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Monday28 July 2014

Client: Durham University

Carbuncle Cup nomination — The Palatine Centre, Durham by PH Partnership and Space Group

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Have your say on this year’s nominations

PH Partnership and Space Group's Breeam ‘excellent’ rated Palatine Centre

PH Partnership and Space Group’s Breeam ‘excellent’ rated Palatine Centre

PH Partnership and Space Group's Palatine Centre

PH Partnership and Space Group’s Palatine Centre exterior

PH Partnership and Space Group's Palatine Centre

PH Partnership and Space Group’s Palatine Centre. View showing the solar panels, library extension on left and Durham Cathedral in background

PH Partnership and Space Group's Palatine Centre

PH Partnership and Space Group’s Palatine Centre

From the nominator:

The Trustees of the City of Durham Trust would like to nominate the Palatine Centre at the University of Durham for the Carbuncle Cup.

The University’s Gateway Project was the biggest development by far in Durham in 2012, consisting of an extension to the library and the Palatine Centre. It is the latter we are nominating for the Carbuncle Cup.

The Palatine Centre is a townscape disaster. It was perfectly acceptable that the Stockton Road frontage should be developed, and understandable that a more efficient assembling of some university services in more agreeable accommodation should be desired. However, the elevation on to Stockton Road breaks all the basic rules of architecture and urban design. Context is the first principle: place comes before building. To what does the Palatinate Centre relate: where is there any hint of ‘Durhamness’ in its form or materials? Durham, as the Local Plan acknowledges, is characterised by brick or stone, simple robust shapes, vertical lines and a predominance of solid over void. The glass, with simplicity abandoned for a series of curves and flowing lines. The large, alien structure has drawn a unanimous response from the Trust, English Heritage and architects of national or international standing, who have summarised it as overbearing, unduly intrusive, aggressive, monstrous. Truly, an opportunity lost.

The University’s photographs do not show the context of this building: the other side of Stockton Road is a graveyard and two-storey terraced houses which the Palatine Centre towers over. This building is totally out of context. Whatever the merits of its interior, its external appearance justifies our description of it as overbearing, unduly intrusive, aggressive and monstrous. It would be a worthy winner of the Carbuncle Cup.

Local news report

More project information from the University of Durham

 

 

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Readers' comments (13)

  • Not in the same league as any of the other entries, I'm afraid. Sure, it ignores its context, but 95% of modern buildings do this now.
    If you think this is bad, just wait until Liebeskind gets to work in Durham!

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  • Scott Dale

    Bitter and twisted that they didn't get an anonymous pastiche that they so clearly desired.

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  • It does look like a row of Combine harvesters, but its not that bad. I think we already have a winner, 465 Caledonian road!

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  • jon5465

    I actually think that this project is quite tasteful... plus the exterior woodwork craftsmanship is excellent.

    I personally feel that it was merited that university building of this stature should not blend seamlessly into its surroundings and should represent some form of placemarker / node.

    Not even in the running for the CC in mu opinion.

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  • Mike Duriez

    No chance of winning the trophy! This is not a brilliant building, and I do find it somewhat ugly, but it offers a certain level of spatial interest and architectural ambition.

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  • I think this isn't that bad, its not going to win the Stirling prize, but it's not totally unacceptable. From certain perspectives you would imagine it frames views quite nicely. Caledonian Road is really poor. I would like to see all Part 1 courses make it mandatory to lecture students on how bad it is in the the very first lecture of the course.

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  • Not in the hunt.

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  • From some angles it does look unattractive, but from others I find it quite impressive. It certainly has design ambition and interesting features. Compared to the featureless zinc wedge of Porth Eirias, it's the Sistine Chapel.

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  • My eyes hurt

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  • Nice building. No doubt all the better for displaying reduced levels of this ‘Durhamness’, which I assume to be some sort of anaesthetic, soul-destroying force.

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