Friday18 August 2017

Six in race for Carbuncle Cup

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The shortlist has been announced for the Carbuncle Cup, BD’s award for the ugliest building in the UK completed in the last 12 months.

Despite a flurry of nominations for buildings in Ireland, London leads the way with two shortlisted entries:

The Strata tower in Elephant & Castle, by BFLS (formerly Hamiltons) was nominated by The Georgian Group for its “plain visual grotesqueness”.

While a last-minute nomination ensured the inclusion of the “most offensively ugly” Bézier Apartments by TP Bennett near Old Street, forcing out Renzo Piano’s Central St Giles.

The “neo-classical pastiche mess” St Anne’s Square development by WDR & RT Taggart in Belfast, received several nominations, as did Newcastle’s Haymarket Hub by Reid Jubb Brown.

Representing Birmingham on the shortlist is the “monstrous” The Cube by Make, nominated for its “clunky windows” “horrifically inelegant vents” and “overall colour”.

The Burns Monument Centre in Kilmarnock, a “clumpy monstrosity with pointlessly random roofs” also made the list.

A winner will be selected in August by a jury comprising Jonathan Glancey, Owen Hatherley, Amanda Baillieu and Ellis Woodman.

The nominations

The Strata tower in Elephant & Castle, by BFLS (formerly Hamiltons)

Strata Tower

The Georgian Group nominate the StrataTowerat Elephant & Castle – it might just about pass muster in a desert locale, but ugliness consists in ill-manners (ie contextual unsuitability) as well as plain visual grotesqueness.

Bézier Apartments by TP Bennett near Old Street

Bezier Apartments

This building not only more of the same glass and steel developer dross (as seen in the rest of the list) but it is most offensively ugly.

Given the current trend of diminishing architecture to objects the public can associate with, gherkin, cheese-grater et al, and seeing that all over the marketing is the objects super-brother ’icon’ why did no-one have the courage to ask the architect “doesn’t it look a bit like a bum?” Did anyone honestly see the comment of the casual passer by that it “looks quite bézier shaped to me”

It is literally mooning everyone that uses old street roundabout. I cycle past this every day and I must say this offends me. It is also ridiculous that the single view of every single apartment faces what must be one of the noisiest and ugliest roundabouts in central london. But I suppose this is “inner city living”, urban grit, or so they tell you.

To top it all there are balconies which will never be used and if I ever see anyone on one of those balconies I am sure they will be digging deep into a humble pie and contemplating the largest waste of 3/4 of a million pounds they have ever had the misfortune of spending.

Alas this may all seem insignificant next year given the carbuncle that is to be built just a few hundred meters away, The Shoreditch Bin (“Art o’tel”)


St Anne’s Square development by WDR & RT Taggart in Belfast

Saint Annes Square, Belfast

This building is so bad in fact that I have struggled to find any completed photographs but it would be a shame not to include it.

This neo-classical pastiche mess has storey height quoins, building services that stick out like a sore thumb on the roof and is totally out of proportion with the existing built form.

I would find it hard to believe if other people have not nominated this also.

Ian - Belfast

major development right beside St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast

The ’coins’ on this building (as if their existence on a modern steel framed building is not offensive enough) are over 8ft high! Perhaps the result of a placement student’s misplaced responsibility with a photocopier.

This is a major development right beside St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast, on a main approach to the city from the north. The building sits in a very important part of Belfast’s City Centre Regeneration area, and this is the best statement of how the city is to emerge??!!  

There was a feeling of dread in the city as the superstructure emerged in a steel frame then as if by magic, some quaint little brick arches appeared from no-where, 4 stories up!!


Newcastle’s Haymarket Hub by Reid Jubb Brown

Haymarket, Newcastle

The building is completely out of scale with its surroundings. Its design has no response to the surrounding environment in terms of massing, style or materials. It’s just awful.

Birmingham - The Cube by Make

The Cube, Birmingham

The building is a vague attempt at creating something ’iconic’ by building big. At odds with its surroundings, suffering from cost cutting and cheap detailing, the building is becoming something of an eyesore already. Perhaps it is best to say that if this building works at all then it is from far away, because you can’t quite see what makes it so monstrous. The  clunky windows, the horrifically inelegant vents, and the disjoint between the lurid green internal atrium cladding and the dark blue ’crown’ of the building are all major problems, but nothing really gets close to the overall colour of the building, once touted as being a golden jewel evoking Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter, the actual result is something more along the lines of a lumpy beige ornament your father buys your mother for her birthday because he thinks it’s classy and elegant, whereas she can see it for the tat it is. What a shame this building can’t be hidden away in the sideboard!


The Burns Monument Centre in Kilmarnock

Burns Monument Centre, in Kay Park, Kilmarnock.

I would like to nominate the Burns Monument Centre, in Kay Park, Kilmarnock.

The Burns Monument in Kay Park, Kilmarnock was a Folly in the purest sense of the word; a slightly mad concoction of the Baronial and the Gothic with a hint of the Italian Renaissance about it as well.  Robert Ingram had created a fitting housing for a statue of the Bard by W G Stevenson and the structure was rightly granted a B Grade listing. 

Unfortunately, a fire destroyed much of the structure in 2004.  Subsequently, rather than commission a competition, or indeed carry out any visible consultation on the matter, the local council seemingly brought in its own team of staff and this series of light industrial / storage units, sorry, this marriage / conference suite that surrounds what remains of the monument was the result.

The Burns monument before the fire

The Burns monument before the fire

The Council claimed upon opening that the centre is:

“a beautiful venue for weddings and other special ceremonies… that makes an ideal location for photographs”

… but yet every photograph on the centre’s website has been aggressively cropped to exclude this forced, clumpy monstrosity with pointlessly random rooves, and stubbornly standard detailing.  A tragedy in the purest sense of the word, considering what had been lost.



Readers' comments (50)

  • The Burns to win, just a bit of a mess!!!

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  • Burns is indeed ghastly, how not to re-use a historic structure!
    All are worthy contenders, however.

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  • It's a shame that the ghastly Central St Giles was elbowed out by the Bezier Apartments - they are possibly the least offensive entry on the short list.

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  • Burns must win, it's so bad that it's rather brilliant!

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  • Burns has to take it. I really can't believe that the site was so restricted that it was really necessary to strangle the monument like that.

    As the "Bad British Architecture" blog put it so succinctly last year: "slopey-roofed ****-bikeshed style, with a liberal dash of Kalzip and a touch of Hackney Marshes changing rooms."

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  • Yup, here's Ghost of Nairn on the Burns Monument


    And this is a wedding venue?!

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  • Strata or the Cube have to take it. At least one can avoid the Burns Centre as it is in the centre of a park, but these two town-centre eyesores just insult. And yes, it is a big shame that Central St Giles didn't make the shortlist!

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  • casual observer

    Has an architect owned up to the Burns Monument bike sheds yet?

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  • wow, Burns has to win it.
    I think it was 'designed' in house at the local authority.

    Its worth nothing that the Burns Monument website doesn't have a single photo of their new £5 million (!!!!) "state-of-the-art complex". Only interior shots!, the interior having being designed by a separate firm.

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  • I'd say the winner MUST be Strata, which is visible from absolutely EVERYWHERE in London (other than from inside the building itself)! A monstrosity that RUINS the London skyline for millions of people everyday MUST beat out its less-intrusive competitors, however horrible!

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