The World's Ugliest Buildings
May 10, 2002 2:26 PM   Subscribe

Well, I gotta disagree with the Canadian embassy being called ugly. If anything it's a bit subdued, and the echo chamber (that rounded area with the columns in the picture) is very very cool.
posted by GriffX at 2:33 PM on May 10, 2002

I dunno, personally I like the Chicago Public Library. And why is it all those buildings are in the US?

This list, except for a couple of deserving eyesores, seemed more like a list of the United States' Most Expensive Controversial Buildings.
posted by me3dia at 2:37 PM on May 10, 2002

I think their critique of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is unfair
I think it's design is appropriate for it's function and it has a fairly unobtrusive presence in downtown SF.

It's alot better than the Old SFMOMA.
posted by yertledaturtle at 2:43 PM on May 10, 2002

The one building that I think they got it right on is the Denver Public Library.
posted by yertledaturtle at 2:45 PM on May 10, 2002

"why is it all those buildings are in the US?"

We are the world.

Seriously, though, I don't agree with some of those either, but of course it's a subjective thing like most "top 'n'" lists. I'd throw the Guggenheim in Bilbao on my list of ugly buildings, even though a lot of people like it. But then, there are NO DESIGNERS, NO TYPOGRAPHERS, NO REAL ARTISTS in MF, so we're not qualified to comment on this stuff anyway.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 2:45 PM on May 10, 2002

The article is lame, hardly rising above gossip. The buildings seem selected at random. What really get's to me though is how she attributes her opinions to "a prestigious Manhattan architect" or something like that. It's probably her brother or somebody.
posted by signal at 2:46 PM on May 10, 2002

> why is it all those buildings are in the US?

What are you talking about? At least two of them were in London, one was in Canada and I think one was in Australia.
posted by bradlauster at 2:48 PM on May 10, 2002


You are probably right about the architect being her brother.

Does anyone think that this article has a political agenda?

"Look at what the stupid liberals are spending money on now; ugly buildings for art, music and books."
posted by yertledaturtle at 2:51 PM on May 10, 2002

...ok, I was wrong. They're all in the US, except for the two in London.

I agree with signal though, very lame article.
posted by bradlauster at 2:51 PM on May 10, 2002

At least two of them were in London, one was in Canada and I think one was in Australia.

D'oh! You're right, I kinda spaced out on those. Regardless, they're all in the English speaking world. I've seen some pretty ugly things in the rest of the world -- Centre de Georges Pompidou in Paris, for instance.
posted by me3dia at 2:52 PM on May 10, 2002

i like the chicago public library, too. i'd always thought it had a nice, classical look to it. the inside's ok...
posted by moz at 2:54 PM on May 10, 2002

yertledaturtle: after looking at the link and then coming to the thread, I saw that you made the two points I was going to: 1) There is nothing wrong with SFMOMA. I love the picture they used, just the sky light, nothing else) 2)Doesn't the Denver Public Library look it has a prison tower smack dab in the middle of it?
posted by eyeballkid at 2:56 PM on May 10, 2002

>Doesn't the Denver Public Library look it has a prison tower smack dab in the middle of it?

I don't know what they were thinking with that design.
The tower in the middle of that building looks completely out of place.
posted by yertledaturtle at 3:00 PM on May 10, 2002

How did I know there would be a huge picture of the EMP?

Because, unfortunately, most people judge it just from the outside. But the curvy roof is a lot more interesting from the inside, and the complete lack of any naturally-resonant frequencies in most spaces keeps the noise down surprisingly well.
posted by kindall at 3:04 PM on May 10, 2002

It's funny how when people want to criticize a building they'll say "It looks like an X", where X is "teapot", "prison tower", "duck" or something else buildings aren't supposed to look like.
Why isn't architecture supposed to look like anything? For example, Ginger & Fred by the great Frank certainly looks like something, n'cest pas?
posted by signal at 3:09 PM on May 10, 2002

They forgot that house around the corner. Yeah, that one.
posted by billder at 3:12 PM on May 10, 2002

Well It seems now official that Forbes is just another fashion magazine with an economic twist , first they judge on the aesthetical quality of a building (and that's ok it's their own useless-as-much-as-others opinion) and then they point index at the building "prices". Mh, seems like they want to say "given that they're expensive AND ugly, all their archictects and supporters are morons". That's ok can say that, nobody cares. But mixing aesthetical problems with economic problems is like mixing vodka and beer and hope not to become drunk. Poor advertisers, money wasted.
posted by elpapacito at 3:20 PM on May 10, 2002

How did I know there would be a huge picture of the EMP?

Because, unfortunately, most people judge it just from the outside.

Unfortunately, to get inside, one needs to spend $20 on admission. That's right: twenty bucks for a frickin' rock and roll museum. Screw that.
posted by mr_roboto at 3:31 PM on May 10, 2002

A financial magazine does a lousy critique of modern architechture? Who woulda guessed?

and I like the SF MOMA just fine, thank you very much.
posted by Hackworth at 3:45 PM on May 10, 2002

The Gulag cinderblock monstrocity that my neighbor has built trumps all wannabes, Yheck!!!
posted by Wulfgar! at 3:49 PM on May 10, 2002

Any author who puts SFMOMA and the Canadian embassy on a list of "ugliest buildings" warrants me putting him on my shit list, immediately.
posted by azazello at 4:03 PM on May 10, 2002

I have to add the complete opus of Frank O. Gehry to the list of the worst, most inefficient, ugliest, most masturbatory buildings on earth. Why he is deified is beyond comprehension.
posted by evanizer at 4:15 PM on May 10, 2002

Beyond *your* comprehension, evanizer. I find them appealing, curious, amusing, and fascinating. I like how it takes a while to a get a sense of the whole building -- you can't understand them from any one angle. I enjoy their playfulness. I find them an organic breath of fresh air in otherwise straight-line cityscapes. I can't say I care about their efficiency.

But I tend to agree with the article about Two Columbus Square.
posted by muckster at 4:44 PM on May 10, 2002

Frank Gehry at the Guggenheim (sponsored by Enron).
posted by muckster at 5:11 PM on May 10, 2002

It's funny how when people want to criticize a building they'll say "It looks like an X", where X is "teapot", "prison tower", "duck" or something else buildings aren't supposed to look like.

It's funny how the phrase "prison tower" doesn't fit with this analogy. Merely because "prison tower" describes a type of structure, what is sometimes called a building. A duck is a type of bird. A teapot is something used to heat water for tea. Saying that a building looks like a prison tower does not mean it reminds me of an animal or something I would use as an object in a game of 20 questions. When I say it looks like a "prison tower" I mean that it is designed in such a way that it closely resembles a "prison tower" that is usually found, not suprisingly, in prisons.
posted by eyeballkid at 5:19 PM on May 10, 2002

Beyond *your* comprehension, evanizer

Nothing is beyond my comprehension, my dear, just beneath it.
posted by evanizer at 5:24 PM on May 10, 2002

eyeballkid: gold.

Perhaps I'll show my architectural ignorance here, but this looks atrocious. I'm going to guess that its designer is "great" because he made that (which, I might mention again, looks atrocious) structurally sound.

Chicago Public Library: austere and plain, perhaps, but when was a library supposed to be flashy? There are buildings that look much, much worse. Hundreds of them. No wait--thousands, even. Who came up with that article title, anyhow?
posted by precocious at 6:06 PM on May 10, 2002

I knew this looked familiar. The Architecture Hate Page has existed on the Web since at least September 2000 (via Zannah).
posted by Danelope at 6:33 PM on May 10, 2002

precocious: please, don't post this link again... I almost threw up looking at this atrocity!

Seriously though, the SFMOMA? Looks like the author has an axe to grind... the Columbus Circle building I've always thought of as rather special, although it does look like some superhero ripped the Hoover Dam out of Nevada and planted it on 59th street.

As for the rest of the selection, they are bloody awful indeed, but I've seen worse. Note that 7 out of the 10 buildings on the list were paid for not by someone who'd actually have to answer for the monstrosities, but by government. Wonder why most people are afraid of socialism? Consider the possibility that an all-powerful state would hire Frank Gehry to redesign entire cities... the seeing would envy the blind.
posted by clevershark at 6:46 PM on May 10, 2002

I'd put the new Trump Tower whatever on the east side of Manhattan in that list.
posted by riffola at 7:10 PM on May 10, 2002

Clevershark, you must be confusing Gehry with Albert Speer. I love the Ginger & Fred building in Prague -- maybe you'll find the finished building more palatable than photos of the construction.
posted by muckster at 7:29 PM on May 10, 2002

All wrong, but the Yale School of Art and Architecture is ugly.
posted by Bag Man at 8:21 PM on May 10, 2002

I can't believe they left off Boston's City Hall.

There's another government building near there that houses the State Depaprtment of Mental Health, and it is truly ugly. I can't think of the name of it right now, though.
posted by acridrabbit at 9:44 PM on May 10, 2002

When I was little, I inherited a chrome yellow Piper Cub model from an older brother, which I made the mistake of showing to my neighbor's dog.

He ate it.

The next day, there was a chrome yellow dog turd on their lawn.

This always comes to mind when I ride by the EMP on the bus.

Because, unfortunately, most people judge it just from the outside.

Whereas, inside it's just another over-priced chintzy tourist trap, long on promise but short on delivery--not unlike the rest of the Seattle Center.

But hey, Seattleites--We're #1! We're #1! Ugly! Ugly!
posted by y2karl at 10:43 PM on May 10, 2002

All in all, an extremely pointless article - describing the Barbican as 'an awkward mish-mash of architecture' is not even true - it's about the most complete architectural statement in London in terms of carrying one visual language throughout. Has the author even seen it?

And Two Columbus Circle is beautiful!
posted by jonathanbell at 2:21 AM on May 11, 2002

The problem with the Barbican is not how bad it looks from the outside (really bad) but how truly horrid it is if you're on the inside. Though I do get tingly nostalgia there sometimes late at night while I'm getting lost trying to find one of the cinema screens because it feels like a set from Tom Baker-era Doctor Who.
But my vote goes to the London Stock Exchange. Compare it to its neighbours: the Bank of England, the Royal Exchange and Tower 42 (formerly the NatWest Tower).
posted by Dan Brilliant at 4:50 AM on May 11, 2002 [1 favorite]

Agreed, the Stock Exchange is particularly banal. Granted, the Barbican interiors are far less cohesive than the exteriors, but that kind of thing won't remain in the aesthetic wilderness for too much longer. Some of the original interiors of the residential apartments are fantastic, though.
posted by jonathanbell at 6:01 AM on May 11, 2002 [1 favorite]

Well I thought all the buildings were great. Over here in the UK we have Prince Charles raving about a mock tudor shopping mall in Farnham, a vile backward looking mess, and horror at the proposed Liebskind addition to the V&A museum, a bold and exciting addition to a public space.

A visit to Barcelona shows just how well modern buildings can sit with traditional, and I'm sure there was a fuss over there when some of the buildings were proposed. What's new today can look wonderful tomorrow. Here in London we have Goldfingers Trellick Tower, for years regarded as just another ugly tower block, but now, thankfully, people are seeing what a well designed buiding it really is, not just from the outside, but from the point of view of its inhabitants too. OK, enough, starting to rant now, but those "aren't modern things ugly" articles are just so blinkered.
posted by ciderwoman at 11:07 AM on May 11, 2002

Ok, I was on page two of an article refuting all of her points. Then I thought…wait…this person probably likes Wal-Mart, lives in the suburbs, and she covers REAL ESTATE for gods sake. Of all of the people who I encounter in the building trades, Real Estate people are the most useless and parasitic of all. You pay 8-15% of total cost to them to sign papers and ride around with you. Yet, I can barely find a client who thinks that 5-10% construction cost is equitable. I help design and build things…tangible things, while Real Estate Agents don’t perform any tangible service. Bitter? Hell yes!

So she can stay inside her little box, but unfortunately she keeps others inside with her, so that the architectural discourse in America has more to do with what color Mr. and Mrs. Suburbanite’s fake brick on the exterior of their 3 car garage, 2-story Georgian Tudor built in 2001. It makes my job harder by having to pull people out of their zones of comfort and try to show people why Georgian Tudors are not a relevant building style/type in 2002.

Sheez...people like that hold back progress and innovation for all of us.
posted by plemeljr at 11:41 AM on May 11, 2002

It's so hard to form an opinion based on one small photograph; the best possible opportunity to judge would be getting to visit each building. I really like every one that I saw - the innovation and interpretation fascinate me.

Why be stuck in the past architecturally? I admire and love old buildings as much as anyone (my house is 117 years old) but with new building materials and new methods and new technology and new lifestyles, new architecture is naturally going to follow. If it does what it's supposed to do (house art, provide office space, etc..) I say Go, Architects - make it as innovative and as thought-provoking as possible, just don't indulge your artistic expression at the expense of the building and the people who will be using it.

Like making staircases out of glass, for example. That would be bad.
posted by iconomy at 11:59 AM on May 11, 2002

Thanks iconomy...I just wish more people would be as open minded as you and Mefi'ans. For that lift of spirit, here is your glass staircase.
posted by plemeljr at 12:09 PM on May 11, 2002

That is completely gorgeous. You know I'm thinking about the whole "catholic school girl/ patent leather shoes/reflected underwear in the glass" thing, and the whole "let's stand under the stairs and look up her dress" thing, right? Not to mention the "glass is really slippery" thing ;)

But I'd love to try that staircase just to see what it feels like. With jeans on.
posted by iconomy at 12:28 PM on May 11, 2002

I may not know much about ____________, but I know what I like!
posted by Opus Dark at 12:43 PM on May 11, 2002

Actually, glass staircases are becoming increasingly common (though perhaps a little bit on the pricey side). They're a great way of bringing light down an otherwise dark stairwell. And they can be frosted, so catholic schoolgirls everywhere are safe.
posted by jonathanbell at 1:34 PM on May 11, 2002

Opus is just a little upset. see, Falling Water is falling.
posted by clavdivs at 1:34 PM on May 11, 2002

It'll be OK.
posted by jonathanbell at 2:34 PM on May 11, 2002

best.american.home.ever. thanks for the link.
posted by clavdivs at 3:42 PM on May 11, 2002

A rather dull article. I mean, picking on the Millennium Dome? That's soooo 2001!

If you really want ass ugly, look no further than the Petronas Towers, or the Parallel Penis Building.
posted by mark13 at 7:16 PM on May 11, 2002

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