– by Daniel Todd, image by Karen Withak

The results are in. This year’s Carbuncle Cup winners have been announced. And our very own Museum of Liverpool has been named runner up, narrowly missing out to the monstrosity that is Media City in Manchester.
Drake Circus
The controversial Carbuncle Cup is an architecture award, or more of an anti-award, given annually by Building Design magazine to the ugliest building in Britain, completed within the last 12 months. Previous winners include the dreadful Drake Circus in Plymouth (right) and the awful Opal Court in Leicester.

Of course, Liverpool is no stranger to Architecture’s booby prize; Pier Head Ferry Terminal won the thing in 2009. At the time ‘The Crooked House’, as its come to be affectionately known, was criticised for its location as much as its ‘quirky’ squashed-box design.

And location was the judges’ main beef with the Museum this year, too. They felt that it disgraces the Three Graces, and saw it as some sort of ugly wart on Liverpool’s waterfront. With its jaunty angles, ski-slope roof and glaring white walls, many would agree with them.

But is it really that bad? Truth is, if the Museum were situated anywhere other than docklands, where it sits like a sore thumb next to our most famous and most loved trio of bricks and mortar, it might be considered a sleek and classy building. A building that would make an elegant addition to any skyline.

As a piece of design, the Museum of Liverpool has, and always will, divide opinion. But there is one thing we can all agree on: with next-door’s Mann Island development almost complete, Liverpool has a very good chance of reclaiming its Carbuncle crown next year.

20 Responses to “Museum of Liverpool: “one of the best worst buildings in Britain””

  1. i’ve changed my opinion on the mann island buildings. the actually look great when walking north along the strand, along with the liver building and the tunnel ventilation, especially at night.

  2. I think the waterfront is stunning at the moment. I love how the canal has been integrated and the new builds with their stark contrasts to the three graces. It’s beautiful from whatever direction you approach it.

  3. i am in two minds about Mann Island. I don’t like the way they obscure the view of the graces from the Albert Dock. But I do like the buildings from the strand with the exception of the rectangular box. I like the canal integrating with the development and the death star nature of the building, next to the soft and beautiful port of Liverpool building. BUT opposite is the most monsterous of all buildings – the disgraceful, hideous One Park West.

  4. The design is the least of our worries; I think the building itself looks good. Would have been better facing out across the water though, so you could see the river from the cafe. The fit and finish inside is a bit lazy too. The real shame is the rubbish inside. They should have called it the museum of embarrassing cliches. No doubt I’ll be dismissed as a ‘hater’ (i.e. a person with their own opinion).

  5. The MoL is fine as I don’t think it obscures anything, and I think in years to come it will be a real asset.

    However, the view of the Port of Liverpool building seen in a summer sunset from the Strand end of the Albert Dock was the most magnificent & breathtaking vista I’d ever seen, that as far as I am concerned was unrivaled in the UK for its splendour, and right up there with any of the sights of the world.

    I always felt that view made Liverpool feel so very special, and
    I am gutted that view’s gone.

  6. I think the whole Mann Island development is great and shows that Liverpool isn’t just a place of the past. I read Johnathan Glancy’s patronising criticisms of the building in the Guardian and it was obvious he’s not actually been to see the building up close! Most people I meet from outside the city think it’s a great and varied vista, we’ll just have to get used to what is a radical change for people who live here. And wait till the new Open Eye Gallery and eateries open and what used, lest we forget, to be a garage and a manky publishing company office becomes a bustling place. Remember all the bleating and moaning about Liverpool 1? Does anyone want to go back to the Moat House Hotel and the Argos superstore now? It’s only that Liverpol has been so poor that no more buildings were built around Mann Island before.

    Everyone take a look at this. The National Library of Denmark, an beautiful old building with a radical black glass extension which was the inspiration for Mann Island.

    If it’s good enough for Copenhagen it’s good enough for us I reckon. The Liver Building was a copy of what was going on in America at the time of course, and was criticised by the then Head of the School of Architecture at Liverpool Univesity. The city has been dogged by backward lookers for too long. Not any more.

  7. I have seen both Mann Island and the Danish library (known as the Black Diamond) up close. I like the Black Diamond, both for how it looks and for how it functions and there is no way I would personally rank them as equals. Go to Copenhagen and have a look and see what you think.

    Liverpool One is good, although there are things I would change – exterior aspects of 1PW, the metal walkways replaced by ones that don’t clatter as you walk over them – it’s called having an eye for design and detail, rather than being a ‘backward looker’.

    Maybe the dereliction that was on Mann Island before the new buildings could simply have been demolished and the area landscaped. And, here’s something novel for Liverpool, maybe a stylish, semi-submerged new entrance for James Street station (which could also have housed eateries and a gallery) to add capacity and bring even more people direct to the MoL & dockside. I think that really would have been an investment worth making, not just for the extra people it would bring but also for the knock on benefit of making Princes Parade more attractive to businesses. But maybe that’s a little too ‘joined-up’ – as they say in decision making circles.

    I thought the view of the Port of Liverpool building before was truly magnificent, and judging by the number of tourists I used to see having their picture taken with it as the backdrop, so did they.

  8. Patricia Onyia

    There’s nowt wrong with the Museum I really like it. But I endorse your sentiment that Liverpool will win next year with the black glass monstrosity next door. I wouldn’t live or work in it if you paid me.

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