Here are Your Least Favourite Buildings in Britain

By Spencer Hart on at

Last Tuesday we formed the Gizmodo Retrospective Planning Board, asking you, our dear readers, which buildings you can't stand.

A whole host of structures were proposed for demolition in the comments, from post-war brutalism to modern superstores. So we thought we'd take an in-depth look at these suggested architectural eyesores and learn some of the buildings' history, developments and plans for the future (or not, if you're lucky).

Robin Hood Gardens, Poplar, London

Suggested by: our own Gerald Lynch

The first building on the chopping block was put forward by our very own Gerald Lynch, choosing the "dark and oppressive" Robin Hood Gardens in Poplar, London. The story of Robin Hood Gardens begins in 1963, when the Grosvenor Building (pictured below) was slated for demolition. It had been there since 1885.

The Smithson's began planning "an exemplar – a demonstration of a more enjoyable way of living in an old industrial part of a city. A model of a new mode of urban organisation which can show what life could be like". Construction began in 1968 and was completed in 1972, coming in at a total cost of £1,845,585.

A lot of thought was put into the design of the building, for instance a grassy, "stress-free central zone" was included to give residents a place to unwind away from the three busy roads surrounding the building. The flats were also designed to alleviate the same problem by putting the bedrooms and dining areas away from the road, letting residents sleep in peace. Smithson envisaged "streets in the sky", with walkways large enough for a milkcart to drive down. One builder remarked that what they were doing was "too good for the people that were going to live in it".

Unfortunately, residents and contemporary architects weren't so enthusiastic about the building, they labelled it ugly, with no privacy and the streets in the sky never worked. Tower Hamlets Council signed the death warrant in 2012 with demolition beginning in 2013.

The area will be redeveloped under the Blackwall Reach Project, creating 1,575 new homes, a park and commercial area (pictured above). [Image Credit: Municipal Dreams, Wikipedia and London Gov]

The Stonebow, York

Suggested by: Gustave

Stonebow House in York, or 'the Stonebow' to locals, is a post-war brutalist building that clearly stands out against York's historic town centre. In the 1960s, York City Council held a competition to design a mixed retail and office development. The competition was won by Wells, Hickman and Partners, a company based in Charing Cross, London.

The building has always been a point of contention in York, with the wrecking ball hovering precariously over it for a while now. It resides in the York Central Historic Core Conservation Area, and it's proposed that it should be "replaced by [a building] that better responds to the conservation area's characteristics".

Jon Wright, a local architectural historian, is one of the building's main supporters, believing that it's one of the only pieces of evidence that post-war development took place in York: "Once it's gone, it's gone", he remarks.

Despite what many people think, the Stonebow is not a listed building, and with the leasehold ending in 2067, the Stonebow's future is clearly uncertain. [Image Credit: York Press]

Civic Centre, Plymouth

Suggested by: fancyabrew

The Civic Centre in Plymouth once had a bright future: another product of post-war prosperity, the building was designed amid much fanfare and enthusiasm.

Construction began in 1959 and the building was officially opened by the Queen on the 26th of July, 1962. The interior and exterior of the building were meticulously designed to provide a welcoming, pleasant environment for its visitors. For example, the tile design in the lobby matched the paving outside, and exotic materials were combined with local craftsmanship to create a luxurious public area.

Despite the building's initial hype, many 'improvements' and modernisations left the building in a poorer state than when it first opened. In the face of all the building's detractors, the Civic Centre achieved Grade II listed status. This doesn't mean the Civic Centre is immune to development or destruction. In fact in 2013, the council announced a £50 million plan to completely gut the building and develop it into a four-star hotel (pictured above). [Image Credit: Plymouth Herald, This is Plymouth]

Tesco Extra, Woolwich, London

Suggested by: Lester_Bangs

What you're looking at above is the winner of the 2014 Carbuncle Cup, an architecture award which picks out: "buildings which are unforgivably bad and deserve to be named and shamed".

The building features a 84,000-square-foot Tesco Extra with 189 apartments above the superstore. The eye-sore is split into 30 per cent social housing and 70 per cent first-time-buyer property.

Judges lambasted it as: 'oppressive, defensive, arrogant and inept', and the exterior of the building is a confusing camouflage of metal cladding which resembles a '1948 Berlin blockade'. The panel may have been partially biased, seeing as the car park demolished to create the superstore was designed by Owen Luder, one of the judges. [Image Credit: Kirhammond]

Alexandra Road Estate, Camden, London

Suggested by: Joshua Pines

Alexandra Road was a contentious choice between commenters, with opinions ranging from: 'I love that place', to 'AAGH! hideous'.

The estate was the first post-war housing to be given a Grade II listed status, and was designed in 1968 by Neave Brown. The complex includes 520 apartments as well as a school, youth club, community centre and parkland.

Clever design went into it to minimise the impact of the nearby train line, shielding sound from the central walkway and incorporating rubber foundations to reduce vibrations. Alexandra Road breaks away from traditional council-built tower blocks, and instead opts for a ziggurat style terrace; a design that allows for a higher population density, while being more flexible than traditional methods.

The estate had detractors from the beginning though. Due to unforeseen building problems, the project ran over budget, costing £20.9 million when it was completed in 1978; it remains the most expensive social housing in the country. After building was finished a heating problem caused the apartments to overheat like a sauna.

Residents have likened the place to Alcatraz, although a more optimistic tenant has suggested they, 'live in a penthouse apartment in a Grade II-listed building in St Johns Wood', which makes it sounds lovely. [Image Credit: Wikipedia]

Town Centre, Cumbernauld

Suggested by: Jason Andreas

Cumbernauld Town Centre has been voted the worst building in Britain and won the Carbuncle Award, twice. It is ugly, unfeasibly ugly.

What some people may not know is the building's historical significance: it was the UK's first shopping centre and the world's first multi-level, multi-function, covered town centre within a single structure. [Image Credit: Scot Brut]

Quick List

The Tower Hotel, London

Suggested by: Putin

Maybe the building wouldn't have been offensive elsewhere, but to ruin the picturesque setting of a national landmark is unforgivable. [Image Credit: Guoman]

Civic Centre, Carlisle

Suggested by: "Guest"

Carlisle's Civic Centre currently has the wrecking ball hanging over it, with plans to turn the site into a department store, shopping centre and restaurants. [Image Credit: Edge Guide]

The Big Sleep Hotel, Cardiff

Suggested by: Brian

The Big Sleep Hotel in Cardiff is a rather bland looking cuboid, converted from a 1960s office block. According to the Lonely Planet Guide, it's one of the top ten celebrity hotels in the world. [Image Credit: Cool Places]

Station Hill, Reading

Suggested by: "Guest"

Above is not a picture of Station Hill at present, but Station Hill in the future. The future is bright. [Image Credit: F Gould]

Central Library, Birmingham

Suggested by: Rob P

The Central Library in Birmingham is an imposing concrete building and was the country's second busiest library in 2011. It's failed twice to get a Grade II listed status and is set to be demolished in 2015. [Image Credit: BBC]

Any Hollister Store

Tacky, fake veneers and claustrophobic interiors, are the reasons I put forward Hollister Stores for consideration to be demolished. [Image Credit: The Star]