I hate current day public building architecture

OK, I’m going to rant on this one, so don’t expect many citations like my last post.

Current day1 public buildings, like court houses, municipal and civic government places, sometimes even POST OFFICES2, are terribly designed. They appear to share certain characteristics, like:

  1. Hard to find or poorly indicated entrances. I mean ones that require signs to point you to them. Older ones made the entrance obvious by the way the building was built. Look at some old historical court house and you can clearly see where you should go to get in. New ones usually have the doors hidden under some lowering balcony.
  2. Too much surveillance. I don’t mind having security/the police at a front desk to make sure people coming in are legitimate and can find their way and patrols within the building, but having cameras everywhere and no people is just offensive.
    1. Add to this, surly or perpetually suspicious staff – which these buildings engender – and the problem becomes really severe.
  3. Inbuilt distrust of the rightful end user. In all of these cases, the staff work there, but the public have a right to be there. Public hearings are going to be less well attended if the building and grounds all say “go away”. Imagine being summoned for a trial and having to walk through a building that hated you. For people who feel like The System isn’t on their side, just going to the court room could easily make them certain it is against them.
  4. Reliance on stupid metaphors that fail to overcome these problems. Note to architects: putting glass walls on the building does not overcome the fact that the functional radiance of the place is “you don’t belong here”.

Current day architecture should consult with the past and also with the present to make sure that these places are genuinely open to the public. Any non-violent person should be able to walk into one of these and decide to go and visit a department and read their bulletin board or pamphlets without being forced by the building to accuse themselves of criminal intrusion.


  1. That is, in vogue now, the 2010s and the recent past, the 2000s. Maybe also the 1990s. 
  2. Technically not government in the United States, but close. 
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One thought on “I hate current day public building architecture

  1. Pingback: School days in the open windowed house | FlowCoef

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