The Carbuncle Cup

In all of the current hoohaa surrounding Prince Charles’s latest intervention in the UK architectural scene, we can at least acknowledge his contribution to the field with his (in)famous descriptor “monstrous carbuncle”, with which he originally described the proposed Sainsbury Wing extension to London’s National Gallery (Prince Charles’s opposition led to the dropping of the original modernist proposal in favour, and subsequent realisation of the very postmodernist Venturi/Scott-Brown building).

A carbuncle is, of course, a fairly hideous larger than ‘boil’-type abscess (a fairly disturbing and graphic image here – for those of ‘satiable curtiosity), but, thanks to the good Prince, has long been associated with modernist architectural interventions – especially those that are considered incompatible with existing fabric (or indeed aesthetic sensibilities more generally).

However, Building Design are now running a Carbuncle Cup competition – for UK’s ugliest new building completed in the last 12 months (anything goes for these carbuncles – not just modernism),  perhaps an award that you may not exactly want to feature on your CV. There have been some right shockers nominated in previous years – oozing the equivalent of architectural pus, or whatever – and of the six nominations for this year, there are some real what-exactly-were-they-thinking moments, like this for example:

The Burns Monument Centre in Kilmarnock

Of course, it is all very superficial, but no less fun because of it, and run almost  concurrently with that other UK architecture award, the Stirling Prize, just makes this so much more ‘juicy’…

Here are the other contenders for this prestigious cup:

Newcastle’s Haymarket Hub by Reid Jubb Brown

St Anne’s Square development by WDR & RT Taggart in Belfast

The Strata tower in Elephant & Castle, by BFLS

Birmingham – The Cube by Make

Bézier Apartments by TP Bennet near Old Street

This last one compared to a ‘bum’, which is of course, a great location for your carbuncle…

PS – Go the Burns Monument…


9 responses to “The Carbuncle Cup”

  1. I’m quite convinced that BFLS were actually quite intentionally seeking this award…

  2. By recent years standards these look quite appealing and definetly compared to The Soho Apartments on Taranaki

  3. Wouldn’t that be a fruitful exercise – a Wellington Carbuncle Cup (WCC)…

  4. I love the word ‘carbunkle’. It has such fasinating possibilities. I agree with a wellington version – or a new zealand version!…I am actually trying to come up with my most hated NZ building, and it is proving rather difficult. Maybe I have been blocking out all those bad architectural childhood memories…In my new circle of architectural collegues (just across the ditch) we are doing a love/hate pecha-kucha and I thought it prodent to represent my homeland…Hate is such a strong word, that one can’t just sprinkle it around half heartedly…any suggestions?

  5. Spencer Avatar

    It has to go to the Strata Tower for looking like a naff 1980s cigarette lighter. It makes the Elephant & Castle shopping centre look positively sophisticated. Shame that is being demolished in 2012, probably to make way for another eyesore.

  6. In order to save time on a call for nominations, I nominate the NZIA Wellington Branch Award winners for the cup!

    Just kidding, mostly.

  7. Oooh, Sam, so savage, surely. “mostly”.

  8. And the prize went to:

    Strata Tower.

    I am sure the ‘architects’ of the Burns Monument Centre must be quite pissed by this decision – there is obviously some jury-rigging within these awards.

    How does one ‘receive’ such an award:

    “For the winner, there was the difficult question of how to react. Robert Torday, the marketing director of the apparently unamused architects of the scheme, BFLS, declined to comment.

    And not everyone is sure the award is a good thing.

    “Labelling one architect with having produced the worst building of the year without mention of the client, developer or contractor means giving the architect a massive kicking when they are very rarely the sole author of the project,” said Charles Holland, director of FAT Architecture. “Nothing wrong with robust criticism, but laughing at other people’s mistakes is never an edifying spectacle.””

    And here, as always I refer us all to Rob Krier’s most important of his ten theses on architecture:

    The Architect’s Responsibilities
    The architect alone is responsible for what leaves his [sic] drawing-board and carries his signature. No politician or developer will bear the architect’s guilt for a botched environment. Our universities are responsible for preparing the next generation of architects for this almost insuperable ethical and moral duty.

  9. PS – read about it here:

    “Decked out with Philishave stylings…”

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