What it takes to be crowned the ugliest building in the UK


A carbuncle is a boil on the skin’s surface. Nova Victoria, a new mixed-use complex in London has been judged so ugly that it’s being called an equivalent architectural abscess: this year’s winner of the Carbuncle Cup.

The annual contest for the UK’s most odious infrastructure is organized by trade publication Building Design—a counterpoint to the prestigious Stirling Prize given to the best architecture projects of the year by the Royal Institute of British Architects. The Carbuncle Cup’s judging panel, which makes its decision based on reader comments, described the two-tower complex designed by PLP architecture as “crass”, “over-scaled” and “a hideous mess.”

Nova North hero shot
Nova Victoria (Land Securities)

Building Design editor Thomas Lane characterized Nova Victoria as a shoddy parody of architectural masterpieces. “The architect appears to have been inspired by the fractured, angular shapes beloved of stararchitects like Frank Gehry and Daniel Libeskind and applied these to a run-of-the-mill spec office development,” wrote Lane. “The result is two large blocks sliced and diced to create to create a series of angular volumes drunkenly leaning on each other.”

Catherine Croft, director of the Twentieth Century Society, said he was disappointed to see such an architectural monstrosity in a district named for Queen Victoria. “Nova should have been good as it’s a prestige site,” said Craft whose organization seeks to safeguard the UK’s design heritage. “It makes me want to cringe physically. It’s a crass assault on all your senses from the moment you leave the Tube station.”

Screenshot 2017-09-12 09.49.22
Jazzy shards. (Building Design.)

Executive recruiting company Egon Zehnder, Sky and Motorola are among the current tenants at Nova. Quartz reached out to PLP Architecture and to the developer Land Securities but have yet to hear back.

Past Carbuncle Cup winners include the Drake Circus Shopping Centre in Plymouth, the “Walkie-Talkie” tower on 20 Fenchurch Street and Strata SE1 tower nicknamed “the electric razor.”

The name of the Carbuncle Cup is derived from a quote from Prince Charles. In a speech before the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1984, Prince Charles lambasted a proposed modern extension to London’s National Gallery calling it a “monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much-loved and elegant friend.”

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