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The life and times of james Hart: his family, his music, life in Luton and his occasional escapes onto the internet.

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Saturday, 16 May 2009

The UK Centre for Carnival Arts, Luton : the ugliest building in Bedfordshire?

I would not consider myself to be someone who appreciates fine art, but I was taken aback, during a visit to the National Gallery last year, by the sheer power that a carefully created visual work can possess.

Many buildings, too, can leave me staring with admiration; there is, I believe, a construction that are is cherished as an artwork that even publishing a photograph of it has been prohibited - the Atomium in Belgium.

The Galaxy Centre, LutonAnd then there's Luton. Many towns and cities I have visited that have been under development (including Birmingham, Manchester, even Swindon), and given the benefit of the doubt: "I'm sure it'll look nice when it's finished."

I honestly cannot say that about Luton. It will not look nice; moreover it probably won't ever be finished. I try to enthuse about the stalled Power Court development (stalled such that even the domain has expired) and Napier Park on the old Vauxhall site - I tolerate the decimation of the green space at the Library end of Luton to make "St George's Square" which is currently surrounded by building sites, and, until recently, the worst blight on the town's landscape has been the Galaxy Centre - known by friends and family as 'The Monstrosity.'

Until now, I have kept my opinions - about the wanton destruction of many of Luton's historic buildings over the years (see Hitchin as a fine example of careful preservation), and the shabby state of the place in general - to myself. That was, however, until the ugliest building I have ever seen was erected, just to the east of Luton's town centre. It is called the UK Centre for Carnival Arts, and it looks like this:

The UK Centre for Carnival Arts, Luton.
The UK Centre for Carnival Arts, Luton

I believe this transcends the artistic numbness that begat the Galaxy Centre by cleverly combining every element of hideousness in its design; it's assymetric, it already looks worn out, it has no consistency of colours, edges or materials (concrete, wood, brick, glass and metal) and it would appear an amount of effort has been made to create a discordant environment around it of unburied cables, ill-considered atria and mismatched monuments and ornaments.

If I didn't know any better, I would have believed that someone had the temerity to allow it to be designed by a class of five-year-olds. If that was the case, I'd put money on it having been a special needs school.

The worst part about it is that it occupies a highly visible space, that greets any visitor to the town, coming off the main flyover (which is bad enough!) for which even the unusual - yet still charming in its way - "chequered church" (St Mary's Parish Church) nearby cannot compensate. Unfortunately, I was unable to take the 'long view' photo of it, because of the parking restrictions, but as soon as I do, I shall add it to the gallery, which has more photos of this deeply unattractive building.

I will close with a curious observation: my photos seem to be the first of the road-facing exterior of the building on the internet. There are a few pictures of the design and artist's impression. Is it just me who thinks this is the ugliest building in Bedfordshire, or do people dare not publish photographs of it because it is so unattractive?

Either way, I'm glad I've got this out of my system. Thank you for your patience.

UK Centre for Carnival Arts, Luton - closer viewUK Centre for Carnival Arts, Luton - side view

Posted by james at May 16, 2009 3:31 PM

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