Thursday, 6 August 2015

Friday, 9 August 2013

The Shard, London

"It is the ugliest, largest wound on the capital. Its architect named it after criticism from English Heritage, who claimed the building would be “a shard of glass through the heart of historic London”.
As a symbol of arrogance and excess, it is rivalled only by Ryugyong Hotel in North Korea.
Coincidentally, they look quite similar. Both should be mocked for what they look like, and for what they represent."

The above quote is from Building Design website who host the Carbuncle Cup - a prize for the worst piece of architecture as nominated and voted by its readers. I'm not sure that The Shard is really in the spirit of this competition [or should it be anti-competition?] - there are many thoughtless dreadful buildings far more worthy of nomination. Of course, there are some strange elements to the shard, not least the abrupt manner in which it greets the floor - but at least it has some ambition and presence.

See for the nomination.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Public Urged to Kick Out Ugliness

He's at it again. Now the Planning Minister, Nick Boles wants to public to decide on what counts as good design and to 'let the market decide'. This cannot be a serious attempt at policy making. If it is, then the Minister should step down as we will no longer need him to influence policy or to comment on the 'market's decisions'.
Nick Boles

Thursday, 10 January 2013

The Castles on the Ground

"...the alleged 'badness' of suburban taste is not that people who live in suburbs have an unaccountable preference for what is ugly, in spite of the fact that well meant efforts to educate them into preferring more refined standards of design seem mostly based on an assumption that this is so. The people of the suburbs like their own things for their own reasons, in light of which reasons there is much virtue in them"
J. M Richards, The Castles on the Ground (London: The Architectural Press, 1946), p49

I started reading this book thinking that it would be an attack on the taste of the suburbanite - but it seems that Jimmy Richards had a more objective viewpoint. He wasn't promoting the suburbs  - but neither was he ridiculing and labelling them as irrelevant.
The neo-tudor timber boarding, Laurel trees and privet hedges along with red tiled gables, dormers, bay windows with leaded lights and winding streets that lead to nowhere must be celebrated held up as icons of twentieth century design and landscape.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Pig Ugly Housing in the UK

The Housing Minister, Nick Boles and his lackey Wayne Hemmingway have declared new housing in the UK to be 'Pig Ugly'.

They go on to add that the reason people object to housing being built in the Countryside is because the housing is so ugly. I'm not sure that even the most beautiful house designs can really compete with the English countryside.

The most disturbing thing about the entire affair is that the Minister suggests using 'X-Factor' style voting in order to decide on what gets built. Some would argue that this is a democratic solution - however, it is also relying on the lowest common denominator.

Friday, 2 November 2012

"Hideously ugly, even by communist standards." - A hotel of Doom in North Korea

They don't really get much better than this - The Ryugyong Hotel in North Korea has been under construction since 1987, although economic woes have delayed progress. The building was recently condemned but it seems work has started again and it could one day, perhaps, be one of Wallpaper* magazine's top places to visit?

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Dali on Le Corbusier

'Karl Marx suffered from the same kind of illusions as poor Le Corbusier, whose recent death filled me with great joy. Both of them were architects. Le Corbusier was a pitiable creature working in reinforced concrete. Mankind will soon be landing on the moon, and just imagine: that buffoon claimed we'd be taking along sacks of reinforce concrete. His heaviness and the heaviness of the concrete deserve one another.... Le Corbusier simply went down for the third time, because of his reinforced concrete and his architectures, the ugliest and most unacceptable buildings in the world. All the same, if God exists, He'd expect me to act like a gentleman. So I ordered some everlasting flowers for the anniversary of his death, next year, and I cried out: "long live anti-gravitation"'

Alain Bosquet, Conversations with Dali, New York, 1969, pp16, 17, 31

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Buckingham Palace - questioning the ugliness of the queen's gaff in the Jubilee year?

The BBC has chosen to celebrate her Majesty's 60th year on the throne, as it were, by raising the question of whether Buckingham Palace is Ugly or not?

Perhaps not one of Nash's best works. It is a bit of a lump, and lacks any drama and movement on the front facade. The lesser viewed rear facade is perhaps more successful.

Monday, 16 January 2012

The Catholic Cathedral, Liverpool

I didn't ever think this building would feature on this Blog.....

Apparently, CNN have rated the Catholic Cathedral in Liverpool as no7 in a list of the world's most ugliest buildings.....

It was designed by Fredderick Gibberd, an important British Modernist architect in 1959 and sits upon the unfinished crypt by Sir Edwin Lutyens.

This is not a photograph of it being blown up / taking off- they're fireworks from the city's birthday in 2007.

Monday, 12 September 2011

In 1935 an exhibition of working-class flats was organised by the Ministry of Health, to deal with the 'twin problems of overcrowding and slum clearance'. The slums were considered to be a national disgrace - up to six dwellings had to share a single WC and single cold water tap in the worst areas.
The exhibition included flats designed by Maxwell Fry, Sassoon House and Kensal House.

Sassoon House

Kensal House

Sir Hilton Young the Minister of Health described it thus,

"The difference between these well designed flats, with their beautiful courts, and the old blocks of tenements  formally erected is the difference between light and darkness, beauty and ugliness, intelligence and stupidity".
(Architects' Journal, Feb 7, Vol 81, 1935, p213)

Although Sir Hilton doesn't state this, he is in effect comparing Modernism to light, beauty and intelligence.
Modernism was in its infancy in the UK when this exhibition took place. It was seen as the radical solution to a whole host of societal ills.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Southampton and Regeneration Ugliness

Another article complaining about modern architecture and cities being ugly including the 1990s New Labour regeneration. The article includes a bit on Southampton too - all a bit tenuous and predictable.....

Monday, 1 August 2011

United Reformed Church, Over, Winsford - Pevsner

You have to admire the Buildings of England series - by Nikolaus Pevsner. Their detailed descriptions and usefulness whilst traveling is without question - even if Pevsner's pedantry and irritating tone grates after a while.
Despite Pevsner's penchant for dates coupled with clear descriptions of the buildings included, we sometimes get a glimpse of something more interesting and personal that reveals taste and prejudice.
Pevsner described the Congregational Church Church (now United Reformed) in Over, Winsford as "Very ugly and not, it seems, in a deliberately challenging way" (p389, Cheshire, 1971)
I would like to see a building that is ugly in a deliberately challenging way.
The church's architect is John Douglas - a much under-rated designer who was prolific throughout Cheshire.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Is Modern Architecture Ugly?

A debate was triggered on the following site following the question, Is modern architecture ugly?
Yet again, modernism is rejected and Victorian is celebrated. The blog also considers whether architecture schools are more concerned with 'creating' geniuses rather than competent architects.

This is an interesting argument. The 'radical', 'wacky' and outlandish is often preferred in architecture schools over the 'everyday', sensitive proposal. If schools of architecture 'produced' more 'competent' architects would there be less ugly architecture?

Friday, 7 January 2011

The spread of ugliness in the Home Counties, 1928

A report in 'The Builder'  vol. 134,  April 13, 1928, p608:
"There is hardly a town or village, at any rate in the Home Counties, that is not disfigured and artistically injured by the erection of common place, vulgar buildings which jar with their neighbours and offend the eye. The hideous petrol filling stations and pumps which are strewn indiscriminately all over the country have become a by-word of reproach....."

Prince Charles also picked up the petrol station as eyesore theme some 71 years later in his book, "a vision of britain".

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Ugly buildings in Oxford

Whilst Oxford is renowned for its wonderful architecture  [Bodleian Library, Wrens Theatre, numerous college quadrangles etc. etc.]; it also has some ugly sisters. According to the site below, Oxford 'wanted to have some ugly buildings' from the 'post war' era. They are described as being not 'in sympathy' with their older neighbours. Is that what makes architecture ugly? - Not being in sympathy with something that went before coupled with being built after 1945....

The Westgate Centre and Car Park (photo from Oxford Lights)

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Ugly Green Architecture
Treehugger ask a crucial question: Why is so much green architecture ugly?
Probably because aesthetics has to follow the green function.
Is it even possible to produce an architecture that looks good and is 'sustainable'? Probably not.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Modern Art, Modern Architecture and a lack of beauty: Daily Mail
 According to the Daily Mail's writer, Roger Scruton, there is a cult of ugliness in Britain (Daily Mail, 02 December 2009). 
Of course, Modern architecture is cited as being one of the high priests of this new faith, 

"The lapse into ugliness is nowhere more apparent or more intrusive than in the desolate city centres produced by modern architects."

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Marcel Breuer

Writing for the Architectural Review in 1935 Marcel Breuer attempted to set the record straight in his article, “Where do we Stand?”.
He discusses his admiration for ‘peasant’ and ‘vernacular’ culture, the associations connected to the word, ‘revolution’ and rebuffed claims that Modern Architecture is “cold, hard, empty-looking, ultra-logical, unimaginative and mechanistic in every detail” with, “whoever thinks so has either only seen the worst examples of modern architecture, or else has had no opportunity to live in or make closer inspection of the best”[1]. Whilst in later times he may have been accused of being a ‘formalist’, he goes on to describe some key principles of what modern meant to him,
“we have no use for beauty in the form of a foreign body, of ornament, or of a titivating of undesigned structural elements; nor even as an arbitrary magnification of certain dimensions, a purely transient vogue. We have no use for architecture that is labelled symbolist, cubist, neoplastic or ‘constructivist’. We know that the essential and determining elements of a building can be wholly rational without this rationalisation in any way affecting the question of whether it is beautiful or ugly”[2].

If only Marcel. We cannot help ourselves when it comes to judging architecture.

[1] Breuer, M. (1935). Where do we Stand? The Architectural Review. 77: 133-136, p135           
[2] Breuer, M. (1935). Where do we Stand? The Architectural Review. 77: 133-136, p136

Monday, 9 August 2010

Serlio's Ugly Composite Order

See the image for Serlio's, "rather ugly version of the Composite" order.
The image is a wood cut from 1540 showing the five orders. 

Source Summerson, J. (1963, reprinted 2006). The Classical Language of Architecture. London, Thames & Hudson World of Art., p64
The composite order is on the far right!

The Hayward Gallery

"London's most unloved building" (Esher, L. (1981). A Broken Wave: the rebuilding of England, 1940-1980. Harmondsworth, Penguin, p110)

A link between Modernism and super-skinny models?

"Just as the ugliness of Modernism in architecture and fashion go hand in hand, so the timeless ideal in building, with all of its sensually curvaceous surfaces, harmonizes with traditional, rounded, feminine beauty".

An article on the 'link' between modern architecture and the current trend for super-skinny models. The blog argues that a more baroque, full-bodied architecture is a better option. We at The Architecture of Ugliness couldn't agree more.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Lawn Road Flats

"In the early post-war period, Lawn Road Flats won second prize in the Ugliest Building Competition organized by Cyeil Connolly's Horizon. This too, perhaps, in its way, was no mean feat"1 
The Lawn Road flats was certainly an austere composition, but in its current restored and cared for state, it looks elegant and purposeful. It has also housed some famous residents including Walter Gropius, Marcel Breuer, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy and even Agatha Christie to name but a few....

I'm not sure who won this prestigious award, but I'll try to find out....

1. Fiona MacCarthy in Pritchard, J. (1984). View from a Long Chair. London, Routledge, p22

photo by Stevecadman via Flickr. 

Saturday, 31 July 2010

Birmingham named UK's ugliest city

40% of Birmingham residents voted for their own city! At least they were being honest - there's a lot of ugly buildings in Birmingham, but the Bull Ring is quite good.....

Manchester's Arndale centre came 4th - despite its 'makeover' following the IRA bomb in the mid-1990s.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

London Barbican, "one of the wonders of the modern world" according to the Queen

 The Barbican Centre, topped a poll for London's most ugliest building according to a report on the BBC website:

When Her Majesty opened the building in 1982 she declared it one of the wonders of the modern world - indeed. Perhaps this explains why Prince Charles is so against Modern architecture, it's just an age old case of rebelling against one's parents.

The top ten list was as follows:

1. Barbican Centre
2. BT Communications Tower
3. Millennium Dome
4. Centre Point Tower
5. Elephant and Castle Shopping
6. Euston Station
7. Royal Free Hospital
8. M16 Building
9. St. Georges Wharf
10. Postal Sorting Office, Rathbone Place, W1

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

IMAX in Bournemouth demolished because it is too ugly

Is this really the best way to determine the outcome of our built environment?
On one hand it is democratic; if you consider a TV audience pressing their red buttons to be democratic. There may be worse contenders in smaller towns who could only muster a few votes. It doesn't make their case any less significant. The demolition of any building is not to be taken lightly. What is considered a good idea by one generation is seen as legalised vandalism by the next. A good example of this would be the Euston arch. A lesser known example is one stretch of Abercromby Square, Liverpool demolished to make way for a bland pile making reference to the Georgian architecture it replaced....
Betjeman described Abercromby square as being like a small town within a larger one. If that is the case a quarter of it was demolished by the University of Liverpool to make way for what was called, Senate House (now the Abercromby wing of the Sydney Jones Library).
Of course, the Imax in Bournemouth was unlikely to become a significant work of architecture but we must surely not resort to mob rule in these matters.