Saturday, March 4, 2017

Ugly Buildings, Part 1


If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then perhaps ugliness is the same. If so, not everyone will agree with my selections for the world’s ugliest buildings. More in future Bytes.

Blues Point Tower, Sydney:

Let’s start with a local example, Blues Point Tower at McMahons Point in Sydney. An apartment building with 144 apartments on 25 levels, it was designed by architect Harry Seidler (1923-2006) and completed in 1962. At the time it had been suggested that the area be rezoned industrial. Seidler instead proposed that McMahons Point be a residential area with multiple high rise buildings, 10 in the same style as BPT and 7 smaller medium-rise. Neither suggested zoning eventuated and Blues Point Tower remains the only building that was constructed as part of Seidler’s grand plan. In 2002, when interviewed, Seidler commented:
"Why do you want to ask me about that tower? Why? Come on, this is old news, stupid bloody nonsense, I'm sick to death of it. It's a journalistic gimmick. I've always thought Blues Point Tower is one of my best buildings and I stand by that. Anybody who can't see anything in it ought to go back to school."
Today it is official policy to preserve foreshores for use by the public. Blues Point Tower remains a pimple on the face of the foreshore so let’s be grateful that there is only one.


Elephant Building, Bangkok:

The Elephant Building, or Chang Building, is a high-rise building in Bangkok, Thailand. Completed in 1997, it was designed to resemble an elephant, has 32 floors and is 102 metres high. It combines residential, commercial and office functions. Its eyes are huge windows, its tail is made up of 20 stories of smoked-glass enclosed rooms jutting from its rear, and its tusks house the offices of the bulding's management company. It has been described as “a cubist abstract design imbued with a sense of architectural humor”, but not only is it an ugly building, it is an ugly elephant as well.


Selfridges Building, Birmingham, England:

The phrase “Beauty is only skin deep” first appeared in written form in a 1616 poem by John Davies. Additional wording was added in the centuries that followed until we ended up with:

"Beauty is but skin deep,
Ugly goes to the bone;
Beauty dies and fades away,
But ugly holds its own.”

The Selfridges Building in Birmingham, part of the Bullring Shopping Centre, illustrates that poem perfectly. The building, a department store, was completed in 2003 and has a steel framework with sprayed concrete facade. It is regarded today as an iconic architectural landmark and is seen as a major contribution to the regeneration of Birmingham. The facade comprises 15,000 anodised aluminium discs mounted on a blue background. The jury is still out on this one, for every person who hates it you will find another who loves it. When I see the pics I want to pop the anodised discs like popping bubblewrap.


Landmark Theatre, Devon, England:

The Landmark Theatre in Devon is an award winning theatre in the coastal town of Ilfracombe. It is locally referred to as Madonna's Bra, a reference to its shape and that of an iconic brassiere worn by the singer Madonna.

Madonna wearing the bra during the 1990 Blond Ambition tour.

The theatre was built to replace 'The Pavilion Theatre', a Victorian building partly destroyed in a fire during the 1980s and later demolished. The architectural merit of the theatre is widely questioned, since the style of the buildings bears no resemblance whatsoever to any others around it. The building is also a source of criticism of Ilfracombe town planners over the years to pull down Victorian buildings and to replace them with modern structures that do not fit with the character of the town. From a distance the towers look like the cooling towers of a power station.


On Monday 23rd January 2017, it was announced that North Devon Theatres Trust which owns this theatre and The Queens Theatre in Barnstaple, had gone into administration. All future performances at both theatres are cancelled until further notice.

Hotel Hotel, Canberra:

When I drive to my father in law’s place in Canberra I drive past the above hotel, opened in 2014 and named “Hotel Hotel”.

The jury is still out on this one as well, with opinions for and against. Okay, call me a traditionalist, say that I am lacking in imagination, to me the facades are not a thing of beauty.

The following is from the hotel’s website:
Collaborating with Australian artists and designers like Lucy McRae, Anna Wili Highfield, Charles Wilson and Adam Goodrum, the directors, Nectar and Johnathan Efkarpidis have created an environment that is highly creative, full of texture, personality and surprise. . . Hotel Hotel has two faces - one, to the east, is all timber slats and open elements, the other is in formed concrete with an intricate facetted facade.
I am booked to attend a function there later this month, it will be interesting to see the interior.

Some internal pics:


Foyer suitcase wall

Concierge desk


  1. Hi Otto,
    saw this building two years ago in Hyderabad, India.


  2. Thanks Jay, that will be in Part 2.

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