Friday, September 02, 2011

Architectural carbuncles and appealing confusion

click photo to enlarge
Today's Guardian newspaper carries a report about the winner and runners-up of the 2011 Carbuncle Cup. An award conceived by Building Design magazine, the annual announcement of the buildings so honoured is abhorred by most of the architectural profession. Usually, however, the judges choose worthy recipients, buildings that are either blots on the landscape or which take mediocrity to new heights.

This year's recipient of the main award is the BBC's £600 million MediaCity UK - not for the overblown name that has been applied to the banal group of glass and concrete boxes at Salford Quays - but for the sheer dullness of the architecture. Jonathan Glancey perceptively notes that, "From a distance MediaCity UK looks like one of those sprawling, faceless office blocks, shunted alongside bleak city squares, that were common in eastern Europe 50 years ago." That's not a view from which anyone with an interest in architecture is likely to demur. One criticism of the 2011 Carbuncle awards that I would make, however, is that the new Museum of Liverpool (a runner-up) should have claimed the first place. This building, again to quote Glancey, "defaces the city's famous Pier Head and cocks a snook at its magnificent neighbours". I recall seeing, a number of years ago, some of the proposals for the new buildings in this area of the city. I don't remember seeing this wedge-shaped lump - more skate-park obstacle than museum - featured.

The building shown in today's photograph is part of a development (More London) that featured in the 2007 Carbuncle Cup short-list.  There's no doubt that in totality and in certain details More London deserved its place on that list. However, I find that some of the details of the buildings, and a few of the buildings themselves are quite interesting and certainly photographically engaging. Take this one. I've passed it many times, photographed it a few, and this shot shows off what I consider its very appealing confusion to best effect.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Lumix LX3
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 5.4mm (26mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f2.1
Shutter Speed: 1/60
Exposure Compensation: 0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On