The architects behind the world’s biggest and boldest buildings usually have a point to make.
It might be a point about aesthetics, engineering or money. It might be about the architect’s religious devotion or their own genius. Whatever the point, the worst thing that can happen is to be ignored. For many architects and developers, to be boring is a greater sin than to be ugly.
But when a building turns out ugly, it’s the passers-by who pay the price — locals and tourists alike. You can’t hide an ugly building. Instead, divisive architecture calls attention to itself daily, fuelling debate, mocking its critics with its immovability and stirring the souls of those brave outsiders who dare to say, “perhaps this building is special?”
After all, a building isn’t just about the statement but about the passion behind it and the details of the work. So, Buildworld decided to leap into the debate by identifying the most maligned buildings in the world, judged by the language that people are using about them on Twitter.
What We Did
Buildworld curated a long list of buildings from around the world, the UK and the U.S. that are often said to be ugly. We identified all the design-themed tweets about these buildings on Twitter. Then we used a sentiment analysis tool called HuggingFace to analyse the percentage of tweets that were negative about each building’s design.
- The Scottish Parliament Building in Edinburgh is the world's ugliest building, according to Twitter users.
- The J. Edgar Hoover Building in Washington, D.C., is America's ugliest building.
- The Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang, North Korea, is the ugliest building outside of the UK and U.S.
Scottish Parliament and North Korean Doom Hotel
Are Among World's Most-Despised Buildings
Opening three years later than planned and four years after the death of its architect, the Scottish Parliament Building leads the list of global buildings considered to be awful. The project was unpopular from the start, as a national building designed by a foreign architect that quickly spiralled ten times over budget and way beyond its deadline. The building looks out of place in the Scottish landscape, apart from its unwelcoming entrance, which is “dark and gloomy, particularly in our climate” and “feels like a cave,” according to former MP and chair of Glasgow’s Festival of Architecture and Design, Des McNulty.
Nine of the 10 ugliest buildings in the world are in the U.S. or UK (according to Twitter). The exception is a North Korean skyscraper nicknamed the “Hotel of Doom,” which remains unused 35 years after construction began (although it was more or less completed in 2018). The Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang got its nickname during a long building lull and looks moderately less doomy now it has metal and glass cladding and LED lights. Its tapered, pyramid shape was a costing solution — the hotel is made of cheap but heavy concrete — but the shape, scale and cladding are a sinister sight over Pyongyang’s otherwise modest and mundane skyline.
The Provincial Train Stations Blighting the UK's Built Landscape
The Scottish Parliament Building in Edinburgh leads the ugly league by a significant percentage in the UK, but a pair of train stations are also breaking free of the pack. Newport and Preston train stations both have a >20% ugliness rating on Twitter. Both are former contenders in the Carbunkle Cup, an annual prize for the UK's ugliest new building.
Preston got its ticket for an entrance redesign deemed out of character with its Victorian setting. Newport’s nomination followed a more dramatic redevelopment by the big-name Grimshaw Architects, which left the station looking like "a sci-fi snail's shell" at street level, transforming, from a bird's eye view, "into a giant gleaming set of ovaries."
Big Box Buildings Among America's Ugliest
Over one-third of tweets about the J. Edgar Hoover Building are negative in sentiment. And yes, it’s not pretty — but there’s a certain Minecraft-y charm about the blocky brutalist monolith. The FBI HQ was fashionable, practical and even a little utopian when it was designed in the 1960s (an open courtyard for agents to eat lunch, files safely archived deep in the core of the building). But today, its very bulk evokes the worst of 20th-century politics and the 21st-century surveillance state.
Not to be confused with the Verizon Building on West Street, the Verizon on Pearl Street has long been a 'doer-upper' without ever becoming an acceptable sight for New York’s eyes. When an investment firm bought the much-maligned 1975 telephone exchange in 2007, a reporter told the CEO: "Mr Pariser, you have a challenge cut out for you — turning a GE dishwasher into an office building." The firm failed to meet the challenge and re-sold it for a fraction of its intended price.
The Buildings We Love to Hate
Bland architecture on a massive scale makes life dull for locals and tourists alike. But a dramatically ugly building can spark a passionate ‘love to hate’ affair. A big, awful building represents a lot of the frustrations that everyday people (and other Twitter users) love to vent about: wealth or wasted public funds, big government or misdirected councils and a world that is tough to navigate or even wilfully hostile. You can use the interactive table below to explore our data in full and highlight the nightmare structures near you.
What's more, an ugly building is rarely simple. From its silhouette to its fine detail, its use of space to its position in the surrounding environment, and it's interiors including Foyer/Entrance Hall, bathroom and enclosures; there may be much to admire - and discuss - in even the daftest of architectural propositions. So, next time you pass an eyesore on your high street or on your summer holiday, slow down and look again. Perhaps it has a story that's yet to be told.
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Methodology & Sources
We built a seed list of buildings from authoritative rankings of the ugliest buildings worldwide and by country. These included all previous winners and nominees of the UK's Carbuncle Cup and rankings of the world's ugliest skyscrapers from Architectural Digest (full list of sources below).
We then searched Twitter for the name of each building plus a set of keywords to obtain all tweets that reflected the public’s opinion regarding its design. The gathered tweets were filtered to ensure they talked about the design of the buildings. We used an AI algorithm from HuggingFace to extract the sentiment from the collected tweets, and then we ranked the buildings based on the percentage of tweets that were negative for each of them.
To obtain tweets referring to the architecture of the buildings, we used the following query:
Building Name" (City location if required) keyword.
We added the location of buildings that could not be easily determined by the name alone. For instance, we searched for "Trump Tower Las Vegas" to avoid misleading results. We used the following keywords on the query: 'design,' 'beautiful,' 'view,’ 'looks,' 'architectural,' 'style', 'ugly,' 'inspired,' 'wonderful,' 'horrid,' 'concept,' 'aesthetic.' We did not allow for duplicate tweets, and we only considered up to five tweets from the same account. Some tweets containing specific words were filtered out as well to ensure the majority of the data referred to the building itself.
A tweet was considered negative if its probability of being negative was higher than 50%. The percentage of negative tweets was calculated by dividing the number of negative tweets by the number of total tweets.
The data was collected in October 2022.
CategoryStudy & Research
Posted On11th July 2023