The best worst building of 2011

In a business environment where many would have us believe nothing is being built, there are quite a few decent openings this year.

We've already enjoyed the completion of the Sharp Project in Manchester and of course Media City's BBC North offices this year. The latest in a good line of North West newcomers is the Museum of Liverpool, which opened this week.

A few points from a personal perspective about this: firstly I need to eat – as is en vogue – some humble pie on this one and admit I was wrong. I badmouthed the concept for years as an unnecessary vanity trip by the people at National Museums Liverpool following the demise of the Fourth Grace project, which would have partly occupied the site as well as Mann Island next door. In its finished state it's an elegant addition to the skyline. It would have been taller without the planning restrictions set by World Heritage Status, currently under review by Unesco, but what has been delivered is a sleek and classy building fit for the site.

For those that haven't visited, I hope you catch it on a sunny day when the sun reflects off the Mersey like a golden 'snowstorm' on the giant end window viewable from the Albert Dock.

Secondly, I was dismayed but not altogether surprised to see the Museum of Liverpool nominated for the Carbuncle Cup, a dubious title awarded to the worst building of the year by Building Design magazine. Also on the list are Peel's Media City UK, Artisan's apartments at Kings Dock, Liverpool and the Mann Island development by Neptune and Countryside, also on the Liverpool waterfront.

Whilst reluctant to criticise another publication or editor, let alone a fine national title well respected by architects, it seems a rather jaundiced and snide feature. I'm sure it generates great publicity (here we are) and readership but Cups celebrate things. This does not. At best the Carbuncle Cup is a backhanded celebration of good design by criticising bad design. It's a subjective thing but it gives me a bad taste all of its own.

Your Comments

Hi Paul, Thanks for your thoughts – it’s always interesting to hear feedback about the Carbuncle Cup. We’re sorry to hear you think that it is jaundiced and snide. It was conceived as a light-hearted mirror image of the Stirling prize – the annual award for the best British building, whose shortlist is also announced this week. But beneath the jokey title, there is a serious point that we feel needs to be made – that so many buildings, particularly publicly-funded ones in such prominent locations as the Museum of Liverpool and Mann Island development – are simply not good enough. Architecture is one of the most awarded professions, from the national RIBA awards, to gongs that award the use of bricks, with many things now winning prizes just for getting built. With such saturation, the phrase “award-winning architect” has unfortunately become meaningless. Nominations for the Carbuncle Cup come from our readers, who are mostly architects as you point out. Their vocal feedback suggests that, as well as praising the best, we must continue to name and shame those buildings that are just plain bad. Oliver Wainwright Buildings Editor, Building Design magazine

By Oliver Wainwright

Oliver, what nonsense. The Carbuncle Cup is nothing more than snooty watchers of the construction industry casting their flowery and unqualified eyes on buildings. At least it got built, at least it created and will create employment. Keep your pompus ridicule to yourself unless you could do any better.


Have you actually seen this building in the flesh?? Probably not. Armchair critic, what an easy profession. When most other projects of this size and scale have been mothballed, with loss of countless jobs, facilities and finished landscape, this development has continued. The development continually bucks the trend month after month for residential sales in Liverpool , and so the public speak!! And I presume that’s a bad thing too. Get off your backside and actually do something instead of berating others

By MI Fan
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