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Can magical architecture transform St Helier?

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Ryan Morrison | 08:14 UK time, Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Minden Place car park

The Minden Place car park could be demolished

St Helier is a mish-mash of building styles and ages - from the modernist front to the States of Jersey to the 1000 year old parish church.

There are the new waterfront buildings and the preserved Liberty Wharf.

Throw in the controversial old Odeon building and the car parks and you have debates that can fill hours of 'drinking time' at the pub.

But, and in full knowledge of the difference of opinion architecture brings with it, what is the 'ugliest building' in the islands capital?

In his comments on the most recent North of Town Masterplan amendment, Planning Minister, Senator Freddie Cohen, announced his least favourite building in the parish.

In the document he said: "The Minden Place Car Park is one of the ugliest buildings in St Helier, and the proposals are designed to improve the quality of this part of town."


But, a friend's instant reaction to the story on Facebook was: "Surely Sand Street is an uglier car park."

And that is the problem when trying to come up with something like 'the ugliest building in...' beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

The Odeon building is a prime example of this, to some it is an "ugly block" of a building, but for others it is an "icon of an era".

Constable of St Helier

For the Constable of St Helier the ugliest building is one most might not notice, it certainly isn't a high profile building, but it is one he feels sticks out.

Constable Crowcroft's 'ugliest building' is the café next to the toilets in Conway street.

The old ODEON building always sparks debate

The old ODEON building always sparks debate

He said this is especially the case: "given the fact that the other properties in Conway Street (most recently the Commercial pub) have had private sector investment for redevelopment."

He said that Conway Street has benefited from the work by the States of Jersey and the Parish of St Helier.

The work has seen more open spaces at either end of the road and the pavement widening.

I asked people on Facebook and twitter for their views and the first two responses basically suggested the whole waterfront complex.

And Julie asked why the Planning Minister had such a problem with the Minden Place car park.

She said: "At least Minden Place has an original design when it was built, is useful and still busy and not in view to arriving tourists."

Jersey architect, Mike Waddington, said that the thing that best defines the difference between a good building and an ugly building is in the eye of the beholder.

But he did say that an ugly building was one that lacked a number of things.

"Lack of delight"

He said it was a: "Lack of a lot of things, probably a lack of a combination of things, lack of effort, lack of ambition, laziness and a lack of proportion."

But that most importantly it was a: "Lack of delight", he said the "defining thing between a good building a great piece of architecture is delight".

Mike also said there was "something awful about committee based buildings", and that a prime example of this was the waterfront, he said it suffered "from opposing regulations".

He praised the current Planning Minister, Senator Freddie Cohen, for sticking his neck out and giving permission for more challenging works.

He said you: "Get good buildings when people take a risk and that in particular includes the planners.

"There is a chance it could go wrong but that is part of the gamble when you have high ambitions, otherwise you do get bland buildings."

So, if beauty and ugliness are equal in that they are in the eye of the beholder - what is St Helier's ugliest building to your eyes?


  • Comment number 1.

    Buildings and architectures have stories of their won. People who ever lived in there, their life styles and experiences effect affiliation with a particular good or bad building.St Helier, in my opinion does not need a magic. It needs attention, perhaps a little care by artistic hands and professional architect can do the job. I believe, transforming it totally into a new piece will not be good idea, rather giving it a retouch with modern architectural design and keeping its original style will turn it into good building.

  • Comment number 2.

    I would have thought the ugliest building - even surpassing the Radisson - is planning's own department. Anyone who didn't know it was a planning department would think that it was a dumping ground for pre-fab buildings left over from the last war, and piled one on top of each other. It doesn't look like a planned building at all; just a heap of bits of office. No wonder there are no photos of it on the States website (or anywhere else, for that matter)


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