Architectural Criticism is a topic that can vary based on perspectives and preferences in terms of aesthetics and reasoning. While constructive criticism often helps an architect learn from an onlooker’s or user’s frame of mind, some structures prevail and rise beyond the harsh comments it receives due to the critic’s short-sightedness. Various examples of both these situations have been seen in the history of architecture.
Given below are 20 structures that have faced the most criticism throughout history.
1. Guggenheim Museum, New York
The Guggenheim Museum is considered one of the most iconic structures in the history of Architecture. Most marvels at the unique structure standing amid the city of skyscrapers, but not many know that its distinctive shape was one of the primary reasons for the numerous grievances that came its way. Prominent artists signed petitions against it and the building was often compared to an “Inverted oatmeal dish”, a “Washing machine” and even a “Hot cross bun”.
2. Eiffel Tower, Paris
The Eiffel Tower is another example of a celebrated structure that rose despite the criticism directed towards it. Despite being planned as a temporary structure that would be dismantled within 2 decades of its inception, the critics signed petitions to stop the structure from being built, calling it “A tragic Street Lamp”, “A High and skinny Pyramid of ladders shaped like a factory chimney” and “ A Monstrous tower that would cast a shadow over their sophisticated city”.
3. Sagrada Familia, Barcelona
Antoni Gaudi’s most ambitious project, The Sagrada Familia Church is a structure that remains incomplete since its construction began in 1882. This church has staggered Critic and Architects all around the world with its strange shape and intricate details. While architects like Walter Gropius and Louis Sullivan applauded its spirit and technicality, George Orwell called it “The most hideous building in the world” and hoped that it would fall during the Spanish war.
4. Antilla Tower, Mumbai
Antilla is the world’s most expensive house built to date, designed by Perkins & Will for Billionaire Mukesh Ambani. Controversies plagued the building even before construction, with issues regarding the land acquisition methods and later for having illegal car parking and 3 helipads that violated the local noise laws. But Antilla was most talked about for its design that did not follow the traditional Indian Vaastu rules. The Ambanis were often questioned about why they did not reside in their luxurious residence long after its completion.
5. The Louvre Pyramid
Despite being mocked and censured publicly for proposing a 71 ft glass pyramid at the new entrance of the Louvre Complex, which some considered to be the ancient Egyptian symbolism for death, I.M Pie bravely completed the project which turned out to be one of the city’s most iconic landmarks. The Louvre Pyramid had to withstand criticism even before its completion, for its modernist style that clashed with the existing city landscape and was often called an “eyesore” and “an Architectural joke”.
6. Portland Building, Portland
Built as a result of winning a design competition sponsored by the city, The Portland Municipal Building by Michael Graves was a hot topic for debate among the Architectural community in the 1970s. The structure on one hand was criticized for its poor interiors, small windows, and boxy structure with a glazed terracotta facade but was also lauded by some as the revolutionary structure that ignited the Post-Modernism Movement.
7. Scottish Parliament Building, Edinburgh
The Scottish Parliament Building by Architect EnricMiralles is another example of a Post Modern structure that stirred several controversies during its time. It was dragged into a public inquiry due to the budget that expanded 10 times its initial estimate and was predicted to be a doomed project even before its inauguration. Paradoxically, the building was voted as one of Britain’s “Most Vile” buildings by the public in 2005 and awarded the Stirling Prize, the same year.
8. Boston’s City Hall
Another example of a Modernist style Building that brought out contrasting opinions of public disapproval and Professional awe from architects, who considered it to be an “authoritative building, built as a result of clarity, articulation, and intensity of imagination”. On one hand, it was voted the ugliest building while on the other hand it was given an Honour Award by the American Institute of Architects.
9. The Walkie Talkie Building, London
Popularly known as the Walkie Talkie building due to its bulbous shape but officially named as 20 Fenchurch Street, won the Carbuncle Cup award for “The worst new building in the UK built in 2014”. The name “The Fryscaraper” originated when the sunlight reflected from the concave glass facade damaged and melted the body works of the cars parked below. It was also said to impact the wind strengths negatively creating strong draughts. The disapprovals increased with the opening of the much-awaited sky garden, that didn’t meet expectations and was said to look like an “Airport Terminal”.
10. Lincoln Plaza, London
The Lincoln Plaza followed the Walkie Talkie Building to win the Carbuncle Award for the Ugliest building in the UK in 2016. It has been called a “Putrid pugilistic horror show” but all the houses of the building had been sold out even before it completed construction.
11. Woman’s Building, Chicago
The Chicago Columbian World Exposition held in 1983, displayed the Woman’s Building designed by Sophia Hayden. Several groups objected to the segregation and requirement of a separate pavilion to represent the 19th-century modern woman and promote female-led activities. The final structure designed by Hayden was of Italian Renaissance style and was ironically criticized for being “too feminine” and “delicate” and not assertive enough compared to the male-designed counterparts. The scrutiny faced by the architect was to such an extent that Hayden stopped her practicing Architecture thereafter.
12. Al Wakrah Stadium, Qatar
Zaha Hadid’s stadium designed for the2022 Fifa World Cup opened in 2019 despite all the adversities it had to go through. A lawsuit was filed by Hadid against the New York Review of Books who wrongly claimed that numerous lives were lost during the construction stage. A petition was also signed by Japanese architects led by Fumihiko Maki, regarding the unjustified large size and budget of the structure. Some other preposterous comparisons were those of critics who compare the form of the stadium to that of female genitalia.
13. Tower Bridge, London
The 125-year-old London Tower Bridge, a well-known landmark of the city was once described as a “Childish” and “Ugly” bridge. Several Architectural Critics were brutal while describing its style, calling it a “Horrible mixture of ironwork and Gothic Stonework”.
14. PATH Station at Ground Zero, New York
The Oculus Station or the World Trade Centre PATH Station is the most expensive Train Station to be built at 4 million dollars with public money. Although its design has been appreciated, the constant delays in completion and the massive increase in budget was the primary reason for criticism that came its way. Recent incidents of leakage have also been reported increasing its disapproval.
15. Pruitt-Igoe Housing Development, Missouri
The Joint Housing Project built in 1954 was considered a failure due to a rapid decline in the living conditions soon after its opening. Critics called it an “overcrowded Prison” for its low-income residents and all 33 buildings were demolished in the 1970s.
16. Sydney Opera House, Sydney
Australia’s most celebrated structure, known for its elegance and distinctive form, the Sydney Opera house went through multiple delays in schedule and budget inflation due to poor project management. The building was censured for taking more than a decade to complete and utilizing more than $ 100 million for completion when the initial budget was only $ 7 million.
17. Ryugyong Hotel, Pyongyang
North Korea’s Ryugyong Hotel is known for its massive size and height that towers over all the buildings in the capital city. Built to impress the world and break records, the structure was condemned for being the “worst designed hotel” and remained unoccupied. It was mentioned in the Guinness World Records for being the tallest unoccupied building in the world.
18. The Empire State Building, New York
The iconic Tower of the Art Deco style built in the 30s was once considered as New York’s unluckiest structure built mainly due to its location and poor connectivity. The building remained unpopular till the 50s and gained the nickname, “The Empty State Building” due to its low occupancy rate. The opening of the deck boosted its popularity and helped it gain profits eventually.
19. John Hancock Tower, Boston
The Hancock Tower designed by Henry Cobb is known as a minimalist and elegant skyscraper. Although it is much appreciated for its design and aesthetics, several engineering flaws garnered criticism. Some as severe as glass panels shattering during its construction stage due to wind pressure, which delayed the opening and increased the costs drastically.
20. Orange County Government Center, New York
The main office of the Orange County government was subject to criticism from the time of its construction, often called a “monstrosity”. The problems increased with time with multiple roof leaks and thermal issues. It reached a point where officials considered demolition and the proposal was only delayed due to financial issues. It was eventually restored post the damage caused due to Hurricane Irene.