Gossip, speculation, and scuttlebutt about politics.
April 5 2000 5:57 PM

Chatterbox's invitation to readers to submit photographs of ugly buildings they'd like to see demolished yielded more than 50 nominations. Apparently the ugliness of one's hometown architecture is a source of deeply felt civic pride. Hey, Pittsburgh! You think you have the ugliest building? Then you haven't visited Baton Rouge! That sort of thing.


Two of the most-despised buildings in America, judging from Chatterbox's e-mail, are examples of New Brutalist architecture: City Hall in Boston, and the FBI Building in Washington. Chatterbox is soft on New Brutalism--he doesn't propose bringing it back, but he rather likes the way Boston City Hall rises like a leviathan from its surrounding sea of brick. (Chatterbox is too young to remember Scollay Square, the red-light district that was demolished to make room for it.) The FBI building is less distinctive, but Chatterbox would keep that, too. (He likes the way it looms, one century too late, over Ford's Theater.) The really depressing New Brutalist structure in Washington isn't the FBI building but the Forrestal Building, which houses the Energy Department. As a general rule, Chatterbox thinks it unwise to name tall buildings after people who killed themselves. (James V. Forrestal, the nation's first secretary of defense, famously jumped from a 16th-story window in 1949 while being treated by psychiatrists at Bethesda Naval Hospital.)

Here's a sampling of other buildings that Chatterbox's readers despise:

Boise, Idaho: The Grove Hotel. "A monument to what bad design on a restricted budget can do." (Lee Dillion)

Chicago: The James R. Thompson Center (State of Illinois Center). "Designed by architect Helmut Jahn and known locally as Helmut's Helmet." (Stu Bloom) Note: Several others nominated this building.


Pasadena, Calif.: Millikan Library, California Institute of Technology: "A real sore thumb." (Paul A. Sand)


Dallas: Reunion Tower. " 'Space Age' yet vaguely penile." (Steve Smith)

West Hollywood, Calif.: The Beverly Center Mall. "Not only is it the ugliest

waste of concrete, but it's impossible to get into. You walk around it on

the sidewalk or in the indoor parking lots, for half an hour every time, just

trying to find some kind of entrance." (Charles Freericks)

New York City: Pan Am Building (now the MetLife building). "How could you pick 2 Columbus Circle to mention and not this building?" (Pamela Armstrong)


Albany, N.Y.: Empire Plaza. "Sometimes referred to as Rocky's last erection." (Richard K. Green) Note: Several others nominated this building.

Columbus, Ohio: The Greater Columbus Convention Center. "What would a building look like if every surveyor and workman that came in contact with it was legally drunk." (John Fralick)

San Jose, Calif.: Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum. "Thank God it's hidden in the suburbs, where most of us won't see it unless we go looking for it." (Michael Mussman)

Raleigh, N.C.: J.S. Dorton Arena. "Heinous." (Brian Corrado)


Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn.: Gateway Center, University of Minnesota. "A stealth bomber grafted onto a double-decker bus." (Adam Minter)

Winston-Salem, N.C.: Wachovia Building. "So dominates our town's skyline that it seems worse than it actually is." (Wade E. White)


New Haven, Conn.: Kline Biology Tower. "On a campus renowned for its ancient looking, low-rise Gothic structures, this pile of cement shouts what the architect was thinking: 'That other stuff may be quaint, but this is 1950!'" (Arthur Stock)


Seattle: Frank Gehry's Experience Music Project. "This is a very flattering picture. ... Even though the project isn't completed, is it too early to blow it up?" (Dee Dee Walsh)

Orlando, Fla.: "Anything." (Don Tracey)

Chatterbox apologizes to readers whose nominations weren't included here. In most instances, it was either because Chatterbox couldn't find a URL showing the building in question or because it was a university building--Chatterbox didn't want academia to be over-represented.

Photographs of: the Reunion Tour © Joseph Sohm, ChromoSohm Inc./Corbis; the Kline Biology Tower © G.E. Kidder Smith/Corbis; the J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building © Catherine Karnow/Corbis; the Experience Music Project © Reuters  Newmedia Inc./Corbis.