Saturday, September 3, 2016


2015 Winner

Shortlisted 2016

One has to reproduce The Guardian's articles on the annual award for the worst building in the UK because of their importance. Such a competition would never be possible in Australia, nor would one be able to write the commentaries that come with the reviews – see The Guardian texts below. One has to wonder about the public discussion on architecture in Australia when it is curtailed by possible legal challenges for libel or defamation. Is this why our critiques are so meagre when they do appear, which is very rarely. Most architectural press in Australia is hagiographical. The texts have more to do with public relations/promotional material than anything else, pushing a firm, an aesthetic, an approach, a product or a project. When there is some concern expressed – very rarely – the article is consciously controlled, and the words are very carefully chosen and calculated: the writer is always wary, constantly reading 'over the shoulder' to see if another, anyone, might take offence. It does not make for a healthy discussion when blunt, honest opinion and speech is limited by 'correct' and 'proper' perceptions in much the same manner as our 'racial hate' laws manage what we can and cannot say. The restraints allow bad buildings to be praised and proliferated without critical or any rigorous comment. Ironically, the circumstance also prevents irresponsible comments on good buildings from being easily challenged / refuted.#

Shortlisted 2016

# One case from some years ago comes to mind: using the words of casual conversation to make a point, it was apparently said that John Andrews' Office Block at Belconnen in the Australian Capital Territory - a landmark building in Australian architecture - 'leaked like a sieve.' The case was taken to court and John Andrews won. There may have been some ingress of water, but it was not 'like a sieve.'

Carbuncle Cup 2016: gong for UK's ugliest building up for grabs
From psychedelic chequerboards to sci-fi hulks, which of these magnificent monstrosities is deserving of architecture’s most ignoble accolade?

     Rearing their ugly heads ... Clockwise from top left: Saffron Square, Croydon; Lincoln Plaza, Isle of Dogs; 5                        Broadgate, City of London; The Diamond, University of Sheffield. Composite: PR

Oliver Wainwright
Saturday 3 September 2016 02.07 AESTLast modified on Saturday 3 September 201606.29 AEST
It’s the one award no architect wants to win, the trophy that won’t be taking pride of place on the mantelpiece. While buildings are daily showered with prizes for the best use of bricks and wood, for finely poured concrete and the most elegant windows, the accolade that haunts them all is rearing its ugly head once again.
Holding up a dark mirror to the Stirling prize, the Carbuncle Cup singles out the worst offenders of the year, the abominations that blight our skylines and bully our streets, the mean-minded developer tat that clutters cities up and down the country. From botched renovations to bloated towers, it awards the most heinous “crimes against architecture” – or crimes against the public.

     Carbuncle Cup: Walkie Talkie wins prize for worst building of the year
     Read more - see below

Buildings are one of the few things you can’t escape. You don’t have to watch a bad play. You’re not forced to go and look at an ugly painting, or sit through a terrible piece of music. But architecture is here, there and everywhere, from the dingy station entrance you were made to shuffle through this morning to the low-ceilinged, deep-plan office you might be sitting in while you’re reading this.
In 2015, the hated gong was bestowed on one of the most visible eyesores around, a building that stands as both a diagram of greed and the whims of the City of London’s planning system. Swelling as it rises, London’s Walkie Talkie is the ultimate symbol of a city where developers call the shots.
But it’s everyday bodging that can be more damaging, from the prefab schools-disguised-as-sheds to the badly planned apartment blocks shooting up on urban peripheries and stacked hutches of fast-buck student flats. These buildings don’t grab the headlines, but they make all our lives immeasurably worse.
Once again, this year’s shortlist is a wretched crop. From psychedelic chequerboards to sci-fi hulks, feast your eyes on these magnificent monstrosities.

Saffron Square, Croydon, by Rolfe Judd

     Saffron Square, Croydon Photograph: bdonline

Marketed as “a dominant focal point for the new Croydon skyline”, this Berkeley Homes development is certainly hard to miss, standing as one of the first of new-look Croydon’s novelty lineup, only to be trumped by the forthcoming Odalisk. Clad with a pixelated bruise of bright purples and reds, it looks as if it has already suffered a vicious beating at the hands of disgruntled residents.

One Smithfield, Stoke on Trent, by RHWL Architects

     One Smithfield, Stoke on Trent Photograph: Staffordshire University

Promised a “dynamic new city centre business and leisure destination designed for people and the modern occupier”, poor old Stoke ended up with a miserable box dressed in a cheap harlequin costume, a so-bad-it-might-almost-be-fashionable fusion of 80s classics Blockbusters and Connect 4. Or was it inspired by the pattern on the architect's homepage?

The Diamond, University of Sheffield, by Twelve Architects

     Photograph: Twelve Architects

The diamond-cladding craze continues with this £81m undergraduate engineering facility for the University of Sheffield, built to house 20,000 sq m of laboratories, lecture theatres and workshops inside its garish latticework garb. In one of the most tenuous justifications in the history of planning applications, the designers claim the pattern “references the stone tracery of an adjacent church”.

Poole Methodist Church extension by Intelligent Design Centre

     Photograph: bdonline

Another building allegedly inspired by its ecclesiastical neighbour, the extension to Poole’s Methodist church sadly looks more like a pile of site Portakabins they forgot to remove. Its designers, the optimistically-named Intelligent Design Centre, might do well to think about a rebrand.

5 Broadgate, City of London, by Make Architects

     Photograph: Make Architects

Rearing above the braying bankers’ den of Broadgate Circle like a silvery mothership from Tron, this gargantuan grey shed is the work of Ken “the Pen” Shuttleworth, designer of the Gherkin while at Foster’s, whose catalogue of carbuncles since leaving Norman’s side suggests the magic pen may well have belonged to someone else. A mute groundscraper slashed with gun-emplacement windows, you can’t help feeling 5 Broadgate is what the City deserves.

Lincoln Plaza, Isle of Dogs, by BUJ Architects

     Photograph: bdonline

Perhaps the most representative building on the list of the kind of lumpen, crazy-paving-clad dross that accounts for much modern residential development, Lincoln Plaza is Galliard Homes’ latest gift to the Isle of Dogs, proving that it’s not just banks that know how to desecrate the skyline. With jutting cantilevers, random voids and a frenzy of bolt-on balconies, it is yet more proof that busy isn’t always best.

2015 Winner

Carbuncle Cup: Walkie Talkie wins prize for worst building of the year
The London skyline is dominated by this thuggish comedy villain of a building, which has melted cars and caused winds strong enough to knock people over

     ‘It’s hard to imagine a building causing more damage if it tried’ … 
     London’s Walkie Talkie building, otherwise known as 20 Fenchurch Street.
     Photograph: Philip Wolmuth/

Oliver Wainwright
Wednesday 2 September 2015 16.40 AESTLast modified on Wednesday 2 September 201519.53 AEST

This article is 1 year old

It has singed shopfronts, melted cars and caused great gusts of wind to sweep pedestrians off their feet. Now the Walkie Talkie tower, the bulbous comedy villain of London’s skyline, has been bestowed with the Carbuncle Cup by Building Design (BD) magazine for the worst building of the year.
Responsible for a catalogue of catastrophes, it is hard to imagine a building causing more damage if it tried. It stands at 20 Fenchurch Street, way outside the city’s planned “cluster” of high-rise towers, on a site never intended for a tall building. It looms thuggishly over its low-rise neighbours like a broad-shouldered banker in a cheap pinstriped suit. And it gets fatter as it rises, to make bigger floors at the more lucrative upper levels, forming a literal diagram of greed.

     A literal diagram of greed … 20 Fenchurch Street/the Walkie Talkie. Photograph: Antonio Olmos for the Guardian

“The building with more up top,” trumpets the marketing material – but it is others who must live with its overbearing bulk, which now lumbers into views across London from practically every angle. From the South Bank, it squats straight ahead like a misplaced pint glass, blotting out its elegant neighbours. From further east, its silhouette is reminiscent of a sanitary towel, flapping behind Tower Bridge. The headquarters of the Royal Institute of Town Planners stands two streets away. “It’s a daily reminder,” sighs one employee, “never to let such a planning disaster ever happen again.”
Still, in the eyes of the City’s former chief planner, Peter Rees, it is a great success. It was granted permission, he maintains, because it operates as “the figurehead at the prow of our ship,” complete with “a viewing platform where you can look back to the vibrancy of the City’s engine room behind you.”
“The building’s raison d’etre was to provide a new kind of Assembly Rooms,” he adds, “a place that City types could go in the evening to harrumph and hurroar, then stagger back to Liverpool Street station – and it’s worked enormously well for that purpose. Coincidentally, they were able to put some offices underneath it.”

     From the east it is reminiscent of a sanitary towel flapping behind Tower Bridge … the Walkie Talkie. Photograph:            Antonio Olmos for the Guardian

The building was crowned with a Sky Garden, a babylonian jungle in the clouds that would be the pride of the Square Mile, framed as not just a place for bankers to drink, but a public space accessible to all. The reality is anything but. If you book three days in advance, or reserve a table at one of the overpriced dining concepts, you can go through airport-style security and be treated to a meagre pair of rockeries, in a space designed with all the finesse of a departure lounge. A hefty cage of steelwork wraps around in all directions, obscuring much of the view, while the restaurants rise up in a boxy stack of glass portable cabins. The more you pay, the worse the view gets: at the very top of the gourmet ziggurat, you’re as far from the windows as possible.
The planners have since raised concerns that what has been built doesn’t match the approved plans, but the underwhelming roof terrace is the least of the Walkie Talkie’s problems. Before it was even open, it was found that its south-facing concave glass facade channelled the sun’s rays into a deadly beam of heat, capable of melting the bumper of a Jaguar, blistering painted shopfronts and singeing carpets – with temperatures hot enough to fry an egg on the pavement.
It was a field day for sub-editors, coining new nicknames like Walkie-scorchie and Fryscraper, but it was a costly mistake, requiring the addition of sun shading. The architect, Rafael Viñoly, maintains that such measures were part of the original design, but they were “value engineered” out of the scheme.

     Walkie-scorchie or Fryscraper … whichever, it is a costly mistake. Photograph: Graeme Robertson for the Guardian

He should know: he has history with death-ray buildings, having designed a hotel in Las Vegas with a similar facade that scorched sunbathers' hair and melted poolside loungers. He’s since tried to capitalise on the phenomenon, designing a building in China that focuses sun rays on an energy receptor, but it remains unbuilt.
Still, not content with burning people, the Walkie Talkie started blowing them away. The building was found to have a rather embarrassing wind problem after the downdraft caused by the 37-storey tower was accused of almost blowing pedestrians into the road and whisking food trolleys away this summer. The phenomenon has prompted the planners to introduce tougher guidelines and insist on independent wind studies.
In a news report from 2013, a reporter proves that the Walkie Talkie reflects light hot enough to fry an egg.
“It is a challenge finding anyone who has something positive to say about this building,” says Carbuncle Cup jury chair and BD editor Thomas Lane. “The result is Londoners now have to suffer views of this bloated carbuncle crashing into London’s historic skyline like an unwelcome guest at a party from miles away.”

The building beat stiff competition in a vintage year for ugly architecture. Other projects that made it on to the shortlist include a student housing complex in North Acton, designed by Careyjones Chapmantolcher, a mean-minded mountain of rabbit-hutch rooms that prompted a local resident to stand for parliament on a “ban inappropriate development” platform. It was joined on the list by the monstrous Parliament House apartment tower in Lambeth by Keith Williams, a lumpen dog’s dinner of a thing that looks like Elephant and Castle's Strata Tower (a previous Carbuncle Cup winner) put through a mangle. It is the architect’s first foray into tall buildings, and we can only hope it will be his last.


Student Housing Complex, North Acton

Parliament House Apartment Tower, Lambeth

Strata Tower, Elephant and Castle ( a previous winner)

19 October 2016
Lincoln Plaza, Docklands, London


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