“A hideous mess,” “crass,” “over-scaled,” “[an] assault on all your senses from the moment you leave the Tube station.” The judges were unsparing in their criticism of PLP Architecture’s new London development, the Nova Victoria, which emerged the winner of the Carbuncle Cup, architecture’s least wanted trophy. This is the sixth year in a row a London project has been crowned Carbuncle-of-the-year, annually awarded by Building Design (BD) a British architecture publication for the ugliest building to have been completed in the U.K. over the previous year.
Among the six firms nominated for this year’s Carbuncle Cup in the U.K., the largest studio, London-based PLP Architecture, walked away with the prize. Situated in the heart of London, PLP’s Nova Victoria is one of the first set of structures people see when exiting Victoria Railway Station. And the sight that welcomes those unfortunate commuters, if they can see past the ongoing construction work, is a gargantuan up-turned arrowhead that is as red as the architects’ faces might be today. Lee Polisano, president at PLP, told The Guardian that the building’s color “is a reference to Victoria being an important transport interchange, so we chose a color that’s synonymous with transport in London.”
The developer behind Nova Victoria is Land Securities (LandSec) and this project is their second worthy of the Carbuncle Cup. Rafael Viñoly’s car-melting Walkie-Talkie building was the first in 2015. Nova, LandSec’s most recent architectural clunker, houses offices, restaurants, and 170 apartments starting at $940,000. The $500 million project is described on its own website as “ultra-modern, beautifully engineered and architecturally daring. A statement for living amid the grandeur of Westminster and Belgravia.”
This apparent “statement,” it seems, has not worn well on many critics.
“Nova should have been good as it’s a prestige site. It makes me want to cringe physically,” remarked judge Catherine Croft who is also director of the C20 Society in the U.K. The scathing didn’t end there, either. Fellow judge David Rudlin lamented: “There’s no variety and you can’t read the floors.” Speaking of the arrowhead, he added, “It’s got the same proportions as Salisbury Cathedral. For me the spire gives it carbuncular status–otherwise it’s just a bad building.”
BD editor Thomas Lane said also poured on the scorn. “The architect appears to have been inspired by the fractured, angular shapes beloved of stararchitects like Frank Gehry and Daniel Libeskind and applied these to a run-of-the-mill spec office development,” he said.
For all of Nova Victoria’s flaws, it could have been worse. It’s hard to imagine, but as The Guardian’s Oliver Wainwright noted, three 40-story towers were proposed to Westminster Council in 2007. This was rejected, and rightfully so, for the project would have cast its Victorian surroundings in shadow. Worth noting too, is that views of and from Buckingham Palace would have been somewhat spoiled.