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Tuesday21 October 2014

Carbuncle Cup winner 2012: Ship in a throttle

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Grimshaw’s disastrously conceived restoration of the Cutty Sark is winner of this year’s BD Carbuncle Cup, tragically defiling the very thing it sets out to save

The world has recently been mesmerised by the case of Cecilia Giménez, the devout octogenarian from Borja in Spain, whose attempts to restore a fresco of Christ in her local cathedral went so terribly awry. We would ordinarily label someone who had committed such an act a vandal but, for all the ineptitude that she brought to her task, Giménez’s intentions were clearly sound. Her actions demand to be viewed as a tragedy rather than a crime.

In previous years the Carbuncle Cup has been handed out to buildings that were the product of horrifying greed or negligence, but neither charge could be fairly levelled against the backers of this year’s winner.

The spectacularly wrongheaded “restoration” of the Cutty Sark is a project that the charitable trust that owns the ship — the greatest and last remaining 19th century tea clipper — has pursued doggedly for the past eight years. It appointed an architect with an international reputation, and has defended its vision. It has overcome funding crises and even the loss of part of the ship’s fabric in a fire during the course of conservation work. It has worked with the best of intentions and yet has tragically succeeded in defiling the very thing it set out to save.

The scheme’s myriad failings stem from one calamitous choice: the decision to hoick the 154-year-old clipper close to three metres into the air on canted steel props. The Cutty Sark Trust assures us that this very invasive surgery was crucial to the ship’s long-term conservation. Its former dry-docked situation had caused the hull to distort but now, elevated and protected from the elements within a fully air-conditioned glass enclosure, it will supposedly maintain its shape. Historic ship experts have, however, been all but united in their disdain for the strategy. Even the Cutty Sark’s own former chief engineer, Peter Mason, resigned from the project in 2009 after seeing computer simulations that suggested the act of lifting would put a dangerous level of stress on the fabric. So why do it?

The Cutty Sark by Grimshaw

The new arrangement creates a space for corporate functions.

One reason is surely that the project’s architect, Grimshaw, found it exciting. It is notable that the practice’s Spine House, completed in Oberkülheim in Germany in 2000, features a remarkably similar section: a timber-clad, boat-like vessel is held aloft on steel legs, while high-level glazing to either side admits toplight to the undercroft. The architect clearly found the chance to restage this drama using an actual boat irresistible.

The arrangement also presented a powerful commercial appeal. With the £12 price of admission fresh in their memory, the visitor entering the volume created beneath the ship’s hull can’t help but be struck by how little it contains. A café huddles at one end, a display of figureheads at the other, but a game of five-a-side football could comfortably be staged in between. The opportunity to inspect the underside of the hull is welcome enough, but the room’s real raison d’être is the lucrative corporate function trade. As the trust has acknowledged, a key ambition was always to create “a corporate hospitality venue to rival Tate Modern”.

From street level, the once thrilling lines of the ship’s stern and prow have now been obscured behind the new glass enclosure. Misdirected as the strategy was from the start, the early renderings — undertaken when the original concept architect youmeheshe was still involved — did at least suggest a degree of delicacy. Along the way, however, the promised soap-bubble of frameless, double-curved glass has been abandoned in favour of a gawky paraphrase of the roof of Foster’s British Museum Great Court. The issues of how such a thing might meet the ground or how an entrance might be made in it do not appear to have detained the architect for long.

Having found their way past an expansive retail opportunity, visitors are taken into the ship by way of a hole bashed through the side of the hull, before circulating from deck to deck past an exhibition pitched squarely at eight-year-old enthusiasts for Pirates of the Caribbean. On reaching the top, they are taken across a gangway to a huge and startlingly banal lift, stair and air-conditioning tower from which they can access the undercroft.

While the neatness of the circulation diagram can’t be faulted, one is left bewildered by the idea that this jewel of British maritime history should have been subjected to such dramatic adjustment in order to equip it for an age of mass tourism.

The ship demanded the sensitivity afforded to other great small London museums like the Soane, but instead it has been comprehensively reimagined as a theme-park attraction.

The Cutty Sark Trust’s chairman, Maldwin Drummond, has said that the aim was to present the ship “as though for some unexplained reason the crew had gone ashore” — a worthy goal but one that this tragically ill-conceived project singularly fails to meet.

ArcelorMittal Orbit, London.

Source: Charlton/ODA

Near miss: ArcelorMittal Orbit, London.

The sixth annual Carbuncle Cup winner was selected by a jury composed of BD columnists Hank Dittmar, Gillian Darley and Owen Hatherley, along with executive editor Ellis Woodman.

Grimshaw’s Cutty Sark was unanimously selected over five other distressing contenders:

The ArcelorMittal Orbit, London by Cecil Balmond and Anish Kapoor; the Titanic Museum, Belfast, by CivicArts and Todd Architects; Firepool Lock housing, Taunton, by Andrew Smith Architects; Shard End Library, Birmingham by IDP Partnership; and Mann Island, Liverpool by Broadway Malyan.

Stronger-stomached readers are directed to the video of this year’s shortlist.

 

 

 

 

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Readers' comments (77)

  • Anonymous

    The Carbuncle Cup is a disgrace to architecture. Not constructive or clever at all, a bit like BD in general now I think about it. Well done BD for being miserable for yet another year.
    Chris.

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  • BD would like to clarify that this comment was not left by Chris Wilkinson of Wilkinson Eyre. There are a number of architects and design professionals who share the name.

    Anna Winston,
    Online editor

  • Why is it Chris? Surely its a good thing to open about when we get things terrible wrong in the hope that we might learn from those mistakes?

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  • BD=The Sun

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  • I completely agree with you Chris, this should stop.

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  • I smell a conservation officer, planner and a committee in the pie ... it's time BD ditched this nonsense award. After all it's mostly architects who read (?) your articles, and most of us know what is going on and what is good or poor. The editorial content in general has never been really hot and suffers from the usual single minded tunnel vision reporting. Yawn.

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  • I cant believe that tortured mess of steel at the olympic park didnt win. BD is obviously caught up in all the hype about the Olympics... the ArcMittalOrbit has been pretty much universally loathed by everyone with an interest in architecture.

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  • You criticise the Carbuncle Cup - but THIS IS A MESS of a piece of architecture and gives the award a reason to exist. As a former neighbourhood resident, I can confirm this building is completely insensitive and inappropriate. They should have left the temporary pavilion that youmeheshe did, which somehow was more responsive to the setting while not appearing too 'National Trust' like.

    Architects need to learn from the bad as well as the good stuff.

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  • What an unfortunate choice for the Carbuncle cup. Who needs more proof that its time to stop this silly waste of time and maybe also time to stop taking the BD too seriously.

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  • I smell someone being bitter about once having been nominated...

    I think the Cup is valuable: architects, developers and clients should all be liable to being called to account when they come up with monstrosities like this.

    This is an act of vandalism of a national treasure: too right those responsible should be named and shamed.

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  • I am totally behind Chris on this - what a ridiculous choice? Look around you there is crap being consented daily. Usual sensational crap from BD. Stuart Piercy

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  • If you think it's a waste of time, you don't have to read it. When architects so drastically fail in such high profile projects as some of these nominees are, they deserve a level of high profile criticism that I feel the CC gives. There is a strong element of entertainment in it, but that's why it exists. Otherwise i'd be yet nother editorial piece or blog site, of which there are plenty.

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  • SomeoneStoleMyNick

    Still no answer as to why Piers Gough's appalling Wembley student housing was quietly removed from the shortlist. Any explanation?

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  • zecks_marquise

    LOL!

    well played BD

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  • Alex Henderson

    I'm sorry BD. I don't agree with this one. Now I've visited the Cutty Sark recently and sure, the glass should have been frameless. It should have had soft contours to reflect the ocean to which this ship would have sailed through for all those years. I also agree that the entrances seem like a bit of an after-thought. It's a shame really, because I think Grimshaw is capable of much more- the National Space Centre in Leicester is a good example of this. However, the Cutty Sark did go over budget and will continue to cost a significant amount of money to run and preserve. Creating a corporate space below the ship is the solution and it will help make the ship financially self sufficient.

    So yes, the Cutty Sark restoration is not perfect, but there is no way in my mind that this entry was capable of beating The Orbit.

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  • not good

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  • One way and thats up!

    There was only ever two runners for this years cup and onehad taken it at the finish line. The Orbit was an obvious choice but is an easily forgotten scrap piece ver time. This deserves the award as it has destroyed a national treasure. Every angle you look from is awkward, it is an ill conceived design from the beginning and should never have been allowed. This award needs to continue to highlight our failings as architects, more importantly its a joy to read the comments from others biatching!

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  • If only there were a similar award for journalisim......I know where my vote would go!

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  • The Carbuncle Cup has clearly generated some lively debate, which is surely the objective. Far too many horrible schemes fall silently between the cracks. We might argue about the merits or not of the ulitimate winner but surely it is better to have the coversation than not at all. High-brow academic criticism does not invite casual debate in the same way and I think it has a useful role to play. Long live the Cup!

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  • SomeoneStoleMyNick

    @ Ian Hunt - been up to Wembley recently? There's another tower going up at the moment, the same as the existing one. So we'll have TWO horrors instead of one.

    As for why it disappeared from the shortlist: I think we both know.

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  • Mike Duriez

    Clearly NGP have produce a good "carbuncle on the bottom of a well loved friend", as it were.

    Sadly, the Orbit probably was graced with too much Olympic Afterglow to win gold.

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  • NGP should be named and shamed for conceiving such an outlandish, insensitive, over engineered gob-on to the venerable Cutty Sark. Long live the Carbuncle Cup for forcing some uncomfortable architectural navel gazing!

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  • It's only a bit of wrap around glass for goodness sake - a poor suggestion of ocean waves, granted - but to keep it in perspective, its only there to hide what wasn't meant to be seen below the waterline! Orbit for the cup, I say - a sort of Eiffel knot.

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  • It's good to have the Carbuncle price, maybe the jury shouldn't just consist of BD staff but of arch journalists across the UK press. Also there should be more categories: Worst architectural icon, worst piece of daily architecture, high-rise building etc. And not only architect but also developer and maybe builder should be named and shamed.

    What concerns this year’s winner I would follow Alex Henderson's opinion and not support the choice. I have been inside the venue and know Greenwich quite well. The criticism in the article hits almost more the museum culture than the actual architecture. And this is more to do with the state of our society and the time we live in. It is very hard to animate people nowadays to visit museums. Even those, which make it into the museum, haven't got a big attention span and are quite superficial. The exhibition simply reflects this and tries to come up with a commercially viable concept, while not enough supported by the government at all.

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  • BD = The Daily Mail of architectural reviews. Goodbye BD, that was the final straw.

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  • Seymour Alexander

    The pro-Cutty Sark campaigners sound a bit too well organised and like sounding; wonder if their email addresses are as similar. Well done BD - a good choice.

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  • There seem to be a lot of Grimshaw employees around today.

    Can any of those calling for an end to the Carbuncle Cup offer anything in the Cutty Sark job's defence?

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  • tesserae

    Really interesting comments, which shows that some designers are not aware of what they are doing. The entire integrity of the Cutty Sark has been destroyed, and now they want Jo-does-not-like-Museums Blogs to PAY to do a lip service tour of something that is presented as less than the real macoy, it is a total travesity of architecture, which should be given the heaviest leaden Carbuncle cup. I visited the old cutty sark, it still reeked of dare devil voyages fighting storms all with intrinsic beauty of form for the desparate souls who sailing her. The rigid structure which supports the ship is a final strangulation of getting water from stone from the corporates. It would have been preferable to build this from scratch as a fake ship, that at least would have been totally honest. Yes BD did well for once here .

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  • well said tesserae, you articulated my thoughts exactly. It's nice to see that even the big names are subject to ctiticism

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  • SomeoneStoleMyNick

    @ Eckard:

    Yes- not only architect but also developer and maybe builder should be named and shamed.

    And so should the local authority that gave it planning approval. And if the local authority was advised on the case by a Design Review Panel then the members of the DRP should also be named and shamed.

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  • What a crapulous*building...............and I actually sent a cheque to the restoration fund for my favourite ship after the fire.

    I can see now that was a mistake...........bugger!

    (*To seriously over-indulge.....most commonly associated with greedy, fat monstrosities)

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  • i love this award! Not sure I'd give the carbuncle to this choice though?

    Orbit = true winner

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  • The area beneath the ship is great - when I visited it there was a family activity taking place and my kids had a great time drawing and running about, enjoying the sense of space after the confined spaces on the ship.

    Don't have a problem with the 'banal' lift tower - what do you want, some kind of sub-Calatrava sculpture competing with the boat?

    Hoisting the ship on struts - I don't see how BD journalists are qualified to pass judgement on what is an area of disagreement between expert engineers.

    But then ... the glass skirt. This really is so ghastly that it deserves the Carbuncle Cup on its own. I've got nothing against hovercrafts, but I think the Cutty Sark worked better as a clipper.

    Yes it's a bit negative, but I think the Cup ultimately does a good service by holding us all to account, big name or otherwise.

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  • kamiichi

    The Carbuncle Cup is fine, unfortunately BD now gives unlimited space for troll comments from contributors like Sceptical,Fanny,Zecks and Chris Wilkinson.

    BTW Piers Gough? W eneed answers BD.

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  • Spot on BD. A worthy winner. I was horrified when I first saw the designs and the finished building is even worse than feared. In the past whenever I was near the Cutty Sark I would go and stand near the bow and marvel at her beautiful lines. The oblique frontal view is the classic view of any ship (and any other vehicle come to that). It is the view that always gets photographed for good reason. The building has killed this view stone dead. Now rather than beautiful lines you get lumpen glass - forget transparency it's all frames and reflections - and clumsy fire escapes. For me this one mistake is enough to condemn this building but your article adds several more. The design displays a complete lack of understanding of, or sympathy for, the object it is meant to be serving. It is astonishing that the trustees let it happen.

    One cannot resist the suspicion that Grimshaw favoured the structurally gymnastic solution because that is what turns them on. Have you ever seen a Grimshaw building without pin joints and tension rods?

    What sets this apart from the other entries is the auspiciousness of the circumstances. A unique and beautiful historical object in a stunning location, a generous budget and a premier league architect should all result in something exceptional. Sadly this spectacular project is a spectacular failure.

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  • The mutilations inflicted on the Cutty Sark are a disgrace to architecture. Congratulations to BD for taking such an uncompromising editorial line in this issue and well done the Carbuncle Cup for naming and shaming.

    Perhaps the same design team might like to apply their blue-sky thinking to more of the world's priceless treasures......

    HMS Victory: why not cleave her in two along the keel, pull the two sections apart by, say, 15m and insert a state of the art glass and steel visitor attraction or retail space?

    Stonehenge: why not lot suspend the whole lot by steel cables, anchored through each stone, from a giant viewing gantry above a sunken glass roofed pavilion so that visitors have a choice of either walking around beneath the henge to view the dangling sarsons from below whilst pressing information buttons or eating a burger or something, or enjoying unrivalled views from above?

    The Pantheon: ever wondered what it would be like to pass through the oculus? Why not insert a steel and glass lift shaft positioned directly below giving access to a series of lettable terraces, some for shops, others for meetings or tutorials and so on. After passing through the 2000 year old gape visitor could trample about on the concrete dome protected by a cantilevered glass balustrade beneath a teflon fabric roof.

    This is not about the vanity of a bunch of top designers or the schemes of journalists. The intervention has severely damaged the irreplaceable historic fabric of this once majestic vessel and denied future generations the opportunity of enjoying her unique beauty.

    rb

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  • Let's face it, if there were an equivalent award for the architectural press, BD would win every year. Tabloid nonsense.

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  • Right choice, if surprising.

    Museum culture seems to have lost its way here. The ship, once both beautiful and hard evidence from a past era has been reduced to a spectacle and its beauty lost.

    Separating the architecture from the museological failure is ridiculous. They are elements of the same delusion.

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  • The BD should concentrate on celebrating fantastic architecture. I would much rather read a positive informative magazine.

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  • BD its a pity those running this crass competition don't see the damage to all those involved in the construction industry, this is made worse at the time of a terrible world wide recession where UK architects are competing against the world, trust BD to put its effort into damaging British design industry.

    This is not journalism , just bad in always .very sad ..

    Ian Simpson
    Director

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  • BD would like to clarify that this comment was not left by Ian Simpson of Ian Simpson Architects. There are a number of architects and design professionals who share the name.

    Anna Winston,
    Online editor

  • The comments here calling for the BD to 'only publish good news' and criticising its journalism for daring to highlight when our industry gets it appallingly wrong via the Carbuncle Cup - in this instance to the extent of disfiguring a piece of history - signals to me the effect changes to the British education system over the past 20 years have had on a large section of our society. In essence: THEY'RE ALL WINNERS! A-stars all round!

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  • Sebastian Cuff

    Is it the Cutty "Endurance" stuck in an iceberg or is it the Cutty "Hovercraft"? This is the Carbuncular Question of the Week, and surely one for that most erudite Gherkin-Pineapple debate Chappie Peter Murry. He should duct tape himself to this carbuncle in the manner of a latter day suffragette, and can choose to dress as a polar explorer or hovercraft captain, what-ho? These carbuncles need a bit of old promotion from our public servants.

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  • The movie about the restoration clearly shows that once the initial budget was passed savage cost reduction measures were taken and people were reshuffled. The head of the Cutty Sark foundation seems to of sacrificed a great deal personally to restore the ship.

    The glazing should of been flush with the ground rather than humped up but surely BD should focus on the larger failings this intervention represents.

    At least when the Victorian's were incensitive the did it with bravado rather than middle mindedness. This country is failing because it has rewarded the cost cutters, company production incentifiers,job slashers. Cost analysts, and efficiency consultants in favor of Artisians, Architects, and Engineers and craftsmen.

    Yes, criticism the Architects intention, yes criticize the execution but do so with a fair and even hand otherwise BD you are only supporting the culture that lead to the winning entry.

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  • Congratulations to all brave enough to put their heads above the parapet! They have said all that needs to be said. If our profession cannot recognize when things have gone wrong - did no one in the client and design teams ever ask "what are we doing?" - then perhaps our days ARE numbered.

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  • Anish Kapoor was robbed! He deserved this award

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  • SomeoneStoleMyNick

    Interesting to see that a few "name" architects have bestirred themselves and contributed to this thread to say how worthless they find it.

    I wonder what's eating them. Nervous are we, chaps?

    Personally I think it's great that we now have this forum in which it's possible to counteract the endless positive PR spin we get most of the time in the architecture mags.

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  • It's Grim for sure.

    A slice of dill pickle to Foster's gherkin. Inhabiting the Cutty Sark's dry dock and experiencing the boat from beneath could have made for a fantastic experience but something clearly went awry in the execution. The structure is far too heavy handed and the scheme already looks dated. A missed opportunity.

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  • There should be a gallow built on the shore at the front of the ship. On the gallow should be hung the names of all the individuals associated with this debacle. At the top should be those in charge of the trust, and those in the architectural offices who had a hand in it. These people should be accountable for what they've done.

    The design is so bad that even the Queen, who's had a lifetime's practise of holding back her feelings in public, upon her visit couldn't help but reveal a grimace at what she was seeing on her tour.

    The abundance of people attacking the journalism in their comments is just distraction from the main issue. It's not about journalism, it's about the terrible renovation that we're now stuck with. If you don't agree, tell us why by addressing the issues of what the builders have actually done - and leave the journalists out, it's nothing to do with them.

    I'm a bit miffed at the Orbit getting away scott-free. This was an equally dire construction at all levels, starting right at the top with Boris Johnson (questionable whether BD politics had a hand in this entry not winning in order to protect his name) all the way through to the funding which allowed for advertising to circumnavigate olympic rules about this, to the coincidental fact the winning design was by a friend of the funder to the way its corporate vibe hijacked the olympic spirit whilst hideously promoted by a crazed grinning Boris. The fact the design itself was atrocious was the final insult.

    The Orbit deserved at least to be joint winner. Maybe the fact its in a poor part of East London doesn't matter so much to the increasingly right-wing BD as much as the precious colonial-era Cutty Sark?

    A joint winner would have been the more truthful result and reflected a broader understanding of the architectural issues affecting the wider populace of modern multicultural Britain, not just it's more narrow traditional past.

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  • Hi Valentine,
    We do strongly believe that everyone is entitled to their opinion about the Carbuncle Cup. But I do want to spring to the defence of our judges a little bit on this one: the decision was really nothing to do with Boris Johnson! I don't think he would need BD to protect his name - he's perfectly good at demonstrating his own competencies/incompetencies to the public without any further assistance.
    Anna Winston
    Online Editor

  • This award is so disappointing. It’s like a Heat or Grazia magazine circling fat on other peoples bodies. In this time when the architectural profession is in real and immediate crisis, this kind of red-top sensationalism shows just how much the format of BD allows the staff to indulge a type of journalism far removed from the rigor required by other architectural media.
    Poppy

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  • It's very interesting how , when St.George Wharf won this award in the past, everyone went 'tee hee'........it's only Broadway Malyan so what does it matter.

    Now when some individuals have the temerity to critisise a building by Grimshaw's, somehow it's betrayal of our profession and a gift to our critics.

    How dare they!

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  • What other Architecutural/Construction publication openly criticises buildings in this way? Are we to highlight terrible architecture by observing a lack of championing certain buildings within the architectural press? From some of the posts on here I would assume some Architects would prefer their carbuncle to go inconspicuously unnoticed, but poor architecture which this is should be named and shamed. Without criticism how can Carbuncles like this be avoided in the future?

    The Carbuncle Cup clearly has a place in Architecture, the fact that so many people have written defensive comments proves this, as presumably intended by its creators this award it will always divide opinion.

    Many people seem to be constantly criticising BD's journalism, if you don't like it no one is forcing you to read it. Agreed that for example you can't read just one newspaper, a spread of newspapers needs to be read to form a balanced and informed opinion about current affairs, the same applies to the Architectural press, just like Architecture where there are good and bad buildings, the same applies to the Architectural press, everything is judged against its peers, and the Cutty Sark should now be judged a failure amongst its own

    As for asking for BD to always write positive articles about Architecture, that is plainly ridiculous, as with the world not everything is positive and things need to be highlighted as with the Cutty Sark to learn from mistakes and improve in the future, clearly in this case budget did not allow what was shown in the original 3Dimensional renders, the SS Great Britain in Bristol has a glass roof, executed much more successfully than the Cutty Sarks.

    http://www.guide2bristol.com/uploads/news/large/150711093117--ss%20Great%20Britain%20goes%20Overboard%20for%20Bristol%20Harbour%20Festival.jpg

    it's not as it Grimshaw had to invent anything new here, if indeed the roof was even required?? The supports which are apparently needed to preserve the structural integrity of the CUtty Sark could still have been used to hold the ship up creating an amazing public space underneath, allowing those who want to experience the Cutty Sark without paying the entrance fee to do so, and still have fee paying visitors entering the ship above (presumably at a lesser cost than the current fee due to the building being cheaper!). There was know need for a museum experience, the Cutty Sark was a experience in it's own right, I can only say I am glad to have visited it before Grimshaw intervened!

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