Westminster scoops national award for ugliest building

Carbuncle Cup panel hail 'new benchmark for dystopian dysfunction'

Friday, 15th September 2017 — By The Xtra Diary


The Nova Building in Victoria 

“ONE of the worst office developments central London has ever seen”, “sets a new benchmark for dystopian dysfunction” and a “crass assault on all your senses”.

Hardly the kind of comments Westminster Council would hope to receive about one of the biggest planning applications it has ever passed.

But now, thanks to the experts at Building Design magazine, Westminster can add a new trophy to the cabinet – the Carbuncle Cup.

The annual architecture prize celebrates “the ugliest building in the United Kingdom completed in the last 12 months”.

Designed by PLP Architecture, the Nova building in Victoria now joins the ranks of other esteemed winners in the capital, including the so- called electric razor building in Elephant and Castle, the “prison-like” student accommodation in Caledonian Road, Islington, and the “Walkie Talkie” in the City.

“A game-changing, mixed-use scheme, delivering world class offices, contemporary apartments and some of London’s most exciting eateries,” crows the marketing material, while the developers once bragged: “Nova is an architecturally daring development on a grand scale, creating a vibrant new link between Victoria station and Buckingham Palace and the Royal Parks, and definitively crowning the recent reinvention of Victoria.”

Sadly the Carbuncle judges disagreed, with the “the bright red prows that adorn various points of the exterior like the inflamed protruding breasts of demented preening cockerels” coming in for most criticism.

It beat some strong competition, from the new entrance to Preston station, student housing in Portsmouth and the first phase of Battersea power station’s residential development.

“Pity poor Victoria. Rebuilt in the 1960s after World War Two bombing, the area is now being extensively redeveloped by Land Securities but sadly not for the better,” Building Design’s editor Thomas Lane has said.

Former Greenwich councillor Alex Grant, who also experience of the cup (he chaired a planning committee which passed the Woolwich Central development, which won the prize in 2014), notes: “Nova did not just require the demolition of unloved 1960s blocks, but a number of historic buildings. Two crimes have been committed here, not one: as well as this soulless new development, there’s also the destruction of a charming remnant of un-gentrified London that it entailed. Far from reversing the damage that the 1960s and 1970s did to Victoria’s historic fabric as its developers claim, Nova has only inflicted further damage.”

Diary notes the only councillor to record his dissent during the council’s 2009 planning hearing was Alan Bradley, the long-serving Tory councillor who stepped down in 2014.

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