Ugly is as ugly looks?

The Heygate estate, Elephant & Castle
My walk to work takes me through Elephant & Castle in south London – it’s lively but it certainly isn’t pretty… as you can see from this photo.

On Saturday’s World Today we’ll be talking about the “uglification” of our towns and cities… new housing developments are quick and cheap to build… but critics say they also LOOK cheap and nasty!

National Gallery Sainsbury Wing<
So we want to know, what’s the ugliest city you’ve been to? One of our programme guests says parts of her hometown Nairobi have been uglified – do you agree with her, or are there worse examples?!

13 Responses to “Ugly is as ugly looks?”

  1. 1 Ruth
    November 6, 2009 at 15:23

    Johannesburg is unfortunately now one of the ugliest and dangerous cities in the world. It used to be amazing, vibrant, financially viable for international brands, home to the international Skyrink and trend setting Carlton Centre/Hotel. It hosted international artists in its magnificent city centre theatres, I remember going to see Tina Turner live with my parents back in the early 80’s – how totally awesome!!!! As the daughter of a musician I LOVED enjoying with my Dad, in absolute safety, the multi-racial Jazz clubs in the seediest parts of town. Now I couldnt be paid to brave those same streets I so enjoyed for sooo many years. It is so sad when illegal immigrants, drug lords and squatters take hold of beauty. Law enforcement ceases to have any real meaning and the resultant mayhem gives credence to those who perpetrate anarchy. We have seen the beginnings of such behaviour now in London, lets just hope and pray the authorities see the warning signs????

  2. 2 mikeinnes76
    November 6, 2009 at 15:36

    Hi Ruth – thanks for your vivid tales of Johannesburg long-gone.. do you live in London now? Do you think the buildings around us affect the behaviour of the citizens? Would it be a safer place if everything looked nicer? Mike

    • 3 Ruth
      November 6, 2009 at 18:11

      Hi Mike

      In answer to your question I live on the outskirts of London (within 25 miles).

      Needless to say, it doesnt matter where in the world we live, of course the buildings which surround us affect our behaviour . Our British culture, values and intrinsic heritage are cemented into every brick or stone of London!!! I concur with the opinion of certain South East UK councils in that future regeneration should be in keeping with established aesthetic models.

      Would it be a safer place if everything looked nicer – well ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’, so inherently it depends on who is beholding. My personal experience is that I was born and brought up in the UK, but I was also fortunate enough to see other major cities during phases of immense cultural regeneration. So in my humble opinion, if we continue to build large incongruous structures, they could ultimately become more inviting to the increasing non paying bohemian global community.


  3. 4 Roberto
    November 6, 2009 at 15:44

    RE “” Elephant & Castle “”

    ———— Young Adolf Hitler was an aspiring architect downgraded by his professors because of designing projects grossly out of scale to the human perspective.

    His vision of the future has arrived with the modern emphasis on indescribable, immutable ugliness combined with the sheer mass of the above mentioned project.

    In my own part of the world where the front facing two car garage is as ubiquitous as the smiley face or cell phones, large blocky boxes pass for new homes, boxes with fake, non-functional facing garage doors with landscaping where the driveway would normally be. Call it a new twist of stupidity on top of ugly.

    The irony is these box developments have neighborhood associations that restrict new landscaping and remodeling. It is chilling to think that these people are licensed to drive, registered to vote, and mingle in the public sphere.

  4. 5 mikeinnes76
    November 6, 2009 at 15:50

    A dystopian vision indeed Roberto.. where is your part of the world? And what was there before the box-homes?

  5. 6 Frank
    November 7, 2009 at 08:33

    I think Malta is the Ugliest place in the world. In the 80s ,Malta was a place with lovely old buildings , a adequate amount of cars , people were friendly.. Today you have lots of blocks of flats, they never stop building everywhere. loads of cars so many that I heard that the pollution in the air is 3 times higher than the accepted limit, the people are more aggressive ,and the smile on their faces has gone. .

  6. 7 Simon Morgan
    November 7, 2009 at 11:14

    I know what you mean by Elephant & Castle ( I used to live in Streatham many moons ago). I always felt that the French had kept their wonderful architecture intact whereas we had ‘modernized’ disastrously (somewhat unfairly, but as a tourist I loved Paris and most of the cities and towns I visited in France). But that picture you posted is reminicent of Romania and other Iron Curtain countries to me They are utilitarian buildings totally bereft of any character or charm. I visited many these countries in ’97 on a bike sabbatical, and things were still very gloomy then. Even the nice B&B’s you stayed in had plastic curtains (a bit like Butlins!).

  7. 8 Sheel
    November 7, 2009 at 16:36

    From the pictures that you have posted, it does seems a beautiful place, I dont know why you characterize it as ugly, But I guess the ugliest streets in the world or at least in the country where I live is my own street! Its somewhat a good community having a hospital, a police station, a couple of markets and alsp has its own park. But the problem is due to the recent launch of a project(The Project is about building a plaza right where I live), all the old lasting houses that have been there for many years are soon getting demolised. The deadline is till Jan.2010. But, they have started it earlier, and now the street is lithered with bricks, stones rockes and the remaining glory of those old. gigantic houses. Now, the street has become filthy, The Muncipality dosent think that its their concern, because the street is mostly occupied by Expartriates.

    Having this said, I dont find a reason why my locality isnt the ugliest, But Mike you should be proud of that “Elepehant and Castle” building because it is really nice and attractive.

    P.S I live in Kuwait.

  8. 9 Ronald Almeida
    November 7, 2009 at 17:28

    I’ve never been to a really ugly city like New York, but the worst city for me has always been Bombay (Or Mumbai) because it’s the filthiest, most corrupt, dishonest and disorganised in the world.

    Having said that, I have lived 20 years in a city that is considered the most beautiful in the Western world. Berne in Switzerland built in the 15th century is the best kept old city. Being so well kept that it looks like it was built yesterday, that to me looks like Disneyland. As against really beautiful cities and countryside in the provinces of France and Italy that show their age but are still lived in.

  9. 10 scmehta
    November 8, 2009 at 13:27

    The ‘Housing’ problem is becoming more and more gigantic with increase of population, especially in the urban areas of the world; It looks ugly when you see millions of people without proper shelters or in dirty & unhygienic huts/shanties. There are many such areas in India too, where the dwellings look like an ugly disgrace for the humanity. Hence, before asking for too much, we urgently need to have the minimum; what may look ugly to some, may mean a world to many for the sake of survival.

  10. 11 Jim Newman
    November 8, 2009 at 20:42

    Hello again
    I used to live in Reading. Basically it was an ugly town but the council were making great efforts to brighten it up. My wife and I often walked along the Kennet canal to an old spit and sawdust pub and we noticed how young trees had been planted. It was a real pleasure. One day we went for our walk and discovered that every one of the young trees had been broken in half. It was then that I decided that England was not a country I wanted to live in any longer. To me ugliness is not just a question of ugly buildings there is a whole aura of ugliness that permeats everything and smothers all efforts to make things nicer. Unfortunately ugliness is profitable.

  11. 12 NSC London
    November 9, 2009 at 01:30

    New buildings are often ugly, but they’re honest. I prefer this Corbu style, it’s sincere in its bleakness. I’d rather see this than that pre-fab cheap stuff they have in the states that attempts to reference another era or culture.

  12. 13 Roberto
    November 9, 2009 at 12:33

    RE “” where is your part of the world? And what was there before the box-homes? “”

    ——— Central Texas, one of what used to be the prettiest, most bountiful places in the world with plenty of clean water, fresh air, open spaces between developments and towns with low crime and low tax rates.

    The globalization of economics and the NAFTA free trade agreement between the US, Mexico, and Canada has created a 200 mile choking corridor of ugly mall development and box homes along the I-35 interstate that links Mexico to Canada.

    Not dissimilar to pre-colonial forested Manhattan Island compared to the mess of concrete, steel, sludge, and rats that exist there today.

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