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Is Titanic building really a carbuncle on the skyline?


Titanic Belfast

Titanic Belfast

Peter Morrison

Titanic Belfast

It's the least coveted award in architecture — and Titanic Belfast has won a nomination.

The £76 million visitor centre has joined another five contenders in vying for achitecture’s wooden spoon, the Carbuncle Cup.

Awarded by the Building Design (BD) website, the organisers say Titanic Belfast “has been designed to resemble the collision of a ship and an iceberg”.

The nominator who drew Titanic Belfast to the attention of BD judges seeking the UK’s ugliest new building, commented: “Arrived into Belfast — can confirm Titanic Museum is listing to port, likely to sink imminently.”

The award for the UK’s worst new building was launched seven years ago at the height of the construction boom.

BD said with much less being built today, nominations could be a lot thinner on the ground.

Yet Titanic Belfast faces some stiff competition.

“Once again, BD readers have unearthed evidence from across the country of quite how bad the worst of British architecture can be,” a spokesman said.

“Fronting the ever-popular failed icon category we have Kapoor & Balmond’s Orbit, nominated not only for its unique ugliness but for the mockery it makes of London 2012’s claims to sustainability.

“Joining it are two buildings that plumb new depths of inanity in their literal architectural expression. Belfast’s Titanic museum has been designed to resemble the collision of a ship and an iceberg. Shard End Library is a library with a shard sticking out its end.”

Titanic Belfast, the world’s largest visitor Titanic experience, opened on March 31 and quickly became a ‘must see’ for any visitor to Northern Ireland.

It features nine interpretative and interactive galleries that explore the sights, sounds, smells and stories of Titanic, as well as the city and people that made her 100 years ago.

Bosses defended the design on Monday, insisting it is a “brilliant addition to Belfast’s skyline and tourism industry”.

A spokesman for Titanic Belfast said: “Since opening its doors on 31st March, Titanic Belfast has welcomed in excess of 300,000 visitors. The response to the look and feel of the building and its galleries has been overwhelmingly positive.

“Visitors from across the globe have made Titanic Belfast one of the most photographed buildings in Northern Ireland because they think it looks great and is an iconic landmark.”

If it wins, Titanic Belfast could join Media City UK in Salford, last year’s winner, or the Strata Tower at Elephant & Castle from the year before. The 2009 winner, the Liverpool Ferry Terminal, was designed by Belfast firm Hamilton Architects.

However, Titanic Belfast has also made it to the finals of the International Interior Design of the Year at the Leading European Architects Forum (Leaf).

The Carbuncle Cup is named after Prince Charles’ famous comment about an extension to London’s National Gallery being a “monstrous carbuncle”.

The shortlisted buildings will be judged over the coming weeks.

The ultimate winner of the competition will be announced on August 24.


This year’s Carbuncle Cup shortlist:

  • Firepool Lock Housing, Taunton, by Andrew Smith Architects
  • Titanic Belfast by Todd Architects and Civic Arts
  • Mann Island, Liverpool, by Broadway Malyan
  • ArcellorMittal Orbit Olympic Park, London, by Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond
  • Cutty Sark renovation, London, by Grimshaw Architects
  • Shard End Library, Birmingham, by Idp Partnership

What the tourists have to say about our latest landmark...

Is Titanic Belfast one of the ugliest new buildings in the UK — or an exciting new addition to the Belfast skyline? Gerard Walton gauged the architectural opinion of visitors at the popular tourist attraction...

Aaron Christopher (23) is from Malaysia. The naval architecture graduate from Strathclyde University in Glasgow felt the short-listing was unfair to Titanic Belfast.

“I don't think it's one of the worst,” he said.

“I'm quite surprised to hear that (about the nomination). It's quite interesting, actually, because it has the bow of the ship which represents the Titanic,” he said.

“For me, as a naval architect, trying to make a building look like a ship is interesting. The last time I was here this wasn't built. I just saw sketches.”

Estelle Lorraine (30), an art and design teacher, is also from Malaysia and loved the design.

“It's really good,” she said.

“I think it’s unique and very modern. It captures the ship and its structure.”

David Kahn (41) is a software company owner from the US who is currently living in Spain.

He took his son Carter (8) to Titanic Belfast and said they were both very impressed.

“We walked here from several blocks away and I was very impressed,” David said.

“I took a photo of it on my phone because I thought it was extremely unique. Not at all offensive or distasteful to me.

“I find that it has been nominated for this award distasteful.”

Carter said that he too was a fan.

“I like it. It's unique, “ he said.

Rodger Mareschal (69), a retired consultant from Quebec, Canada, is also a fan of Titanic Belfast’s striking shape.

“It's a fantastic design on the inside and outside,” he said.

“It's very good. It's original and visible. It will stay clean because of the materials and the shapes.

“I think it's a very nice building.”

Joe McNamara (56), an interior designer from Dublin, said he felt it was fitting for what it represents.

“It's a completely different thing,” he said.

“That's all you can say really. It probably suits the fall of the Titanic.”

Kathy McClure (54), a school teacher from Toronto, Canada, was divided in her opinion.

“It's different,” she told the Belfast Telegraph.

“When I first saw it, I wondered whether it was trying to be the boat or the bow of the boat.

“We weren't sure what it was supposed to be. It's a unique design but I didn't really see how it was related to the Titanic.”

Among the few we spoke to who weren’t particularly impressed by the building was Jackie Stally, a 47-year-old nurse from Kent.

“It is a bit odd looking,” she said.

“I suppose it's supposed to look like a ship isn't it?”

And Tracey Smith, a 43-year-old nurse who also hails from Kent, was even more emphatic in her disapproval of the landmark building.

“I think it looks awful,” she said.

“When I look at it, it doesn't mean anything. When you look at the map of it and you look at the floor design it looks like the 2012 Olympics.”

Belfast Telegraph