In downtown Portland, OR, stands an imposing 15-story edifice that's one of the most hated buildings in America. The façade is an off-putting hodgepodge of faux classical columns, strange and useless decorative elements and penitentiary-like small windows, with a depressing color scheme (throwing in some tacky blue glass for good measure).
Designed by famed architect Michael Graves, the Portland Building is an icon (for better or worse -- mainly worse) of postmodernism, which was a major design trend in the 1980s, when the structure went up, but has since fallen from favor. And that's a primary reason there's not much enthusiasm for anything erected in that decade.
But these aren't the only buildings that spur resentment, and even rage, in those who set eyes on them. Professional and amateur critics alike disparage structures from many eras and in many countries. Of course, different people have different criteria for what makes a structure unappealing. "The ugliest buildings are the anonymous ones," says Christopher Bonanos, who edits architecture criticism at New York magazine. "Even if an experimental, high-profile building doesn't quite deliver, at least the architect is trying something. A boring building is a warehouse in the middle of New Jersey."
To compile our list of the world's ugliest structures, we consulted with architects and design experts as well as the general public. Pretty much everybody had something to say. For instance, there aren't many admirers of the spherical houses on long pole "stems" planted, like so many mushrooms, in the Netherlands. (The architect was given free rein courtesy of a Dutch subsidy for experimental housing.) Then there's the midwestern corporate headquarters that takes the form of a huge picnic basket. Sure, it's funny from the outside, but probably not for the employees of Longaberger, in Newark, OH, who have to go work in a hamper every day.
Still, we doubt that any of the buildings on our list will find favor anytime soon. --Bunny Wong
See More of the World's Ugliest Buildings With its concrete sides sloping at sharp 75-degree angles, this stark 1,083-foot-tall, not-quite-finished hotel looks threatening and out of place on the Pyongyang skyline. Its history is odd, too: the country ran out of money for the project in the early 1990s, and it was airbrushed from photos at the time. After a 16-year hiatus, construction began anew last year—that squiggle at the pinnacle is not an ornament, but a crane.Photo: Kernbeisser
See More of the World's Ugliest BuildingsIt’d be easy for James Bond to hide on that roof: he’d have his pick of hulking concrete slabs, characterless green glass, and jagged rotundas behind which to suavely crouch. (In fact, the ‘80s-wedding-cake-meets-fortress does appear briefly in a few 007 films.)Photo: Justin Kase zninez/Alamy
See More of the World's Ugliest BuildingsIf buildings came with footnotes, this one, named for a beloved former mayor who deserved better, would have pages worth of citations. Neoclassical references collide with a glass-and-steel Mannerist roof; throw in some red brick, granite, and aluminum—and a bad sense of scale—and you’ve got way too much architecture class for one day.Photo: Iconotec / Alamy
See More of the World's Ugliest BuildingsIn an area that looks straight out of Romancing the Stone—a dusty Peruvian town in the Amazon jungle—Incan ruins might make sense, but not this lumpy lookout, which features a mismatched trio of elements: curved base, futuristic middle, Middle Ages top. “Notice the sculptural elements at the base, crawling up the tower like a fungus,” says Roel Krabbendam, director of design at ABA Architects in Tucson, AZ, who used to live in the town.
If you worked here, you’d be conducting business in a 9,000-ton copy of a woven-wood basket. Its stucco-over-steel construction was an award-winning feat, apparently; the synthetic plaster received a prize. But it’s as if, in 1997, a giant-size Little Red Riding Hood set down her seven-story hamper on a flat section of Ohio. CORRECTION: A previous version of this slide identified this building as the Fang Yuan Building in Shenyang, China.
See More of the World's Ugliest BuildingsLet’s break out the government-building checklist. Small, boring windows? Check. Humdrum off-white masonry? Yes. Terracotta pilasters and shiny blue glass? That, too. The first three levels of the squat, 15-story municipal-services structure are covered in dark green tiles, adding to the bewildering gaudy-meets-tedious tone.Photo: Nikreates / Alamy
See More of the World's Ugliest BuildingsThis 25-floor office building, finished in 2001 in the northeastern capital of Liaoning Province, is a weird mishmash of ideas. One is a reference to old Chinese coins, which have square cutouts—just like the structure’s square center. Other parts of the design are like a garden-variety corporate building, with a concrete base and, on the sides, steel rims with glass grooves.Photo: Best View Stock/Alamy
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