Ugly buildings: some people love them, others love to hate them.

Sainsbury’s, Camden, designed by Nicholas Grimshaw in 1988, (once named Britain’s ugliest building by Channel 4) has recently become the first purpose-built supermarket to be Grade II listed in the UK. In honor of this we celebrate some of the other “ugly buildings” you love to hate.

Here’s a list of the top 20 ugly buildings:

ugly building india
Ambani House Mumbai. Images: Left: Jhariani [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons. Right: Wibolsheim [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

1: Antilia – Mumbai, India, 2014

The story of its construction is like a bad Disney movie. Which is why although, compared to some buildings on this list, it’s not actually that ugly, i. It still tops the charts.

Unbelievably it was built on land previously occupied by an orphanage for 60 children and the legality of this was fiercely fought. It is also the second most expensive residential property in the world (after Buckingham Palace) and the 12th most expensive building. Costing a cool $2 billion (€1.79 billion) to construct. No doubt the reason it has earned itself a place of dislike in many people’s hearts.

 

The San Fransico Federal Building Designed by Thom Maybe of Morphosis. Image: Eric in SF [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

2: San Francisco Federal Building – USA, 2007

The building was designed as a green building by Morphosis. It received criticism because it is both “ugly” and “impractical”. Many employees labeled working inside the building a “nightmare”.

The building lacks heating and airconditioning and some have reported using umbrellas to keep the sun from their cubicles. The lift only stops every 3rd floor to “encourage walking”. In reality, employees simply pile into the disabled lift. It can not even claim true green credentials as it is not LEED-certified.

Here at Bricsys we disagree, we like the design so much, we used it as an example model at our conference in 2017.

 

toilet bowl ugly building
The Tycon Office building aka “The Toilet Seat Building. Via Flickr Erica Kastner

3: Tycon Office building – Vienna, Virginia, USA 1983

This unfortunate looking building is known locally as ‘the Toilet Bowl Building” or sometimes “the Stargate Building”. Although it’s technically an ugly building, the locals seem to love it as it makes it easy to give directions. However, it was voted ugliest building in Virginia by Bussiness Insider in 2018.

You really can’t miss it.  I’m legally blind and I always notice it. – The Trival Traveler

 

4: Preston Train Station – UK, 2017

It’s hard to find positive press on the 2017 Carbuncle Cup nominee.  It’s not only attacked for being ugly, it’s also damned as “impractical”. Often quoted as “the coldest place on earth”.

The Preston entry looks like someone pushed a giant dumpster against the building and cut out a hole for entry. Did anyone on this project care about, well, anything, at all? – J

 

5: Renmin Ribao building – Beijing, China, 2013

HQ for the People’s Daily (the voice of China). This building proved so controversial it was censored by the Chinese media. Luckily China Uncensored is here to help. You might be pleased or disappointed to know that it’s now completed and looks more…eh hem… chiqué.

 

ugly buildings in prague
Žižkov Television Tower a statement on the Prague skyline. Image: Paul Asman and Jill Lenoble

6: Žižkov Television Tower – Prague, Czech Republic, 1992

Standing out against the otherwise picturesque landscape of Prague, it’s the Žižkov Television Tower. Virtualtourist.com named it the second ugliest building in the world in 2009. In addition to its blight on the landscape, it was also met with criticism for reportedly destroying an old, Jewish cemetery during its construction.

The view from the observation deck of the Žižkov Television Tower is quite stunning. Image:
Sage Ross [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
However, the tower isn’t without its merit. There is a 216 m (700 ft) high observation deck providing breathtaking 360degree views of Prague!

 

ugly buildings
House Prague Building Architecture Dancing House

7: Dancing House – Prague, Czech Republic, 1996

The design was created to symbolize yin and yang – static and dynamic. A visual metaphor for dance. Whilst many love Frank Gehry’s design (it won Time Magazine’s design contest in 1997 and was also named one of the 5 most important buildings of the 1990s by Architekt Magazine), others think that it deserves a place in the list of ugly buildings.

 

ugly building
The “fish building”. Image: Nagaraju raveender [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

8: The National Fisheries Development Board Building – Hyderabad, India, 2012

To some people, the “fish building” is a fun and cute way of showing off the company. To others, it’s an eyesore that ruins the local skyline. It’s said to have been inspired by Frank Gehry’s Golden Fish sculpture. It probably doesn’t help critics that they light it up with bright purple spotlights at night. However, I have to say, I do like the ingenious use of the fin as a door awning.

 

awful architecture
The Basket Factory Longaberger. Image: Barry Haynes [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

9: Longaberger Basket Company HQ – Newark, Ohio, USA, 1997

Another company that decided it’s HQ should be more literal is the Longaberger Basket Company. You might be forgiven for mistaking this as the work of Claes Oldenburg, but it was actually designed by the Longaberger Company itself and constructed by NBBJ and Korda Nemeth Engineering.

In 2018 it was voted the ugliest building in Ohio by Business Insider. Say what you will, but it does serve as a truly memorable advertisement for the company!

 

The Robot-like House of Soviets. Image: via Flickr Felipe Tofani

10: The House of Soviets – Kaliningrad, Kaliningrad Oblast, Russia

This building sat unfinished for over 20 years. The locals have nicknamed it “the buried robot” for somewhat obvious reasons. To some, this building represents everything that is wrong with post-war, soviet architecture, for others it’s a great example of brutalist architecture.

I actually think it’s kind of cute, although I’m not sure that’s what the architect was going for…

 

The Elephant building – Thailand. Image: [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

11: The Chang Building – Bangkok, Thailand, 1997

It’s it a building? Is it a lego® elephant? No, its the Elephant Building, designed by Sumet Jumsai, who is also responsible for the Bankok Robot building. It was designed as a collaboration between Dr. Arun Chaisaree and architect Ong-ard Satrabhandhu. The elephant was chosen as is an integral, symbolic part of Thai culture. In 2011 it came 4th in the 20 World’s Most Iconic Skyscrapers by GoCNN.

 

The Mirador Building Madrid. Image: via Flickr PromoMadrid

12: The Mirador – Madrid, Spain, 2005

Looking somewhat like someone disassembled the Elephant Building and then clumsily put it back together, it’s the Mirador, designed by Dutch architecture firm MVRDV. One is left to ponder the creative process on this one. Although many consider it a monstrosity, the building does have a baffling array of awards to its name, which just goes to show: what one person loves, another will hate!

 

ugly building
Aldar Headquarters. Unique in the Middle East

13: Aldar headquarters building – Abu Dhabi, UAE, 2010

This particular headquarters was designed by the Lebanese-based firm MZ Architects, the Aldar headquarters building. The building seems to be the Justin Bieber of the architecture world. It often charts ugly building lists, despite many fans of the unique design. The building was even voted ‘Best Futuristic Design 2008’ by the Building Exchange Conference. If you want to see more you can take a tour.

architectural diagrams sturctural drawing
Aldar HQ architectural drawing. Image: Asimuddinustad [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Regardless of what you think of the design, it is an incredible feat of engineering. It’s the first circular building of its kind in the Middle East and I think we can all agree that the architectural plans, are rather beautiful in themselves.

 

The Diamond, Engineering building, Sheffield. Image: Chemical Engineer [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

14: The Diamond – University of Sheffield, UK, 2016

Wrapped in 2,780 distinctive anodized aluminum diamonds the Diamond rather stands out in the modest, industrial town of Sheffield. It was designed by Twelve Architects, to showcase the research development going on inside the building to passers-by. However, the building has been met with criticism due to it’s “overpowering three-dimensional cladding” and was nominated for the Carbuncle Cup 2016.

 

The Carpenter Center – Le Corbusier Harvard University. Image: Daderot [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

15: The Carpenter Center – Le Corbusier, Harvard University, USA, 1963

Even Harvard’s own students criticize this building, despite being celebrated as the only building designed by Le Corbusier in the United States. They claim that it “doesn’t hold a candle to the pretty buildings of Harvard’s past.”

It was designed to celebrate modern architectural design and maximize light with it’s “inside-out” architecture style. However, it has not withstood the test of time. There is no disabled access and water damage has stained the external concrete over the years.

 

The uncanny resemblance of Noo-Noo and the Bullring.

16: Selfridges, the Bullring – Birmingham, UK, 2003

Whilst the design does somewhat resemble a scaley version of beloved 1990s children’s character Noo-Noo. It often features on television shows as they pan across “iconic” parts of Birmingham. Combined with Birmingham Central Library (which features it’s own, statement circular cladding) the Bullring helped Birmingham win the title of ‘ugliest city’ in the UK 2008.

 

ugly grey building London
Silk street view of the south Barbican Centre entrance. Image: Chris McKenna [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

17: The Barbican Center – London, UK, 1982

Some love it, some love to hate it. Many claim it to be “mouse infested” and difficult to navigate, particularly if you are disabled. It falls into that category of brutalist architecture that continues to divide opinion. Despite being a Grade II listed building, the Barbican Center was voted ugliest building in London by Grey London in 2003.

Whoever designed the Barbican centre was not in their right mind! – micm0nr0 – Trip Advisor

 

Hull Royal Infirmary Image: Jonathan Fry / Hull Royal Infirmary, via Wikimedia Commons

18: Hull Royal Infirmary, Hull, UK

Editors pick: Growing up as a young girl around the River Humber, I had many ugly buildings to choose from, but Hull Royal Infirmary, stood out. It always struck me as a place I’d go do die rather than be made to feel better. The dark windows and brutalist concrete coverings do nothing to improve the mood of the place. It has since seen something of a facelift, although I’m not sure how much this has improved the overall appeal.

 

Stadshal Ghent. Image: via Flickr Thomas Vlerick

19: City Pavilion – Ghent, Belgium, 2012

Here in Bricsys HQ: Ghent, we have our own “ugly building”: the Stadshal. It received heavy criticism locally because of its size, height, cost, modern design in such a historical area of town, and lack of “usefulness”. It’s often referred to as “the cattle shed” or simply “a waste of taxpayer’s money”.

However, I can personally say that, if you get the opportunity to see a band perform under it, the acoustics of the structure are incredible.

 

bad architectural design ugly buildings
Far left: The Walkie Talkie building cuts an interesting shape into the London Skyline. Image: Diego Delso [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

20: 20, Fenchurch Street – London, UK, 2014

Finally, no list of ugly buildings would be complete without mentioning the 2015 Carbuncle Cup winner: 20 Fenchurch Street, aka: ‘The Walkie-Talkie’. It’s most famous for its solar design flaw: the curved shape of the building acted as a giant concave mirror that focused light onto the street and melted the bodywork of cars parked below. The worst part being that this was not the first time the architect had made this design error. A similar project in Las Vegas: the Vdara Hotel & Spa, earned itself the nickname the “Vdara Death Ray“.

It is a challenge finding anyone who has something positive to say about this building – Thomas Lane, Carbuncle Cup

More ugly buildings

Even the Prince of Wales has got in on the action calling the National Gallery “a monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much-loved and elegant friend”.

Do you think these buildings are ugly? Let me know in the comments below!

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