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Carbuncle Cup for worst building awarded to student accommodation

A new student accommodation built for the University College London (UCL) has been awarded with the Carbuncle Cup for the world’s worst building.

The student accommodation contains a range of ‘prison like’ features such as low ceilings, small widows with little privacy, to windows that look out directly onto a brick wall. The UCL accommodation is situated on Caledonian Road in north London and no matter how hard the architects tried, it’s hard to miss.

Some of the 350 bedroom windows are situated behind a listed Victorian 19th century warehouse front. The listed status means that the façade had to be retained. Given that the Façade is a piece of history it’s hard to see why the designers never incorporated it into the design. That way the history and elegance would have been retained without causing what is the biggest issue with the new building. The floors of the student accommodation are a different alignment to the Victorian front’s windows, which means that many student have windows that look straight into the brick wall.

A catalogue of design failures

The Victorian mask isn’t the only criticism of this building. Each room suffers from an inadequate amount of daylight along with a lack of privacy and terrible scenic views. The building is situated next to a train line meaning students who have windows facing to the rear are greeted with a dull and bland view of London’s transport system.

The borough that the colossus is situated in also has a minimal residential overlooking distance of 18 meters. The majority of rooms available only have a 5 meter overlooking distance. Shockingly, these glaring design failures were overlooked by the planning inspector as they believed that the rooms would primarily be used for sleeping. They believed that the UCL would offer a range of intensive daytime activities that would keep students away from their accommodation. The planners are essentially saying that they are skipping on quality because they believe students won’t be in their rooms that often. Considering the rooms cost around £730 a month, this may be hard to swallow for many students.

It should also be noted that the designers of this UCL scheme have already won the Carbuncle Cup worst building award before. Stephen George and Partners won the Carbuncle Cup for its Opal Court development in Leicester which was built in 2007.

For the most part, student accommodation across the country does meet local regulations and doesn't suffer from the design failures seen here. There are plenty of beautiful student halls that help maintain or even improve a city’s skyline. For example The Lyra in London is a modern style halls of residence with excellent amenities and spacious studio apartments. If that’s not enough, the building looks spectacular with its wide glass panels and striking colour scheme.

UCL scheme criticised by students

The UCL scheme has been heavily criticised by many people in the student market. Hannah Webb from the UCL Students Union said:

"It's absolutely atrocious, everyone deserves natural light, and students often use their rooms during the day for studying. It's just another disgraceful example of UCL trying to profit from its students, with no thought for their welfare".

Colum McGuire of the National Union of Students also criticised the building by saying:

"Daylight is not a luxury, it's a necessity. We wouldn't expect or accept windowless rooms for any other sector of society, and so there is absolutely no reason to think such provision is acceptable to students".

Here at Capital Properties in Cardiff, none of our properties have been shortlisted or won the worst building of the year award, so why not find your dream property in this spectacular city. We also offer student property to rent in Cathays and Roath. If you’d like any assistance or advice please feel free to contact us.

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