The ugliest building in the world?

Kind of fitting that it should be in Pyongyang. It gets my vote.

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 20 Comments

Oh, I dunno…creepy maybe, and too big, but in my mind the average plain square block you see everywhere is uglier than this.

February 11, 2009 @ 11:00 am | Comment

I don’t think it’s ugly. It’s spectacular and eye-catching, much more beautiful than the “big underpants”.

February 11, 2009 @ 1:51 pm | Comment

Looks like something from another world.

I guess “thanks” for posting, richard. ;)

February 11, 2009 @ 4:22 pm | Comment

It’s what I live for.

February 11, 2009 @ 4:25 pm | Comment

to xu,

I believe the proper translation for the new CCTV headquarters is the “Big Crotch”

February 12, 2009 @ 8:11 am | Comment

The image-boosting structures, the favorites of the totalitarian rulers, once they are screwed up, will backfire and cause the loss of face big time and for a long time, such as this grand hotel in the bankrupt N. Korea, which can never be finished, and the CCTV Complex, which was burned down by fireworks as soon as it was finished.

February 12, 2009 @ 10:17 am | Comment

Out of scale maybe, but as for ugly … well, it’s still under construction. At this point it’s just a bare concrete shell, few buildings are attractive at this stage. It might look much better once the external cladding, windows and trim are installed.

Really, I think there are a number of highrises here in Shanghai that are easily uglier. Wish I could paste a JPG in this comment. :-)

February 12, 2009 @ 12:29 pm | Comment

But it’s been under construction for decades, and it seems they gave up in 1992. So I think this is as finished as it’ll ever be.

Send me any jpeg’s you’d like and I can post them.

February 12, 2009 @ 12:43 pm | Comment

I guess the main reason why people consider it as “ugly” is because it is constructed in N Korea which is the most unfavorite country for westners. If it is built in other countries, I guess the chances for it to win the “ugly building contest” would be very small. Take a look at the pictures of those famous skycrapers, like the Empire State Building,Taibei’s 101,Shanghai’s Jinmao. They are just as ugly or beautiful as this one, I mean, in my opinion. Politics is politics, architecture is architecture. We should not view a structure from a political angle. That’s unfair for the architect.

to schtickyrice
Thank you for your correction. My English is very bad and that is the main reason why I surf English websites, I want to improve it and I think reading English blogs is the best way to achieve that goal. I wish both our host and other commenters won’t feel uncomfortable with my broken English.

February 12, 2009 @ 2:55 pm | Comment

It is airbrushed out of photos not because it is ugly. It is because it is an unfinished embarrassment. The building is supposedly structurally unsound due to the use of inferior materials. It is made almost entirely of reinforced concrete because the government could not find enough steel to strengthen the structure. It is supposedly crumbling in a few places already. So it actually represents monolithic self-glorification gone awry.

I read recently as early as last year that construction was going to recommence soon, although I don’t know who in their right mind would stay there. And even if it were top-rate, Pyongyang couldn’t find the travelers to make it economical.

February 12, 2009 @ 4:59 pm | Comment

Xu, not just Westerners find this building ugly. The NK’s themselves airbrush it out of photos.

Thomas: It is airbrushed out of photos not because it is ugly. It is because it is an unfinished embarrassment.

I’m not sure how you know this, but if it were not ugly, why would they be so embarrassed by it that they feel they need to airbursh it out? If it were attractive, it would not be very embarrassing, even if it were behind schedule.

February 12, 2009 @ 6:22 pm | Comment

monstrosity.

February 14, 2009 @ 12:40 am | Comment

Richard, my previous comment explained the reason. “It actually represents monolithic self-glorification gone awry.” In an autocratic communist state with a godlike patriarch at the head, where the government is supposed to do no wrong, the presence of not only a monument to capitalism but one that the government couldn’t even finish properly is the height of embarrassing. It is ugly, yes. So are half of the Jetsons-style, white-tiled buildings in China. But people don’t airbrush them out of photos. Why? Communism in China is nearly dead, despite the name of the party in charge. In North Korea, it is another matter.

February 16, 2009 @ 2:57 pm | Comment

In short, the building is not only a monument. It is a monumental loss of face towering over Pyongyang. And that, in this part of the world, is far more important than aesthetics.

February 16, 2009 @ 3:09 pm | Comment

There’s currently a building in Singapore used as a centre for the arts or something like that, and it’s built like a giant durian with all the giant spikes on its surface. Way uglier than the Pyongyang tower if you ask me. (I’m Singaporean by the way.)

February 16, 2009 @ 5:56 pm | Comment

At least they stopped working on it once they realized it was folly.
That’s more than you can say for many, many, many other highrise ego projects in the world today.

February 17, 2009 @ 2:32 am | Comment

Work on the Ryugyong has resumed recently, thanks to investment from Egypt. From the Wikipedia entry:

In April 2008, after 16 years of inactivity, foreign residents in Pyongyang noted that Egypt’s Orascom Group started refurbishing the top floors of the hotel. Though the effect on the architecture has yet to be determined, windows and telecommunications antennae were observed being installed. The Orascom Telecom subsidiary of the group confirmed involvement in the structure to begin developing GSM infrastructure in North Korea for up to 100,000 initial subscribers. Only government officials are presently permitted to use mobile phones and the service has been banned from use by ordinary citizens and foreigners since 2002.

In September 2008, a senior North Korean official said the refurbishing of the Ryugyong Hotel will be done by 2012 – the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung. At the same time, an Orascom company official said the goal of the project was to at least give the structure’s facade a facelift and make it more attractive.

On December 22, 2008, photos of ongoing construction at the hotel appeared on the Internet. The exterior construction has included the installation of windows and a covering of the top (circular) floors[15] however, no photographs or information has been released regarding the interior, such as the questionable construction/engineering of the building or the degrading concrete.

February 17, 2009 @ 4:06 am | Comment

Well, if finished, it would actually be very nice, even at this stage, the overall shape is magnificent and very original.

In any case, the most ugly building is definitely the so called ‘freedom tower’, the ghostlike-skeleton going to replace the unforgetable twin towers.. (why they simply cannot rebuild WTC is beyond me.. it would be most logical choice http://www.triroc.com/wtc/)

February 18, 2009 @ 4:06 am | Comment

As far as the Freedom Tower, I don’t think there is much there yet to criticize. The monstrosity in the WTC issue is a political monstrosity, not architectural. Maybe when there’s a building standing there we can call it the ugliest ever. For now it’s a concept.

February 18, 2009 @ 8:59 pm | Comment

Ugliest building?? Maybe second ugliest! The prize goes to the Soviet Palast in Kaliningrad, Russia (nee Koenigsberg, Germany).

http://home.introweb.nl/~hogensti/Kaliningrad-en.htm

But see Forbes’ choices for the ugliest buildings: (scroll down for slide show)
http://www.forbes.com/2002/05/03/0503home.html

February 19, 2009 @ 4:09 am | Comment

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