Ruin porn makes its debut in Clerkenwell


At first glance 15 Clerkenwell Close isn’t that bad, almost ignorable. The grid shaped structure is hardly out of step with contemporary offices nor is it massively detrimental to its historical area, despite protests to the contrary.

A second look though and you get a sense of how irritating the design is. It’s a dangerous combination of quirky and pretentious that veers too close to ruin-porn for a luxury office and flat in central London.

The prominent stone facade could possibly be called quirky. But the cobbled-together application of found parts with polished and rougher elements is more jarring to the eye though and asks the question “why?” rather than presenting a confident intent of design. The way the stone protrudes out from the rest of the building as well feels eerily reminiscent of 2013’s Carbuncle Cup winner UCL’s student halls on Caledonian Road.

But what really set it off is the stray Doric column at the base. An insufferably twee and pretentious addition, as if there was some attempt to craft a narrative that this an abandoned ancient wonder and you the visitor are taking part in some faux grand tour every time you step into it. Indeed text from Taha’s website does little to dispel the pretension: Clerkenwell Close reminds “us the literacy of the built environment is based on understanding and disseminating through building the poetic possibilities inherent within the structural and aesthetic qualities of all materials available that make up the vocabulary of all architectural languages.”

Though calls for demolition of the building last year were dramatic, in contrast to Taha’s own quote I’ll leave you with the words of Islington Councillor Martin Klute: “The building is awful”.