Monday, July 28, 2003


I had thought of a list for the blog of my Five Ugliest Buildings In The World, and I had to think a lot about my #5 choice. It was the Basilique de Sacre Coeur in Paris. I am a huge fan of church architecture, but Sacre Coeur is simply awful. You can't tell from the usual postcard shots, but from a distance--you can see it in its full unsightliness in books like Europe from the Air--it looks like a big fat white turnip dropped into the middle of the delicate architecture of the Montmartre neighborhood:

It brutally overwhelms its surroundings; its very appearance in a gentle film like Amelie tends to bring everything to a halt.

But I started to reconsider. It is church architecture, after all, and there is a reason it was placed there, at the highest physical point in the city, with only the Eiffel Tower standing higher. The archbishop who had it built wanted it to dominate the city in the same way that, say, Florence or Vienna are dominated by their cathedrals. It's just an architectural failure, that's all.

#4 is the Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan. Yes, it really does look like a big toilet:

#3 I don't have a picture of, but it's the hotel in Lancaster, PA, that looks like a huge paddlewheel steamer, standing in the middle of Amish wheatfields.

#2 is every Soviet building ever made.

And #1 is another Parisian monstrosity, the Pompidou Center, which is basically a Blue Man Group set that you can walk through. No, that's not scaffolding, that's the actual building.

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