Architecture plays the role of giving a place its identity and often exhibits the culture of a place. While buildings and structures are constructed around the world by renowned architects, the architectural industry is not free from controversies. Here are some controversies throughout the history of architecture.
1. SAGRADA FAMILIA, BARCELONA
The Sagrada Familia located in Barcelona was the project by Ar. Antoni Gaudi. “my client is not in a hurry’, he always said while describing his project on Barcelona’s iconic Roman Catholic basilica – La Sagrada Familia. The main reason that makes this building very controversial is that it is the world’s longest-running project, now in its 138th year. Ar. Antoni started its construction in 1882 but after his sudden death by streetcar, many ethical dilemmas launched on the weather of the project in 1926.
Later, at the beginning of the 1960s, many contemporary architects including Alvar Alto, Le Corbusier initiated many failed campaigns to modernize the design. The architects currently working on the project have slated for completing it in the year 2026 on the 100th death anniversary of Gaudi.
2. EIFFEL TOWER, PARIS
Located in Paris, this building had to face initial rejection of masses and was labeled as the ugliest structure. A Parisian novelist named Guy de Maupassant in the late 1880s in one of his articles described a café at the foot of the newly constructed Eiffel Tower saying – ‘I like this place because it’s the only place in Paris where I can dine and not see the EIFFEL TOWER’.
The tower was named as ‘giant black smokestack’ and a ‘truly tragic street lamp’ and was criticized by Parisians who argued that the tower would blight the elegant beauty of the low rise roofscape houses of Paris. It was decided to dismantle the structure after 20 years the government later denied it.
3. AL-WAKRAH STADIUM, QATAR
Al-Wakrah Stadium in Doha, Qatar, is one of the 5 under construction projects for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Zaha Hadid Architects have been mocked and revolved around criticisms initially for its yonic design appearance and later on for the working conditions of the migrant worker involved in building the project. The stadium has been under major controversies as more than 1000 workers have reportedly died while constructing the structure. Upon asking the architect about her steps for preventing it, she stated – It wasn’t her duty as an architect to look at it.
4. SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE, AUSTRALIA
Some best buildings had to face initial controversies and the iconic design of the Sydney opera house in Australia is one among them. Along with the criticism for its lack of functionality, it was also the story of anger, firing, revenge, and scandal. The project was granted to Ar. Jørn Utzon promised to complete it in 18 months but the project kept running for another 20 years which increased the cost, and eventually the project was taken back from his hands. His salary was terminated and he got entangled in political intrigue which made the building much more controversial.
5. TAJ MAHAL, AGRA
Taj Mahal, i.e. one of the seven wonders of the world, is counted among one of the most controversial buildings of architecture and the reason for many religious conflicts too. The Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in the memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal built the Taj Mahal. It was built in 22 years by 20,000 artisans from all over the world.” This is what you probably have read but the research by P.N. Oak proves that the building was originally a Hindu temple of Lord Shiva and was built around 100AD. This later got confirmed by carbon dating results by the samples of wood taken from its door. The controversy took a higher pace when Oak’s book was withdrawn from the bookstores, and the Indian publisher of the first edition was threatened with dire consequences. To date, scientists and archaeologists are not allowed to investigate the building.
6. THE GUGGENHEIM MUSEUM, NEW YORK
John Canady, a famous art critic of the 1960s described the building as a war between architecture and painting, in which both come out badly maimed. One of the most appreciated projects today was slammed by the architecture critics then. Frank Lloyd Wright was way ahead of his time and got into a lot of controversies. People didn’t appreciate its structure and left no stone unturned in proving the structure to be ugly. They said it looks like an inverted oatmeal dish rather than an inverted ziggurat.
7. PRUITT- IGOE HOUSING DEVELOPMENT, UNITED STATES
One of the largest projects in the United States from the 1950s to 1970s was the most failed housing project in history and was described as ‘hell on earth’. This building was never entirely occupied due to its uncontrolled racism and the ensuing “white flight”. The architect was accused of causing mental issues down for its low-income residents with its prison-like structure by the contemporary architects just after 20 years of its construction. After the demolition of the building, Charles Jencks declared the incident as the death of modern architecture.
8. ANTILIA, MUMBAI
Antilia is the world’s most expensive residential building worth 1B USD owned by Mukesh Ambani. The home was cooperatively designed by the American firm Perkins + Will and Hirsch Bedner Associates. It is a 27-story tower built adjacent to a very notorious Golibar slum. With 6 story parking garages, each floor has a different theme based on the rare materials across the world. The controversy began when the residents of Mumbai disapproved of it arguing that the tower is insensitive and excessive.
9. WOMAN’S BUILDING, WORLD’S COLUMBIAN EXPOSITION, CHICAGO
Sophia Hayden Bennett was the first female graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and supervised the project. The building was opened to celebrate the success of the woman in art and craft but was criticized stating it was unassertive, timid, delicate, and feminine. The entire project was led by females which led to many arguments for giving necessary space dedicated especially to the woman and that it would improve the greater role of women in architecture.
10. THE ‘WALKIE TALKIE’ AT 20 FENCHURCH STREET, LONDON
The ‘Walkie Talkie’ 20 Fenchurch street in London is a curvilinear structure that swells from its modest footprint like an overinflated balloon about to burst.
The building reflects laser death rays from the sun because of its structure that destroys the ground level objects, Paul Finch, a person who supported the structure’s construction throughout, publicly stated that he regretted the decision and that the architects have messed up the building because of their misfortune.