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Meet Britain's ugliest buildings


It's the dubious accolade no architect ever wants to be on the receiving end of...

Nominations for the 2012 Carbuncle Cup - recognising the very worst of British architecture - have just been announced, following months of public voting.

Topping the list in the "failed icons" category is the ArcelorMittal Orbit in London's Olympic Park. Designed by sculptor Anish Kapoor and concept structural engineer Cecil Balmond, it is Britain's tallest sculpture - an 114.5 metre conical steel canopy with circular viewing platforms and graded mesh cladding.

ABOVE: Kapoor and Balmond's Orbit tower was initiated by Mayor of London Boris Johnson

Kapoor himself admitted the "awkward" structure would divide opinion when it was unveiled earlier this year. "Its elbows stick out and it refuses to be an emblem," he said. "It keeps unsettling. Some will like it, some will hate it- it’s in the nature of the project."

Building Design, the trade journal behind the Carbuncle Cup, said the Orbit was nominated for its "unique ugliness" and "the mockery it makes of London 2012’s claims to sustainability".

ABOVE: The Titanic Belfast museum, designed around a realm of maritime metaphors

Also holding a prominent place in this year's shortlist is Titanic Belfast museum. Unveiled in March 2012 ahead of the 100th anniversary of the Titanic's sinking, the £50 million design is the brainchild of Todd Architects, in conjunction with international agency Civic Arts.

Touted as "the iconic centrepiece of the Titanic Quarter Regeneration Project," it consists of aluminium plates arranged into a complex asymmetrical design with four projecting segments to conjure up images of "ships prows ploughing their way through the North Atlantic swell."

BD Online concluded that the building's architects plunged to "new depths of inanity in their literal architectural expression."

ABOVE: The Cutty Sark renovation in London's Greenwich aimed to combine conservation with accessibility

Another ship-themed structure in the firing line in the awards shortlist is the Cutty Sark renovation in Greenwich, London. A £50 million project headed up by Grimshaw Architects, the renovation - unveiled earlier this year - aimed to conserve the 1869 tea-clipper while also bringing it up to the standards of a 21st century visitor attraction.

To achieve this, Grimshaw and co. decided to elevate the ship onto a glass exhibition and restaurant space with steel lattice roofing to support the structure. BD typically didn't mince its words in describing the design as "a scheme that obscures one of the jewels of British maritime heritage behind an ineptly detailed greenhouse."

ABOVE: The Mann Island development scheme on Liverpool's historic waterfront

The Mann Island apartment scheme in Liverpool was also singled out by the Carbuncle Cup team for its "wrist-slashingly awful" design. The wedge-shaped, granite-clad development was led by Broadway Malyan for £120 million and created 363 luxury apartments on Liverpool's historic waterfront. BD said the contentious project "completes the desecration of that city’s once great waterfront."

Two other buildings - the "grimly utilitarian" Firepool Lock in Taunton and Shard End Library in Birmingham - complete the 2012 Carbuncle Cup shortlist. The buildings will be assessed for "their relative awfulness" over the next month, with a winner announced on August 24.

What do you think? Are the nominations fair or off the mark? What buildings would make your ugliest ever shortlist? Let us know on Twitter or in the comments section below.

2012 Carbuncle Cup Shortlist

Firepool Lock Housing, Taunton, by Andrew Smith Architects

Titanic Belfast museum by Todd Architects and Civic Arts

Mann Island, Liverpool, by Broadway Malyan

ArcellorMittal Orbit, Olympic Park, London, by Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond

Cutty Sark renovation, London, by Grimshaw Architects

Shard End Library, Birmingham, by Idp Partnership



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