5 Buildings and Monuments That Caused a Stir


After World War II, Germany was in a rush to rebuild, and aesthetics in architecture may have taken a back seat. Now, as a movement toward tearing down the old edifices mounts, some architects are making an effort to save what some call eyesores. Merlin Bauer, an architect based in Cologne, has even launched a project called “Liebe deine Stadt” (“Love your City”) — where he plasters the words on to particularly unappealing edifices, attempting to persuade the public to embrace his own nostalgia.

Certainly this issue with architectural eyesores isn’t isolated to Germany. Here’s a look at five of the more controversial buildings and monuments here in the US.

Boston City Hall, Boston MA: The Hall was well-liked by modernist designers at the time it was built. In the 1976 Bicentennial poll of historians and architects, sponsored by the American Institute of Architects, Boston City Hall was voted the sixth greatest building in American history. However Bostonians never quite warmed up to the dreary box shape. By 2008 it was voted the ugliest building in the world by the editors of Virtualtourist.

MAD Museum, New York, NY: When the Museum of Arts & Design chose to move to the Huntington-Hartford Building at 2 Columbus Circle in 2008, they planned to radical alter the building. A major preservation push ensued, supported by then Times architectural critics Herbert Muschamp and Nicolai Ouroussoff, among many others. The World Monuments Fund listed it as one of the “100 Most Endangered Sites for 2006” and the National Trust for Historic Preservation ranked it in their list of “11 Most Endangered Historic Places.”

More controversy ensued around the redesign as board members overrode redesign architect Brad Cloepfil and put in a horizontal band of windows, making an ‘H’ in the facade. Of the addition to the word “HI” to his design, Cloepfil said that “he has never felt more violated in any way.”

Experience Music Project, Seattle WA: Designed by architectural giant Frank Gehry, this music museum was not well received by critics. Seattle Weekly hit it on the head when they compared the design to a “smashed electric guitar.” Forbes called it one of the world’s 10 ugliest. But New York Times architecture critic Herbert Muschamp probably takes the cake, calling the edifice “something that crawled out of the sea, rolled over, and died.”

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, Washington D.C.: After years of debate and controversy, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial was dedicated on May 2, 1997 by President Bill Clinton. Stretching over 7.5 acres, the most controversy surrounded the statues depiction of FDR himself. Rather than show the former president in a wheelchair, his likeness sits in a chair. There was a stir over whether his disability should continue to be hidden from the public, and as a compromise, the sculptor added casters to the back of the chair, however they’re only visible from behind.

Canadian Embassy, Washington DC: Canadian architect Arthur Erickson was hand-picked by his good friend, then-Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau to redesign the country’s embassy. At the time there was controversy over him picking a friend to do the design, but once the design was unveiled few protested. Ultimately the building’s stir was the design itself. Architectural historian Nicholas Olsberg explains: “It’s making fun of the ridiculous terms to which buildings must adhere in Washington… He was mocking the US and all of its imperial pretensions, and [he] was determined to get his message across.”