Hated buildings are lined up for Carbuncle Cup

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It is the prize no one wants to win. Six architectural firms will be sweating this week as they wait to hear on Friday whether their building has won the 2013 Carbuncle Cup, the award bestowed on Britain's ugliest building.

An early public favourite to take architecture's wooden spoon is Castle Mill housing at Port Meadow, Oxford. The Frankham Consultancy Group-designed complex for Oxford University graduates has been nominated more times than any other building in the cup's history after being erected on a beauty spot, much to local people's fury. One critic observed that even the cows in nearby fields voted for it. Another said the "deeply unimaginative and impoverished design... would lower the spirits whatever its setting, but on the edge of one of central England's most important and ancient landscapes, it is an outrage".

Now in its eighth year and launched by Building Design magazine as a counterpart to the industry's prestigious Stirling Prize, the cup is returning to its roots, according to organisers.

"The past couple of years have been dominated by well-known architects," said BD's head of digital, Anna Winston. "With the recession, there are fewer big buildings going up this year, and the 2013 shortlist highlights what the Carbuncle Cup is very much about: the awful buildings that regularly get through planning stages."

Two other contenders include the Redcar Beacon, aka the Vertical Pier, and the Porth Eirias Watersports Centre in Colwyn Bay, Wales, known not-so-affectionately as "the dumpster" by locals.

Three London buildings are also nominated: UCL student housing in Islington, a Premier Inn at Waterloo and the Avant Garde Tower in Bethnal Green. The student accommodation has come in for some stinging criticism, not least from the helpless undergraduates housed there. Yann Jones, a long-time opponent of the building, described it as "so cheap and aesthetically bankrupt it can only be described as an insult to the people of N7".

Hank Dittmar, head of the Prince's Foundation for Building Community and one of the prize's five judges, told The Independent on Sunday: "It's always a challenge separating the awful from the banal and that's really what the issue is. The shortlist contenders go beyond the banality of a lot of modern buildings and actually do damage to the places they are located."

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