Most Controversial Buildings in History

The construction of new buildings continues every day. In some cases, they were greeted with overwhelming fanfare, in others with disdain, and in most cases with little more than a passing glance. It is, of course, possible that controversy could arise. Opportunities like this don’t come around often, but when they do, they are hard to forget. 

It is important to note that ugly and contentious are two very different things – in fact, a lot of the buildings on this list, like the Guggenheim, are both architecturally significant and aesthetically stunning. 

Although their aesthetics may not be the most appealing, these buildings have stirred up arguments, caused conflicts, or even welcomed debates. Among the most controversial buildings in architectural history are 11 most controversial buildings and a 27-story residence for a billionaire.

Most Debated Buildings in History

Listed below, MaskBlogSpot explores the reasons behind the high level of controversy surrounding these structures. 

1) City Hall (Boston)

In the decades since it was built, Boston City Hall has been the focal point of countless heated debates. There are those who admire the building, while there are those who loathe it, especially in contemporary settings. It’s not surprising that many media outlets and civilians alike claim that City Hall is the world’s “ugliest building,” even though the American Institute of Architects awarded it an Honor Award in 1969. 

City Hall Boston
Source: commons.wikimedia.org

It is likely that both sides of the argument can agree that it is an excellent example of brutalist architecture, but ultimately, that is in the eye of the beholder. 

2) The Antilia Tower in Mumbai

The Antilia Tower in Mumbai
Source: youngisthan.in

With a floor area of 48,780 square feet, a height of 568 feet, and 27 stories, the Antilia Tower is a huge structure in Mumbai. He owns a mini skyscraper that appears to be an apartment complex or office building, but it’s actually his private residence. According to Forbes, Mukesh Ambani is the 10th richest person in the world. Several critics have pointed out the exorbitant display of wealth displayed by Chicago-based Perkins+Will. 

3) The Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang

In spite of the Ryugyong Hotel’s 105-story monstrosity still remaining unfinished after 20 years of construction, it remains vacant and unfinished. Despite delays, the new façade appears complete – although it has been called an eyesore by some – but the interior might not be ready and might not be structurally sound. 

The Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang
Source: edition.cnn.com

In order to compete with the Hotel Swissôtel The Stamford in Singapore, the Ryugyong was built during the Cold War. 

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4) A visit to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City 

In spite of the fact that the Guggenheim Museum was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and has been a landmark in New York City for 60 years, it wasn’t always so. 

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City 
Source: newyorkbyrail.com

In the years following its unveiling, Wright’s museum was compared to an upside-down oatmeal bowl and a washing machine. There were protests against the construction of the building, as several artists believed it would overshadow the museum’s artwork. There was even a letter from 21 artists protesting the construction of the museum mailed to the museum’s director and trustees. 

The senders claimed that the museum’s curvilinear slope was indicative of a callous disregard for the fundamental rectilinear frame of reference necessary to adequately contemplate art or works of art. 

5) The Louvre Pyramid (Paris)

In the early construction phases of I.M. Pei’s Louvre Pyramid, which serves as the museum’s main entrance, a debate broke out almost immediately. From an aesthetic perspective, the structure’s modern style contrasts strongly with the historic palace’s French Renaissance style.

The Louvre Pyramid
Source: onelifetours.ca

Moreover, critics argued that the Chinese American architect lacked a thorough grasp of French culture for updating a Parisian landmark and that the structure’s form symbolized death in ancient Egypt. Despite the glass edifice’s 30-plus years to grow on people, some still find it ugly. 

6) Tour Montparnasse (Paris)

Tour Montparnasse in Paris has had a direct influence on the laws of the city in which it was built, something that isn’t common for most buildings. After two years of building the tower and with frustration mounting among residents, the city banned buildings over 121 feet high in 1975 (the city has since raised height limits in some areas of the City of Lights).

Tour Montparnasse
Source: travual.com

Many critics, like those who complained about the Louvre Pyramid, chose to criticize it for its simplistic façade and overbearing height, which were not in keeping with the rest of the French city’s landscape. 

7) Sagrada Familia (Barcelona)

Despite the fact that construction on the Sagrada Familia began in 1882, the basilica is still not completed 140 years later. The first designer on the church was Francisco de Paula del Villar, but he soon resigned, and Antoni Gaud took over. In spite of working on the gothic temple for the rest of his life, it was only about a quarter complete when he died.

Sagrada Familia
Source: headout.com

As the church has grown and evolved, it has seen its share of controversy over the last century-and-a-half. During the Spanish civil war, Gaud’s original plans for the building were destroyed, which led to some arguing that the recent additions were inconsistent with his original vision. Additionally, the property inflicted a multimillion-dollar debt on Barcelona. 

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8) Strata SE1 (London)

A 43-story residential tower in London, the Strata building, is yet another winner of the Carbuncle Cup. Several complaints have been made about this building. Three wind turbines are inserted into the roof of the skyscraper, which was supposed to supply 8% of the building’s electricity. The huge holes at the top were not there just for decoration.

Strata SE1
Source: archello.com

Despite its noble intention when it was designed – it was the first to incorporate wind turbines into a building – critics pointed to the turbines as evidence of greenwashing. There was a later complaint from residents claiming the turbines rarely moved.

9) The Scottish Parliament Building (Edinburgh)

The Scottish Parliament Building
Source: in.hotels.com

As of 1997, the Scottish Parliament Building was estimated to cost somewhere between £10 million and £40 million, approximately $12 million to $48 million. Ten years later, in 2004, after delays and changes, the estimated cost reached £514 million, or £430 million. Aside from outcry over the building’s price tag and taxpayer funding, other criticisms included its location and Enric Miralles’ choice of designer. 

10) John Hancock Tower (Boston, Massachusetts)

The John Hancock Tower in Boston was supposed to be a modernist masterpiece when it was built in the late 1960s. It is now called 200 Clarendon Street. In the opinion of I.M. Pei’s firm, the tower would be the tallest in the harbor city; however, the project was plagued with controversy before it even began.

John Hancock Tower
Source: chicagotribune.com

Despite its proximity to Boston’s Trinity Church, a national historic landmark, the skyscraper caused citywide frustration when it was realized that it would cast a shadow over Trinity Church. When the tower’s excavation began, Trinity Church was damaged and the congregation sued the tower, later winning a multimillion-dollar lawsuit. 

11) Clerkenwell Close (London)

Clerkenwell Close
Source: thestonemasonrycompany.co.uk

In 2017, when the mixed-use building 15 Clerkenwell Close was completed, its limestone façade wasn’t welcomed by all. The stone exterior of the building, which was designed by architect Amin Taha, did not suit the brick-clad buildings that surround it, which were designed to honor the area’s medieval architectural heritage.

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