Honolulu Lite
Charles Memminger

Ugliness is in the eye
of the bemoaner

Let's face it. Honolulu -- city and county -- is blessed with an abundance of extremely ugly buildings. Ala Moana Center, from afar (and the further afar you get the better), looks like a high-rise full of dental offices crashed to a multilevel parking lot at ramming speed, with a flying saucer plunked on top of the dental building as if to survey the damage.

This isn't to say that Ala Moana isn't a cool place to shop. It's just that from an architectural point of view, there's no architecture there.

But Ala Moana Center isn't the ugliest building in Honolulu. Which is? That's the point of the "Honolulu Lite Ugliest Building in Honolulu" contest, quietly announced in "AloHa! Friday" and now officially unveiled. It will be up to you, dear readers, to nominate buildings that really and truly do make you want to shield your eyes and stifle your gag reflex. Or, in the alternative, pummel an architect with a large, rolled-up blueprint of Frank Lloyd Wright's "Falling Water."

A few nominations have already come in, including some for the famous monstrosity Aloha Stadium. Stadiums are inherently ugly because they're really nothing more than glorified bleachers overlooking a piece of sod. Of course, what sets Aloha Stadium apart is that it was designed to rust, which it has done with abandon since day one. How designers could foist a deliberately rusting building into a salt-air environment like Hawaii, where the main criteria of most buildings is that they NOT rust, remains a mystery.

ANOTHER READER nominates the Waterfront Towers. The megalithic makai tower looks like a giant harmonica pounded into the ground with a croquet mallet. Not content to assault Honolulu's skyline with that, the developer pounded in an identical one a few hundred feet away.

That might seem harsh, but there's a rich history of making fun of ugly buildings. The Eiffel Tower, hated when it was built, was described as "the Empire State Building after taxes." Critics called the Sydney Opera House "a typewriter full of oyster shells," the Vatican "one of the best warehouses I ever saw," and Prince Philip said of the Vancouver City Hall, "I declare this thing open, whatever it is."

So, submit your nominations and savage characterizations of Honolulu's ugliest buildings to cmemminger@starbulletin.com. Winners will receive the antipathy of architects everywhere.

Charles Memminger, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists' 2004 First Place Award winner for humor writing, appears Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. E-mail cmemminger@starbulletin.com

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