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British Architecture – A Building Deemed So Ugly It Is A Carbuncle

To be “cruel to be kind” is to cause someone pain for his or her own good. The phrase is used by Hamlet after he had berated his mother for her infidelity to the memory of her deceased husband. It is also a kitchie song from 1979 that is forever embedded in our pop culture. Is it “cruel to be kind” to a building and its designer, to be designated as a carbuncle on the face of London architecture?

The annual contest managed by the UK trade publication Building Design commissions a judging panel which bases its decision on reader input. It is a strong counterpoint to the officially sanctioned and prestigious Stirling Prize given by the Royal Institute of British Architects. The publication Building Design is a professional trade publication for architects to turn to for a broad range of relevant topics. Their insights include articles on a range of topics affecting architects, which includes controversial planning issues, policy, business, project wins and professional issues.

Each year they award the controversial “Carbuncle Cup” for the worst architectural project for the year. What is a carbuncle you ask? It is defined as a red, swollen, and painful cluster of boils that are connected to each other under the skin. A boil or furuncle is an infection of a hair follicle that has a small collection of pus under the skin.

The new mixed-use building called Nova Victoria is this year’s dubious winner of the award. The building is commonly referred to as the “bright red hideous mess” by anyone visiting the area. It has also been described by many as cringeworthy. One of the judges of the competition stated, “It makes me want to cringe physically. It’s a crass assault on all your senses from the moment you leave the Tube station.” No doubt, the architectural firm responsible for the design will eagerly await the next Carbuncle Cup winner to take away the critical focus from their creation. The review and feedback of professional work is a common practice that typically drives innovation and quality. Is this dubious award “cruel to be kind” in the architectural community?

From the Design Studio

Sketch work

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by ADG Lighting founder Gerald Olesker

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