Architecture Gone Awry: Houston's 8 Ugliest Buildings

The HISD Central Services building, a.k.a. the Taj Mahal
The HISD Central Services building, a.k.a. the Taj Mahal
Photo courtesy of Swamplot

The old HISD Central Services building on Richmond -- called the Taj Mahal by HISD employees, both for its massive size and the massive budget that went into building it -- was torn down in 2007. One of the few examples of Brutalist architecture in Houston -- the Alley Theater being another notable, if more well-designed, example -- it was either loved or hated by residents, most of whom did not even remotely appreciate the stark, prison-like exterior or the cold concrete with which it had been built.

But ever since the polarizing building was demolished to make room for an equally ugly Costco, the city has had a void to fill. It was easily considered the ugliest building in Houston by most who laid eyes on it. Which building will take its place?

For your consideration, we present -- in no particular order -- eight of the ugliest buildings in Houston. Leave your choice in the comments section below. And if we missed an even uglier building, be sure to let us know.

Federal Reserve Bank

Architecture Gone Awry: Houston's 8 Ugliest Buildings
Photo by imelda

Our personal choice for the ugliest building in the city, this monstrosity looks as though it was built from a giant child's box of refuse Lego blocks. Our Twitter followers agreed, as @Fealty37 put it: "OMG! Finally, someone hit the eyesore on the fracking head." @theoshu agreed: "I was driving down Memorial today thinking that exact thing. Horrible Lego architecture."

Although the building's aesthetics have been somewhat improved by the removal of the giant "DALLAS" on the front (yes, it's technically the Houston branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas), it is simply a universal truth that teal clashes with...everything. And should never be used in great quantity in any architecture, ever.

Memorial Hermann Hospital, Gessner and I-10

Architecture Gone Awry: Houston's 8 Ugliest Buildings
Photo by baldheretic

Nicknamed the Decepticon by members of the Houston Architecture Info Forum, the only time the hospital tower's completely divergent architectural styles don't clash with one another is at night, when you can't see it for the blinding blue lights that are projected off of its "crown" like the Deadlights of Steven King's fabled It. Even better, the futuristic crown itself is bizarrely off-center on top of the boring, Perry Homes-style stucco base. Completing the trifecta of ugliness is the languishing, seemingly never-to-be-completed directly hotel next door.  

La Luz del Mundo

Architecture Gone Awry: Houston's 8 Ugliest Buildings
Photo by mlsnp

This eye-catching church off the Eastex Freeway-- which our Twitter follower @JenXer simply calls "La Luz del Feo" -- is home to the Houston congregation of a Protestant sect based out of Guadalajara, Mexico, called "Iglesia del Dios vivo Columna y Apoyo de la Verdad." Besides the extremely poor attempt at neoclassicism, perhaps the strangest feature of this church is the seemingly pasted-on figures on the main pediment, which can be seen in painful detail at Robert Boyd's site.

HCC Administrative Building, 3100 Main

Architecture Gone Awry: Houston's 8 Ugliest Buildings
Photo by rutlo

A poll of our Twitter followers on their favorite ugly buildings netted this instant response from @dino2gnt: "The prison-like HCC building in Midtown." While we agree that this isn't the best-looking building in the world -- and does, in fact, look quite prison-like -- others would argue that it's an excellent example of Mid-Century modern architecture. But to those people we say, all of these commercial buildings are far better examples of the endangered Mid-Century model here in Houston.

AT&T Central Office, 3303 Weslayan

Architecture Gone Awry: Houston's 8 Ugliest Buildings
Photo by Mr. Bill

Formerly the Southwestern Bell Building (as evidenced by the sad shadow seen above on the concrete), this building evokes nothing so much as a failed Soviet missile silo, circa 1962. We cannot fathom how utterly depressing it must be to come to work here every morning, right down the street from the world's ugliest Costco. But perhaps they have nice, homey cubicle farms inside. And a cafeteria with real dishes instead of Styrofoam. 

Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart,

Architecture Gone Awry: Houston's 8 Ugliest Buildings
Photo by onilad

An actual architectural firm was paid to design this monstrosity, something we find incredibly difficult to believe. From the disappointingly stark exterior to the equally uninspiring interior, the only thing impressive about this cathedral is the fact that it replaced the original -- albeit much smaller -- Sacred Heart next door, a gorgeous church that should have served as inspiration for its replacement. Equally puzzling inside is the most muscular and possibly the whitest Jesus we've ever seen. We didn't know Christ was a bodybuilder...

Mercer West Tower, 3288 Sage Road

Mercer West is seen on the far left-hand side above
Mercer West is seen on the far left-hand side above
Photo by obscurecraft

This condominium -- which seems to be the architectural equivalent of a toothpick with a few windows thrown in -- has been almost universally despised since it was built in 2002. The building is a sickly yellow color and looks as if it would blow over in a strong gust of wind. Adding to its unattractiveness is the fact that it contains virtually no windows on the south side, something which the builders attributed to the fact that their tenants wouldn't want to overlook the Southwest Freeway. The entire venture proved such a failure that the accompanying East Tower was never built, and the West Tower's website is no longer even functioning.

Abandoned Holiday Inn, 801 St. Joseph Parkway

Architecture Gone Awry: Houston's 8 Ugliest Buildings
Photo by graustark

Just one of many eyesores in west end of downtown, lining the Pierce Elevated, the abandoned 31-story Holiday Inn reigns supreme above other abandoned buildings like the old Central Bank at 2100 Travis and the partially demolished Savoy at 1616 Main. Why? Partly because of its bizarre history -- for a brief period of time, it was owned by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (spiritual adviser to The Beatles) and called Heaven On Earth Inn after the Days Inn company (which bought it from Holiday Inn) sold it -- and partly because of just how enormous it is. New Era Hospitality purchased the building in 2008, but no plans have been announced. We can't imagine anything short of demolition will salvage the piece of property.

BONUS: Head to the next page for an updated honorable mention section. 

George R. Brown Convention Center

Architecture Gone Awry: Houston's 8 Ugliest Buildings
Photo by B. Tse

The convention center has been an eyesore since it was built in 1987, a sensory-deafening mix of structural expressionism and primary colors blended with a dash of cruise ship. Our own John Lomax noted the convention center's lamentable aesthetics in a slideshow of downtown's ugliest buildings last year, saying "They say that architecture is frozen music. If you melted the George R. Brown, you'd hear Baby Jane singing 'The Good Ship Lollipop.'"

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