ugly is ugly


Today one might be expecting an architect to post a series of obnoxious photos – an easy target so to speak. Not today, as I’ve thought more about this topic to distill the issue in my mind about what it is that causes us to react with such acrimony over poor design and construction in this country. Let’s rise above that and dig deeper into what is ugly.


The phrase “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” which has been credited to a 19th century author, but has roots extending back centuries, is often accepted as truth by the majority. I have slowly accepted this adage as false for several reasons. First, what qualifies one as deciding, determining, or creating artistry is a rare talent only given to a few – don’t be offended. Second, what one fools themselves as beauty is largely just a conclusion influenced by factors of rationality and a veil of frugality. Lastly, beauty is often a poor excuse given to justify an ill-considered decision by concealing it with this subjective cloak that is hard to justly critique. Face it, most people are not equipped to decide, and their motives are far from considering beauty as a predominant variable. I’m calling you out – here it comes.

Bad Brick Window  Dtl.jpg

You’re thinking this topic could quickly extend beyond the realm of the A/E/C industry, but that’s not productive. Social media is ugly these days that’s all I’ll say apart from the summation given in Matthew 7:3-5.


Here is what I think ugly is. Ugly is…

…racing to a quick decision because of poor time management.

…excessive pragmatism excused by economics. Frugality isn’t ugly.

…poor craft.

…sheer lack of caring because the decision has no apparent direct benefit to the decision maker. (It ain’t my house, why do I care?)

…making decisions for others and excluding them from the conversation.

…poor detailing when the initial solution is obviously inadequate.

…believing that the solution on a flat drawing must look good without further deliberation.

…asking for a substitution that only benefits the installer and not the end user.

…simple neglect.

…ignoring the asking for design help.

…showing disrespect to the author by asking a question that demonstrates a lack of understanding of the overall context and a lack of preparation to attempt to understand.

…not considering alternative solutions.

…not reviewing one’s work before turning it in or before submitting it.

…blaming others.

…using the cheapest solution now and deferring maintenance to the next generation of users.

…ignoring or overlooking the efforts of small businesses and non-profits in the architectural media.

…overly nitpicking another architect’s work…I struggle with this one as those guilty often have it coming.

…simply being lazy.


Without too much investigation, one could indict me for ugly. I’m not proud of those moments; I never wish to be lazy. If you’re curious to explore the topic further, I invite you to read these other posts from my friends in this round of #Architalks.

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Ugly Architecture Details

Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
unsuccessful, not ugly: #architalks

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Ugly is in The Details

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
Ugly, sloppy, and wrong – oh my!

Jeffrey Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Is My House Ugly? If You Love It, Maybe Not!

Nisha Kandiah – ArchiDragon (@ArchiDragon)
the ugly truth

Keith Palma – Architect’s Trace (@cogitatedesign)

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
A Little Ugly Never Hurt Anyone

Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
Ugly or not ugly Belgian houses?

Ilaria Marani – Creative Aptitude (@creaptitude)
ArchiTalks #30: Ugly

Larry Lucas – Lucas Sustainable, PLLC (@LarryLucasArch)
Die Hard: 7 Ugly Sins Killing Your Community


ugly is ugly

6 thoughts on “ugly is ugly

    1. It’s an interesting article with many facets, but I’m not sure which issue specifically you wish to discuss. I don’t negotiate fees based on percentages of construction costs for many reasons stated in that article and for many sound, simple reasons. However, does an architect provide value during construction? Yes, that opportunity is certainly there and I am an ardent believer in the architect remaining on for traditional CA services. How the money shakes out is more about the negotiated contract, which is objective, rather than the subjective nature of determining value.

  1. Yes, yes and yes! Nowadays, tackling aesthetics, common sense and future-mindedness definitely puts a lot on architects’ plates. Great reminder that the profession should stand shoulder to shoulder and represent what is best for the client and our common future.

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