BBC's new home is named worst building in UK

Jay Merrick,Architecture Correspondent
Friday 02 September 2011 00:00

Major buildings by three of Britain's most prestigious architectural practices have been declared to be vile blots on the landscape. And one of them, the BBC's £600m MediaCityUK in Salford, designed by Wilkinson Eyre, has had to take the ultimate shame of winning the 2011 Carbuncle Cup awarded by Building Design magazine.

The MediaCity complex is described by BD's editor, Ellis Woodman, as "a crazed accumulation of development in which every aimlessly gesticulating building sports at least three different cladding treatments. The overriding sense is one of extreme anxiety on the part of the architect. Quite how the BBC has stooped this low is hard to fathom."

Two more big names, Lord Richard Rogers and Sir Nicholas Grimshaw, joined BD's list of carbuncular practitioners. Rogers' astoundingly costly One Hyde Park, with the first £100m apartment in the world, was controversial from the outset, but a far better design exercise than Rogers' equally new, and distinctly blingy Meccano kit apartments near Tate Modern in London.

The gleaming swirls of Grimshaw's transport hub at Newport station in Wales were judged to be beyond bling and branded a "bizarre ovary".

The Carbuncle Cup's "lowly commended" included the Phoenix School in west London, designed by Bond Bryan. The school's jutting, luridly coloured vertical panels were said to "march down the building's considerable length like so many dwarves hi-hoing their way to the diamond mine".

And can there be a more grimly banal place of worship than the Ebenezer Chapel in Brighton, by Molyneux Architects? This mixed-use building is exactly the kind of supposedly acceptable, local authority-friendly architecture that is turning our cityscapes into zones of apocalyptic mediocrity.

But the most controversial building on the Carbuncle shortlist is surely the just-completed £72m Museum of Liverpool, designed by the cool Danish practice 3XN. The big question mark is whether such a big building should have been built on the waterfront within a stone's throw of the historic Liver Building. The lead architect's first reaction was that it shouldn't.

But its design proceeded, riven by legal disputes between architect and client, cost cuts, and the bringing in of another architect, AEW. The result is a building stoutly defended by Paul Finch, director of the government watchdog, Design Council CABE, but described as "cringe-making" by Ellis Woodman. Architecture is too important not to argue about.

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