"Prison-like" student housing
wins Carbuncle Cup 2013

| 12 comments

Carbuncle Cup 2013 winner - 465 Caledonian Road

News: a student housing block in London with a retained brick warehouse facade has been named Britain's worst building of the year.

Building Design magazine has awarded the annual Carbuncle Cup award to a student accommodation block at 465 Caledonian Road in Islington, branding it the ugliest building to be designed in the UK over the past 12 months.

Designed by British firm Stephen George and Partners for University College London, the new building replaced a historic red brick warehouse which was demolished during the build. The original facade was retained and positioned in front of the new building.

Carbuncle Cup 2013 winner - 465 Caledonian Road

"The original frontage has been retained in a cynical gesture towards preservation. But its failings go deeper," said the judges. "This is a building that the jury struggled to see as remotely fit for human occupation."

The jury commented that the majority of bedrooms within the new housing block lack adequate daylight, offer little privacy for the occupants and that those facing the retained facade have no view outside.

"The inmates living behind the massive masonry ruin will acutely feel the heritage of the retained wall, but it is not clear they will be able to see out. Perhaps the architects were influenced by the historic Pentonville Prison down the road," suggested one nominator.

Carbuncle Cup 2013 winner - 465 Caledonian Road

Other shortlisted projects included a 24-metre viewing tower that looks like a helter skelter, a student housing development in Oxford and a sports centre in Wales - known to locals as The Dumpster.

Last year, the title was given to Grimshaw for a steel and glass cocoon containing the historic Cutty Sark tea clipper.

Here's the full announcement:


Scandalous student housing scoops the award for Britain’s worst new building

A multimillion-pound block of student accommodation on London’s Caledonian Road has been named the UK’s worst new building.

465 Caledonian Road, designed by Stephen George and Partners for University College London, was once a historic red brick warehouse that has now been largely demolished despite being protected.

The original frontage has been retained in a cynical gesture towards preservation. But its failings go deeper: this is a building that the jury struggled to see as remotely fit for human occupation.

The majority of rooms lack adequate daylight, offer little privacy and a significant number facing the retained facade have no direct view out at all.

"There is no small irony in the fact that the building stands on the same street as HMP Pentonville," said BD executive editor and Carbuncle Cup juror Ellis Woodman.

"As the first intake of students move into their dark and far from private rooms next month, they might be forgiven for wondering why the prisoners have been provided with the better view."

Carbuncle Cup 2013 winner - 465 Caledonian Road

The building was originally refused planning consent by Islington Council but was approved on appeal by the planning inspectorate on the grounds that students don't require the same quality of accommodation as the rest of society.

The runner-up for the Carbuncle Cup, which is awarded annually by the leading architecture industry title Building Design (BD), was also student accommodation.

Student housing is one of the few building types that has continued to be built in large quantity throughout the downturn and all too frequently to a level of quality that is little short of an insult to the buildings' inhabitants.

"A look at the rapidly growing student accommodation sector provides an insight into trends in property development globally, and is alarming for lovers of the city and of architecture," said Hank Dittmar, Carbuncle Cup juror and special advisor to HRH the Prince of Wales on Global Urbanisation.

"It seems to be felt that occupancy of less than a year and busy student lifestyles mean that standards can be reduced."

  • Kris

    “The building was originally refused planning consent by Islington Council but was approved on appeal by the planning inspectorate on the grounds that students don’t require the same quality of accommodation as the rest of society.”

    This goes against the foundation principles of architecture.

  • Simon

    The punchline is that they’ve actually *extended* the facade upwards by a storey as well! The whole thing is absolutely staggering.

  • Pedro

    Stephen George and Partners won back in 2007 for Opal Court in Leicester. Now they have a Carbuncle Cup for each side of the mantelpiece.

  • a.e.

    On the plus side the architects can now say “we are an award winning practice”.

  • Andrew Goodman

    If the original application was rejected, and for good reason, then why was it overturned? Is it back to the days of brown paper envelopes?

    I’m glad the Carbuncle Cup highlights such travesties in design and I hope Stephen George and Partners win lots of prison work and nothing else.

    Architects involved in these projects should be ashamed of their behaviour. We have so few opportunities to build new buildings in the UK, how can they justify creating such a turd?

    Enjoy the hate mail, Stephen George and Partners, you deserve it. As an engineer I see legacies like this 40 year building as a disgrace on our profession.

    We’re slightly less than greedy bankers if this is the best we can do for our country :(

  • Jake Boyes

    The irony is that if the original facade was demolished, it would have just looked like any other student accommodation block and wouldn’t have attracted such attention.

  • computeruser

    Why did they not incorporate the original façade of the building. It defeats the purpose of retaining the original walls.

    • dave

      I think we can all guess the answer to that…cheaper.

  • M

    Fun article, but it seems a little premature to award such a prize without first waiting a semester to see how the actual occupants feel about the building after living in it.

  • Jon

    I’m sure the reason was that students only need reduced daylight as they’re nocturnal creatures.

  • Sophie

    Students don’t need daylight, nor do they need payment. I can’t see the problem.

  • TW

    It would mean less floors/flaws too!