Last week, the aesthetes of Architecture Digest published a list of the eight ugliest university buildings in America. And — unfortunately for those who are currently plugging away at the LSAT in the hopes of one day attending these institutions — law schools were disproportionately represented. Despite the fact that most law schools are just one or two buildings tucked away in the corners of otherwise sprawling collegiate campuses, three of the eight slots were reserved for law schools.
This prompted us to dig a little deeper. A Google search of law schools across the world reveals an unfortunate parade of overbearing monstrosities, imposing brutalist eyesores, and unfortunate attempts at modernism. While there are some genuinely show stopping law schools out there (I’m looking at you, Durham Law School, you sexy beast. And don’t think I forgot about you, University of Wisconsin), most are quite painful. Even the most prestigious (and expensive) schools.
But is this really such a surprise? I mean, lawyers are not exactly the tastemakers of the fashion world, with boxy, power-striped suits and nondescript pantsuits remaining the preferred uniforms of lawyers far and wide. Hell, we’re not even that far removed from the era of powdered wigs and frilly collars on our judges. Most attorneys dedicate their lives and careers to mastering a set of arcane principles we call the law, leaving little time for matters of aesthetics and taste.
But that’s not going to stop us from clowning on some horribly ugly law schools. So let’s get to it.
Harvard Law School, Wasserstein Hall
Overbearing, self-important, pompous, imposing but lacking any wit or substance. But enough about the students of Harvard Law. Let’s talk about this monstrosity, which was the brainchild of Supreme Court Justice and former Harvard Law dean Elena Kagan.
University of Iowa College of the Law, Boyd Law Building
An R2D2 inspired building that you won’t get used 2 til’ year 2.
University of Manitoba Faculty of Law, Robson Building
If you squint, it kind of looks like an AT-AT? Which is appropriate for Winnepeg’s cold climate?
Loyola Law School
Before becoming a world-renowned architect, a young Torontonian named Frank Gehry was asked to transform the Loyola Law School. While Gehry’s most famous works are defined by their striking metallic surfaces and surreal lines, his early work at Loyola is decidedly less inspired. The formally drab exteriors gussied up with a random-ass color scheme, the convoluted staircases, the weird and somewhat oppressive chain-link fence sculpture all make the law school look like it was designed by a B-minus production designer asked to make a “hip” late-80s office building for a romantic comedy.
University of Pittsburgh School of Law, Barco Law Building
Speaking of Los Angeles, the heavy horizontal lines and window slats reminds this Angeleno of the Twin Towers Correctional Facility, the world’s largest jail and the U.S.’s largest mental health facility. While law schools can sometimes feel like a prison, and finals week can lead some to feel like they need mental health care, the architecture of the school itself shouldn’t reinforce this feeling.
Columbia Law School, Jerome L. Green Hall
Bruh, you look like a window AC unit.
University of Baltimore School of Law, John and Frances Angelo Law Center
In a nod to Baltimore’s long and storied tradition of a stevedoring (and perhaps to season 2 of The Wire), the architect decided to make this building look like someone haphazardly stacked of a bunch of shipping containers on top of each other. And I guess the onslaught of checkerboard patterns is a shout-out to Maryland’s terrible state flag.
Faculty of Law, University of Oxford, St. Cross Building
Tally ho, you made it to Oxford! You’ll soon be a barrister (or a solicitor)! But you’ll be studying in what looks like the third-best building in a Marin County office park.
University of Maine, School of Law Building
ARCHITECT: What do you want?
LAW SCHOOL: You ever wonder what the Capitol Records building would look like if it were instead a government bureau from a failed communist state?
ARCHITECT: Say no more fam.
But these all pale in comparison to the most ugly school …
University of Southern California, Gould School of Law
… which is second-most unfortunate thing USC has ever produced. USC is a legitimately pretty campus, but you would never know judging from the brutalizing charcoal box it calls a law school. Tucked into the southeastern corner of the campus, now blessedly obscured by the new Fertitta Hall Building at the Marshall School of Business, the Gould School of Law bears no similarity to the stately brick buildings across campus. Instead, it’s a drab and depressing building that the tan and happy undergrads regard with same fear and trepidation they typically reserve for anything south of Martin Luther King Blvd.
But hey, maybe all these ugly buildings are an elaborate metaphor for the justice system’s ideals. To remind students that everyone–even the most grotesque, poor, and downtrodden among us–deserves support and advocacy. Or that the noble attorney must, like Atticus Finch, look beyond the façade of unappealing case to try to uncover some deeper truth. Or that justice, much like whoever designed and commissioned these buildings, is blind.