It’s what’s on the outside that counts…

It seems that the most controversial facades upon introduction often become the most treasured in the end. Here are a few of our favourites…

1. The University of Salamanca is really old. The third oldest university in the world, so old that Christopher Columbus argued his case for exploring the world there in 1492. Bizarrely hidden in the intricate facade of the university’s entrance is a skull with a frog perched on it. Students entering exams would look carefully for it as they went in. Rumour had it that those who didn’t see it would fail their exam!

University of Salamanca

2. The Centre Georges Pompidou of Paris currently houses a modern art museum. But its contentious facade was subjected to harsh criticism after the opening in 1977. With an exposed skeleton and colour-coded pipes containing the utilities for the building, it’s easy to see why it was initially mocked as Paris’s own “Loch Ness Monster” by Le Figaro. But today? It’s considered a national treasure.

The Centre Georges Pompidou Of Paris

3. Another controversial facade was Antoni Gaudi’s Casa Batlló — although the word ‘controversial’ describes most of his work… Crowned with a fantastical dragon’s back, it was mercilessly criticised in the early days for its radical departure from building bylaws. Today? It’s considered an iconoclast of modernist design.

Antoni Gaudi's Casa Batllo

4. One of the most famous film facades of all time is ‘Tara’, the O’Hara’s Southern plantation house and Gone with the Wind set. Producer David O.Selznick used it as a metaphor for Hollywood’s emptiness and impermanence, saying: “Tara had no rooms inside. It was just a façade. So much of Hollywood is a façade.”

"Tara" O'Hara's Southern Plantation House

5. 10 Downing St is perhaps not extraordinary in the same sense as Gaudi’s work. But this facade has nevertheless seen some action in its time. For 275 years some of the most important political decisions for Britain and the world have been made behind this door…

10 Downing Street