September 23, 2020
This plain silver structure could win the port another ugly building award. But its citizens are unlikely to mind – since it showcases treasures from ancient vessels to a woolly mammoth
If ever proof were needed that quality of architecture is no barrier to popularity, it can be found in the plucky port city of Plymouth. Its Drake Circus shopping centre, a car crash of cladding, was awarded the Carbuncle Cup for the ugliest building in the UK when it opened in 2006. Yet it has since become the beloved, beating heart of the city. The Beckley Point student housing development, a Stalinesque ziggurat topped with an awkward spire, was also shortlisted for the hated award in 2018. Locals instantly rallied to its defence, praising it as “the best building in Plymouth for 20 years”, bringing a thrilling “touch of Las Vegas” by night.
And so we come to the Box, the city’s new £46m museum and gallery, hailed as the biggest cultural centre in south-west England, and proud bearer of “Europe’s largest unsupported cantilever”. It is a fitting name for a big clumsy box that has been plonked on top of the city’s Edwardian museum and art gallery, as if an out-of-town storage shed got blown here in a gale.