The UK has no shortage of beautiful architecture. Idyllic scenes of thatched cottages and medieval churches, a landscape littered with ancient castles and Roman fortresses, all in the shadows of iconic cityscapes developed over centuries. In short, the UK is teeming with architectural style. Yet despite the generations of skill, progress and refinement, not every town and city in the UK can always deliver. It’s safe to say there have been some serious faux pas in UK town planning and construction.
Here is our rundown of the worst places in the UK in the architecture style-stakes. But remember, there’s no accounting for taste: one man’s slum could be another man’s castle...
Officially voted the worst place in Britain back in 2004, the Bedfordshire town, known primarily for its football team and more recently for budget air travel, struggles to excite with its architectural offerings. The town centre is dominated by grey concrete buildings, a drab 1970s shopping centre and numerous multi-storey car parks. The addition of several Brutalist tower blocks and Luton is rendered positively dreary. However, in 2014 the town won funding for a high-street regeneration scheme, so watch this space.
Poet John Betjeman wrote in his 1937 poem Slough: “Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough! It isn't fit for humans now”. He continued saying “Mess up the mess they call a town!” So it’s clear that, even back then, Betjeman wasn’t a fan of this industrialised Berkshire town. And anyone who has ever seen The Office will be familiar with the bleak, generic office blocks dominating the Slough ‘skyline’ of today. If anyone ever needed an example of the neglected satellite town, this is it.
More poetic commentary now with Dylan Thomas famously branding his home city of Swansea “this ugly, lovely town”. Swansea was a victim of intense German bombing in 1941 during the Second World War thanks to its industrial heart, particularly its coal-mining heritage. The city centre was virtually obliterated by the Luftwaffe and as a result was rebuilt from the 1950s onwards, seeing Victoriana replaced with some questionable choices in the name of modernity. Dreary shopping centres now fill Swansea City Centre, with one of the few surviving pre-War streets, Wind Street, now dominated by outlandish night clubs and bars.
Middlesbrough’s architecture seems to exude bleak nothingness. The noteworthy 1911 Transporter Bridge is a symbol of the town’s industrial and engineering past. Yet despite the bridge still being in use today, it now stands as something of a monument to the city’s former fortunes. The Middlesbrough of today is a sea of low-rise 1950s and 60s office blocks, thanks to it also being a victim of bombing during the Second World War.
And at number 1, the greatest victim of Second World War bombing. Pre-war Coventry was a thriving industrial Mecca, with aeronautical and munitions factories playing a big part in the city’s economy. This industry made it a key target for the German Luftwaffe and in 1940 huge swathes of the city were destroyed, including much of the Victorian buildings that had sprung up during the Industrial Revolution. The subsequent post-war rebuilding programme resulted in much of the city now embodying the Brutalism movement. Concrete-heavy structures with a lack of emphasis on the aesthetic have made Coventry City Centre something of a modern-day eyesore. The city’s attempts at architectural regeneration in the 1980s and 90s have also resulted in a slew of generically bland shopping centres, as we’ve seen across the country.
Let’s hope you don’t get sent to Coventry...
Feel free to share your top 5 in the comments box below!
Article written by Daniel Scott, Architecture & Design Recruiter at Cobalt Recruitment
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