Our Ugliest Building

And one of the world's worst

By Steve Rhodes
|  Friday, Oct 16, 2009  |  Updated 3:34 PM CDT
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Chicago's Architectural Eyesores


That thing is pretty ugly.

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Chicago building has made the list of Travel + Leisure's world's ugliest.

Good! I'm glad the magazine has finally joined me in lamenting the James R. Thompson Center, otherwise known as the State of Illinois Building. What a monstrosity

Er, wait . . . it's actually the Harold Washington Library.

Not a bad choice, either. The building looks like the castle home of a giant ogre and practically screams "Don't come in here! We have a huge basement dungeon filled with weeping children!"

Or, as Travel + Leisure says: "Neoclassical references collide with a glass-and-steel Mannerist roof; throw in some red brick, granite, and aluminum - and a bad sense of scale - and you’ve got way too much architecture class for one day."

Right. And weeping children in a huge basement dungeon.

Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin isn't a fan either, but he's more forgiving. "[I]ts classical facade is leaden, its rooftop ornament is cartoonish and its lobby has all the grace of a shopping mall," Kamin writes. "But one of the world's ugliest buildings? Nah."

In the wake of the T+L article, WBEZ asked Kamin and a couple others to name their ugliest building in Chicago. Kamin chose the collective awfulness of the city's cheap, cowardly condos.

Former Sun-Times architecture critic and Urban Observer blogger Lee Bey picked the Museum of Contemporary Art. "It's brutal," Bey said.

Lisa DiChieri, advocacy director for Landmarks Illinois, went with Soldier Field "once the spaceship addition landed."

But it's our library - our library! - that made the big T + I list. The place that should be a city's warmest and fuzziest.  At least it finished two spots behind (less ugly than) the Ryugyong Hotel. That's in North Korea. Victory!

Steve Rhodes is the proprietor of The Beachwood Reporter, a Chicago-centric news and culture review.

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