It’s the dream of many ambitious architects to design a building so unique, so creative it garners international recognition and maybe even an award. The Carbuncle Cup — a humorous response to the Royal Institute of British Architects’ prestigious Stirling Prize — is not that award. Given annually by Building Design (BD) magazine to “the ugliest building in the United Kingdom completed in the last 12 months,” winning the Carbuncle Cup is not the kind of recognition architects want.
Selected from among six finalists, an angular pair of towers located outside London’s Victoria station has been named the winner of this year’s Carbuncle Cup. Negatively noted for its “lurid and angular towers,” the Nova Victoria mixed-use development designed by PLP Architecture was crowned winner of this year’s award by a panel of judges made up of BD editor Thomas Lane and assistant editor Elizabeth Hopkirk, Twentieth Century Society director Catherine Croft, and urbanist David Rudlin. Reader comments were also taken into consideration.
The panel felt that PLP tried, and failed, to emulate the angular styles of Frank Gehry and Daniel Libeskind. Croft described the building, which is the first thing you see upon leaving the underground station, as a “crass assault on the senses” that made her want to “cringe physically.”
Rudlin, director of Urbed and chair of the Academy of Urbanism, said the development was inefficient, but blamed the red spire on its south tower for its newly awarded “carbuncular status.”
“There’s no variety and you can’t read the floors,” he said. “It’s got the same proportions as Salisbury Cathedral. For me the spire gives it carbuncular status — otherwise it’s just a bad building.”
Comprised of two 18-story office buildings and a residential block, the Nova Victoria development overlooks nearby Buckingham Palace and makes up part of Land Securities’ wider masterplan for the Victoria area.
The project features a red facade, which the judges saw as an attempt to “jazz up” the building’s monolithic nature. “The architect, PLP, has attempted to break up the monolithic nature of the 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,” said the judges when the contest’s shortlist of buildings was announced.
This year’s winner was not alone among London’s ugly new buildings this year: Half of this year’s nominees were in the city, where several key areas including Victoria and Battersea are undergoing drastic redevelopment.
“It is unfortunate although not entirely surprising that a London building has won the Carbuncle Cup for the sixth year running,” said BD. “The capital is in the middle of a massive construction boom so there is a bigger pool of potential contenders.”
Here are the other five buildings that had the misfortune to land on BD’s shortlist for this year’s Carbuncle Cup:
Preston Railway Station Butler Street Entrance, Preston, by AHR
The new entrance to Preston Railway station by London firm AHR made the list for the negative attention it garnered from residents on social media, with Twitter users calling it an “eyesore.” It has the dubious honor of being the BD readership’s most hated building, with 78 per cent saying it should win the Carbuncle Cup.
“The residents of Preston took to Twitter in droves to denounce Preston Railway Station’s new entrance which replaced a 1980s building that mimicked the station’s Victorian style,” noted Lane.
Park Plaza London Waterloo, London, by ESA Architecture
Located in London’s Waterloo, ESA Architecture’s conversion of a former 1950s government building into a hotel offended jurors with its newly patterned facade.
“The lower stories are swathed in tiles whose pattern would cause havoc on a TV screen, and whose colors manage to be both gaudy and drab at the same time,” said Lane. “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.”
Greetham Street Student Halls, Portsmouth, by Cooley Architects
This student residence hall in Portsmouth by London-based Cooley Architects made the list for its facade’s questionable coloring. In addition to the pixel-like pattern of the cladding, Lane said the building’s form is a “discordant jumble of multi-colored rectilinear blocks.”
8 Somers Road, Malvern, by Vivid Architects
An extension to a home in Malvern by Worcester-based Vivid Architects was shortlisted for its “Lego brick” aesthetic, which the jury and BD readers said is out of kilter with the “crisp modern aesthetic” described on its planning application.
“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 center,” said nominator Robert Smith.
Circus West, Battersea Power Station, London, by Simpson Haugh
Part of the redevelopment of Battersea Power Station, this project by London studio Simpson Haugh was nominated in part for its scale.
“Circus West pulls off the feat of making Europe’s largest brick building look small and was a very popular nomination with the BD readership,” said Lane. “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.”
Past recipients of the Carbuncle Cup have included Rafael Viñoly’s Walkie Talkie skyscraper in London and a student housing development, also in London, that was deemed “prison-like” by the 2013 jury.