As the shortlist for architecture's most unwanted prize is revealed, Jonathan Schofield revisits a fine old idea
WE should do it every year. Artist Michael Trainor’s splendid 2006 idea should be brought back. This was called the FIBA Awards, but unlike the RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) annual awards which celebrate the best of British architecture, FIBA did the opposite.
The FIBA acronym meant Feeble Ideas and Bad Architecture. I was part of the panel and it was an absolute ball. There was a lot of feebleness out there. There still is, indeed we listed a few back in 2017.
The best story from the FIBA awards is about that mish-mash of mundanity called the Green Quarter. The way we dished out the awards was through a series of fake blue plaques we could stick onto the ‘winners’.
The Green Quarter won the worst large development category, the plaque was adhered onto a wall, and shortly after a hapless marketing lady, seeing the blue plaque and thinking it was an accolade, took a picture and social media-ed it. Then she bothered to read the words on the new ornament. Back-tracking doesn’t do it justice. The Green Quarter would still be in contention twelve years later. It might even win, although it has a real challenger a couple of miles south.
...worse than any of those is a glaring omission in Trafford by the Carbuncle gang
Nationally the BDonline Carbuncle Cup is dished out as another reverse-Oscar style exercise. The name comes from when Prince Charles once described a proposed extension to the National Gallery ‘as a monstrous carbuncle on the face of an elegant old friend’.
This year the North West has done well with two out of six nominees.
The top extension to the Shankly Hotel is an awful, fat, grey, slug-squatting on a series of decent older buildings. This extension comes from Signature Living, a Liverpool-based company working across the North West in particular. The hotel is named after the famed ex-football manager of Liverpool. The intrusive nature of the top-slab on the Shankly Hotel is as painful as the Liverpool 2013/14 away kit, but sadly more permanent.
Meanwhile another contender for excrescence of the year is BDP’s £45m Redrock leisure complex in Stockport which supports a ten-screen cinema, restaurants, bars, retail and a 340 space multi-storey car park across 75,000ft² of space. The problem is that despite its evident success as a venue it’s puzzling aesthetically, especially from such a thoughtful architectural practice - we’ll be praising the landscaping around the Ordsall Chord in short order which is also by BDP.
Redrock is puzzling aesthetically because it doesn’t have any aesthetics. Even the name is odd, which refers to the red sandstone bedrock of Stockport, yet the building is blue in a series of numbing ‘dazzle’ style shades. Of course it looms over a busy road and then a motorway and neighbours a multi-storey car park, which is an unforgiving location at best, but it still didn’t need to be this lumpen. What happened to windows and light?
Yet, looking down the Carbuncle shortlist, the utterly weird, closed-off, and hideous London house from Pace Jefford Moore Architects should trump the North Western candidates, along with the aggressive orc-tower dreamt up at Beckley Point in Plymouth by Boyes Rees Architects (see below).
Still, worse than any of those is a glaring omission in Trafford by the Carbuncle gang. These are the seemingly cardboard covered Pomona development flats from Rowlinsons and designed by Nicol Thompson. These lurk between Cornbrook tram stop and Manchester Ship Canal, as unwelcome as a naked baboon’s arse at a will-reading. If the FIBA awards were still with us, these would be a guaranteed winner. They are even worse than the Green Quarter. We really do need to resurrect that prize for Feeble Ideas and Bad Architecture.
The other Carbuncle Cup 2018 nominees:
Lewisham Gateway, London by PRP Architects
Haydn Tower, Nine Elms Point, London by Rolfe Judd
20 Ambleside Avenue, London by Pace Jefford Moore Architects
Beckley Point, Plymouth by Boyes Rees Architects