It was supposed to be a gamechanger, a beacon to welcome the millions of perplexed visitors that leave the Victoria station each year in search of Buckingham Palace. But, after one look at the gaudy mess of the Nova building in London, which might be more likely to turn around and get straight back on the train.
The £380m complex, which lurches out of the station in his bright red suit like a drunken member of the guards of the Queen, has been crowned the winner of the Carbuncle Cup for the uk\’s ugliest building by building Design magazine. Beats strong competition from the new entrance to the station, Preston, student housing in Portsmouth and the first phase of the Battersea power station residential development, among other creepy crimes against the built environment.
Described by the judges as “one of the worst of the office developments in central London has ever seen”, and that “sets a new benchmark for dystopian dysfunction,” the Nova building was especially criticized for “the bright red bows that adorn various points outside of the inflammation of the bulging breasts of demented preening roosters”.
Designed by the number of offenders plp Architecture, which are the construction of the largest (and quite possibly more ugly) tower of the office of the City of London has seen the 22 Bishopsgate, is without doubt a worthy winner. Conceived in the mid-2000s, it is clear from what was then the fashion faceted glass office buildings modeled as weakly “crystalline” of the objects, a trend that has been seen in London, scattered with many delay of the offspring of the Fragment. Nova\’s developer, Land Securities, has already built one of these angular lumps on the other end of Victoria Street in 2013; now has a match with the zipper, only goes up several notches in the look-at-me scale.
“A new point of reference for dystopian dysfunction\’ … the Nova building from a different angle Photography: PR
Emerging from Victoria station, visitors are now greeted with a steep cliff of the blood red crystal fell to 18 floors of a pointed peak, a criss-cross pattern with the aluminum bracing, giving it the appearance of a particularly nasty 90-meters of the argyle sweater. A screen of aluminum fins runs around the side of this large red wedge and through the neighbors of the blocks, cut with curled profiles to reveal another bright argyle pattern as its focus.
The color red, said PLP president Lee Polisano, “is a reference to the Victory being a major transport interchange, so we chose a color that is synonymous with transport in London”.
The facets and the braces, meanwhile, are a vain attempt to soften the impact of the great hulk.
“Because the building is quite large, you\’re always in front of the huge scale of these surfaces to be treated,” said Polisano. “We have added these patterns to lighten the effect on the eye, to break up surfaces and create more of a decoration of the experience.”
The triangular theme continues on the ground level, where the aluminum fins form a series of scalloped openings, such as the fearsome gnashers cartoon animals from the trap, waiting to chomp all who enter. One of the blocks is the home of the National Cyber Security Center, so that the defensive feeling is of at least the mounting.
A rival nominee to the desired prize … Preston railway station, the Butler Street entrance of the Photograph: Paul Melling/Courtesy of BD
The origins of this mangled red mountain can be found in the tortuous history of the planning, that reads like an all-too-familiar tale that the application developer with a broad and large outline, then chop down in a battle of attrition with the planners until an unfortunate compromise is reached.
When the project was approved in 2009, was the largest consent of the council of Westminster had granted – but it started off even bigger. Two years before, the Land Values had been proposed a scheme of three towers of 40 stories tall, which would have closer views of Buckingham Palace and was duly rejected by the council. The objective was to reduce (and he was the “feasibility” of a plan to reform the transport interchange) and the restrictions, bends and inclined planes appeared, in the architecture of the shorthand for the payment of lip service to protected views.
It should be, a former national design watchdog, warned that the narrow canyons formed by the spaces between the blocks would result in “spaces that are unpleasant to live and work”, which has turned out to be the case. Immediately to the west of the two PLP-designed blocks is an equally strong residential cistern 170 luxury flats, designed by the Scottish modernists Benson & Forsyth, as an exaggerated version of Le Corbusier Unité d habitation. It bristles with white stone fins and panels in all sorts of different proportions, apparently derived from a close reading of the neighbouring Belgravia context. But the result is as much of an eyeful as the cross-gartered red monster from the side.
“Our building has to speak two languages,” said Gordon Benson. “Latin to the neighborhood of Belgravia, and Samuel Beckett to the other side.” He sounded sincere and, unlike Polisano, you have a certain understanding of the complex context. But the result is the altered mumbo jumbo that you might expect from a Latin-Beckett merger, as if too many influences that have been at play. Studio flats start at £720,000, three-beds are £7.2 m, while the small “affordable” housing component has always been out of site.
The Carbuncle Cup was initiated by the Design of the Building in 2006 as a way to draw attention to the bad architecture that blights our towns and cities. Past winners have included the Liverpool ferry terminal, the renovation of the Cutty Sark, and a block of apartments incorporating a Tesco\’s in Woolwich, in southeast London.
LandSec, as the developer has already been renowned, appeared optimistic about winning the award this year. “It is a matter of taste,” said the retail manager David Atcherley-Symes. “And the strangeness of living in a space looking for a staircase in an office building seems to be well with the buyers.”
The best answer might have been that the ignoble gong really adds value. The so-called Walkie Talkie – also a product of LandSec swollen stable and winner of the cup in 2015 – was recently sold for a record price of £1.3 million, making a 167% gain.
• This article was amended on September 6, 2017, to delete a reference to the quality of construction of the Nova