Monday, 30 March 2009

CAPITAL EAST II IN DOCKLANDS BY RMA ARCHITECTS FOR BARRATT AND CIRCLE ANGLIA

Eurgh. This one's just horrible, isn't it? This is executive mass housing done on the cheap, tarted up with a 'landmark tower' (say the architects) to try to suit its dockfront location. But they forgot that the gunmetal sky you see here is pretty typical of east London, and all hopes of transparency in glazed facades founder under its relentlessness. It's just grey.
One point on scale. Although Docklands is a high-rise environment, that doesn't mean you can just take a four-storey design for an apartment building in Slough off the shelf and stretch it a few storeys. And the trend for little hats on buildings is now so ingrained that we almost don't notice it, but isn't it strange? Clumsily set back upper storeys will be a kind of defining legacy of 1990s architecture in this coutry.
Sometimes, Docklands can feel really impressive in a 1990s corporate video kind of way, but there's always a cheap piece of crap around the corner that destroys the effect. That piece of crap will usually either be by CZWG or by this lot, RMA Architects. RMA has built a load of terrible buildings in and around Docklands. In this case they took an existing planning permission by Squire & Partners (not the world's most gifted lot themselves) and made it cheaper until it was really horrible to look at. Then they built it.

HOUSING IN FARNWORTH, BOLTON BY CONTOUR HOMES

There are some projects designed to give people as little as possible to talk about. And, sure enough, as you try to think of something to say about the above proposal, you descend into existential crisis, nothingness becomes tangible, and the gaping vacuum of your mind swallows any design criticism instinct you (and the planners) ever had.
This is inoffensive architecture at its most offensive. Most telling to me is how the image puts lots and lots of detail into rendering the blue Renault Megane, a bit less into rendering the houses, and none at all into the people (or the dog).
Look out for more of this rubbish, as our glorious housing industry and planning inspectorate revert to what they know in the face of economic disaster.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

THE LOCKHOUSE, CAMDEN, LONDON BY PKS ARCHITECTS FOR BARRATT

This might look like the usual crap to you: piss-coloured render and a characterless window system with some white supercalamodernistic projecting balconies and profiled zinc that's supposed to make us believe this isn't really a six-storey building hard up against the canal (the zinc's a roof, you see...). But this one is emblematic of a wider malaise.
There are lots of shocking things about British housing in the first decade of the 21st century: the shoddy materials, the inappropriate density, single-aspect flats, and the multiples required to make a profit driving awful, lumpen urban forms. But another shocking thing is how we are sold a vision, that can then be watered down (after planning) by an utterly cynical developer until it is nothing like what we imagined it would be. Below is PKS Architects' first attempt at this scheme, in a form that was exhibited at the New London Architecture Gallery.
This is a poor quality image, and despite this still terribly clumsy and obviously oversized proposal, at least it was painted white (a bit like the warehouses further along the canal), and there's the suggestion of timber on the projecting sections. Ther emight even be some public space implied along the canal front. What it turned out as, you can see at the top.
Actually, none of that really makes any difference, really. It's still absolutely awful in a anaesthetised, run-of-the-mill kind of way. This dull, stupid building will now afflict the canal until after we're all dead. Thanks PKS and Barratt.

Monday, 16 March 2009

RENEWABLE HOUSE BY ARCHIAL FOR EMPYER HOMES

Not only is the above house 'modular' and 'energy efficient', it is also 'fucking ugly'. The first two quotes are from the press release, the third is from me.
Things I hate about this building include the downpipe, the completely blank flank wall, the tiny windows on the ground floor, and how the visualisation makes it clear just how horrible the sustainable Hemcrete render will really look if it ever gets built.
Archial's reaction to the credit crunch is cynical. Noone's buying any housing, so let's go back to what housebuilders do best, detached houses, tiny windows, fucking ugly, a few modern gob-ons but mostly redolent of some kind of tiny, bastardised, 1980s version of a farmhouse.
Also, on a lighter note, it seems that people who design ugly buildings have found a new button in photoshop - lens flare. I'll be posting more lens flare pictures by bad architects very soon.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

MILLENNIUM HOTEL, SOUTHAMPTON BY HKR ARCHITECTS

Southampton was where the Titanic sailed from. It undoubtedly was and still should be a great maritime city. But weirdly, it seems to have the fugliest set of hotels of any city I've ever seen. The picture above is not, to be fair, by HKR Architects. This eyesore is by WATG, or Wimberley Allison Tong and Goo, American designers of Las Vegas casinos and resorts around the world that look like the palatial homes of African dictators. When they got to Southampton, they decided to propose this, whose subtle form is inspired by a thick slice of bread.
Even the good burghers of Southampton wouldn't put up with that, so now (barring recession) they're getting this, which is by HKR:
Look, they've made it completely transparent! It's the Predator building, and therefore impossible to complain about. In this image, I'm really enjoying the lengths HKR have gone to to integrate with the vernacular-style housing on the left hand side of the image. The architect has also caught slippy-slidey-windows disease from Allies & Morrison, and has let it rip on the flank facades.
HKR has integrated one remarkable feature into this building, which merits a 'concept drawing' all of its own.
It has windows! Which people can look out of. I think you'll agree that the above picture truly does paint a thousand words.
While researching this post, I happened upon some other stupendous hotels in Southampton, which I just had to include. I once went to a conference in this one:
It's the De Vere Grand Harbour hotel, and it's quite near the station. It looks like a shit-brown, postmodern Brunswick Centre with a big glass pyramid fucked into it. As far as I could tell, the building is mostly made out of mastic. Imagine talking to the architect. What would be your first question? 'Oh, yes, I know that building. It's really... you know... contemporary.'
By the way, read this review of it in the Telegraph, which is a better piece of architectural criticism than I could muster.
To get to the De Vere from the station, you walk past this:
It's a Novotel hotel doing an impression of a giant, new-build crack den. What you can't see in this picture is the beige concrete blocks of the cladding, which are discolouring horribly and should be condemned. It's simply incompetent building, let alone design. I can't find the name of the designer, and I'm guessing the builder just made it up as they went along.
Finally on the Southampton hotels roll of shame, a Jurys Inn, whose ungainly bulk is in no way mediated by the attempt of the architect to 'break it down' into rectangles in varying shades of beige:
What is it with this city? Southampton is a tourist hell, actively trying to keep tourists away with comedically bad architecture. Perhaps there's a Pompey fan in the planning department.

Many thanks to @tragedyhatherle for the suggestion at the top, and you can read his infinitely more coherent thoughts about Southampton here on his brilliant blog.

Monday, 9 March 2009

SIDCUP LEISURE CENTRE, BEXLEY BY BURKE RICKHARDS


I blame Norman Foster for this. Admittedly, he used to be a pretty good architect, but the problem with the British high-tech masters of the universe is that they delighted in creating problems they then had to solve with great rhetorical flourish and fake functionalism. Which brings us to to this little number.
What kind of architect decides that a really transparent south-facing facade is a good idea (I assume it's south from the angle of the shadow of the tree in the second picture), and then, on discovering the greenhouse-like environment he or she has created, decides to ring up Levolux to sort it out with a few louvres?
Well, this kind, clearly. Then Burke Rickhards goes crazy with the whole high-tech classicism thing, making a symmetrical facade with a fake colonnade (said Levolux construction). This is just ordinary, perverse, weird architecture with no character, craft or guile. Somewhere in the DNA of this building is Foster's Carr√© d’Art in Nimes, but so mutated as to be unrecognisible.
Also, check out the number of bollards in front of the glazed central portion of the facade, presumably to stop a Glasgow Airport-style terrorist attack. On Sidcup Leisure Centre. This is another problem, created by the architect, solved by a cack-handed highway engineer and as a result littering the public realm with more unnecessary flotsam.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

PERSPECTIVE HOUSING, LAMBETH, LONDON BY ASSAEL

Debt-loaded housing developer Crest Nicholson is not known for its patronage of great contemporary architecture. This is well documented online. But this brute is as bad as it gets. The architect, Assael, is frequently included in the Sunday Times' list of best employers in the country, but I'd need more than a softball team and a decent pension to tolerate working on a project like this. Maybe they give out free crack to their employees at lunchtime.
The project is a conversion of an office building formerly occupied by MI6. So far, so sustainable. But what Assael was thinking when it dressed it up for the 21st century, god only knows. Firstly, they created a ham-fistedly 'iconic' entrance, presumably to give the modernist building some presence on the street. The white-painted tree-like columns are horribly twiggy and supports a roof (presumably modelled on the Nike tick) that is horribly, clunkily thick.
But it's the tower that's really bad. You can see what they were thinking. Clad the bottom five storeys in terracotta so it 'relates to the cityscape', and then do whatever the fuck you like above that. The top of the tower is just hilarious. It reminds me of Taipei 101, but without the elegance.
This conversion is award winning, believe it or not. It is a truism that if you can be arsed to enter, you can win an award for anything in this self-congratulatory architectural culture.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

MIDDLESBROUGH COLLEGE, MIDDLEHAVEN BY SMC HICKTON MADELEY

Here is a building demonstrating the average commercial architect's complete inability to deal with scale, composition, decorum, appropriateness, humanity or tact. The architect (or possibly year-out student) in charge of this project probably is very proud of the cladding. They may even have worked with a local artist on the pattern.
According to Wikipedia, Hickton Madeley has long experience designing prisons, a typology that they clearly feel has a lot of relevance to the architecture of a college. They should be ashamed of this building, which is more like a
lamé Ljubljanka than a seat of education to my eye.
SMC group, which owns Hickton Madely, is now called Archial and pretty much all the practices it has subsumed are rubbish, or have become rubbish since being eaten by SMC. It's a big, rebranded corporation with zero talent, and I will be proving that here over the next weeks and hopefully months.
Last thing. Press releases are full of lies. The project manager of this piece of vandalism says that 'it is exciting to be part of such an internationally acclaimed regeneration programme.' Where exactly is this international acclaim? I have searched the web and found no mentions of it in a positive light overseas. We all know press people are liars. I just want to point out that someone is reading their bullshit.

BELONG CARE HOME, WIGAN BY POZZONI DESIGNS

Many of us will die in rooms like this. Or spend our final days playing backgammon in one. Fuck me, that's depressing enough without having to deal with this interior. You can imagine the design meeting. "Old people love hospital furniture in pastel colours that look faded when really they're new," says one experienced care home solutions provider. "Yes," replies the interior designer. "And we can pick up the puce green theme and use it for the curtains and some of the walls."
And someone will need to talk me through the lighting strategy, which seems designed to dazzle the already-half-blind residents or make them feel as if they're on stage. And not in a good way.
The exterior's not bad though:
Ha! Tricked you!. It's fucking awful, of course, as every single new care home I see always is.
The people in our society we should value the most, who have earned a bit of dignity and repose are treated to colour schemes majoring on beige and 'streetscapes' that enjoy an unlikely combination of tweeness and gratuitous modern 'touches' (these presumably to reassure the architect that he/she hasn't totally sold out - newsflash, you have) like ridiculous planes of timber and louvres.
I also love the double fencing to the left of this picture - steel for keeping teenage drug thieves out, wood for keeping dementia-fuelled oldies in. I wonder if guard dogs patrol between them.

RAM BREWERY HOUSING, WANDSWORTH, LONDON BY EPR

It is one of the great scandals of the early 21st century in London that we have allowed so much of this kind of crap to go up all over the place. It's quite difficult for the untrained observer to understand why this happens. After all, anyone can see that this proposal is an utter dog.
But somehow, if you mix in enough different materials, put some panels of timber in random places on the facade, give it an active ground floor (that will in fact remain unoccupied for ages), and then stick a funny hat on the high bits (as if this made the towers somehow less offensively engorged) you can rely on planners to become snowblind, and wave it on through.
This works best if you are one of the following architects: HTA, Stock Woolstonecroft, EPR, PRP or Levitt Bernstein.
I am hoping to god that this project, for 829 flats, has become comprehensively credit crunched, to save the inhabitants of Buckhold Road from EPR's deadly 'urban square' and its appalling "landmark" towers.
Note to EPR. A building doesn't count as a landmark just because it is loads fucking bigger than anything around it.

PALLETFORCE DEPOT, BURTON-ON-TRENT, BY SISK

We know lots of architects who could have fucked this building up pretty much as badly as this, but it appears that there was in fact no architect involved. John Sisk and Son Ltd was the contractor and, we assume, the designer too. I fucking hope I never find out that there was an architect involved in this, or I'll post this picture every day for a week with his or her name in big letters beneath it.
The fetching Easyjet orange livery is clearly some kind of corporate identity for Palletforce, the logistics company that occupies this £30 million, 340,000 sq ft eyesore. I particularly like the faux clerestory at the top. I bet the boardroom is right behind it. Fat fucks.

Friday, 6 March 2009

HIGH STREET WEST HOTEL, SUNDERLAND BY REID JUBB BROWN ARCHITECTURE

Roy Chubby Brown Architecture has created this delight, a mosaic of prepatinated copper, brick, some shit-looking zinc, some glass that's too green even in this visualisation, and plans to force 60 unfortunate hotel guests into it as many nights of the week as possible. Forgive me for asking, but does Sunderland even have tourists?
Oh, you'd like to see how that cod stained glass facade will look at night? Here it is:
Savour it, because it'll look nothing like this in reality. The real glazing system will have such clumsy plastic sections that it'll be more UPVC than glass, and the warm glow of light will be less Winchester Cathedral and more Mecca Bingo.
The architect, one Paul Hacking (a colleague of Mr Brown), calls it 'striking but tasteful'. I call it a sub-pomo embarassment that would be funny if it weren't so cynical.
Luckily, Ben Hall, the Director of the Sunniside Partnership (the regeneration agency charged with regenerating this regeneration hotspot), thinks it will "serve to strengthen the bustling local economy." I have never seen a local economy bustle, and will be heading to Sunderland to observe it for myself on the next train.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

SOUTH LANARKSHIRE COLLEGE CAMPUS IN EAST KILBRIDE, BY ARCHIAL

LOOK AT THIS FUCKER. IT WOULD BE SCARY IF IT WEREN'T SO UTTERLY, UTTERLY, HOPELESSLY BANAL.
GRAHAM MONTGOMERY, DIRECTOR OF ARCHIAL, GAVE THIS QUOTE, DESPITE APPARENTLY NEVER HAVING SEEN THIS MONSTROSITY. "Dramatic arrival is created as you approach the large volume of the hub – without being overwhelming – as the area between the vertical ‘fins’ is fully glazed, allowing you to see the activity inside," HE SAYS.
IF THIS ISN'T OVERWHELMING, I'D LIKE TO SEE SOMETHING THAT WAS. OH, WAIT. HERE'S ONE.

LEY HILL PLAY AREA, BY BIRMINGHAM CC LANDSCAPE GROUP AND ALPHA RAIL

Believe it or not, this was sent out as a publicity photo for a new play area, and is not a set from the lowrises in The Wire. Words fail me. So here's the architect responsible.
Jonathan Webster, Principal Landscape Architect at Birmingham City Council Landscaping Practice Group, comments: “Ley Hill is a major regeneration scheme and equally as important as creating homes that people want to live in, we want to develop an attractive, public open space where families can spend their leisure time. The railings play an important part in providing aesthetically pleasing facilities that are safe and appealing.” he added.
This play area looks like it was designed and installed by a colour blind sadist, and the photo seems to have been taken by someone who thinks the litter bin is the most important feature of this new community amenity. He/she might be right.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

PREFAB HOUSE BY BRIGHT BUILD

There is a reason most houses cost more than £83 per sq ft to build. It's because if you don't spend more than that, the house ends up looking like two caravans who mated with an Everest salesman. According to its press material, this house is "aimed at first and last-time buyers" and now all I can think about is some old couple rotting away in this miserable shoebox, wishing they'd never sold up their two-up two-down to pay the deposit on their grandson's flat in Dalston.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

FRANKLIN COLLEGE, GRIMSBY BY PICK EVERARD


Pick Everard aren't the worst architects in the world. In fact, I'd say that many of their employees are not out to deliberately fuck places up. However, these drawings are singularly hateful pieces of work.
These drawings say: "Yes, I'm an architect, my father was an architect, and my architect wife and I will soon give birth to architect children. I can draw in this funny style, and as a result I have an overweening superiority complex. I think this complex comes from my undeniable dexterity at colouring in. I can also draw strange stick people in this style, and they are often accompanied by a child carrying a baloon. Clients enjoy these touches, despite the mockery the London elite lays on that kind of thing."
The author of these drawings should be reminded that they work for Pick Everard. And while this college in Grimsby might not end up being actually bad, it will be boring, mediocre and dull, and will look nothing like these drawings.

Monday, 2 March 2009

OFFICE BUILDING, 141 BOTHWELL STREET, GLASGOW BY ARCHIAL

Architectural conglomerate and serial defacer of British cities Archial has recently rebranded, but it hasn't stopped them building nonsense like this wherever they find an opportunity. Any picture of a new building that is taken with the camera pointing upwards (to convey the thrusting dynamism of the architecture) is not to be trusted.
I haven't seen this building in reality, but I hope this is it's bad side. The ashlar stonework (a solid material) walls are expressed as planes (amplifying their thinness and lack of structural intent) in a completely unintentional paradox that would drive Archial's best out of their tiny minds if they could only get their heads around it. I can't be arsed to tell you any more about why this is so bad.
Luckily, though, Cameron Walker, director at Archial Architects, can explain the architectural intent of this monstrosity for our edification. “Designed to allow flexibility and sub-division of floor plates, the development was aimed at occupiers requiring 10,000 sq ft upwards, all benefiting from the impressive double height reception area, five high speed passenger lifts and 18 metre column free spans."

Sunday, 1 March 2009

WAKEFIELD COLLEGE SKILLS XCHANGE AT GLASSHOUGHTON BY DLA


STUDENTS OF WAKEFIELD, YOU POOR BASTARDS. YOU HAVE BEEN SHAT ON BY DLA ARCHITECTS, TRULY ONE OF THE WORST DESIGNERS IN THE WESTERN WORLD. IT DOESN'T GET ANY WORSE THAN THIS. THE PRESS RELEASE SAYS IT'S ICONIC, BUT WHAT THEY MEAN BY THAT IS THAT IT HAS A POINTLESSLY OVERSAILING TRIANGULAR ROOF AND SOME SMOKED GLASS. OH YES, AND A NAME LIKE 'SKILLS XCHANGE'. WITH NO 'E'.
WHOEVER DESIGNED THIS SHOULD HAVE BEEN TOLD BY THEIR COLLEGE TUTOR THAT THEY'LL NEVER MAKE IT. EVER. AND HERE'S THE EVIDENCE OF THEM NOT MAKING IT. IF YOU'RE READING THIS, PLEASE STOP. PUT DOWN THE MOUSE. GET ANOTHER JOB.