be preserved in amber.
posted by arha at 2:58 PM on June 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


I vividly recall turning the corner and seeing the Pompidou for the first time and saying, "Holy shit, it's the Beverly Center."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:58 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah, upon review, note that all of the buildings listed are from essentially the same time period (60s-70s). They're all in the middle of the wave of unpopularity that follows architecture throughout history. Time will vindicate most of these buildings.

Not speaking specifically about the buildings in the OP, but the 60's and 70's buildings I'm familiar with that are criticised, are criticised because they were utter failures as buildings for people to live and work in from day one. Fashion doesn't come into it so much. The theory behind a lot of these buildings is great, but if reality doesn't agree, you can't say "well, the theory is right, reality is wrong".

For example the Brutalist WIkipedia page summarises:
"Concrete is used for its raw and unpretentious honesty, contrasting dramatically with the highly refined and ornamented buildings constructed in the elite Beaux-Arts style. Surfaces of cast concrete are made to reveal the basic nature of its construction"
but obviously from the Dublin links, raw concrete is a spectacularly crappy building material for northern Europe - looks horrible when weathered, especially when it's overcast, and can give big dampness and condensation problems inside.
posted by kersplunk at 3:02 PM on June 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


My favorite hometown concrete building. Interior.

The museum is one of three poured-in-place concrete structures built by Mercer. The others include his home Fonthill and the Moravian Pottery and Tile Works, both of which are located one mile from the museum.

Mercer decided to build with concrete after the Great Boston Fire of 1872 destroyed his aunt's prized collection of medieval armor, which had been stored in wooden structures. He did not want his own collections to suffer the same fate. Locals mocked his choice of building materials, but on completion of the museum, he lit a bonfire on its roof to prove that it was fireproof [1]. Mercer's museum was an early demonstration of rebar-reinforced concrete as a structural material.

posted by Drinky Die at 3:10 PM on June 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


Missing MIT's Stata Center.

Nah, the Stata Center was a financial boondoggle and doesn't function well as a building (the roof leaks, it's easy to get lost inside, it embraces the dreadful multi-story open office plans so the third floor can hear the fifth floor's team meeting, it is 50% named after the Gates), but at least it's interesting to look at, mold or not. I don't even think the Stata Center is the ugliest building on MIT campus - I lived across the athletic fields from Simmons Hall when it was being built and I swear, every new layer of wall and facade they put in, the uglier it got. It was almost impressive. But then half of MIT's campus was designed in the IMPei concrete mold. The Institute really is a remarkable Fuck You to Harvard Yard.

But most hated building in the Boston area is easily, without question, City Hall and its wasted plaza. That's what they destroyed the West End for. That.
posted by maryr at 3:10 PM on June 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


My own top nomination is either the science center at my former college (also quite pleasant inside) or our city library, which I dislike intensely both inside and out.

Visit any college campus. Find the ugliest building on campus. Congratulations! You have just found the engineering department.
posted by maryr at 3:13 PM on June 10, 2015 [12 favorites]


I would argue that isn't the case at Drexel, but then that just isn't a very pretty campus to begin with. I remember walking over the border to the Penn campus and feeling like when the Wizard of Oz goes into color mode.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:21 PM on June 10, 2015


"It’s legendary for being the most hated building in Paris."

Tour Montparnasse?


The Tour Montparnasse doesn't do much for me, but I have always found it amusing that for many decades it seems the most-loathed building in Paris was the Eiffel Tower. And like a lot of hated buildings everywhere, it is ungainly, out of scale to its surroundings, and built in a weird and jarring style. Seems to me Victor Hugo once wrote that he enjoyed eating lunch there because it was the one place in the city he didn't have to look at the Eiffel Tower.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:24 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


The problem with the Orange County Government Center is that it's more sculpture than building, and as a result fails at the latter. It's been a maintenance nightmare for decades now.
posted by NoxAeternum at 3:24 PM on June 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


Yes, I think the defenders of these various buildings should be sentenced to be in charge of their maintenance for as long as they stand.
posted by ursus_comiter at 3:48 PM on June 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


ricochet biscuit: "Seems to me Victor Hugo once wrote that he enjoyed eating lunch there because it was the one place in the city he didn't have to look at the Eiffel Tower."

Some French writer, at any rate.
posted by Chrysostom at 3:51 PM on June 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Not speaking specifically about the buildings in the OP, but the 60's and 70's buildings I'm familiar with that are criticised, are criticised because they were utter failures as buildings for people to live and work in from day one. Fashion doesn't come into it so much.

Maybe they're not that usable, but those buildings are explicitly criticized for being ugly, and I think that's where most of the hatred comes from. If they looked unremarkable but didn't function well, they wouldn't be on these lists. The aesthetic dislike probably comes first.

Also, I bet complaints about functionality are old hat. Pretty much architectural movement goes through a period of dislike... whenever a style gets replaced, it gets bashed by the proponents of the new hotness. Only when the next new hotness comes about can the grandfather style can be admired on its own terms. I bet that in most of these historical cases, detractors would justify their complaints about a building's form by appealing to its lack of function. (This is just a hunch though; it would be interesting to find out for sure whether buildings from the 60s and 70s really get more complaints about functionality than buildings in previous styles did when they were unpopular and considered ugly.)
posted by painquale at 3:56 PM on June 10, 2015


Any conversation about ugly buildings that references the EMP but ignores the monstrosity that is the new Seattle Central Library is wrong.

My god, yes. I had to walk past that thing on my way to work every day until I figured out there was another bus I could take that bypassed it. I'm told it's quite nice inside, but the extraterrestrials in charge of its design gave it such an offensively unwelcoming exterior that I have never felt the slightest desire to find out for myself.

At least the EMP is sort of amusing in its bizarre blobbishness; the library is all angular prison-walled tipped-over gloom.
posted by Mars Saxman at 4:02 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


the library is all angular prison-walled tipped-over gloom.

My mental referent for it is "The glass mushroom", at which point it looks cool and useful.
posted by CrystalDave at 4:18 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I love the Boston City Hall, and I love that it is an open public space, which you see v. little of in Boston (Where they keep trying to sell you history tours) and I love the OCAD building for a bunch of complicated decorative reasons. The ROM Shard is an atrocity and does genuine damage to the rest of the building. I also hate profoundly mid 90s Canadian Civic Architechture, Canada Place in Edmonton might be my least favourite building.
posted by PinkMoose at 4:43 PM on June 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Also, I love the Seattle CEntral Library, and it seems practical, plus the books are central. I have worked in the EMP and it is impossible to find your way around.
posted by PinkMoose at 4:44 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


The BT Tower is fine as a cell-phone tower but fucking hideous as architecture. ALSO I would like to object that the NY Times has its style wrong; towers have "antennas" because technological plurals are anglicized; only bugs and aliens have "antennae."

BUT NOT ALIENS IN ROBOT SUITS.

The problem with modern wide-span architecture is that you can make stupidly large ugly buildings. Plenty of these would be just little local oddities if they weren't GINORMOUS.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:52 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Visit any college campus. Find the ugliest building on campus. Congratulations! You have just found the engineering department.

Thankfully this is changing, as the brutalist-era sputnik-funded buildings are aging out of usefulness and being replaced with entirely unremarkable glass cubes. Much, much more pleasant inside.

My old department had ceilings that dripped what appeared to be soy sauce into the hallways.
posted by alycoop at 4:56 PM on June 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


Also, those brutalist playgrounds give me the SCREAMING HEEBIE JEEBIES, i had a visceral "noooo all my soft human skin" reaction at the Barbican and i'm not expected to CLIMB ON IT
posted by alycoop at 4:57 PM on June 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


speaking of brutalist, I'm a little sad my Alma Mater didn't make the list with the ever warm and inviting Wean Hall


my favorite story about mother wean is that once it was on fire and people in the clusters didn't know until folks from a more different cluster sent them pictures.

i also appreciate how it was such a great space for capture the flag.
posted by you could feel the sky at 5:07 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I was once Wean Hall for Halloween. It was a scary costume. I won a prize.

So, next Halloween, consider going as a large Brutalist building. Bonus points if you can somehow pull off sexy large Brutalist building, I guess.
posted by tss at 5:16 PM on June 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


This list does not include the EMP, and I am certain that's because they could find no one to defend it.
posted by OHenryPacey at 5:35 PM on June 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Nobody has mentioned my favorite ugly building: the Fuji Television building in Odaiba. It looks like it was built with an Erector Set.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:38 PM on June 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


lol, said like it's an insult.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:41 PM on June 10, 2015


Jason and Margaret Harrington's house at 1416 Sauls Ave. in Tallahassee, FL. The neighboorhood association keeps bitching about the scalloped shingles but I think they're fine.
posted by Cookiebastard at 5:45 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Just doing a drive-by to dump the eye-boggling, contrarian and delightfully rage-inducing Jonathan Meades doco Bunkers, Brutalism and Bloodymindedness. Useful for Godwin-ing your architect friends....
posted by prismatic7 at 5:47 PM on June 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


Jason and Margaret Harrington's house at 1416 Sauls Ave. in Tallahassee, FL. The neighboorhood association keeps bitching about the scalloped shingles but I think they're fine.

What about the non-native ornamental grass? You have to drawn the line somewhere.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:48 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I have zero issues with brutalism, my own local university has a brutalist library (like every other university). My main beef with brutalism is most architects that designed brutalist buildings either didn't consider the humans that would work in or visit it, or they willfully ignored them for the sake of art. To me, a building that is not designed with its utility in mind is like a painting done in ultraviolet shades or a supersonic sonata: you're intentionally making it difficult for people to appreciate your art. A building need not be ascetically pleasing, or fit in with its surroundings, but please don't ignore the fundamental ways humans interact with buildings.

That being said, that all-concrete brutalist playground slide (which may have used to be lined with metal) is fantastic.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 5:48 PM on June 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


speaking of brutalist, I'm a little sad my Alma Mater didn't make the list with the ever warm and inviting Wean Hall

I spent three years locked in the basement* of that prison, still have nightmares about it.

*the basement on the 4th floor, which makes sense when you're there.
posted by octothorpe at 5:49 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'll see that and raise you the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal. That fucking thing looks like a Transformer in mid-transform

Nah, the scoutship that OCAD sent out crash-landed into the building.

And, respectfully, ain't neither of those buildings got nothing on Robarts.

It is a fucking turkey.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:49 PM on June 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


The ornamental geegaws they are adding to Robards are like 10000 times uglier than the Concerte Peacock itself
posted by PinkMoose at 5:53 PM on June 10, 2015


...and actually I kind of like that Barclay's arena dealie.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:02 PM on June 10, 2015


O. My. God. The Portland Building. It figured in the first mention of postmodernism there ever was, in the early 80s. Well I guess it's got to stay now, it's iconic.
posted by glasseyes at 6:19 PM on June 10, 2015


If you want ugly, try Evergreen State College. The entire campus looks like someone dropped an East German military installation into the forest.

Hey now! I mean, I'm not going to exactly defend Evergreen's architecture, but I'll just say that anyone voicing the above sentiment clearly has not spent enough time at North Seattle Community College, which makes Evergreen look like a a Frank Lloyd Wright bungalow in comparison.
posted by Kat Allison at 6:41 PM on June 10, 2015


(I mean seriously, I have never been so glad not to get hired at a place in my life.)
posted by Kat Allison at 6:42 PM on June 10, 2015


Reading the thread has made me realise....I love Brutalism. Love those playgrounds, love the Gerrman airport (looks like a municipal lido to me) love the Orange County Government Center, which looks a lot like some of the modernist concrete showcases I grew up with in Nigeria.

Oh, Post Modern Classicism. It was an architectural term before it ever meant anything else.
posted by glasseyes at 6:43 PM on June 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


As somebody who spends several hours a week in Boston City Hall, yes, I can vouch for its awfulness and nonsensicalness inside. On one side of the building, the elevator once got stuck between the third and fifth floors. No, the people couldn't get out on the fourth floor, because there isn't one.

If you ever feel like being really depressed, walk up the stairs in the central atrium (now retitled the "Stairs of Wonderfulness" or something like that, because somebody put neon-colored strips on them). Look up. Way up. Way, way up. You'll feel the entire weight of the giant concrete building on your shoulders and then, at the very top, is a tiny little window that makes you feel like you're at the bottom of the world's deepest concrete well, from which there is no escape.
posted by adamg at 6:46 PM on June 10, 2015 [13 favorites]


If you ever feel like being really depressed, walk up the stairs in the central atrium (now retitled the "Stairs of Wonderfulness" or something like that, because somebody put neon-colored strips on them). Look up. Way up. Way, way up. You'll feel the entire weight of the giant concrete building on your shoulders and then, at the very top, is a tiny little window that makes you feel like you're at the bottom of the world's deepest concrete well, from which there is no escape.

I think your description just gave me vertigo.
posted by NoxAeternum at 6:51 PM on June 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


love the Orange County Government Center, which looks a lot like some of the modernist concrete showcases I grew up with in Nigeria.

Here's the thing - as a work of art and sculpture, it's brilliantly evocative, even if what it symbolized was at best a highly aspirational goal for the Hudson Valley area.

But as a building...well, it's a really shitty one. The design led to it having a multitude of flat roofs. And as someone who grew up in Orange County, NY, I can firmly attest that rain is not an uncommon occurrence there. The result is that the building had a reputation for being more leaky than your average sieve. And that's just ONE of the reoccurring problems with the place, which from what I had heard was a miserable place to have to be in.
posted by NoxAeternum at 6:58 PM on June 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


I lived across the athletic fields from Simmons Hall when it was being built and I swear, every new layer of wall and facade they put in, the uglier it got. It was almost impressive.

Some time around 2AM, go out to Vassar Street across from Simmons Hall, about 20' into the field from the Vassar St sidewalk.

Clap your hands just once. The echo will sound like a rattle.

Simmons is the accoustic counterpart of a bicycle reflector.

And that's the only good thing I can say about it.
posted by ocschwar at 7:11 PM on June 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


When I read most hated buildings, I first thought of this.

This makes me think of that fake New York casino thing in Vegas only without the kitschy fun factor.
posted by MikeMc at 7:39 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


New York quite underrepresented in the comments, maybe because the mass of buildings makes it difficult for any one to dominate in ugliness. And I don't mind the MetLife building; the building in front of it (Helmsley Building) blocks the view anyway. It's refreshing not to be able to see all the way down the street.

I can't think of any true eyesores other than the 2 buildings with no windows downtown, and even those aren't super intrusive. Some people have complained about 432 Park, but I'm indifferent - think people just need to get used to it.

Toronto: I actually really like the OCAD building, mainly because I always wondered how one goes up inside it. The ugliest building in the city is without question the Robarts library.
posted by pravit at 7:59 PM on June 10, 2015


If you look from down the street, you can see the escalator shaft (red) between the old building and the representative of the Lego People new.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:10 PM on June 10, 2015


Brutalism for cats.
posted by Countess Elena at 8:16 PM on June 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


Now I'm just happy for all the Wean Hall memories being shared. I always thought the entrance looked like a brutalist turtle head. And since I did both architecture and cs there I have fond memories of both the clusters and the leap (and shuffle). And bottle caps in the form holes of the concrete walls. It was in Wean that I wooed the woman I would spend nineteen years of my life with. Which all shows that whatever the backdrop, we manage to make our human experiences fit within it.
posted by meinvt at 8:18 PM on June 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


I waffle on whether I like OCAD or not. I think maybe it's suffering from placement; maybe if it were in the middle of a forest of skyscrapers it would have the effect of creating an open, sunnier space. I think. As it is, the thing just kinda looms.

And I haaaaaaaaaaaaaaate Nathan Phillips Square. City Hall looks like the Zeltrons from Spindrex B are recharging before takeoff. That bloody terrible walkway cuts off the entire square from the city. The big ceremonial ramp is always closed. The demo rooftop garden, um, gardens are dull and boring and poorly tended. At the very least they could have done a whole Thing showcasing different kinds of green roofs, including ones that produce food. But newp. The new stage is an eyesore, shunting the Eternal Flame off to the side where it'll be seen less is just insulting, and don't even get me started on all those uneven movable slabs. I HATE THE ENTIRE THING. And, to add insult to injury, the multi-million dollar 'refurbishment' of the square is way over budget, and is going to be six or seven years late of its completion date--in 2012. Whichever Resident Evil movie it was, 3? I fucking cheered when they blew that fucker up. Take it down and start over. Digging in direct access to Queen Station would be a great first step.

Still better than the On-Ramp to the Gardiner at Yonge/Dundas though.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:21 PM on June 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


NoxAeternum is spot on about the Orange County Government Center. It's a beautiful piece of art. However, it is (or was, at this point, since its largely unused due to the hurricane damage) only so-so as a building, even when it was new. Inside was kind of neat at first, if you were a visitor using some of the services (DMV, passport office, etc) in the main atrium. Good luck trying to find one of the smaller county department offices upstairs, though. It was like wandering around an Escher painting, which sounds fun if you don't have anything better to do but was a complete nightmare if you had an appointment or time was of the essence. Throw in the bizarrely configured offices and the leaking roofs and you had a dreary hellhole of a workplace.
posted by KingEdRa at 8:27 PM on June 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


I don't hate the Seattle Public Library, though I don't love all of it. The 5th avenue level is a light, open, beautiful space. The stacks are functional and unusual, a long, winding spiral. The escalators from 4th Ave. to 5th are like tunnels to hell.

The EMP, however, is a gem. It's fun on the outside and inside, full of surprises from any angle. It's a smashed guitar, all metal-shiny color and curves.
posted by lhauser at 9:13 PM on June 10, 2015


Dunno if it's famous enough to make a worldwide most hated list but any time someone brings up ugly or inappropriate architecture I think of Blues Point Tower in Sydney.

Who the hell thought plonking that miserable exercise in crappy apartment living in a park next to the harbor bridge was remotely acceptable?
posted by N-stoff at 9:21 PM on June 10, 2015


Surprised to see people hating on the Seattle Central Library. It's one of my favorite buildings. I mean, yes, it is in fact beautiful inside; there's natural light most of the places you'd want to sit to read/work on your computer, and there's all these touches that are both kind of whimsical and kind of really practical, from big things like the book spiral that lets you navigate most of their collection without using stairs to relatively little things like the sound-deadening pillows around the walls of the top publicly accessible floor, making it a quieter space to read in. And all of the weird convolutions of the shell of the building are designed to get natural light everywhere you'd ever want it.

But from the outside? From the outside it's also really gorgeously iconically Seattle. I argue that the Seattle architectural aesthetic for a long while has primarily marked by retrofuturism — the Space Needle, the EMP, the central library, the branch libraries, city hall to some extent, the Googie buildings that used to be all around the city (I still weep — uh, but only a little — for the Ballard Denny's), all of them things that look like yesterday's tomorrow.

Shrug. It's a smart, weird building, and smart and weird are what Seattle's about. I dig it a lot.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 10:02 PM on June 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Some French writer, at any rate.

Thanks. I was typing on my phone waiting for a plane to depart and trusted my swiss-cheese-like memory rather than searching the name out.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:15 PM on June 10, 2015


Thorzdad: I'd like to know what people hate about the Empire State Plaza. Is it the interior spaces? The exterior design looks fine to me.

Have you actually walked around the Empire State Plaza? It's kind of hard to convey the sheer, alienating, arid scale of the place if you haven't been there.

I haven't been to Albany in quite a while now, but when I knew people there, we always stayed a couple blocks from that complex, in a neighborhood where people were often not doing so great, and I was always fascinated/horrified/fascinated by it. It looks like a bunch of enormous fascist space ships. Like profoundly boring Star Destroyers. I was always kind of drawn to it, but I do not wonder why anyone in the area might hate it passionately, or at least have kinda complicated feelings.
posted by brennen at 10:27 PM on June 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Empire State Plaza always seemed like a really great place to have a massive blood rally/execution in, big banners, rivers of blood, torches, totally set up for it.
posted by The Whelk at 10:50 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


The best thing about hte EMpire STate Plaza is the art collection in the basement, which is an oversized, giant example of one man's taste in polite abstraction from the mid century. . But it's really really good work. https://online.ogs.ny.gov/curatorial/artcollection/

The Noland is esp. perfect
posted by PinkMoose at 11:37 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


As for Boston City Hall, it might please folk to learn that its rip-off, Birmingham Central Library, has lately been demolished. And yes, some silly fools wanted to preserve it.

Slated for demolition, but it was certainly still there yesterday. After it closed it stood in for a supposed early-70s MI5 HQ in the BBC's The Game.

Meanwhile its replacement certainly looks fantastic, but it's a pity that having spent nearly £200M on it Birmingham City Council has now cut library opening from 73 hours a week to 40.
posted by Major Clanger at 1:52 AM on June 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Maybe they're not that usable, but those buildings are explicitly criticized for being ugly, and I think that's where most of the hatred comes from. If they looked unremarkable but didn't function well, they wouldn't be on these lists. The aesthetic dislike probably comes first.

To clarify: I'm talking about the 60's/70's Brutalist ones rather than all the ones in the original link (I like Tempelhof, and sorta like Tour Montparnasse and the Pompidou). In many cases these buildings looked fine when built, but looked awful or started falling apart soon after, due to arrogantly ignoring climate and thousands of years of local knowledge about building materials and shape to suit said climate.

Here's another gem less than five minutes from my house: Phibsboro Shopping Centre
posted by kersplunk at 2:28 AM on June 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Inside was kind of neat at first
*swoons*

Here's a photoset of 60s and 70s concrete buildings in Ghana (SLG). The text is quite free with implications of failure, and sometimes the word itself. Even the most wonderful building is going to crumble if it doesn't get the upkeep, and the tropics are a harsh environment, the material world turns over very quickly there. I think a related dynamic of neglect affecting how these buildings function is hinted at Major Clanger's complaint about opening hours above.

I'm not sure if these spiffy Soviet buildings have been featured on Mefi before: anyway, here they are.
posted by glasseyes at 2:43 AM on June 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


And, respectfully, ain't neither of those buildings got nothing on Robarts.
It is a fucking turkey.


One of my professors was involved in the architectural design of that thing. He knew he was in a for a bad day with his architecture students every time it rained, because the library's design team had cared a leetle more about catching the vibe of a Fortress of Solitude for the Evil Emperor than they had about peskety little things like detail design - Robarts Library leaked like a MOFO. I mean... a leaky library.

Personally, I loved it, because whenever I went there i got to pretend like I was a heroic member of the Rebel Alliance infiltrating an Imperial Command Fortress - that sort of motivation is about what it took to get me inside to navigate that ridiculous set of book stacks. And I always made sure to be out of there before sunset. I know direct light is bad for books, but there was something about the slit windows and total lack of interior direction that made me want to throw myself down on the ground and hold tight to the grass and stare up at the sky the minute I got out.

This sort of personal response is what people are thinking when they hate on this sort of stuff. It's not a hate-on of 'old stuff'. It's a reaction to a particular sort of old stuff with a particularly strange sort of inverse relationship between what it looks like and what it uses like: the bigger and bolder the look, the worse the using.

I have no particular sympathy for the sort of architect who defends it on aesthetic grounds. The whole mess (IMhumbleO) goes right back to Le Corbusier and his ilk who got all het up and enamored of the idea of "machines for living in" back in the 1920s. There were all these neat swishy things like cars and planes zooming around and they were all so much cooler than people, and because these fellows were architects instead of engineers, they missed the bit where machines are devices that facilitate action. They were masters, not facilitators. They were modern men with modern building technology and modern materials, and we hadn't tested them yet, but modern man was a man of action, and when le Corbusier said machine, he meant "demolish central Paris and lay down a 24 lane highway." These dudes wanted to take the messy human element right out of the architecture, in favor of square white boxes piled on top of square white boxes. The living part was inconveniently organic, but Mass would mold the Man! Messy no more! You just wait and see!

Only it didn't. Organic tends to trump square corners, biologically speaking. And a generation or so later, we were living in buildings that leaked and cracked and peeled and made us a little (or a lot) miserable inside. Modernity hadn't quite worked out, and we had to go invent a whole 'science of urban spaces' to relearn the physical scale that humans interact at, and recreate the spatial and logistical relationships of what humans do when we're doing it. And with the aid of time lapse cameras and battalions of architectural students with diagrams and checklists, we remembered the sort of stuff that had been so fundamental for the past 20 centuries or so of western-style urban living. (Go wander around an old European city and take in the plazas. Italy is great for this. Look at how people use them. Look at how the buildings around them work with them. Then go stand in any 1960s American plaza. Which one actually seems a functional part of the city, and which one is a leftover space around the bottom of a big square building? Which one would you rather sit in for an hour or two? Which one makes you want to sit in it for an hour or two?)

This 'science' has been in operation since the 70s. It' even been instrumental in overhauling the building code of several north American cities, but between my BA and Masters, I went through three different schools, and in none of them did I hear an official word about it.

A lot of it has to do with architects like several of the ones in this article. Architecture is, at basis and bedrock and fundamental, about creating a space that facilitates what humans do and makes the experience better, and when humans decide, collectively, to hate on experiencing a building that they live with, architects should be listening, and not climbing up into some splendidly out-of-scale ivory tower.

(And those professors generate students who offer fellow students financial bribes to remove spatial-planning requirements from design briefs if those fellow students are on the design-brief committee for a class project, because everything they've been taught has taught them that that the squishy stuff genuinely doesn't matter, and it's getting in the way of a really gorgeous idea...)

So there.
posted by tabubilgirl at 7:35 AM on June 11, 2015 [13 favorites]


Wait but if you are into functional Brutalism, the Buffalo City Court building is a delight.
posted by everybody had matching towels at 7:43 AM on June 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


The joke I've heard is that Tour Montparnasse is the box that the Eiffel Tower came in.
posted by sixpack at 7:56 AM on June 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


ain't neither of those buildings got nothing on Robarts.

Say what you will about Robarts—I feel like it's so ugly it almost comes around to being strangely beautiful—the Fisher is a treat to the eye (inefficient though it may be in terms of storage and use).
posted by octobersurprise at 7:58 AM on June 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Wide acceptance of these kinds of buildings is always 10-20 years away.
posted by delicious-luncheon at 8:22 AM on June 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


I haven't been to the Pompidou in like 25 years, but I liked the building a lot when I was there, especially the exposed color-coded building systems. My tastes in art were much more Musee d'Orsay though - I spent most of my walk through the inside of the Pompidou doing the 19-year-old's "I call bullshit!" on almost all the art in there. I'd sort of like to go back and view it through much older eyes.

I also like Tempelhof, which worries me a little. The rusty picnic table in the picture is sort of unfair ...
posted by freecellwizard at 8:42 AM on June 11, 2015


But from the outside? From the outside it's also really gorgeously iconically Seattle.

I can only see that as a grim indictment of Seattle architecture, because the building is so inhumane and unwelcoming it appears to have been designed that way on purpose.

And I mean that literally: I once worked on a design for a Burning Man project called the "Temple of Fear", a building designed to evoke as many different types of fear reactions as possible without creating any actual danger. We never built it, but it is amazing to see how many exterior design elements that concept had in common with the library. The unsteady, asymmetrical, non-complementary angles, the overhang, the radical scale mismatch between facade and entrance, the absence of front/side/back coding leaving a sense of uncertainty about the entrances. There is nothing familiar about the building, no affordance for entry, no sense of welcome, nothing warm or soft about it. It appears to have been constructed on purpose to create a sense of alienation, uncertainty, and hazard.

I am sure it is quite lovely inside, because everyone who has braved the challenge says so, but I just feel like I want to walk along the opposite side of the street before it pounces on me.
posted by Mars Saxman at 9:06 AM on June 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


The Buffalo City Court Building and Tempelhof are gorgeous classical works.
posted by theorique at 9:43 AM on June 11, 2015


Then there's this monstrosity.

Christ, Toronto has some godawful architecture.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:13 AM on June 11, 2015


The thing is, Tour Montparnasse isn't an ugly building, per se. It's just alone and out of place.
Put it in any other major progressive city and it fits right in. It's only because Paris wants to maintain it's classic look that it becomes a singular blight.
posted by rocket88 at 10:15 AM on June 11, 2015


Christ, Toronto has some godawful architecture.

(Ahem. Graduate House.)

The shared flats are designed to encourage students to spend all their time in their labs and studios and offices. Between the unfinished concrete walls and ceilings, the 2/3 scale living spaces, the low ceilings, the insufficient lighting and ventilation, and the general sense of bunking in a bunker -

The first time my boyfriend visited he yelled "this place is so awful it must have won a major architectural prize!"
(He was right.)

And it really embraces the local vernacular. It's a special place.
posted by tabubilgirl at 10:46 AM on June 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


That Graduate House looks like someone tried to hide a monorail accident.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:10 AM on June 11, 2015 [7 favorites]


I am not ashamed to say I love Robarts. Perhaps that is because I work there and I am fully in the grips of building Stockholm syndrome. I see natural light for fifteen minutes a day in the winter but I have a gigantic office.

Also, Graduate House was built on the budget of a parking garage.
posted by avocet at 11:13 AM on June 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Graduate house pretty much IS a parking garage.
posted by tabubilgirl at 11:14 AM on June 11, 2015


Okay, I just have one question.

Is it called Brutalism because every time I look at a building in the style, I feel like it's punching me in the optic nerve?
posted by NoxAeternum at 11:15 AM on June 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


Oh god how I hate that grad student building. Robarts is still worse.

Frankly, you could level a random 30% of Toronto and it's likely to have a net aesthetic benefit.

As long as you never, ever touch this or this.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:15 AM on June 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


I am not ashamed to say I love Robarts.

Are... are you a person?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:16 AM on June 11, 2015


Also, Graduate House was built on the budget of a parking garage.

(Its not the budget that's the problem. It's how they chose to deploy it and how they reckoned up the psychosocial requirements of a bunch of sleep-deprived semi-neurotic academics living on permanent deadline.)
posted by tabubilgirl at 11:17 AM on June 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Or this!
The interior architecture of the Terrence Donnelly Center makes a lot of the other stuff bearable, when you know you can walk up the street and step out of February into this.
posted by tabubilgirl at 11:21 AM on June 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


I love that weird little garden hidden inside the--mining? geology?--building north of Russell Street. There's a very nice fountain for paddling hot feet in a bit east, too.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:25 AM on June 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


If it's controversial you're looking for the The BOk Center in Tulsa fits the bill nicely. Some call it a crashed spaceship, some call it a roll of duct tape. At least it tried, unlike the vapid office block they built across the street. Tulsa may be a backwards place that is 99% suburban sprawl, but the oil money gave downtown one of the best collections of architecture anywhere. Too bad half of it has been razed in the past 50 years.
posted by wierdo at 12:03 PM on June 11, 2015


Is it called Brutalism because every time I look at a building in the style, I feel like it's punching me in the optic nerve?

Nah, it's because "brut" is French for unfinished, and that refers to the concrete used in Brutalist construction.
posted by theorique at 12:20 PM on June 11, 2015


I'm an architect, and the visit to Centre Pompidou when I was 13 set in stone (or concrete) my decision to study architecture.
But I am really offended every time an architect, and that includes some of my close friends, claims that high rise urbanism is sustainable. Don't believe in that rubbish. I'm even more offended because Libeskind was my hero when he was a young architect, because he spoke out against corporate architecture. The high-rise is the emblem of corporate architecture because the effort/pay ratio is very good for architects/designers. It is a good business case.
The Portland Building, mentioned several times above set a new standard for how low you could go as an architect. The inside is a depressing multi-story basement, but the exterior is "fun", "silly", "classical", "whatever", "symbolic", and the pay for providing those facades and telling a story that legitimizes the dehumanizing interior is remarkable. Libeskind's Ground Zero project is the scary but logical consequence of the Portland.
And the Montparnasse Tower is only remarkable for it's restaurant.

Generally, the arguments in the article are weak and disappointing, as are the images. Tempelhof is really amazing, from the other side. Why show the less interesting facade? The Pompidou is fascinating on many levels, but why not start with the urban renewal aspect, and talk about the perfectly proportioned and Siena-inspired public square which is an important integral part of the whole. When I was 13, it was completely new, and I was very critical of modern architecture from a stylistic point of view, but it was so obvious that the whole worked from the outset as an urban space and a public facility.

The original brutalists, including le Corbusier himself, were out to humanize modern architecture. They wanted to reintroduce a sense of scale and variation on the urban level, and a sense of detail and materiality on the building level. When I revisit the major works today, a lot of them do what they were supposed to do. People use them and enjoy them as intended.

And to point at something not brutalist, but part of the same discourse of human scale and materiality: the Seagram Plaza is arguably the most pleasant public space in on Park Avenue, in spite of it's strict modern architecture. (Well apart from the part of Park which is on the Park).

But what happened with brutalism is what happens to a lot of good things, and it is really obvious from many of the examples posted above: it got bastardized by corporate architecture and transformed into a "style", rather than a philosophy of architecture. They built stuff that has no idea and no sense of humanity, and just applied a "brutalist" gloss, because brutalism at the time stood for user-inspired design.

The same with high-tech, if you revisit the Pompidou architects, Rogers and Piano, today, you will find that they are still proponents for a sensitive urbanism and an attention to detail and to perception we can all learn from, even when Piano designs the Shard.
And then there are all the architects who see and apply "high-tech" as a style. They disregard all human experience and knowledge and give technology as a whole a bad rep.

Architecture is a strange business, because it can be high art, and it can be big business. It can be both at the same time, and it can be neither - think of the suburban mall, where no one, and least of all the architect gains from the actual construction (everything goes to speculative investors and corrupt politicians).
posted by mumimor at 12:41 PM on June 11, 2015 [9 favorites]


Oh, and then let us not forget buildings like LA's Disney Concert Hall, Vegas' Vdara, and London's Walkie-talkie that are able to attack people directly.
posted by NoxAeternum at 2:22 PM on June 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Next week on When Buildings Attack...
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:10 PM on June 11, 2015


Admittedly I've never been inside Grad House, but that is absolutely fucked to hear.
posted by avocet at 6:23 PM on June 11, 2015


The original brutalists, including le Corbusier himself, were out to humanize modern architecture.

True, unless we consider pedestrians to be human.
posted by sebastienbailard at 7:20 PM on June 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


I just can't buy any defense of Brutalism. My alma mater too was filled with so called "actual Brutalist masterpieces" that were airless, uncomfortable and difficult. For once I want to hear about buildings that architects AND users can agree on. I'll bet anything there will be no Brutalists on the list.
posted by bleep at 7:37 PM on June 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


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