Take a bus or Overground trip around London. The city is, like J. G. Ballard’s High Rise, an urban sea of self-sustained luxury development. Each year, the architecture magazine Building Design nominates six buildings for the Carbuncle Cup, a celebration of the worst architecture in the United Kingdom.
Yesterday, Building Design (BD) announced the 2016 winner, Lincoln Plaza—a building that could be rightly called an aesthetic mess of bad geometry, color and patterns. It is, like the last five London-winning Carbuncle Cup buildings, a fitting indictment of hyper-gentrification, in London and beyond, has gone beyond all elegance and futuristic vision and into a realm of alienating amalgamations of metal and glass.
Like most high rise developments in rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods, BD points out that the architects behind Lincoln Plaza, Galliard Homes, exhibit little respect for the local area, and much more for foreign investors looking to park (and/or hide) their money in the still relatively stable post-Brexit real estate market.
“Were anyone in any doubt as to the sheer level delusion and gall that has gripped London’s luxury housing market, then this asinine quotation should settle the matter once and for all,” BD’s Ike Ijeh writes. “Lincoln Plaza is actually in South Quay and not Canary Wharf but what better way of showing contempt for your local context than by insinuating it is actually located in your flashier neighbouring district that is more likely to be familiar to your target Malaysian investors?”
Ijeh's sarcasm does not end with the motivations behind development nor cynical location branding. Special relish is reserved for the building’s stylistic atrocities.
“In its bilious cladding, chaotic form, adhesive balconies and frenzied facades, it exhibits the absolute worst in shambolic architectural design and cheap visual gimmickry,” he continues. “Essentially, this building is the architectural embodiment of sea sickness, waves of nausea frozen in sheaths of glass and coloured aluminium that, when stared at for too long, summon queasiness, discomfort and, if you’re really unlucky, a reappearance of lunch as inevitably as puddles after a rainstorm.”
A quick glance at Lincoln Plaza architects BUJ's website reveals a firm that seems categorically uninterested in aesthetics. On the contrary, they look to be cashing in, like so many architecture firms these days, on the rampantly greedy redevelopment of cities.
As BD points out, BUJ was part of the 2016 Urban Age Shaping Cities conference hosted by LSE Cities at this year’s La Biennale di Venezia. BUJ proudly revel in their conference participation, and offer up a utopian notion of how buildings are shaped by “people, institutions, policymakers, investors and designers.”
As we all know, and as buildings like Lincoln Plaza prove, people and policymakers are often powerless to stop developers and their architects. As places like London become denser jungles of luxury high rises, the futures these folks are forming are going to keep looking a whole lot worse.
Click here to see past winners of the Carbuncle Cup.