Sometimes, what in conception looks like a great idea, is sorely lacking when it comes to its execution. The architectural world is no exception to these occasions, and sometimes projects get through the planning stages and delivered, when, in reality, they really shouldn’t have! Clearly, this is always a highly subjective matter, but whilst it’s certainly true that one man’s trash might equate to another’s treasure, there are cases where the panning is almost universal. With that in mind, here are five famous planning blunders developments that ought not to have seen (and some that never did see) the light of day…
1. The National Gallery’s Proposed Extension (1984)
Arguably one of the most famous moments in British architectural history, the National Gallery’s proposed new extension didn’t quite get the response its lead architect would’ve wanted, when Prince Charles referred to the design as a “monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much loved and elegant friend.” So serious were the repercussions of this remark, that that initial design was scrapped entirely and replaced by something else – and sorely for the initial architect – by somebody else.
2. “The Walkie Talkie”
As a rule, buildings probably shouldn’t melt their surroundings. Now, that might be a controversial take, but it’s one we stand by here at Munday + Cramer… 20 Fenchurch Street (also known as The Walkie Talkie because of its shape) begged to differ, however, and decided that acting as a concave mirror and thereby melting the bodywork of cars on street-level was the particular furrow it wanted to plough…
With the building’s shape and glazing combining to produce spot temperatures on the street below of over 100 degrees centigrade, the building (unsurprisingly) had the ignominious honour of winning 2013’s Carbuncle Cup, an annual UK prize awarded to the ugliest (or worst) building completed over the previous 12 months. Something sound familiar? That’s right, the prize was named after Prince Charles’ comment!
3. Ciudad Real International Airport (2009)
This one wasn’t so much a failure of design as much as it was a failure of foresight. Located in Spain and constructed at a cost of over one billion euros, this airport features one of the longest runways in Europe, and was designed to accept even the largest of passenger planes – the Airbus A380. Unfortunately, the company in charge of the famous planning blunders airport filed for bankruptcy only a couple of years later, leaving a vast abandoned space – designed to process over two million passengers
– in the heart of the country.
Interestingly, in recent times, rather than letting it grow increasingly obsolete, the airport has begun seeing use as a space for grounded planes and renovation projects to take place. Every cloud!
4. British Airways i360 Tower (2016)
There are eyesores, and then there are eyesores, and Brighton’s i360 Tower certainly falls into the latter category. It’s not as though the 160 metre tower didn’t have good design pedigree, either, with its design falling to the same architectural company that came up with the London Eye. That said, there are probably those who argue that that too should fall somewhere on this list. Referred to by some as a “horrendous thing in the sky”, the tower stands incongruously on this historic town’s seafront, standing out like the sorest of thumbs. There may well be places that would better suit such a structure, but we’d argue (as many others do) that Brighton isn’t one of them.
5. Marble Arch Mound (2021…)
And last – but certainly not least – is the most recent entry in our list; the famous planning blunders Marble Arch Mound. In truth, the proposal was misguided from its very inception, with people questioning early on the need for a new £2 million hill in the heart of the city. Still, the elegance of the artist’s impressions, combined with the fact that it would only be a temporary installation, was enough to if not silence, then at least stall some of its prominent critics.
Unfortunately, however, the result has been far from elegant. Since its opening – only a few days ago, at the time of writing – the hill has been met with almost universal criticism. Comments have included the hill “looking like a Mario Kart course”, “resembling a pile of scaffolding” and being “a complete waste of money”. This is certainly one that should’ve stayed on the drawing board…
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