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Architecture Week 2006

The Tower, Colliers Wood
The Tower, Colliers Wood

Eyesore or Icon: Colliers Wood voted London's most hated building

Gudrun Lawyer, Producer BBC London TV News
After receiving hundreds of votes, we can reveal which buildings in the capital are most hated by Londoners.

The gloves were off last week, as hundreds of you tore into five shortlisted buildings around the capital that had been nominated for London's most hated building.  It was all in your hands and by Friday the die had been cast.  Colliers Wood tower was the one for the chop.

In all 512 votes were cast, and this is the way you voted:

A) The tower at Colliers Wood: 265 (52%)

B) The Tower Hotel by Tower Bridge: 119 (23%)

C) The arts complex on the river at the Southbank: 58 (11%)

D) The Swiss Re headquarters - better  known as the Gherkin: 38 ( 8%)

E) The pre-fabricated, pre-cast concrete Centrepoint: 32 (6%)

It had started a few weeks earlier, when we asked you to call and email your suggestions for ugly buildings.  They came in their hundreds.  But it was surprisingly easy to come up with the top five.

So more than half of you hate the Tower in Colliers Wood with a passion. 

Colliers Wood Tower

The Tower, Colliers Wood
Your most hated building in London - The Tower

"It's a true monstrosity and totally out of place.  Hardly any tennants - a real waste of space" Benjamin

"should have been pulled down years ago"  Fabiola

Tower Hotel
Your 2nd most hated building - The Tower Hotel

But how did the others do?

Tower Hotel, by Tower Bridge

"Monstrosity - detracts from other lovely architecture around it"  - Linda

"Looks like an iceberg has come to rest on the side of the Thames - no redeeming features" Chauney

Southbank Complex

South Bank
Your 3rd most hated building - Southbank Centre

"hideous concrete" Michael

Swiss Re
Your 4th most hated building - Swiss Re

"ugliest, most depressing building in London" Oliver
"acres of concrete, streaked with rust and deterioration - never failed to look anything buy ghastly" Marian

Gherkin (Swiss Re)

"Dark and dour, in the shape of a bullet. Far too big - dominates the skyline" - Suzanna

Centrepoint

Centrepoint
Your 5th most hated building - Centrepoint

"Annoying for pedestrians" Miguel Rodriguez Batista

"A hideous building surrounded by cheap electronic stores and junkies" Tristan

What do the experts think?

The governments advisor, the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment aren't surprised by our findings but stops short of demolition. "It's a waste of money", Sunand Prasad from CABE told BBC London, instead he thinks buildings should be recycled, like the Tower Hotel. He says: "It could be turned from an ugly duckling into a swan". 

The same goes for the Southbank Complex. Mr Prasad says: "It's a fantastic case of good intentions - all about routes, levels and circulations - a vision of you might get around a city.  But it didn't connect with anything and instead made dark undercrofts which weren't realised as habitable urban spaces". 

The Gherkin (Swiss Re building) polarises opinion - with many of you thinking it's the most beautiful addition to the London skyline, others saying it's too dominating.  And although Centrepoint gathers a lot of enemies out there, particularly with regard to navigating around it on foot, it still doesn't come close to the Tower Hotel or Colliers Wood Tower.

What's to become of the Tower?

Despite pleas from local residents, it seems demolition is out of the question for the Tower.  Instead, it's going to be recycled.  Or given a bit of a makeover.  The tower, formerly run by the engineering company Brown and Root is now in the hands of Golfrate - a developer who's job it is to turn it into something a bit more pleasing on the eye - and change its use into a mixture of office and residential space. 

Legal arguments are ongoing, but if they get the go-ahead, it should become a modern landmark rather than the dark concrete 1960s image that casts a long and windy shadow on every passerby. 

Architect Ian Franks says: "the existing structure which took a lot of energy to build is kept with a new 'skin'.  This is a 'greener' way of looking at buildings such as this. Tall buildings are not an issue if they are well designed and can be a positive contribution to the locality rather than a negative."

So what does this prove?  Like art, opinion will forever be split, open to debate and discussion.  But it's interesting to see that a building far out of Central London can be such a significant blot on the landscape for so many.

last updated: 19/06/06
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