10 of the Most Contentious Buildings Ever Constructed

One factor most buildings have in common is this: they will be around for a long time. This is great when the building is well-loved by those who have to look at it or work in it every day. But some buildings take a while to get used to – and some that, well, no-one ever really likes.

Here are 10 of the most controversial buildings ever constructed.

CCTV Building, Beijing

This vast, angular, bridge-like building has yet to grow on the residents of the Chinese capital – or indeed anyone else. It has been likened to a big pair of boxer shorts – so big in fact, that it has almost as much office space as the Pentagon (although it seems to possess rather more offensive power).

The Portland Building, Portland, USA

Infamous for its tiny windows, the Portland building was designed as a civic structure that would celebrate the residents of the city it served. Instead it made them quite angry. Billed as the first postmodern building in the USA, it faces renovation costs of $95m – a sum that puts its future in jeopardy.

The Walkie-Talkie Building, 20 Fenchurch St., London

The ballooning curvilinear shape of the so-called Walkie Talkie building has dismayed many. But spare a thought for those who parked their cars below it one sunny day – only to find their bumpers and carpets had been melted by the magnifying power of those arced windows.

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain

Gaudi's Sagrada Familia was an ambitious project even before the plans for it perished in the Spanish Civil War. But still the unique cathedral keeps architects, engineers and stone masons in regular work. Funded entirely by public donations and entry fees, Barcelonans can expect the masterpiece to be finished by 2026, 144 years after construction began.

The Eiffel Tower, Paris

Parisian novelist Guy de Maupassant would sit in the cafe beneath the Eiffel Tower because it was the only place he couldn’t see "that hideous tower". Fellow Parisians were equally cheesed-off by the 300m iron structure, that was, until it started attracting thousands of tourists and boosting the city's economy. Today, it is regarded as one of Paris' most elegant and romantic fixtures.

Antilla Residential Tower, Mumbai

Boasting 27 stories, Antilla is one of Mumbai's tallest residential buildings – and one of its most controversial. Reckoned to be one of the world's most costly private homes, it is situated next to the Golibar district, most of which is occupied by a vast slum. Understandably, the building has been labelled insensitive and excessive by many.

Tower Bridge, London

Will the Walkie Talkie one day become as well-loved as Tower Bridge? The famous Thames crossing wasn’t always cherished by Londoners. Indeed, when it first went up architect and critic Henry Heathcote Statham said that the bridge ‘represents the vice of tawdriness and pretentiousness’. And in 1894 it is rumoured that a dog refused to cross it, such was its disdain for the structure.

The Scottish Parliament Building, Scotland

Roundly rejecting the Georgian elegance of Edinburgh, the messy Scottish Parliament Building has in turn been rejected by most people who have seen it or been in it. Described as "an indecipherable jumble of forms" by Building Magazine, it perhaps caused most offence by going £350m over budget. In addition, a roof beam collapse and a severe pigeon problem have put the building’s 100-year design life into question.

Pruitt-Igoe Housing Development, Missouri

Dubbed ‘the most notorious failure in the history of public housing’, the Pruitt-Igoe Housing Development was severely criticised for its 'inherently prison-like' appearance. It was even blamed for triggering mental health issues in residents. Less than 20 years after it went up, it was demolished. It lives on, however, in lectures on 'how not to design a housing development'.

Al Wakrah Stadium, Doha, Qatar

Perhaps best known for making people Google the word 'yonic' – a word often-used to describe it – the Al Wakrah Stadium remains one of the late Zaha Hadid's most controversial buildings. Despite ongoing criticism from government officials and notable architects, the British-Iraqi architect's vision looks set to be realised in time for the 2022 World Cup. The most offensive aspect of the stadium, however, is arguably the working conditions of those employed to build it.

Inkpen Downie, as one of the leading architects in Colchester, delivering inspiring bespoke specialist architectural solutions to both commercial and domestic clients, covering contemporary design as well as sensitive architectural solutions to historical and protected buildings.

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