Defending Melbourne’s “ugly” Federation Square

I know that a lot of modern travel writing has been reduced to Top 10 lists (they buzz around the internet fast, apparently) and I probably should ignore them. But I just read a top ten of the world’s ugliest buildings and feel obliged to step in to defend one of them.
According to this list (put together by members and editors of, Federation Square in Melbourne is the fifth-ugliest building in the world. They describe it as “frenzied and overcomplicated”. Well, yes, maybe a little, but I like it. I’m no architecture freak, but nine times out of ten, I’m just happy for a building to look a bit different from the others, and Fed Square satisfies that for sure.
I figure what makes a building in any big city is important is whether it’s used or not. When I was in Melbourne last year there was an exhibition on at Federation Square, inside and out, and I get the impression that there are always plenty of people around. It’s also an easy place to arrange to meet someone, even an out-of-towner. I have no idea if the locals consider it ugly (perhaps any Melbournites out there can let me know?) but I don’t think it deserves a place on the ugliest list.
So what does? Well, pick any eastern European city and find the suburbs most rapidly developed during the communist era and you’ll have a spectacularly ugly set of Soviet-style apartment blocks – they’re definitely ugly. More than enough there for a top ten. Of course, it wouldn’t make for such exciting travel writing, but that just brings me full circle and reminds me why I should ignore all of these top ten lists. Let me just finish with a reminder that Melbourne is cool, so don’t put it on any more nasty lists, okay?


  1. You make very valid points there Amanda. The top 10 list is a device that is getting overused. Anyone can put a list together whether they are an expert in the field or not. Having said that they are hard to resist reading and commenting on, hence why so many bloggers do it.

    As a Melbournian I am not particularly fond of the building but I don’t dislike it like I dislike some modern buildings.

    With all of Eastern European commie blocks or the concrete brutalist buildings of London you could quite easily fill a top 1000 list.

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