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London’s Worst Building

25 Ridgmount Street, LondonI was recently asked to contribute to Failed Architecture - a series of talks and public discussions that focuses on buildings and urban environments that have failed to stand the test of time. Whilst my initial thought was to be preemptive and suggest London’s Orbit Tower - an embarrassing project that serves no purpose other than to warn people away from focus-grouped design - I soon remembered stumbling across a building in central London that seemed to perfectly encapsulate everything that’s wrong with British architecture.

That building is 25 Ridgmount Street, and I really think it’s the worst building in the British capital. If the aim of 25 Ridgmount Street was to introduce leisure-centre-architecture to the streets of London, then it has done the job admirably. Perhaps one of the architects involved in the project saw a suburban dental surgery and felt inclined to recreate it in an urban location. Whatever the reasoning, the sad truth is that this kind of building perfectly encapsulates our current approach to architecture in Britain. Don’t think it’s so bad? Take a closer look. 

I hope you weren’t blinded by the colour of those bricks. If you were, then it’s a small price to pay for building something traditional. As every architect working in Britain knows, if you use red brick, it means its traditional. But people don’t want buildings that are too traditional, so if you put a curvy bit in it will look modern at the same time! Gardens are rare things in the centre of London, so it’s nice that the architects decided to work around this by putting in balconies. Not actual balconies of course, just green railings directly in front of a door so the price of the apartments can go up without having to spend money including a useful feature.

Public housing across the street

The fact that it is located directly next to one of the city’s finest examples of urban housing doesn’t help (take a look on Google Street View). These buildings don’t pander to traditionalism, instead presenting a simple, functional and desirable take on urban living that is a true reflection of their time. What does 25 Ridgmount Street say about British culture? I’d rather not think about that.

I asked my followers on Twitter for some feedback, with contributions such as 'if that's the worst building in London, then London's pretty lucky' and ‘25 ridgemount street doesn’t look great, but surely there’s worse?’ emerging from the discussion. You’re wrong, Twitter. There is nothing worse than 25 Ridgmount Street, but there is an awful lot that is almost as bad, and perhaps that why this building deserves its place in the vaults of Failed Architecture. It’s the best example of failed architecture in London - just.

This is a guest post by Joe Peach, chief writer and editor of This Big City who was so generous to contribute to Failed Architecture. This article is also featured at This Big City.

Apr 13, 2011

tag(s): #failed #architecture #This Big City #London
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