13 Public Buildings The Public Didn't Like
Published 15 February 2013
The curtain isn't going up until May, but the scaffolding on the new Mariinsky Theater in Russia's second city, St. Petersburg, is coming down, and the locals aren't happy. The outward appearance of the $700 million performance space -- known as Mariinsky 2 -- is coming under blistering criticism on blogs and across the social-media sphere. Amateur architecture critics have likened the theater to a drab department store or a giant toilet. Mariinsky 2 is hardly the first public building, monument, or performance space to elicit withering rebukes from those it was intended to serve. Here's a look at a few public buildings whose designs were widely ridiculed. In many cases, time has softened those opinions. (13 PHOTOS)
The Eiffel Tower in Paris, built as an entrance arch to the 1889 World's Fair, has become one of the world's iconic public monuments. Before its opening, however, the tower was criticized by many artists of the day, who objected to "this useless and monstrous" tower. It was an immediate hit with the public, however, and was allowed to remain standing, despite architect Gustav Eiffel only having a permit allowing the tower to stand for 20 years.
Prague's New Stage theater, an extension of the stately National Theater of 1881, was designed by Karel Prager, a top architect from the communist era. Completed in 1983, its exterior of opaque glass blocks has famously been described as resembling frozen urine.
The Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, which opened in 1977, is notable for its inside-out design, with its exposed network of multicolored pipes, tubes, and ducts. With no real facade, the museum's design was trashed by many critics at the time. Art lovers, however, continue to flock to the building, with more than 150 million visitors logged since its opening.
Architect Frank Gehry's Guggenheim Museum Bilbao wowed most of the world when it opened in the Spanish city in 1997. But it was not without its detractors. The Project for Public Spaces said it "fails miserably as a public space, missing a significant opportunity to celebrate and support the cultural and community life that is pulsating throughout the city." The museum is credited with helping to revive the city.
Now considered a landmark of modern architecture, New York's Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and opened in 1959, was criticized at the time as overshadowing the art contained inside, which the design of the building often made difficult to hang. A letter of protest was written by more than 20 artists who objected to having their work displayed in the Guggenheim.
The Louvre Pyramid in Paris was designed by architect I.M. Pei and opened to the public in 1989. At the time, the design of the modern glass pyramid -- set smack dab amid the classical lines of the old Louvre building -- upset many critics and members of the public. It has ultimately become a tourist attraction in its own right and one of the must-sees for visitors to Paris now.
The Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King in Liverpool, England, was designed by Frederick Gibberd and consecrated in 1967. It is derisively referred to as the "Mersey Funnel" by locals and almost immediately after its opening started exhibiting a number of design flaws, such as a leaky roof. CNN recently voted it one of the world's worst buildings.
The Experience Music Project in Seattle, which opened in 2000, was also designed by architect Frank Gehry. It was immediately criticized as ugly and an eyesore but has since grown on the locals. "The building is strange. We can agree on that," the "Seattle Times" wrote on the building's 10th anniversary. "But is it provocative-in-a-good-way strange or just too strange?"
The National Library of Belarus in Minsk opened in 2006, designed by Mikhail Vinogradov and Viktor Kramarenko. It is shaped like a rhombicuboctahedron -- that is, it has eight triangular and 18 square faces. Britain's "The Daily Telegraph" called it one of the 21 ugliest buildings ever designed and built.
The National University Library in Pristina, Kosovo, was designed by Andrija Mutnjakovic of Croatia and opened in 1982. It was also voted one of the world's ugliest buildings by "The Daily Telegraph." It features 73 small glass domes and is covered by a metal fishing net, of sorts. One travel guide describes it as "simultaneously gorgeous and absurd."
The Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw opened in 1955 as a gift from the Soviet Union to the people of Poland. It has long engendered negative feelings, not only because of its imposing presence on the landscape but due to its obvious Soviet-style architecture. It's often referred to as "Stalin's Syringe." It currently houses an exhibition space and offices.
Czech architect Jan Kaplicky's design for a new Czech National Library in Prague was widely criticized when it was unveiled in 2007. Often called "The Blob" or "The Octopus," it was criticized by Czech President Vaclav Klaus, who was quoted as saying he would prevent the construction of the building with his own body if it came to that. The design was later dropped.
Bertrand Delanoe, the mayor of Paris, was among those opposed to the proposed design of the massive Russian Orthodox Spiritual and Cultural Center along the banks of the Seine River. He dismissed the architecture as "pastiche," a "hodgepodge," and "mediocre." Because of all the objections, a building permit was not approved and the project has been sent back to the drawing board.