Fun Museums-World’s Ugliest Museum

Series: Fun Museums

Where’s the Ugliest Museum in the World?


Seattle, the city of forests and snow-capped mountains, has not only appeared in moving romance movies such as “Sleepless in Seattle”, “Finding Mr. Right”, and “Late Autumn”, but the city is also home to well-known corporations like Microsoft, Amazon, and Starbucks. Next to the iconic Space Needle lies a strange and exaggerated museum. This museum gained a greater reputation than even the Space Needle when it was named one of the “world’s ugliest pieces of architecture” in 2012 as the only museum on the list. That museum is the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) located at Seattle Center.

The Museum of Pop Culture, located in Seattle, Washington, is dedicated to the history and exploration of popular music, science fiction, and pop culture. The founder, Paul Allen, is a good friend of Bill Gates and also one of the founders of Microsoft. Compared to Gates’ focus on business, Allen’s interests are more diverse as he spends his money lavishly. Besides giving money to charities, the sports fan also bought the Seattle NFL team the Seahawks in addition to the NBA team the Portland Trail Blazers. He’s a stockholder at DreamWorks. In November 2011, Allen officially left the Microsoft Board of Directors and switched to a Senior Consultant at the company. In June of the same year, his Experience Music Project officially launched.


Aerial view of MoPOP. Source:

Founder & Design

Paul Allen is a music superfan. He has been part of two rock groups. In 1968, the rebellious young Allen saw a small concert of Jimi Hendrix. That year, he began to collect instruments related to rock and roll, including a guitar used by Hendrix among others. Allen told his family he wanted to create a museum dedicated to music, and he wanted to create a special exhibit for Hendrix. From preparation to construction, MoPOP took 8 years and 240 million USD. In the early stages, the museum focused on exhibiting music and the Experience Music Project. In 2004, science fiction and pop culture were added and the name was officially changed to the Museum of Pop Culture in 2016.


Jimi Hendrix


The world’s ugliest museum was designed by well-known architect, Frank Gehry. Frank Gehry was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize, leading“Vanity Fair” to name him “The Most Important Contemporary Architect”. Besides MoPOP, Guggenheim Museum Bilboa in Spain is another one of his works. When he began the design, Gehry aimed to create a building that gave museum goers a rock and roll feeling. He bought several electric guitars that he cut into pieces before reassembling them. This seemingly crazy idea became the model for early designs of MoPOP. The multi-colored exterior made from different materials symbolizes the power and fluidity of music. Exterior decorations cost over 3,000 dollars in stainless steel and aluminum plates. So, under different light conditions and from different angles, the museum appears to change.


Museum exterior Source:

As the Museum of Pop Culture, the exhibitions are different from a traditional art museum or natural history museum. The interior of MoPOP has a mechanical, metallic feel. The museum has a total area of 140,000 square feet and total floor space of 35,000 square feet with the highest point reaching 85 feet. Ample space ensured enough room to design and layout the exhibitions.


Museum interior Source:

Exhibition Highlights

Exhibitions are divided into three sections: Science Fiction, Music, and Pop Culture. In addition to these exhibitions, you can also find Sound Lab and On Stage, which are multimedia installations that invite hands-on interactions so that visitors can explore different musical instruments and musical projects.


Sound Lab. Source:

Science Fiction

“Can’t Look Away: The Lure of Horror Film” showcases props used in classic horror films, as well as classic clips, director interviews. Visitors can view the script from Night of the Living Dead, the alien creature suit from Alien, and Jack Torrance’s axe from The Shining.  One part of the exhibition worth mentioning is the "100 Horror Films to See Before You Die” infographic, which presents the best horror films from the 1920s through 2000.

“Fantasy: Worlds of Myth and Magic” exhibits the original scripts from Game of Thrones. 


Seattle is a city of extreme significance. It is the birthplace of Jimi Hendrix, one of the world’s greatest guitarists, and Grunge Rock. The new exhibition “Wild Blue Angel: Hendrix Abroad, 1966-1970” captures the legend that the musician left behind during his peak years by showcasing photos and his personal collections. 


“Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses” is the world’s most comprehensive exhibition that pays homage to the band Nirvana. The exhibition includes 150 pieces of iconic musical instruments, original music posters, photographs, records, and interviews.


Pop Culture

The gaming exhibition “Indie Game Revolution” is a full-on interactive experience. There are more than twenty video games of different scales on display. It is also one of the most popular exhibitions in MoPOP.


Special Exhibitions

In addition to the permanent exhibitions, MoPOP also often introduces special exhibitions, featuring exhibitions organized by MoPOP as well as traveling exhibitions. In 2016, for example, MoPOP opened “Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds”, organized by their own team, and traveling exhibitions including “Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty” and “The World of Wearable Art”.

Museum Events

The Museum of Pop Culture holds at least ten large events every year. Some are exhibition openings only open to members, while most are open to the public with the purchase of a ticket. Some of these events are held annually, including “Seattle Mini Maker Faire”, “Fashionable Undead Prom”, and “Doctor Wholidays”, amongst others.


Final note:

The world’s ugliest museum—in name only—is one museum where the designers and operators pour their hearts into museum layouts, exhibitions, and events. This is a place music, sci-fi and pop culture lovers do not want to miss. The amazing exhibitions and the fun interactive activities make for a very special experience.

Editor Information

Dali Li: Moved from Shanghai to Seattle, then to New York. Professional and lover of art

Translation Team of "No-Boundaries" International Art Exhibition translate. Thank you for your effort!