Belgian Guy Documents Ugly Houses He Sees And They’re So Bad, It’s Hilarious (30 New Pics) Interview With Owner
Longtime readers will know that for whatever reason, Belgium has a thing for particularly ugly houses. These buildings contain design choices so bizarre that they are almost a subgenre of architectural photography online. Cheap, ramshackle buildings are one thing, but here most homes contain what appear to be deliberate, albeit confusing design choices made by someone who had other options.
The “Ugly Belgian Houses” (it’s in the name) Instagram account gathers the best (or worst) examples of home and yard design from the Western European country. We also reached out to Hannes Coudenys, the man who manages the page. So upvote the most heinous offenders and comment your theories on what was going through the architect's head.
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We wanted to know if Hannes has encountered any buildings so boring they broke the pages motto "Better to be ugly than to be boring." He replied with the short and simple "Not yet. The Netherlands is Boring. Belgium is beautifully ugly." On a more serious note, we also wanted to know why these buildings are so unique. "Most of the time it’s the owner who wants his house to be a certain way. Newly built or renovated, they make the choices, and an architect delivers. In 2% of the cases it’s an architect who wants to experiment and make something crazy ugly. But I like the fact Belgium is a country where experimenting is possible.No experiment is ever a complete failure. It can always be used as a bad example."
The “Ugly Belgian Houses” account boasts 167 thousand followers on Instagram, another indicator of people's morbid obsession with absolutely hideous constructions. Global interest is so high that they have even published a book with a selection of the best constructions. One wonders if some orders are from Universities seeking to supplement their architecture divisions with materials on what not to do. The book is in a variety of tongues, but ultimately images are a universal language.
In some ways, the fascination with these buildings could be seen as a form of whiplash. Belgium contains many examples of beautiful architecture, ranging from the neoclassical Palace of Charles of Lorraine to the Art Nouveau former Old England department store. But these photos demonstrate the age-old truth that a country's architecture isn’t just the old buildings in its capital.
We asked if he had any final thoughts to leave with the readers: "Belgium must have over 3 million houses. I’ve only posted a few thousand. So I recently learned my story will never end. The project will go on forever. I’ll almost never take pictures myself anymore because I get 3 pictures a day sent in."
The page’s motto is “Better to be ugly than to be boring,” which is quite aspirational. After all, as bizarre as the houses here seem, there are tens of thousands of identical, cookie-cutter houses duller than a butter knife in every country across the globe. The fact that these are homes is special as well. An office, warehouse, or store can be soulless, but a house is a home, a place for the owner to express themselves and their personality. Most of us don't just throw down a mattress on the floor of a bare-walled square room and leave it at that. Decorations, ornaments, and some fresh paint are all common additions.
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Self-expression is in general a pretty strong human desire. We really want to make our mark and set ourselves apart. How we do this is deeply personal, but the drive is also informed by some cultural practices. In one study, European Americans, and by extension, Europeans, ranked self-expression as much more important than people from other areas of the world. The same study even found that when these individuals were not permitted to express themselves, they suffered from negative effects on their cognitive functioning. It's hard to be committed to something you don't feel any ownership and responsibility towards.
Belgium has no shortage of artistically inclined people, as the relatively small nation has a large number of contributions to art, architecture, and culture. It has 15 properties listed in the UNESCO list of world heritage sites and is the birthplace of the inappropriately named French fries. Indeed, it’s part of their national dish, whether eaten with steak or mussels. In terms of somewhat strange design choices, sculpture fountains of little boys peeing is also a symbol for its capital of Brussels, a design choice that really isn't that far from many of the ones displayed here. It just happens to have better craftsmanship. Execution is everything.
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Like in many smaller European nations, space is limited, meaning people are constantly living in proximity to others. This could enhance the desire to stand out, regardless of the aesthetic cost. Just to demonstrate, Brussels, the capital of Belgium, is 26.9 miles (43.3km) from Antwerp, the nation's largest city, and 31.7 miles (47.4km) from Ghent, the third-largest city. All these distances are as the crow flies, but it's also not a country rent by mountains or other impassable obstacles. Americans, looking at these numbers might realize that their morning commute covers a larger distance. This might help identify the sort of population density we’re talking about here.
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Indeed, it’s the 22nd most densely populated country in the world and the 6th most densely populated in Europe. The Flemish region in the north of Belgium is one of the most densely populated areas in Europe. With all those people pressed together and all that beautiful architecture, it’s no wonder that the people of Belgium have turned to buildings that would be shockingly bad any place else. If some morbid curiosity drives you to keep exploring the chaos of bad Belgian architecture, Bored Panda has got you covered, check out our previous articles here and here.