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There are not many ugly cement box buildings in the UK, but there are some and they stick out like gangrenous thumbs. Uncle B heard on the radio the other day they’re trying to save one in London that’s in danger of the fate it so obviously deserves.

“Brutalist architecture” is not called that because it’s brutal and awful, believe it or not, but because le Corbusier liked to work in raw concrete — béton brut in Frog. The style that says, “fuck you, aesthetics!”

Anyway, I ran across this delightful concrete abomination on the interwebs tonight. It’s a fountain, put up in Swindon in 1966. The good burghers of the town hated it from the start.

Cast in concrete and seven feet to an edge, it was greeted by widespread burst of public outrage which soon mellowed into chronic disgust and loathing.

Within a remarkably short time the Cube was covered with slime. It soon became a popular gathering place for drunks, tramps and vandals. It was set in a pool which eventually became stagnant and doubled as an open-air lavatory and garbage receptacle.

Said one local wag, “It would be very fitting if the characters who voted to squander our money could be chained to the Thing for a few hours on a Saturday.”

It was pulled down before the Seventies were out. Honestly, look at this fucking thing. Can there be any more persuasive evidence that our rulers hate our guts?


Comment from QuasiModo
Time: February 25, 2015, 11:11 pm

Communists like that sort of thing…it resembles the way they see the world.

Comment from BrendaM
Time: February 25, 2015, 11:49 pm

“…outrage which soon mellowed into chronic disgust and loathing.”

Perfectly describes my thinking about Washington DC. Thank you.

Comment from Stark Dickflüssig
Time: February 25, 2015, 11:55 pm

It’s not just about sharp corners, 90° angles, & straight lines. There’s also a rejection of elegant proportions, & beautiful finish. The brutalists wanted to show off the ugly surface, & the awkward ratios, not because they were trying to make a wry joke about something, but because these terrible things stultify the aesthetic senses of those who have to live around & look at these abominations every day. They (meaning our Artistic Betters) saw the shallowness of beauty (because they themselves were incapable of loving beautiful things) & put it upon themselves to remove the ability to appreciate beauty from everyone (because no-one is better than anyone else, & since they knew in themselves that they were disgusting & filthy & unappreciative they sought to make sure that everyone else was drawn down to their own level).

This is part of what Jesus Christ was talking about in Matthew 18:9.

Comment from Armybrat
Time: February 26, 2015, 12:01 am

I nominate Boston City hall for the butt-fucking ugliest building in New England. Cast concrete. Gray…in a city where gray is the predominate color for 6 fucking months. And it’s supposed to look like some butt-fucking ugly gray building upside down. And when you go inside..it is the same butt-fucking ugly cast concrete. Hallways and hallways of butt-fucking ugly gray…cold and unwelcome in any season…just how the butt-fucking commies like their government.

Comment from Nina
Time: February 26, 2015, 12:15 am

The ugliest building on the UC Berkeley campus back when I was a student was the architecture building, and it was as ugly inside as it was outside.


Comment from Some Vegetable
Time: February 26, 2015, 2:07 am

This particularly resonates with me today. I was driving through downtown Dallas and unhappily encountered Robert Irwin’s 1981 public scupture “ Park Portal Slice“. This ‘art’ consists of a 700 foot long, 8 foot tall rusty steel wall dividing a beautiful green park. It is a willful and deliberate display of ugly industrial decay which demonstrates nicely why I hate modern art. It is certainly born from the same spirit as your fountain sculpture – “Fuck you, unwashed public. You are stupid and deserve to be punished by this display of things you’ll never understand or like.”

Note the similarity with the more famous Tilted Arc installed the same year in New York City. You may know of the lawsuit where the Artist Richard Serra fought to keep his curving wall of raw [rusty] steel, 120 feet long and 12 feet high, which carved the space of the Federal Plaza in half, from being dismantled.”Those working in surrounding buildings must circumvent its enormous bulk as they go through the plaza. According to Serra, this is the point, “The viewer becomes aware of himself and of his movement through the plaza. As he moves, the sculpture changes.” Interestingly and fortunately, Serra lost his argument that an artist owns his work and it cannot be changed with his permission -repeatedly- in court.


There are a few differences between the sculptures –

First “Park Portal Slice” has a gate cut through it where “Tilted Arc” has none.
Second, “Tilted Arc” was torn down, while “Park Portal Slice” still cuts slices like ugly scar across the city.

Comment from Scubafreak
Time: February 26, 2015, 5:08 am

Well, if that kind of architecture bothers you, just watch the clip below, and imagine that they are coming to save us from public ugliness..


Comment from David Gillies
Time: February 26, 2015, 5:13 am

Anyone driving out of Portsmouth towards the motorways from the mid-sixties to 2004 would have passed the Tricorn Centre, which was regularly voted pretty near the top of any list of Ugliest Buildings in Europe. It looked like a cross between a maximum security prison and an alien mothership. My father would always blow a raspberry, flick a V-sign at it and say, “balls to the Tricorn Centre!” as we drove past. The problem with Brutalist construction is it’s so full of rebar that you can’t just blow it up; it has to be taken down with pneumatic drills and cutting torches, which makes demolishing it fearsomely expensive. It’s why so many of these monstrosities sit there abandoned and mouldering away – not because some loon wants to preserve them* but because there’s no budget for getting rid of them. Portsmouth is pretty grim as it is. Although there’s been a lot of new and attractive development there’s still a lot of architecture that wouldn’t have looked out of place in Bucharest under Ceaușescu.

* although, God help us, such loons exist

Comment from P2
Time: February 26, 2015, 7:10 am

Try the British telecom building in Martlesham Heath near Ipswich for ugly…. A large concrete with a smaller concrete block set on top at an angle. I figured the builders went to the Douglas Bader pub nearby for lunch, then stuck the top bit on. “Looks just fine to me, Nigel…. Fancy another pint?”

Comment from AliceH
Time: February 26, 2015, 4:10 pm

Nina: At my university, the architecture school was in a beautiful building. In the early 70’s, I think, the architecture students were on the team to design the Law School buildings.

I was unable to find an image on google of what they designed and built. Think “concrete block parking garage with vertical copper stains”. Inside was like being in an large basement – complete with exposed ductwork.

This current image of the law school shows the block/flat construction, but it seems they did re-tile the outer walls of at least one of the buildings.

Comment from Rich Rostrom
Time: February 26, 2015, 9:28 pm

According to Eric S. Raymond, back in the 1930s, there were Communist agents of influence in cultural fields like architecture (such as Willy Münzenberg). They were directed to push ugly and demoralizing works such as Brutalist architecture to accelerate the social breakdown of non-Communist countries.

Comment from ed
Time: February 27, 2015, 4:44 am

@ sweasel

2016 Presidential candidate Gov Scott Walker sitting on a Throne of Skulls of his enemies is starting to turn into an internet meme. Any chance of getting something like this on a t-shirt or coffee mug?

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