What’s the ugliest uni building in the UK?

Surely it’s the massive one in York that looks like a crab


Many of the UK’s universities are truly things of beauty – from the dreaming spires of Oxford to the Hogwarts-inspiring towers of Edinburgh and Glasgow, these proud institutions are a sight to behold.

Then again, some of them look shit. Really shit – like they were built out of cereal boxes and loo roll by a four-year-old with little-to-no architectural training.

But which is the worst? It’s a tough choice – so help us out by voting below.

Appleton Tower, Edinburgh

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As the old joke goes, the best view in Edinburgh is from Appleton Tower, because then you don’t have to look at Appleton Tower.

The entire building is being reclad currently, in the desperate hope that somehow, anyhow, it makes it less ugly. Also, the original cladding wasn’t built for Scottish weather. It may surprise you, but Appleton Tower is in Scotland.

The hideous building is best described as functional – yet that doesn’t stop the wind howling through the netting that wraps the eastern face, or the monumental human traffic jam that springs up whenever more than three people try to go through the front door at the same time.

The building is also named after Sir Edward Appleton, an appropriate stain on his reputation – it was Appleton that built the concrete carbuncles that surround George Square, and his name is on the worst of them.

Roger Stevens, Leeds

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As confusing on the inside as it is on the out, Roger Stevens is a real shitstain on the underwear that is the Leeds Uni campus. We’ve all found ourselves traipsing around staircases trying to find Lecture Theatre 21 only to discover that it’s between Lecture Theatres 18 and 19 and that somehow you’ve jumped from Level 8 to Level 10. Where the fuck did Level 9 go?

This being Leeds, the designer was probably so ketty that the numbers seemed logical at the time, and that making the building a big, industrial grey blob with other longer grey blobs attached to the outside it seemed like a great idea.

The worst thing about it all is that it’s a Grade II listed building for its “special architectural or historic interest”, so lucky for us it’s not going anywhere. But hey, at least there’s a pond to swim in.

Broadcasting Place, Leeds Beckett

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In 2010, this giant rusty game of Jenga was awarded the official title of “Best Tall Building in the World”. You know what came second? The Burj Khalifa. 

Yes, the world’s official “Council on Tall Buildings” think this diarrhoea-orange blight on Leeds’ skyline is better than the tallest building in the world. If this Sandcrawler isn’t proof humanity should be made extinct, we don’t know what is.

Arts Building, Sussex

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The Sussex architecture was designed by Sir Basil Spence. He is most known for his love of using red bricks, and for doing shit like this. Can someone please explain the two chimney stacks near the door?

The Arts Building is literally a square red Lego brick with two of those long pieces of Lego sticking from the top. Sir Basil Spence, you ruined our campus.

Owens Park Tower, Manchester

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The most infamous Manchester accommodation, this decaying 17-floor tower block dominates the Fallowfield skyline. It looks like a prison from the outside, and the breeze-blocked inside is just as grim.

The Tower Challenge drinking game (where you have a shot on each floor) perfectly embodies the culture of the vomit-stained building, which welcomes in unsuspecting freshers each year. The lift never works, the rooms get egged, but it will forever remain in our hearts.  

University Place, Manchester

University Place, University of Manchester

University Place couldn’t look more out of place next to grand Victorian brick buildings like The Manchester Museum. It’s not sleek, fun and modern in the way that Ali-G is, it’s just a giant tin-can plonked on the middle of the Oxford Road.

Duncan Building, Liverpool

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Hulking at the bottom of North Campus like a damp, slug-infested rock crevice, the Duncan Building changes peoples’ lives. Once you enter, you’re scarred for life.

Brutalist to the core, it’s hard to know what is more distressing: the green, slimy plastic-leather seats of the lecture theatres or the post-apocalyptic stalin-inspired outer shell. The fact it’s part of the Royal Liverpool Hospital just multiplies its ugliness – it’s definitely at the morgue end of the hospital.

Diamond, Sheffield

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A stupid looking building to add to others surrounding it such as the gigantic black cushion, the green thing that looks like a level on the old Mario games and the giant multi-coloured thing.

What’s next? The building that looks like a walnut whip? Not so much the jewel in the university’s crown – more a lump of coal.

Congregation Hall, UEA

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UEA’s nickname is the “concrete jungle”. At times this nickname is used lovingly, but there’s no way you can walk past Congregation Hall and not retch a little. It’s squat, miserable, and to add insult to injury it’s where graduation takes place.

After going through the blood, sweat and tears of a degree, you would think you deserve a palace, but no, you’ll be graduating in the same place you took your exams, where the screams of students still linger in the brickwork.

On the plus side, UEA plans to knock it down soon – which is good riddance to bad rubbish really.

Keighton Auditorium, Nottingham

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The Allianz Arena, the Death Star, the Hub Cap, the Armadillo. Keighton Auditorium, what the hell are you? With a strange grey sheen, you look like a giant pebble.

Inside you’re probably very nicely set up. I can imagine lots of comfy seats, plenty of study space, but I don’t think I’ll ever go inside because quite frankly I’m fucking terrified of you.

Peter Froggatt Building, Queen’s

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Nestled between the futuristic McClay complete with ornate CS Lewis reading room, and the imposing Lanyon Building, PFC is hidden away like a unwanted stepkid. It’s as though they built the rest of QUB and then suddenly ran out of steam.

A grey maze not unlike a Nazi-era bunker, the PFC is a colourless hellhole. The atmosphere is awful, the cereal bars and orange juice are inexplicably expensive, and there is a low-level beeping noise at all times.

No really, I swear. The next time you’re in there, listen for the beeping noise. Once you hear it you cannot unhear.

Andrew Melville Hall, St Andrews

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Undeniably the worst building to ever grace the East Fife coast – a building so ugly that it was used in the 2010 dystopian movie Never Let Me Go.

As one member of Overheard in St Andrews put it so eloquently: “It really just drives the message home that this hall of residence would appear in a movie about people whose only purpose in life is to be harvested for donor organs.”

Amory Building, Exeter

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Was this grotesque stain on our beautiful campus designed by a blind man? As if it wasn’t bad enough that the outside is a disgusting reddy/brown hue akin to mixing a bucket of bodily fluids, the inside is a mindfuck maze that’ll have you curse yourself for choosing a humanities subject.

The only positive aspect is the idyllic views through the prison windows.

The Physics Building, Exeter

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Looming over not just the campus, but the entire city of Exeter, the Physics Building is the Minas Morgul of the Jurassic Coast. Literally no-one has any lectures there (apart from, y’know, Physicists) yet this Brutalist monstrosity imposes itself on every Exonian as they trudge up that hill.

It was (like Sussex) designed by Sir Basil Spence, who also built the post-War Coventry Cathedral – and frankly, this building needs the same kind of Luftwaffe carpet bombing the old Coventry Cathedral got in the Blitz.

St John’s, Cambridge

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St. John’s wasn’t always the monstrosity we have to put up with today – no, until the mid-19th Century there was a picturesque little Medieval number inoffensively fulfilling the Godly requirements of students and fellows as they went about their studies. Then they had to let some Victorian upstart get his grubby “Gothic Revival” hands all over it and turn it into the embarrassment that gives our university such a bad name.

I mean what the fuck is with that apse? It’s so incongruous; sticking out like a bulbous, semicircular middle finger into the beautiful rectangular courts of our university. And three huge tabernacles? Isn’t that overdoing it a bit? Especially when you remember there are a measly 20 statues of rich, pious white guys lining the walls. Get your priorities in order, dude.

Don’t even get me started on the columns – he’s just arrogantly thrown them all over the place. I mean we get it, you’re rebelling against neoclassicism but do you have to do it so obnoxiously? And those stained-glass windows barely remind me of the vast reserves of wealth possessed by my university at all.

In short, if you ask me, it’s everything wrong with the last two centuries of architectural development. Steer clear.

Claremont, Newcastle

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Claremont Tower – ironically the home of the Architecture, Planning & Landscape school – is a miserable red eyesore in the otherwise fair city of Newcastle.

Seemingly the centre of the humanities, and also the first official uni building you see on your walk in (aside from the Robbo), Claremont just doesn’t fit in with the other buildings on campus. It’s fucking old, and quite frankly it needs to be knocked down.

Southend-On-Sea Campus, Essex

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I honestly thought Lego was going out of style but apparently we still make university buildings out of it. This is honestly one of the most grotesque pieces of architecture I have ever laid eyes on, if you wanted to make a building which actually represented what feeling sick felt like – this is it.

Forget the fact that the whole thing looks like it was made by a game of Tetris – why does it need to be so obnoxiously multicoloured? It isn’t like it’s going to blend in with the rest of the buildings, it has three fucking clocks on the side.

Central Hall, York

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York is one of the UK’s most picturesque and historic cities, yet unfortunately for those studying there, the University of York’s campus is pretty bloody horrid. The centre-piece of York’s 1960s concrete jungle is Central Hall, an absolute embarrassment to architecture which looks like something from the set of a very early Doctor Who episode.

Central Hall is at best functional and at worst, genuinely offensive and to make matters worse, while YSJ students graduate at York Minster, UoY students face the disparaging task of graduating in this concrete calamity.

Contributions from Bobby Palmer, Tom Jenkin, Roisin Lanigan, Kiran Mojaria, Lucy Kehoe, Robin Brinkworth, Matt McDonald, Kurt Robson, Marina Lademacher, Kyle Farrell, Callum McCulloch