Call for ‘cynical’ Carbuncle Awards to be scrapped

Neil Baxter
Neil Baxter

The Carbuncle Awards are “cynical, crass, commercial, stupid, unhelpful, petty nonsense that should be ignored by everyone”, according to a prominent architectural figure in Scotland.

Neil Baxter, the chief executive of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, has led calls to scrap the annual awards, which celebrate the most dismal town or city in the country.

Among those nominated for the Plook on the Plinth award for worst town, which is part of the wider Carbuncle awards, are Aberdeen, Cumbernauld, Greenock, Kirkintilloch, Leven, Lochgelly and the village of Maddiston near Falkirk.

The awards, which began in 2001, are handed out by architecture and design magazine Urban Realm, which describes Aberdeen on its website as “where architecture goes to die”. The current holder of the award is New Cumnock in Ayrshire.

Baxter told The Scotsman: “I don’t think there is any justification for effectively defaming places on the mistakes of a bygone era, which has resulted in a poor-quality built environment.

“We should all be working positively to create an improved built environment, and you don’t achieve that by damning communities and thereby damning the people who live there. It’s not appropriate and it should be just laughed off by anyone of intelligence.

“The organisers of the award are not proposing to do anything positive, they only slam people.

“It’s gone on for years, because it’s been dragged on for years. Urban Realm obviously sees this as a splendid opportunity every year to damn somewhere new, and that’s just crass, it’s not productive.”

Petra Biberbach, chief executive of PAS (formerly known as Planning Aid for Scotland), joined calls for the awards to be scrapped.

She said: “The Carbuncle Awards seem to celebrate failure, but failure in some people’s eyes may not be how those who live in these communities perceive their place and circumstances.

“These awards don’t take into account that places are often built against a particular historical backdrop – for example, new towns to beat urban slums. We have to recognise that many places in Scotland have tried to alleviate social and health problems and continue to do so.

“If, after 14 years of handing out the awards, they are still able to find buildings and places to nominate, then it clearly isn’t having any positive effect in the communities it claims to be speaking out on behalf of.

“The award is handed out without any regard for the consequence or impact it has on the community. It is time that we celebrate what is good and fair rather than champion this certain elitism to say what is right. It is time these awards were brought to an end.

“Cumbernauld, for example, was given this award before, yet has a wonderful community spirit. People who live and work there rightly felt aggrieved.

“A place is more than the sum of bad planning decisions, architectural merits or bricks and mortar – a place is always about people, their sense of belonging and identity.”

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