THE Neptune Development at Mann Island has made it into an annual shortlist of awards that “celebrate” bad architecture.
The Carbuncle Cup was launched by the construction industry journal BD Online seven years ago, at the height of the building boom.
Yet despite the Broadway Malyan scheme being a couple of years old, and never far from controversy since it first inched skywards to obscure the famous view of the Pier Head from 2008 (see Liverpool Confidential past), it has taken until now - the year that the city’s World Heritage Site status flounders on the ropes - for the three black granite and glass monoliths to make the hit list.
The trio, dubbed “coffins” by heritage campaigner Wayne Colquhoun, ranks alongside several newbie blots on the national landscape for the 2012 wooden spoon. These include Anish Kapoor's crazy corkscrew Olympic monument, Orbit, Belfast’s Titanic museum and the new visitor facilities at the Cutty Sark in Greenwich.
From the unnamed nominator whose language, perhaps, has a familiar ring: “I would like to nominate Mann Island by Broadway Malyan. AKA The 3 disgraces. Who would have thought that Liverpool a World Heritage City deserved to have three giant black coffins dumped on the waterfront. 3 graces next to 3 disgraces.”
Described by BD as wrist-slashingly awful and “a scheme that completes the desecration of that city’s once great waterfront” it seems that the mag has only just noticed the effort which Neptune’s literature calls “one of the city’s most stunning developments of the century”.
Photographs of the Three Graces from Wapping, sans Neptune development, continue to be widely used, even in some of the city's own publicity material.
At one point, the judging panel on the Carbuncle Cup included the likes of Guardian architecture expert Jonathan Glancy.
Perhaps as a sign of the times, this year it will be up to a couple of the website’s writers to decide if Neptune sinks or swims, but judging by the opposition, it should be safe.
Whether winning will cause a tsunami or a mere ripple of conversation, remains to be seen.
The Pier Head ferry terminal building won the Carbuncle Cup in its glory boom days of 2009, pipping One Park West to the post.
The Laz Word: 'Concentrate criticism on waterfront buildings yet to appear'
NOMINATING a Mann Island development (again) for a carbuncle prize maybe demonstrates no other so-called ugly buildings have gone up in recent times. The development was controversial from the word go, mainly because of its closeness to the wonderful Pier Head and the famous view lost forever of the Three Graces from Wapping Dock.
As a piece of modern architecture it
doesn't strike me as a carbuncle, and even the new glass palace that has become home to Merseytravel looks quite striking
Isn't it time, though, to think to the future and concentrate constructive criticism on waterfront buildings yet to appear?
I wonder whether the Broadway Malyan development would have generated so much hatred if it had been built elsewhere? As a piece of modern architecture it doesn't strike me as a carbuncle, and even the new glass palace that has become home to Merseytravel looks quite striking.
Although we need to look forward, it will be useful for a moment to go back in time to put Mann Island into perspective.
Until the 1930s and 1940s Mann Island was crammed with high rise warehouses, serving the adjoining docks. Dereliction and WW2 saw all of that reduced to rubble. Until then there would have been no view at all of the Three Graces from the Albert Dock.
The developments – Mann Island, the Museum of Liverpool and the new Mersey ferry terminal (which is a total carbuncle), and of course the canal – have re-invigorated the Pier Head with human activity. The Pier Head served the city as the main terminus for the trams, which needed a convenient turnaround space.
When the last tram left in the 1950s, the terminus became the main bus station.
2009 Winner!By then the city had turned its back on the river and most buses left the Pier Head empty, picking up passengers in the city centre. Such is the hostile, windy environment that the Pier Head has never been a public gathering place, except for a few days in the summer when the harsh winds blowing in from the Irish Sea take a holiday.
The battle of Mann Island was lost when Unesco took the decision that the development did not compromise the integrity of the World Heritage Site.
Just as the old warehouses disappeared into history, maybe one day Mann Island will change again. But for now, like it or loathe it, you’d better get used to it.