Saturday05 September 2015

Bloated icons and dreary sheds go head to head in the race for the Carbuncle Cup

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Clunky slabs and botched “landmarks” battle it out to win the coveted title of worst building of the year.

This year’s carbuncle nominees fall into two categories: the failed iconic, and the grimly mundane.

At one end of the spectrum we have Atkins and Grimshaw’s Newport Station and Bond Bryan’s Phoenix High School, both bleak attempts at novelty. One is a globular silver swoosh realised with the prosaic flair of design and build; the other has been likened to a pile of liquorice allsorts – because it is lurid and wonky. It is telling that Network Rail’s own promotional posters only show the station in a night-time view from the air, while the pupils of Phoenix now all want to become architects – surely so others may not have to suffer their fate.

Representing the bloated apogee in this pursuit of the iconic is the £72 million Museum of Liverpool, the bastard child of 3XN, AEW and several lawsuits. It is the ultimate flashy esquisse executed with the leaden hand of the local authority, a crumpled quilt of stone stretched back and forth until it sufficiently destroys the city’s majestic waterfront.

At the other end of the spectrum, we have three projects completely devoid of ambition, standing for the worst of the lumpen planner-friendly filler that blights our cities.

In desperately trying to avoid any suggestion of wasting licence-payers’ money, “MediaCityUK” has ended up as a field of mediocrity. An agglomeration of bulky slabs, dressed in cheap panelised systems, it is reminiscent of the kind of flimsy rubbish that airport terminals tend to accrue.

One Hyde Park is precisely the opposite, straining to appear as expensive and refined as possible, yet ending up looking like the product of a volume house-builder. It will not be the last silo of sheiks to sprout up in Knightsbridge, but it will be hard to beat its clunky detailing and mean-minded attitude to the street. Just where did that £1 billion go?

Finally, Brighton’s Ebenezer Chapel housing development by Molyneux Architects represents the depressing reality of most housing today – blunt expanses of render punctured by tiny windows. As our reader’s citation suggests, “It is these mediocre buildings that damage our cities more than bolder failures.”


Readers' comments (12)

  • Simon  Quinlank

    Where is Central Saint Giles ?

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  • Chris Seger

    The annual spiteful bitchfest, how demeaning. So the pupils of the Bond Bryan school all want to become architects because it's such a bad building?! Twisted logic.

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  • Newport Station looks like a textbook diagram of fallopian tubes.

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  • Jeremy Hunter

    Haha Russell, I totally hadn't noticed that. There was me thinking it looked like an unfurling cochlea. Still, my money is on the Ebenezer Chapel tedium pro... uh housing project.

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  • Could BD please not run the Carbuncle Cup at the same time as the Stirling Prize? All the schemes could be equally candidates for both awards. It is very disorientating for your readers and could result in the judges making an embarrassing faux pas.

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  • I have to applaude your continuing effort in recognising 'bad' architecture with the aid of your Carbuncle Cup. It is about time architects are held accountable for the atrocities they create. The role of architects are extremely important in contemporary society and architects should be penalised as well as rewarded.

    I myself am a student of Architect about to embark on my Part 2, and get extremely upset when a thoughtless building gets heavily published and shown in a positive light. It is up to the publications, the magazine editors and the readers to 'moderate' the buildings they admire.

    You are our representation of building all around the world and we as students, no we as future architects that shape our cities look to you for inspirations.

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  • where is the new NHS Medical Centre built on any high street in England?

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  • @Ian I tend to agree; but it is good fun ;-) Maybe the architects involved aren't too bothered - it's free publicity after all. Maybe the Carbuncle Cup might become a badge of honour; like some local toe rag proud of getting a (now defunct) ASBO.

    @nik.... aww bless ya mate :-) I love the naivety of Part 1 architectural students: full of principles and thinking that they are all going to become the next Foster or Chipperfield. Just like all the American nursery children think they will become the next US President. Maybe I've been in the real world too long haha. Don't burn any bridges as you might have to eat humble pie when the only practice offering you work at the end of your Part 2 is Atkins. Remember architects are not the only people responsible for these 'atrocities'.

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  • @Ian,
    no off course not, but they wouldn't exist with them.

    Also on a personal note, become the next Fosters or Chipperfield. believe it or not some of us don't care about the fame. maybe my naivety surrounds me but i still believe architects can make positive and encouraging, social change.
    Maybe ask me again in a few years?

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  • @nik. I totally agree with your comments - don't get me wrong. Yes we can make a change for the better, of course we can. It's the barriers in the way that prevent most of us from doing so... politicians, bad clients, planning system, risk/blame culture, cost cutting, modern procurement methods giving too much power given to contractors and PMs, etc etc

    A good example of change for the better is Sandal Magna school but that took over 8 years to realise and was £3.5m over its original allocated budget. It had so many hoops to jump through to get where it was. Most clients and contractors would've given up... or procured the building much cheaper at the expense of the architectural design.

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