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Beauty is, of course, in the eye of the beholder. And when it comes to architecture some people will glare with disdain, while others will clap their hands with glee at the sight of a building. But whereas taste is subjective, there are some buildings that have garnered more criticism than adoration - infamous for being just plain ugly. We’ve used our eager eyes to pick out the cream of the crop.
1. The Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King, Liverpool
Sir Frederick Gibberd’s 1969 creation rarely divides critics. This extreme example of brutalist civic architecture was dubbed locally as “Paddy’s wigwam” when it was first opened and still evokes extreme opinion. Yet to fully appreciate this building you need to experience the interior. The cavernous central sanctuary is topped with an enormous glass cylinder, filling the space with light and striking colours, starkly contrasting the drab greyness of its exterior.
2. The National Theatre, London
Denys Lasdun’s creation to house the UK’s Royal National Theatre Company is by many believed to be a behemoth dominating London’s Southbank. A quintessential example of 1960’s concrete Modernism, the design is so loathed by some that it drove Prince Charles in 1988 to brand it “a way of building a nuclear power station in the middle of London without anyone objecting”. The building has succeeded, in recent years, in adapting and modifying, using projections and external lighting to enhance its appearance.
3. The Ryugyong Hotel, Pyongyang, North Korea
Construction began on North Korea’s ill-fated, white elephant of a flagship hotel in the country’s capital in 1992, remaining unfinished until 2015. The notorious ‘Hotel of Doom’ is regularly branded as a hideous addition to the city’s fledgling skyline. Despite years of promises that the hotel would be opening imminently, the interior still remains under construction, standing as a colossal waste of money in this troubled city.
4. The Russian Embassy, Havana, Cuba
Designed by Aleksandr Rochegov, the seat of Russia’s diplomatic mission in the Cuban capital was opened in 1987. Dubbed ‘the syringe’, or, marginally more lovingly, ‘the sword’, by locals, the building is the epitome of constructivist architecture, emulating Soviet design from the 1920s. Hardly blending with Havana’s wide, palm-tree lined boulevards, the audacious building is a stark reminder of Cuba and Russia’s Cold War history.
5. Dr. Chau Chak Wing facility for UTS Business School, Sydney, Australia
From The Gherkin to the Walkie Talkie, it’s not uncommon for buildings to gain a moniker. But Frank Gehry’s ‘crumpled brown paper bag’ may be one of the most unfortunate. The newest building on our list comes with the American architect’s 2015 creation for a Sydney university. This unique, brick-built, curved structure is certainly flamboyant, and continues to divide critics.
So from syringes to paper bags, it’s clear that we all have differing views on the aesthetic qualities of certain buildings. But as time marches on and tastes change, maybe we’ll eventually learn to love these beleaguered buildings. Unless the wrecking balls get there first...
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