The British have a developed way of building shaming and have wasted no time saying exactly what they feel about the 380 million pound Nova building located next to Victoria station near London’s Buckingham Palace. As Oliver Wright in The Guardian states this “complex, which lurches outside the station in its bright red costume like a drunken member of the Queen’s Guard, has been crowned winner of the Carbuncle Cup for the UK’s ugliest building by Building Design magazine. It beat some strong competition, from the new entrance to Preston station, student housing in Portsmouth and the first phase of Battersea power station’s residential development, among other lurid crimes against the built environment.”
The Carbuncle Cup is named after unguarded remarks made by Prince Charles who called Ahrends, Burton and Koralek‘s London’s National Gallery new wing a “monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much-loved and elegant friend”. Following up on such eloquence, Building Design magazine launched the Cup in 2006, with voting for badly designed buildings conducted online, and final judging done on a short list of those remarkable buildings.
The Nova building has been described by judges as “one that sets a new benchmark for dystopian dysfunction” with “the bright red prows that adorn various points of the exterior like the inflamed protruding breasts of demented preening cockerels”.
The architects PLP Architecture are described as “serial offenders” for their 22 Bishopsgate building which was following “the vogue for faceted glass office buildings”. A photo of the glass walled Bishopsgate structure is below.
It is unfortunate that PLP Architecture describes the red colour as being a reference to “an important transport interchange” and the use of facets and cross-bracing were “patterns to lighten the effect on your eye, to break up the surface, and create more of a decorative surface”. This development takes up a whole city block with two office buildings, and a residential building. The 2017 Carbuncle Cup was awarded specifically for the office buildings, although the residential buildings also warranted attention, and were called “mangled gobbledygook… far too many influences have been at play”.
The Nova has no strong interactive ground plane and no scale or reference for pedestrians at street level other than the unfortunate triangles which look like A frame huts. What is troubling is how a whole city block in one of the most touristic parts of London could have morphed into such an androgynous design. Even the double-decker buses seem to cower away from it.
The sadness in this “wedge gone rogue” is how a design like this with no reference to the historical streetscape could have been developed. Is there a need for a similar system of awards in Canada for architecture that leaves citizens breathless for the wrong reasons?