Winner of the Carbuncle Cup 2014

Winner of this year’s Carbuncle Prize was announced yesterday.
Woolich Central -photo courtesy of magazine, bdonline

Woolich Central -photo courtesy of magazine, bdonline

The Carbuncle Cup, launched in 2006 by the magazine “Building Design” is a humourous response  to a piece of architecture that the panel of critics select as “the ugliest building in the United Kingdom completed in the last 12 months”

Reporting for the magazine bdonline, Thomas Lane writes,

The winner of the 2014 Carbuncle Cup is Woolwich Central, a Sheppard Robson-designed mixed-use scheme in south east London.

It comprises 189 apartments in six interconnected blocks rising to 17 storeys over an 7,800sq m Tesco.

Statistically Tesco subsidiary Spenhill, which developed Woolwich Central, was twice as likely to win the Cup as it had the dubious honour of being nominated twice.


Woolwich Central

It also developed Trinity Square, another mixed-use scheme in Gateshead on the site of the former “Get Carter” car park that appeared in the film of the same name.

The judging panel included BD editor Thomas Lane, architectural correspondent Ike Ijeh, BD columnist Hank Dittmar and architect and former RIBA president Owen Luder.

Reader comments on each nomination were also considered during the selection process. The 13 nominations were whittled down to a six-strong shortlist which comprised: Vauxhall Tower by Broadway Malyan; Woolwich Central; Chancellor’s Building, University of Bath by Stride Treglown; Unite Stratford City by BDP; QN7 flats by CZWG; and Trinity Square by 3D Reid.

There was a near unanimous choice of winner, with Broadway Malyan’s Vauxhall Tower coming runner-up.

Woolwich Central ticked all the boxes for this year’s wooden spoon. A classic case of gross overdevelopment, the scheme is lumpen and oppressive and towers over its predominantly low-rise neighbours. It even manages to make its immediate neighbour, Greenwich council’s none-too-insubstantial town hall, and former Carbuncle Cup nominee, look like a pimple on the face of a morbidly obese bully.

The variegated stripy grey cladding does nothing to disguise the bulk of the scheme and the attempt to break up the vast facade up into smaller, more visually manageable elements by inserting areas of yellow is doomed to fail.

But the building’s worst crime is it diminishes the efforts of those who have worked hard to regenerate this run-down, deprived part of London. The architecturally decent Royal Arsenal Riverside housing scheme has rejuvenated the river. There have been significant, award-winning public realm improvements to the town centre and the area has been opened up with new transport links including the DLR extension and Crossrail has the potential to transform Woolwich when it comes to the area in 2018.

Our judges had nothing good to say about the building. Owen Luder described it as “oppressive in terms of shape, size and colour and a negative contribution to the overall environment of the area”. Ike Ijeh described it as “overtly militaristic, defensive, arrogant and inept”.


Woolwich Central

Hank Dittmar drew attention to the role developers play in creating carbuncles. “If there is one common theme this year, it is that of overdevelopment, and Woolwich Central is a prime example of too much for the site, for the area and for the eye. The architect has a lot to answer for but so do developers who overbuild and local authorities who grant permission.” BD’s readers panned the project too. It received 35 entirely negative comments.

It even prompted the man who gave it planning permission to write a blog entitled ‘And who is to blame for this carbuncle? Er me actually…’ Alex Grant said Sheppard Robson wasn’t entirely to blame for how the scheme turned out. He said: “The scheme’s intrinsic faults were magnified by a welter of cost-cutting changes in the four years between planning consent being granted in 2007 and the Tesco opening its doors in 2012.”

He accepted the part local planners played in realising the scheme. “Woolwich Central is at best a red herring and at worst an obstacle on Woolwich’s road to recovery. It may not be a carbuncle but it is a flawed project and I regret my role as its midwife.”


Woolwich Central

 Article originally published by on Tuesday 3rd September 2014