The snarky votes are in and the restoration of the Cutty Sark has won this year’s Carbuncle Cup.
The Carbuncle Cup, the razzie award of British architecture, recognizes the worst new (completed in the last 12 months) building in the United Kingdom. Other notable nominees include the red contorted sculpture/structure ArcelorMittal Orbit by Anish Kapoor and the overly referential Titanic Museum in Belfast by CivicArts and Todd Architects.
While arguably not the ugliest building on the list of nominees, the Cutty Sark won the dubious honor because of the behind the scenes disasters. The project is a lesson in what not to do when restoring a historically significant and culturally sensitive object.
Lesson one might be listen to your engineer. The ship, the last surviving British tea clipper, was raised 11 feet from the ground and is supported in the air by steel beams punching through the vessel. The chief engineer on the project so objected to the move, citing damage to the fabric of the ship, that he resigned from the project.
The possible destruction of the artifact meant to be preserved by the project and the resignation of the chief engineer weren’t the only problems. The project was seriously lacking in funding, severely over budget, and behind schedule. In the end, the project managers also left the project.
Even without those obstacles, the building would still be up for a Carbuncle because of the way it looks and what it does to the ship. An uninspired lozenge-shaped greenhouse surrounds the bottom of the ship, cutting off half the view. The awkward glass structure is surprising since it was designed by Grimshaw Architects, who are known for elegant high tech architecture. To add insult to injury, where before the ship was free to view in the open, visitors now have to pay an entrance fee and enter the glass structure to see the entire ship.