Central London's Ugliest Buildings

By M@ Last edited 14 months ago
Central London's Ugliest Buildings

We try to keep a positive tone on these pages. The best of London; the splendour of London. Then we walk past the Tower Hotel and the mask slips and we get all shouty and world-wary.

Here, then, is our pick of the grimmest buildings in central London. Please nominate your own in the comments, and let us know about any particular lowlights in north, south, east and west London that we might take a look at for further instalments.

5 Broadgate

Broadgate isn't exactly known for exquisite architecture. This recent addition, known as 5 Broadgate, takes the word 'subtle' and pummels it into chutney. It stands as a good example of why we should avoid getting too worked up about skyscrapers. The simplest alternative — the groundscraper — can be even more obtrusive. This ungainly leviathan entirely deletes the sky, save for the jenga-like cavities in the upper floors. The hoggish office block doesn't even have the grace to include any public bars or cafes within its village-sized footprint. Instead, it's entirely given over to financial services company UBS, which we choose to believe stands for Ugly Building Syndrome.

King's College London Macadam Building

Some might regard this concrete edifice as a little-known marvel of brutalism. We're less charitable. It reminds us of a Wall's Viennetta that's been left to fester in the rain. This sore thumb is home to the King's College Students' Union and, we learn, a castrated lion called Reggie. The Macadam Building, as it's known, is an anagram of 'Ugh, dated, banal mimic'.

The Tower Hotel

While many of the buildings on this list will divide people, the Tower Hotel surely will not. This is the Rear Admiral of ugliness; the Field Marshall of fugly. It's not just the blocky, concrete monotony of the thing, it's the location. It stands right next to the planet's most famous bridge and the Tower of London World Heritage Site. Even the entrance is nauseating, unless you have a fetish for faecal-brown plastic.

Upper St Martin's Lane

It's the one in the background.

Anyone old enough to remember the 1980s will recall those strange white dog turds that used to decorate our streets and parks. This towering monolith on St Martin's Lane is a hulking reminder of those over-calcified cack-packets. It used to look more concretey, when first built in 1959. The plastic overcoat was added in the late 80s, to no fanfare whatsoever. You can't polish a turd, but you can coat it in tipp-ex, it seems.

One New Change

We admit it. We were moist with anticipation when the plans for this building were first revealed about a decade ago. One New Change's design was reportedly inspired by the stealth bomber, so as to reduce its intrusiveness next to St Paul's. Imagine that: a shopping centre inside a giant, invisible flying wing. The reality has more of bummer than bomber about it. The distinctive cladding puts the ass back into glass, with a poopy-hued tint that nobody can be fond of. It might not be sensitive to St Paul's, but One New Change is receptive. When viewed from above, the neighbours look like a diagram from a sex education manual.

Guy's Hospital

Most buildings look nice at sunset. Not Guy's Hospital. As the 'tallest hospital in the world' [citation needed], it skulks behind the Shard like a hunch-backed monster from another era. The photo above is from 2010. The tower has since been dolled up so that it now looks like a hunch-backed monster from another era in a balaclava.

Shoreditch car park

The shoddy monotony of this sorry heap speaks for itself. The grey concrete structure looks like it was constructed without reference to a blueprint, its lower floors hastily infilled when someone noticed it couldn't support its own weight. The ground floor is usefully given over to a car wash, while the upper floors are the sort of place you might find Luther hanging out between crime scenes. It's one saving grace: the Star Wars mosaic that beautifies its grubby arse.

The Walkie Talkie

Do an image search for London's ugliest buildings and the results are dominated by this tower on Fenchurch Street. The Walkie Talkie is much derided for its bulbous, top-heavy profile, made all the more obvious by its distance from the other towers of the City. We can't quite bring ourselves to hate it, though. Look at that photo above. Is it truly *ugly* or simply a bit unusual? And who could despise a skyscraper that — like an urban Death Star — had the power to melt cars while it was still under construction. No, we think that history will judge the Walkie Talkie more favourably than might be expected. Next week: 10 reasons we love Comic Sans.

Remember to nominate your own carbuncles in the comments section. We're looking for further cackbastards in the central area, or grotesque buildings further out, which we'll then consider for further roundups.

Last Updated 03 May 2017


Buildings are said to pass through an "ugly" phase and come out the other side much-loved. We're still in the ugly phase with the St Giles Hotel / car park. Even the hanging baskets don't improve it: https://goo.gl/maps/MgqJBgR...

Michael Bach

Try looking West - Holiday Inn on Cromwell Road

Simon Holland

The Tower Hotel has been number one for as long as it has been built and I don't see it losing it's title any time soon.
Maybe they could clad it in black metal and it could become the black tower.

Beth Williams

Euston Station was ugly when it was built and remains an eyesore to this day.

Mark Rowland

Sorry Matt, but I'm going to have to jump (at least partially...) to the defence of One New Change. As you suggest, it's all about context in terms of its proximity to St Paul's and yes, while the building itself is no oil painting, it's when you get in it and on it that you can see how it was designed to work in that context. Nouvel didn't just follow the St Paul's sight lines requirements, he created a whole range of new views of Wren's masterpiece and its resounding success in that respect for me mitigates against accusations of ugliness (more on the link below for anyone who's interested).


And it is at least single-minded in its form and function (as opposed to the awful, can't-make-its-mind-up botch of "modern classicism" that is Paternoster Square, of one of St Paul's other neighbours).

John Broomfield

My vote goes to a new West End college building - the sainsbury wellcome Centre at 25 Howland Street W1T 4JG. Just about the ugliest building to have been desogned for a long time - looks like a fortress. I expect arrows to be fired from the slitty windows any minute now !

Gregory Farquar

Upper St. Martin's does have stupendous views over Trafalgar Sq. I've seen them.

King's College is built around a fine Byzantine chapel by George Gilbert Scott (St. Pancras station).

Former Thistle Tower hotel should be demolished in tandem with the abomination on Fenchurch St.


The Walkie Talkie is an abomination. Air currents near its base can be as bad as in Canary Wharf, and it casts far bigger shadows over long pre-existing neighbours than any other building I know of. It's destroyed every view of the City, including those from the south side of the river. Looking at Tower Bridge from the SE without seeing the damn thing is virtually impossible. Its lack of thought is summed up by the reflection issues, which happened *despite* the architect having tried and failed with the same idea on a previous building. Bloody awful thing. Get rid of it.

Gabriel Herbert

The outside of any apartment block built by the Berkeley Group during the last 10 years. And the walkie talkie, obviously.


New Zealand House has to be the ugliest embassy, if not one of the ugliest buildings in London: https://www.google.co.uk/se...


how could you forget Baynard House? Home of BT's technology division, just down the road from St Paul's. Comes complete with a statue in the entrance courtyard of seven severed heads stacked in a pile. https://en.wikipedia.org/wi...