Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape

What I love about Cameron Sinclair is that, when he was 16 and read an article about the 10 worst buildings in Bath, he decided to "track down every architect mentioned and ask why their project was deemed a failure". As he said: "Just imagine a 16-year-old at your office asking why your project sucks."

I can, and I wish people would do it more. I wish I had had the gumption to go and find Sir Basil Spence and ask: "What were you thinking?" I can't now, because he died in 1976, but not before he had designed the old Home Office building, now the Ministry of Justice, in Petty France. You know the one: the concrete mushroom just off St James's Park in London.

And he designed Kensington Town Hall, which is near The Independent's office in west London. When I walk the last part of the way to work, from Notting Hill Gate, the backstreets of Victorian houses are a delight, and you can see why rich people like to live here. But then there is the bit where I have to cross a road without turning my head to the right in case I should catch a glimpse of the 1970s ugliness and be struck down by the unfeeling arrogance of it.

So all praise to Sinclair, the co-founder of Architecture for Humanity, who has launched the Dead Prize to recognise bad buildings and honour their failings. Nominations for the prize are open until 1 November, and suggestions can be submitted via Twitter to @deadprize. His focus is "getting a better understanding of how a design failed" and to "hopefully do something to rectify these designs against humanity".

As soon as I have written this, I shall nominate all of the Top 10 Horrible Buildings which I compiled recently for The Independent on Sunday's magazine. As well as Sir Basil's gruesome legacy, I listed Preston bus station ("concrete lasagne"), the University of York's Central Hall ("the spaceship", in the middle of "the largest plastic-bottomed lake in Europe"), the Southbank Centre in London – and Buckingham Palace, just to prove that old buildings can be ugly, too.

I could easily have compiled a Top 100. There are so many not well-known buildings which perhaps have even more of a lowering effect on the quality of life of the people who cannot avoid them. Council estates such as Thamesmead in south-east London or Southwyck House in Brixton, or Brunel University in Uxbridge.

York University’s Central Hall York University’s Central Hall (Alamy)
I admit my selection was biased: most of them are not just in Britain but in London. The Dead Prize is worldwide in scope – it was launched in Dubai – but I stick to what I know. It helps if you see these things week in and week out. Sometimes time softens the shock and can even turn it into affection. The ArcelorMittal Orbit, for example. I could not believe how bad that was when I saw the plans. Now, though, I think the twisted red metal tower is beautiful.

Video: 'The creation of The Orbit' - Time lapse video

However, there is one building that I see nearly every week which I grow to dislike more each time. I cannot believe that I left it out of my Top 10. Now, I can put right my omission, by nominating it for the Dead Prize. I hereby name the Walkie-Talkie, a tower block in the City of London that is hideous, out of scale, wrong, a stupid shape, bigger at the top. It has a ridiculous white border around its unattractive outline.

Sinclair says he doesn't want to "name and shame", although I don't see how he can do one without the other, and the Walkie-Talkie is certainly a crying shame.

Read more: Top 10 horrible buildings
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Transformers: Age of Extinction was the most searched for movie in the UK in 2014

Arts and Entertainment
Mark Ronson has had two UK number two singles but never a number one...yet

Arts and Entertainment
Clara Amfo will take over from Jameela Jamil on 25 January

Arts and Entertainment
This is New England: Ken Cheeseman, Ann Dowd, Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins in Olive Kitteridge

The most magnificently miserable show on television in a long timeTV
Arts and Entertainment
Andrea Faustini looks triumphant after hearing he has not made it through to Sunday's live final

Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Shenaz Treasurywala
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
    Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

    Scarred by the bell

    The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
    Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

    Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

    Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
    The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

    The Locked Room Mysteries

    As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
    Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

    How I made myself Keane

    Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
    Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

    Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

    Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
    A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

    Wear in review

    A look back at fashion in 2014
    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

    Might just one of them happen?
    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
    Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

    Finally, a diet that works

    Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced