The world's ugliest buildings, according to...

The Daily Telegraph has determined the world's ugliest buildings. Some of them are hideous indeed, but the collection is perhaps more interesting as an illustration of what the fancier echelons of British conservative like to be told about architecture. [Telegraph via The Awl. Photo: Steve Cadman, CC BY 3.0]


  1. How did I not know about that basket? (Picture 4) I love it! Reminds me of that famous painting, the one with insane detail and a giant apple and humming bird. Come on, you know the one.

  2. I think someone may have confused “ugly” with “not boring”. I only thought three or four of those genuinely looked bad. The only crime the others are guilty of is nonconformity.

    1.  It’s OK for a building to be non-conventional but not when it means sticking out like a sore thumb. Beauty also comes from harmony with the surroundings and the problem of a “whimsical” design is that the joke gets old really, really fast (the “pineapple” design isn’t an instant classic.) That said, a lot of those buildings didn’t belong on the list.

      1. I found numbers (based on the caption, not the slideshow) 21, 17, 16 (if only because of the billboard at the top), 12, 11, 9, 8, 6, 4, and 1 to be ugly looking to me.  A little under half.  I definitely don’t find the Verizon building to be ugly, just a little plain and Brutalist.  I actually like some Brutalist architecture, like the AT&T Long Lines Building in New York.

    2. I think this is very much a list of “buildings Daily Telegraph readers won’t like”, which is pretty much what Rob pointed out in his description.

    1. Boston City Hall is one of the best examples of one of the most hated styles of architecture in the world. For that it deserves to be preserved.

      1. Boston City Hall was counterpopular when it was built. Most everybody thought that it was hideous, but it gave the locals the opportunity to complain about how it was wicked weird. And the opportunity to complain about how something is wicked weird is about the best present that you can give a New Englander.

    2. Wow. It’s so commie-brutalist it’s hard to even mentally process the concept. It’s Elderist.

    1. Because it doesn’t exist. The Doctor destroyed it to prevent the dalek invasion but it’s still in a pre-explosion time warp.

    2. I believe there is an urban myth to the effect that it is covered by the Official Secrets Act, so it doesn’t exist. 

    1.  No way I could work in there. I’d be too busy looking out the window for a 300-foot tall bear wearing a necktie and cap.

  3. These people are nuts. Half those buildings look interesting, at the very least (and I rather like the cathedral photo in this post, which I’ll note is taken from a better angle than the image of that building in the slideshow – a more realistic angle, too, for those of us without helicopters); most aren’t especially ugly. If they wanted to go with “impractical” they might have argument. But there’s any number of rotting featureless concrete blocks in the world that beat almost any of these 21 for ugliness.

  4. Circular Skyscraper = awesome. 
    Basket = awesome.
    Minsk Library = awesome. 
    Grand Lisboa Hotel = AWESOME

    In fact, many of those are, in my opinion, quite cool, innovative looking and, at the very least different. Ugly is big towering faceless skyscrapers that are drab and boring and cheap looking. 

    BTW – the minsk library reminds me of the Geisel Library in San Diego at UCSD which is also pretty cool –

    1.  This list reflects much more on The Telegraph than on the buildings themselves.  (Although the Russian Embassy was a bit much; it looks like a prison guard tower.) For the lulz, I’d love to see what the The Telegraph considers “good” architecture.

      1. At a guess:
        – St Paul’s Cathedral.- The Palace of Westminster.- An English suburban home.- An old Victorian town house, e.g. anything in South Kensington.- The Royal Albert Hall.Basically, pretty much anything built before 1920.

      2. One thing that I noticed was that only one building predated the 1970s. Were there no bad buildings before then? I would mention Stalin’s gulag-gingerbread style Moscow University building:

        for brobdignabian crassness.

        It also looks like Brutalism is taking it’s turn as the most disliked style of the era. In their turn Wrightian, Bauhaus, and Streamline have stepped up to be descried, before aging into being loved, although it is hard to get sentimental about buildings designed like missile silos.

    2. Yeah, the circular skyscraper and the hotel were my favorites, too. And lots of other really interesting buildings.

      I can list lots and lots of waaaay more ugly buildings just from my country. Booooooring gray blocks of concrete. I and my family were traveling in China, and were amazed by how every single building, no matter how trivial and ordinary, had some interesting feature in them. Until we finally saw one ugly and boring building, it was really sticking out in it’s boringness so much that it totally drew our attention. There was finally one ugly building in China!!! Oh, until we saw the “Nokia” logo on its side. Um, yeah… figures. Our home country (Finland) apparently also exports ugly buildings. /facepalm

  5. #8 however looks like they really wanted Frank Gehry but couldn’t afford him… admittedly, there are a few ugly buidlings on this list (ahem elephant building ahem)

  6. Looking at this list makes me think that the Daily Telegraph must be the fascist Tory rag of the bunch. Am I right?

    Down with proles, what what.

    1. I’m not an expert, not even a Brit, but while the Telegraph is a Tory paper, often called the Torygraph, I thought it was the upmarket Tory rag, as compared to the tabloid end with the Daily Mail et al, papers that regularly launch a Two Minute Hate against immigrants, criminals, and young people.
      So I guess it all comes down to your definition of fascist: the Daily Mail readers would be marching with the Blackshirts, while the Telegraph readers would be sipping cocktails and telling each other Mosley has a point.

    2. The defining feature of the Telegraph is its readers’ age. It is also right wing, but not in a rabid way. If you adjust for that then in my opinion (last updated 2010) its reliable and voluminous content made it the best newspaper in the UK, assuming we don’t include the only two good papers: Private Eye and The Economist.

      In theory The Independent should be better than the Torygraph, but whenever I pick it up it seems to have a sensationalist cover and relatively few pages.  As for the Guardian, it has the best web site but my interest is economics and too many of its articles seemed pointless to me.

      Just my 2p.

      1. I regularly read the Telegraph online and find that most times I flag up a comment, usually for racism (blatant racism, not merely me being politically correct). Admittedly that’s the readers, not the staff.

        It is also a centre for anti renewable energy and anti green columnists and commenters (which is why I read it: you need to know what the opposition is thinking). This produces the curious situation where its ‘Earth’ section writers are roundly denounced by all the commenters – they have moved to a different, er, place than longstanding columnists. If you really want to read outright, er, stuff (there’s not a word for it) check out the James Delingpole column. Do not under any circumstances post a comment – people have been known to track down and persecute commenters there. Really.

  7. Like many of the posters here I disagree with the “ugly” term for most of these. But a benefit of the article is that I actually now know the name of a building that I saw in January when I was in Italy — Milan’s Torre Velasca. I’m not going to say that it was the loveliest building I’ve seen but it *is* quite interesting — it reminds me of something out of Blade Runner, and it was the only building I really noticed on the Milan skyline looking out from the top of the Duomo.

  8. There are some damn beautiful buildings up in this piece. I wish design like this would be vigilantly preserved. There are whole schools of thought, fashion and fancy behind each one of these follies and erasing them in favor of their more traditional brethren falsifies the architectural record. It leaves us with bland, over edited landscapes and the erroneous idea of one continuous, unchallenged and unchallengeable aesthetic marching through time.

    1. Heh, I just bet this sentiment doesn’t apply to the architectural record and landscape of other cultures, where the presence of anything that blights the temples, cottages and palaces is “invasive”. That’s right Westerners, live with your tumours.

        1. Brasilia looks like a set from The Incredibles (or rather vice versa, I suppose). My skin nearly blisters flakes just thinking about having to walk across one of those enormous plazas in summer.

          It looks much better than Canberra. Canberra is an absolutely awful city. Stultifyingly boring and completely innavigable without GPS.

      1. I know it’s hard to hear over the grinding of the axe but nothing about the above comment implied that the buildings pictured were blights. They are beautiful both by themselves and in their very difference from the styles we choose to honor today.  Chandigarh, Brasilia, BAs’ Biblioteca Nacional, the work of Kenzo Tange and, later, Tadao Ando – there is a design history there that mirrors movements in politics, art and society.  We lose something when the expressions of non-mainstream ideas are unilaterally torn down in favor of another take on Disney’s Celebration.

        1. Brutalism was mainstream, though. Certainly there are many excellent examples, but a lot of them are stunningly intrusive factory bunkers that were hated the moment they were imposed on their respective communities, and are still hated. 

          I can recall quite a few buildings put up in my hometown of Cape Town that were the toast of the architectural elite, but absolutely loathed by their neighbours,  and are now rotting and abandoned. The most infamous example I can think of is the Werdmuller Centre in Claremont, which was a “triumph” apparently, winning prizes, but a hamster trail inside with no level walkways or useable shop frontage , and its labyrinthine bowels became infested by muggers. Maybe it is notable, but it’s also a colossal waste of space and a safety hazard.  It’s had its turn, and the plug can be yanked now.

  9. No list of ugly buildings is complete without at least one Frank Gehry abomination.

    True, he’s done some gorgeous stuff. But he’s also done stuff like the Experience Music Project.

    1. At least some of his buildings (I’m thinking of the one on the MIT campus) are also wildly impractical – huge costs per square foot, followed by insane levels of cost overrun in construction; engineering problems once the building is complete that take months or years to fix; and then incredibly labor intensive (read:expensive) to maintain, because of the poor engineering and the nonstandard shapes and replacement parts.

    2. The EMP should definitely top the list as the ugliest of the ugly. But some of the buildings at this link are quite beautiful, I think.

  10. Bully architecture, inserting its rust-dripping concrete muscle into your neighbourhood, using its machine aesthetic to put you in your place, ants.

    1.  … I think you have just missed the entire point of brutalism, possibly the last popular architectural style to carry a political agenda. That agenda being – not everybody can afford a goddamned suburban four bedroom house with a front and back yard. So rather than destroying our cities with sprawl and homelessness, lets build buildings that get the job done and put a roof over people’s heads, cheaply and in a socially sustainable fashion.

      1. … I think you have just missed the entire point of brutalism

        I just assumed that somebody’s uncle was a big concrete supplier.

          1.  Good design doesn’t cost extra. Vast quantities of blank-faced rebar-rust-explosion-doomed concrete and depressing environments that resist the human industry of living and improving environments are costly.

          2.  No, good design doesn’t cost extra, hence many britalist buildings are fantastically designed. As for depressing, I think you are picking on osme of the worst examples of brutalism again – many are fantastic places to live and work in, and not depressing at all.  Rennovating any building is costly, and needs almost always change over time. Victorian buildings are also costly to change – it does not make them all inherantly evil.

            You know what does cost (a shit ton) extra? Glass curtain walls.

      2.  Also, really, it’s not an architect’s job to determine the fate of society by reducing humans to predictable components of an egotistical scheme. That’s a politician’s job.

        1. A large part of an architects job is to design a building for a function, to a cost. In this case the function is housing for those that could not afford it ohterwise – I do not see how that is egotistical.

          What would be egotistical would be building far less functional buildings, for less people, that cost tens (hundreds?) of millions of dollars more than they should. (see: Gehry)

    2.  As the old saying goes, there’s no accounting for taste (and I won’t wade into political waters here). Different people have different tastes, and there’s likely no objective or universally appealing style.

      That said, Brutalism covered a really wide range, from things that I and probably most people would recoil at, as well as examples that were, well, less brutal.  In the 1970s and 1980s, when I was in high school and college, there were a lot of buildings done in various styles of cast concrete.  Many also incorporated wood and glass in modern and interesting ways, providing an interesting and appealing contrast.

      And one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever experienced was walking down into the Fort Worth Water Gardens, which are done in a Brutalist manner.

      1. I find the brick stuff quite a bit less depressing, and landscaping really helps elevate the design from “industrial waste processing plant” to “alien first contact”.

  11. The Metropolitan Cathedral Church of Christ the King in Liverpool is a very interesting building. 

    It’s not so obvious from the outside, but the upper part is all stained glass and the interior ends up full of the most wonderful light on sunny days. 

    The base that it is on which is much larger was the original crypt for the original design.  A design that was created with the slogan “A cathedral for our time”.  The much smaller building on top of it was part of the redesign with the slogan “A cathedral IN our time.”

    At least that was what I was told by a Roman Catholic priest in Liverpool back in 1990…


  12. Where’s the ugly ones?  Those buildings were beautiful.  Except maybe that Verizon tower, but even it was more interesting that most of the boring skyscrapers I’ve seen.

  13. Well of course it’s ugly; it’s a public incinerator.   What?  It’s a church?  You’re shitting me.

    1. Well of course it’s ugly; it’s a public incinerator.   What?  It’s a church?  You’re shitting me.

      It has a typically pungent local nickname.

  14. I find Brutalist architecture interesting in isolation, in photography and as a dystopian backdrop, but in any normal neighbourhood it’s just insanely out of place and imposing.  It’s also invariably no fun to use day-to-day with dank, mouldy thoroughfares, windows placed above eye level and wind-funnels that make sitting and having your lunch something of a chore. It’s also a magnet for graffiti because of the huge, damp-spattered concrete surfaces that mark themselves out as deserving of spite. I’m sure a lot of Brutalist architecture is, in fact, striking and original, but I’m absolutely fine with it remaining in the history books for the most part, like older forms of English.

    1.  Those problems apply to any poorly designed building, they are really not endemic to brutalism. There are many, many, many brutalist buildings out there that have none of these problems, you just don’t hear of them, as they are doing their job as required. And what do you mean by normal neighbourhood?

      1. Brutalism is identifiable because it generally follows certain design cues, and most of Brutalism’s easily identifiable design cues—the upending of visual mass, the reduction of window space, the use of poured concrete, the lack of visual flow leading  to entrances and so on—are necessarily anti-human and design conceits aimed more at impressing other architects rather than making the building a pleasure to use. By “normal neighbourhood”, I mean one that has built up over time, urban or no.

  15. Can we at least agree that the Verizon building is an abomination? That picture doesn’t really do it justice. You need to see it in context to grasp why it’s so universally hated. Note that what appears to be the highway in the foreground is actually the end of the Brooklyn Bridge. The pictures seem to be taken from the pedestrian walkway, which offers (otherwise) spectacular views lower Manhattan.

    1. The Verizon building looks like it was pasted into the skyline from a photograph taken from a different angle. Weird.

      That circular skyscraper is gorgeous, though.

    1.  You know, I actually like that. It’s extremely clean, in a neat and sort of minimalistic way. Kind of reminds me of the Platinum aesthetic of older Apple computers.

  16. I like lots of them. Even the elephant building. But I love the Mirador Building in Madrid. 

    I also appreciate that my home city’s Federation Square seems to manage to get on everyone of these lists that I read, yet the building itself is constantly filled with people, holds many successful events and in general seems to be popular with the public of Melbourne.

    1.  Really? I found it kind of unusable. The “square” itself  is  too irregular to use for anything but standing room, and navigating the place is pointlessly confusing because there’s no traditional visual cues to demarcate entrances and the like.

      1. Yep. The square itself seems to have been cleverly designed to trip as many humans as possible – some combination of sloping ground, gratuitously uneven paving stones and sun glare. On the positive side, it’s more or less Dalek proof.

  17. This boring cathedral is at least accompanied by a more beautiful cathedral only 5 minutes down the road.

  18. I will say the Ryugyong (aka the Hotel of Doom) looks less creepy now that it’s been finished on the outside.  It’s still creepy.  My theory is that it’s the actual, physical Axis of Evil.

  19. Call the MI6 building ugly if you want, but the massive, Skeletor’s fortress style seems to fit the image of a secret service with their reputation…

    Grand Lisboa actually looks decently in tune with Far-Eastern architecture – a good attempt, at least…

  20. The Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral is a beautiful building–inside and out. When I was in the University of Liverpool’s MA in Science Fiction program from 2007-2008, my friend Jean and I would jog up the steps and around the cathedral every morning on our daily run. It is a building best experienced in person to appreciate its beauty. Also, the interior woodwork is gorgeous, and it is a very peaceful place. I recommend you check it out if you find yourself in Liverpool.

  21. Badminton is the official sport of the righteous. Bishop of Bad-On-Minton, killed by a stray shuttlecock (he was simply observing at the time) became canonized in 1899. His tomb above,  a shuttlecock inspired architectural wonder, sits upon the court of his demise. 

  22. Wow, the Ryugyong hotel in Pyongyang, North Korea has at last gotten some exterior work since I last saw photos of it several years ago.  It’s new top actually looks kind of cool!  In a strange, science fictiony sorta way.

    1. Because the Telegraph is the UK’s paper of record for “get off my lawn, you kids”.

      1.  Ahhhhh, that explains it. I was terribly stumped why the vast majority of those buildings where on the list. 

  23. Ironically, The Telegraph is very near the top of my list of “World’s Ugliest Newspapers.”

  24. I wondered for a moment if this was some belated April Fool thing.  But it really just goes to show that we all like different things.   (Personally, as someone who grew up in Liverpool, I find it hard not to love both of the Cathedrals in different ways.)

  25. there are some fantastic buildings in this list but quite a few of them are not sympathetic to their surrounds. List by Prince Charles miserable old bugger .

  26. Glad for the love for Liverpool Metropolitan, which reflects the general view in the city. We have two Cathedrals, either end of Hope Street, about 10 minutes walk from each other. The other the Telegraph probably likes, and is fun if you like weird, extruded Gothic-Victorian created in the 20th Century. It is for the Protestant tribe, despite being the ornate ‘high church’ building. All the smells and bells lot get to worship their version of the deity in this rather wonderful thing of angles, clean lines and space. The Universities plonked the Science Park next to it for some Futurist kudos. Oh, and the light is beautiful inside, and the acoustics make it a top spot for concerts.

  27. Personally, I prefer late 18th-early 20th century architecture. That said, I wouldn’t say most of these are ugly. This article reminds me in many ways of my grandfather’s rants about rock & roll.

  28. Isn’t this article part of the problem with our society now?  People have decided en masse that an idealized, homogenous, historical architecture solves all the problems of the past, present and future.

    1. In Southern California, it’s a huge fight to save interesting mid-20th century architecture from the wrecking ball so that it can be replaced by pseudo-hacienda style buildings. Some municipalities require every new building to be faux-Spanish colonial. It’s like living in a giant mall.

  29. So few American buildings on the list. Is it because we don’t take chances with our architecture?  Are our buildings like our cars, designed by accountants and not artists?

  30. I’m glad that my home town (Bratislava) and my current residence (Prague) both made the list. To the defense of my home town, that inverted pyramid doesn’t look so bad from the street level:
    On the other hand, when the Telegraph guys were in town, how could they miss the real architectural pearls? Like this (no, that is not Chernobyl):
    Or the new National theater, often mistaken for the Aperture labs:
    Or, my personal favorite, the National gallery (It’s not keeling over, it’s supposed to look like this):
    Way to go, Telegraph.

  31. Not to get all provincial, but as a Harlemite, I’m offended that the new building on the Columbia campus was overlooked for this list of honors. Not only is it the spitting image of a refrigeration unit, but it also ruins a pre-existing architectural achievement, the original McKim, Mead, and White campus:

  32. Hrm.  Yea, I really think only about 1/4 of those are truly ugly, and another 1/4 are quite fantastic.

    My personal standard for a truely impressively ugly building was set by a dorm I lived in at the University of Washington in Seattle.

    For your viewing displeasure, McMahon Hall:

    It’s brutalist, so started out destined to be ugly.  I was once told that it was also part of a brief architectural fad where computers were used to randomize design elements.  In this case the placement of the balconies. (it was a fairly functional dorm though… well other than putting balconies on a tall dorm… they were always locked within days of the start of the year when somone threw something potentially lethal off)

    To me it always looked rather like it had been damaged, but not destroyed, by some impressive disaster.  A nuclear bomb or earthquake.

  33. At least these architects put in some effort. Whether or not someone appreciates there effort seems secondary to me. I mean, have you seen a Walmart? I’d take ugly and interesting over bland and boxy any day. 

  34. Not ALL of these buildings are SO ugly..but some of these are pretty poor.

    #1 in London: What is that?  A concrete anaconda with a parcel in its mouth having congress with a roller coaster?  How much did THAT cost?

    The awful ‘elephant’ mistakes whimsey for cringe-y.

    The Liverpool church would perch quite comfortably in the heights of Cirith Ungol or a scenic outpost on the Sea of Nurnen…

    But most of the rest are not so bad (ugly plain office building is ugly and plain).  Anything round or with domes gets a pass.  Upside down pyramids and giant baskets…fine: whatever.  

    Even that monstrosity in Pyongyang is looking pretty spiffy with the glass installed!  

    The Milan example looks like a transplanted GM turbine manufacturing plant from Detroit 1939…and I have to say I think it’s pretty cool.  But the Russian consulate is like the entire Soviet experiment: most all can agree that’s a fail…

    You wanna see something Really Ugly?  Here: 

      1. I had no idea; my Aztec mythology is admittedly weak.

        Good info: Quetzalcoatl’s Mama!  (Lots of drama in that family; being born a deity ain’t all beer and ambrosia)

        Tried to case that establishment, but I never saw the doors open.  Wonder if it’s still there?

        1. She’s famous for being so scary that she was reburied after being dug up the first time. That and the fact that the locals, who were supposed to be Christians, promptly started worshiping her.

  35. And one more…taken from my hotel room in Sapporo, Japan.

    I -think- it was a nightclub?  Or a sacrificial hot spot for the skull-set…anyway: I enjoy serpents and flayed hands as much as the next guy

    but wow…talk about out of place.

  36. I’m shocked 30 St. Mary Axe (aka the Gherkin) didn’t top the list.  This is the ugliest building I’ve ever seen.  Phallus or what?

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