It’s spring again in Bend – at least according to the calendar, although you can’t tell it by the weather – and every spring my thoughts just naturally turn to …
When I first came to Bend about 16 years ago, I was immediately struck by the contrast between the dazzling natural beauty of the place and the dazzling man-made ugliness that encrusted it. I couldn’t remember ever having seen a town of any size with more ugly buildings per square mile.
Bend has grown and changed a lot since then, and I have to admit that architectural standards have improved. Sixteen years ago, the dominant style was the concrete-block box with a flat roof and an illuminated plastic box sign stuck on the front. Today there are quite a few buildings in town that one can look at without feeling nausea, and some that actually are attractive.
But Bend still has an abundant supply of ugly buildings, and in recognition of this I created, some years ago, a wholly fictitious organization called B.U.T.T., for “Bend Uglification Takes Talent.”
The sole function of B.U.T.T. is to present the B.U.T.T. Ugly Building Awards, which recognize and honor those buildings that best exemplify, carry on and advance Bend’s long tradition of ugly architecture.
The B.U.T.T. Ugly Building Awards are presented periodically, depending on the whim of the founder, president, chairman of the board and sole member of B.U.T.T. – namely, me. But the recipients are nominated and selected democratically, by a free vote of the people.
The first two times, the winner of the top B.U.T.T. Ugly Building Award was the Central Oregon Welcome Center on South Highway 97, also known as “The Great Culvert.”
This threatened to get monotonous, so the next time I set the Welcome Center aside in a class by itself and asked people to vote on the second-ugliest building in Bend.
The winner of that competition turned out to be the Hollywood Video store on North Highway 97, a conglomeration of outlandish forms, garish colors and neon that appeared to have been transplanted directly from the Las Vegas Strip.
In the fourth and most recent B.U.T.T. Ugly Building competition, Hollywood Video again put up a strong showing but was edged out by the Phoenix Inn downtown, a looming concrete structure decorated with enormous chrome bird silhouettes evocative of the Third Reich.
So now I’ve decided it’s time to hold another B.U.T.T. Ugly Building competition, and this is your chance to have your say.
Here are the rules:
1) You may nominate and vote for any commercial or government building (i.e., not a private home) in the city of Bend.
2) A “building” is defined as a structure designed for occupancy and use – in other words, things like highways, sculptures and the notorious driving range poles aren’t eligible. (B.U.T.T. will have to think up some kind of special recognition for the driving range.)
3) The building must already be in existence; ones that are still in the design stage aren’t eligible.
First-place, second-place and third-place awards will be presented to the top finishers, plus maybe a couple of dishonorable mentions for deserving buildings that finished out of the money.
Although only buildings in Bend are technically eligible for prizes, if you have an especially worthy candidate elsewhere in Central Oregon, you may nominate it for a special citation.
You can cast your vote as a reply to this column, or e-mail it directly to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When you vote, remember that what we’re looking for isn’t mere run-of-the-mill ugliness, but true B.U.T.T.-ugliness – ugliness that is transcendent, resplendent, creative, innovative, and awesome in its repugnance.
In other words, the kind of ugliness that evokes an automatic response of: “Oh, my GOD!!”
So what will it be this year – one of the perennial contenders such as the Welcome Center, Hollywood Video or the Phoenix Inn, or a newcomer? I’ll announce the results of the balloting in one month.
At the same time, I’ll reveal my own personal favorite – a building that’s a bit off the beaten track and doesn’t get the recognition it deserves, but which in my opinion is not only the ugliest building in Bend but could be a contender for top honors in the Western Hemisphere.