Architectural eyesores in the UK, Ugly British Architecture, Buildings, Built Environment

Architectural eyesores in UK

7 May 2020

Every so often, an architect tends to get a little too excited in their work. That, in turn, gives rise to some humorous situations in which the said architect has miscalculated, giving room to some quirky buildings which many describe with the rather impolite term ‘fails’. We won’t bash architects in this article, but rather draw your attention to some decisions that, when you think about it, could have been done slightly better. Here it is, a list of memorable architectural fails in the UK.

1. Secret Intelligence Service Building, London

Secret Intelligence Service Building London SIS

One of the most memorable buildings in the United Kingdom is the place where James Bond himself goes to work – the SIS building which hosts the MI5 and MI6 has a few quirky elements to it. For starters, it comes across as a rather obtrusive architectural endeavour and one that sticks out like a sore thumb.

Some have criticized the SIS for its architectural unsoundness. Others have even criticized the complete lack of discretion. You would expect the secret intelligence services to be a little, well, more secret, but it seems MI5 and MI6 didn’t mind issuing a challenge to the world in general.

With the slightly zany design, the SIS building isn’t exactly an architectural fail, but it is one hell of an eyesore and it does make for one to question the architect who designed it.

2. Walkie Talkie Center, London

Walkie Talkie Center City of London Building

Not all architectural fails are necessarily bad. For example, the Walkie Talkie Center in London is actually hailed for its interesting design. The office building is quite famous now and some call it an architecture triumph – but is it, really?

There are actually some funny concerns about the Walkie Talkie Center. The design is covered in glass and that has led to the incidental redirecting of sunlight onto the parked streetcars, damaging them in the process.

Sure, you can pin the blame on the design of the building, and pedestrians do feel a little uneasy around the building so, in many ways, despite its beauty, the Walkie Talkie Center is a little eerie and overall considered a mild architectural fail.

3. The Millennium Dome, London

It’s no surprise that London has some of the richest architecture. The Millennium Dome designed by Richard Rogers is one of the most looked forward buildings of its time, but soon after the project was realised people asked themselves – was that it?

Yes, perhaps a little anti-climax, the Millennium Dome failed to draw the large crowd the architect expected. The project cost over £1 billion to create, and it was expected to bring in over 12 million visitors a year, but it only drew in 6 million and that prompted a premature shutdown.

Now, is the Millennium Dome really such a fail? Perhaps not when you consider the building as a whole, but if you take into consideration its intended purpose – well, it didn’t quite measure up, did it?

4. The Millennium Bridge in London

Anything Millennium just doesn’t seem to last in the United Kingdom and London in particular. So, here comes just another architectural whoopsie that won’t make you exactly sympathise with the architect. The project had a £16 million budget and was suspended by steel cables, but the thing was – you could get seasick as you walked across it! The whole bridge just wobbled all over the place making pedestrians nauseated.

Then, another £5 million went into fixing the problem, which was less than ideal, of course. Yet, Arup, the architecture company behind it, has done well in finding a quick solution. It was also a reminder of how you can easily get carried away with the looks but forget about the substance.

5. The Hippodrome Casino, London

This iconic building on the corner of Cranbourn Street and Charing Cross Road in the City of Westminster, London is a mecca for those who love high-end entertainment in the heart of the city. However it didn’t always look like it does today.

The original opened 120 years ago at the turn of the 20th century as a place to host circus-type events. Over the decades, new kinds of entertainment were introduced, leading to lots of changes to the internal layout and extensions to the core building.  This included hosting concerts by famous musical artists as well as a mega nightclub.

Most recently it has changed again, this time unexpectedly as a casino. The casino was reopened after extensive architectural works were completed in 2009. Paula Reason, the head architect on the project has been quoted saying that there were a lot of question marks while transforming an old building with such a confusing history into the gambling hive we know and love today.

As well as the eye watering sums of money spent on structural work, almost as much has gone into furnishing the casino with hundreds of Blackjack, Roulette and New Slots stationed over 4 floors making it one of the largest casinos in Europe.

This sums up our list of top memorable architectural fails in the United Kingdom. The truth is, we have a good tradition of building things in the country. We’ve been doing it for centuries, and have done well. Of course, in our determination to always be original and produce something completely new, we often get carried away to the point where we build something, but it proves a little ill-conceived or flawed in the most unusual way.

Nobody really expected the SIS building to prove a little structurally unsound or the Walkie Talkie Center to redirect sunlight like some spaceship shooting lasers out of its sides! Least of all, people had no idea that walking across a bridge would make them seasick. It seems that to build great things, you sometimes have to fail a few times!

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