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Is this one of the ugliest federal buildings in Washington?

The nation’s capital is home to a mixed bag of federal buildings, with styles that range from dull, concrete structures to iconic, awe-inspiring architecture.

BuzzFeed’s Benny Johnson recently explored this issue in an article titled, “The 7 Ugliest Government Buildings in Washington, D.C.”

Johnson gave credit where it is due, noting that many federal buildings in D.C. are “gorgeous,” specifically the Capitol Building, the Smithsonian Institution headquarters and the National Archives Building.


But the author mocked some of the buildings constructed in the 1960s and 1970s, saying the government during that period must have “only hired architects with early onset glaucoma.”

“These architects littered the city with monolithic temples to bureaucracy, using only concrete, brutalist architecture — and sadness,” Johnson wrote.

As examples, he showed the headquarters for the FBI, the U.S. Postal Service and the Energy Department, among others.

The current Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) headquarters in Washington. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

For what it’s worth, the General Services Administration is searching for a campus for a new FBI headquarters. Perhaps the next central office will be a bit more appealing to the eyes.

The nation’s capital is not unique in housing lifeless-looking government buildings. The Post’s Lisa Rein wrote a story last year about the Internal Revenue Service’s Cincinnati office, back when it emerged as the epicenter of agency’s targeting scandal. She described the building this way:

“The fog of scandal hangs over a boxy, modernist, 10-story building that looks like a monument to paperwork. Shrubs and chain smokers flank its front entrance here on Main Street, in the heart of downtown. Every day, 2,000 employees go to work at various federal agencies in this John F. Kennedy-era structure, whose chief tenant is the Internal Revenue Service — which is having just about the worst week an agency can have.”

The John Weld Peck Federal Building, shown Tuesday, May 14, 2013, in Cincinnati, houses the main offices for the Internal Revenue Service in the city. (Al Behrman/AP)

The government appears to be doing a better job these days when it comes to designing buildings to stand the test of time. Take, for example, the relatively new Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives headquarters, which opened in 2008.  Not the finest piece of architecture, but not shabby or embarrassing, either.

(Courtesy of ATF)

And then there’s the Thurgood Marshall Federal Judiciary Building, which opened in 1992 and offers a modern-looking mix of stone and big glass windows.

(Wikipedia public domain photo by Neutrality)


Josh Hicks covers Maryland politics and government. He previously anchored the Post’s Federal Eye blog, focusing on federal accountability and workforce issues.



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