Photo: Rebius/Shutterstock

The World's Ugliest Buildings

by Eileen Smith Feb 8, 2010
Coming together to point out the ugly.

UGLY IS IN. There’s the ugliest dog, the worst pizza, the ugliest river… Finding the worst of something is like winning a popularity contest. It gives you a story to tell, makes people laugh, crowns you undisputed leader in the game of one-up-manship.

Over at Virtual Tourist, they’ve got a list of editors’ and readers’ ugliest buildings for the year 2009, with the Morris A. Mechanic Theater in Baltimore, the Zizkov TV Building in Prague, and the Parliament Building in Wellington coming in first, second, and third place, respectively.

Flickr Loves Ugly Buildings Too

There are ugly architecture hunters, and they form groups. Flickr has dozens, including this photo pool by indie Brooklyn-based live-on-the-cheap online magazine Brokelyn, plus other groups called bad architecture, ugly architecture, and Eyesore.

But what makes a building ugly? Asymmetry? Buildings that don’t look like our expectations of buildings? Chaos, looking like a spaceship, and not fitting in with local surroundings are criteria that seem to figure strongly.

Memory Burn

Whether you can see the beauty in an off-kilter, unusual, nontraditional architectural style or not is largely based on taste. But it can also prove useful.

During a recent trip to Valparaíso, Chile, I got disoriented on my way to the bus station and stopped someone to ask for directions. He wasn’t from the city, and wasn’t sure where to point me.

“It’s opposite the Congress, I said.” “Oh,” he said, now sure of the direction, because the Chilean National Congress building is a real standout, blending not at all with the pastel-colored houses on the hillside behind it.

Eyesore or landmark, these buildings are nothing if not memorable.

Got a building you love to hate? Tell us about it in the comments.

Community Connection

Eat the ugly with Matador Pulse’s Ugly Fruit Makes European Comeback. There’s also Matador Sports editor Adam Roy’s Chicago for the Architecture Buff (not ugly).

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