Six British buildings are competing for an architectural prize no one wants to win: the Carbuncle Cup. Architecture’s least desirable accolade, the trophy is only available for architects with projects in the U.K. and this year, an unlucky half dozen firms are vying to dodge the bullet of embarrassment.
2017 brings round the eleventh edition of the Carbuncle Cup. It is run by the British trade magazine, Building Design (BD) and initiated as a response to the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)’s Stirling Prize, using HRH Prince Charles’s description of Ahrends Burton Koralek’s proposed extension of the National Gallery as a “monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much loved and elegant friend,” in 1984 at an event intended to honor Indian architect Charles Correa.
As past winners will attest, architectural pedigree won’t save you. Foster+Partners and Rogers Stirk Harbour+Partners have previously made the list for their Moor House office development and One Hyde Park projects, respectively, both of which are in London. Past winners include the Cutty Sark renovation in Greenwich by Grimshaw Architects and Rafael Viñoly’s car-melting 20 Fenchurch Sreet (a.k.a. The Walkie-Talkie Tower) in London. Take a look at this year’s finalists below with BD‘s scornful comments.
“Pity poor Victoria. Rebuilt in the 1960’s after WWII bombing, the area is now being extensively redeveloped by Land Securities but sadly not for the better. The latest offering is Nova Victoria, a 897,000-square-foot, mixed-use development occupying a whole city block. The architect, PLP, has attempted to break up the monolithic nature of these scheme by expressing it as a pair of sliced and chamfered towers and jazzing it up with several bright red prows presumably to give it that ‘landmark’ quality. Instead several readers questioned how it got planning.”
Preston Railway Station Butler Street Entrance
Operator Virgin Trains said the building was a “contrasting structure to create a more modern and passenger friendly environment.” Preston locals thought differently, describing it as an “eyesore,” “hideous,” “a joke,” and “planning gone mad.”
Nominator Steve Webberley described it as a “deadening cake tin slapped on its side.”He said: “This fractured geometric lean-to would seem out of date 10 years ago. It isn’t even that well-planned inside. The relationship with the window line of the brick station is laughable. We’ve come a long way from Brunel. A very long way…”
Greetham Street Student Halls
Greetham Street Student Halls has been nicknamed the “fag butt” by locals due to its central tan and beige coloured circular tower. The nominator, Kieran Clarke said, “[It] seems that the building’s architects were either colour blind when choosing the external cladding or wanted to blind others with the bright yellow cube at the top of their tower.”
8 Somers Road
According to BD, the design and access statement accompanying the planning application describes these as “subservient and understated with a crisp modern aesthetic distinct from the historic house.”
The nominator Robert Smith begs to differ, describing the extension as a “Lego brick, adding, “I am aware that planning guidelines today are to keep a clear boundary between new and old structures, but the architect has made no attempt to unify the house and now most people assume this family home to be a medical centre.”
Circus West, Battersea Power Station
This building has not fared well with BD’s readership. Comments of derision included the following: “A great case of gross over development – it’s disgusting!’, and ‘Now we’re talking…. might as well stop the rest of the nominations being listed. We have a winner right here.”
“Many of our readers also pointed out the blame for this building should be shared with Rafael Vinoly who was responsible for the masterplan,” said BD. “Unfortunately this scale of overdevelopment has been forced on the power station because of a series of bad deals made by a series of owners needing to recoup their investments.”
Park Plaza London Waterloo
“This dowdy beige 1950s government building to hotel conversion has been jazzed up presumably to draw in the punters. The lower lower storeys are swathed in tiles whose pattern would cause havoc on a TV screen, and whose colours manage to be both gaudy and drab at the same time. To draw attention to the entrance, the architects lifted the cornice at one corner and wrapped a weird screen around it. It looks like the skin has been peeled from someone’s torso, exposing a spaghetti of blood vessels and veins beneath.”
The architectural hammer of damnation will slam down on the winner—or loser, depending on your view—next Wednesday when the Carbuncle Cup is awarded. There will be no ceremony.