Client: Oxford University Estates Directorate
Carbuncle Cup nomination — Castle Mill housing, Port Meadow, Oxford by Frankham Consultancy Group
Have your say on this year’s nominations
BD received more than 20 nominations for Frankham Consultancy Group’s Castle Mill housing, Roger Dudman Way, Port Meadow, Oxford. These are some of the edited highlights:
A deeply unimaginative and impoverished design which would lower the spirits whatever its setting, but on the edge of one of central England’s most important and ancient landscapes, it is an outrage.
Its roofline does what no other recent development on the edge of Port Meadow has achieved, violate the treeline which is the essential boundary of this rural view; but there is the double whammy that it also hides most of the engagingly eccentric Victorian tower of the parish church of St Barnabas Jericho from view from the west.
Gerard Manley Hopkins, who wrote movingly of the destruction of trees on the edge of Port Meadow, would be incredulous at this far more permanent pollution of that environment. The civilised and sensitive element in the university in the Bodleian Library has just bought the MS of his poem on the destruction, Binsey Poplars, for permanent public preservation. Go figure.
Professor of the History of the Church
University of Oxford
Castle Mill development, Roger Dudman Way near Port Meadow, Oxford is a total catastrophe…. Not only is it a blot on the skyline, and not only is it a bully to its neighbors, and not only is it a set of boxes which have been shoehorned into the wrong place and blocking beautiful views, and not only is the architecture appalling, but it has ruined one of the most beautiful places in Oxford.
It has caused upset and sadness for thousands of people in Oxford. Shame on Oxford City Council and Oxford University.
Designed by Oxford University, they were pushed through the planning process as a ‘variation’ to a much smaller application 10 years extant, which meant that hardly any consultation was done despite this being a major development. No Environmental Impact Assessment was carried out on the grounds that the edge of a Heritage Site was not sensitive.
The eight blocks blot out views of Oxford’s celebrated Dreaming Spires which have been justly protected for centuries, including the landmark view of the grade-I listed St Barnabas tower.
The blocks loom over Port Meadow, altering the nature of the entire several-mile space, and have upset thousands of people, local, national and international. They are so tall and wide that no tree planting, even after 50 year’s growth, could ever hide them and anyway there is nowhere to plant trees.
The buildings themselves are blank, uniformly ugly, and once up and running will spill light pollution right across Port Meadow, to the other side of the River Isis, to Wolvercote three miles away, to the canal side, and to all other walks in the vicinity.
As a result of this precedent-setting by Oxford City Council and Oxford University we can look forward to the destruction of all views from Port Meadow, and all views of the dreaming spires, after all why would one developer be allowed to get away with something and then another not? So this is a carbuncle (or series of eight carbuncles) which if unchecked will spread horribly.
No contest. It has to be the University of Oxford accommodation tower blocks put up with the consent of the City Council without proper consultation, that now dominate the skyline of Port Meadow. The council describes Port Meadow, with its views of the Dreaming Spires as Oxford’s oldest monument that has changed little since prehistoric times”. Well, we can’t have that, can we? Progress has to march on. It’s just a view, after all. Or was.
And the university? For an institution steeped in culture, heritage and learning, they’ve proved themselves to be a bunch of crass money-grubbing philistines. With tin ears to the howls of public outrage.
The siting of it is unbelievably thoughtless. The design? Lazy, oversized blocks. The roofs glare in the sun, the white buildings stand out and can be seen two miles away across the meadow, and the carefully designed glass stairwells will throw out light that will pollute the dark nights. The trees the council planted to try to screen them, have been eaten by the horses
Shame. Shame. Shame. Shame. Shame. On both the University of Oxford and the City Council.
The architects have built something truly hideous, tending only to the interests of potential inhabitants, not worried about the impact they have on Port Meadow. With so many stunning buildings in Oxford and with its dreaming spires, I am amazed Oxford University chose such a shocking and uninspiring design.
Carbuncle cup nominations are now open. Email yours to email@example.com or tweet your nomination using #carbunclecup
Any building with a known designer and client that completed in the last 12 months or is due for completion or partial completion before July 2013 is eligible.
Each week we’ll feature one nominated building. The buildings with most comments will automatically make the shortlist alongside those selected by the judges.