I’ve been writing blog posts on a number of topics of interest to Jersey, but also possibly of wider interest, for a while. The BBC Jersey blog is being shut down so I’m going to post some of my favourites here.
St Helier is a mish-mash of building styles and ages – from the modernist front to the States of Jersey to the 1000 year old parish church.
There are the new waterfront buildings and the preserved Liberty Wharf.
Throw in the controversial old Odeon building and the car parks and you have debates that can fill hours of ‘drinking time’ at the pub.
But, and in full knowledge of the difference of opinion architecture brings with it, what is the ‘ugliest building’ in the islands capital?
In his comments on the most recent North of Town Masterplan amendment, Planning Minister, Senator Freddie Cohen, announced his least favourite building in the parish.
In the document he said: “The Minden Place Car Park is one of the ugliest buildings in St Helier, and the proposals are designed to improve the quality of this part of town.”
But, a friend’s instant reaction to the story on Facebook was: “Surely Sand Street is an uglier car park.”
And that is the problem when trying to come up with something like ‘the ugliest building in…’ beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
The Odeon building is a prime example of this, to some it is an “ugly block” of a building, but for others it is an “icon of an era”.
Constable of St Helier
For the Constable of St Helier the ugliest building is one most might not notice, it certainly isn’t a high profile building, but it is one he feels sticks out.
Constable Crowcroft’s ‘ugliest building’ is the café next to the toilets in Conway street.
He said this is especially the case: “given the fact that the other properties in Conway Street (most recently the Commercial pub) have had private sector investment for redevelopment.”
He said that Conway Street has benefited from the work by the States of Jersey and the Parish of St Helier.
The work has seen more open spaces at either end of the road and the pavement widening.
I asked people on Facebook and twitter for their views and the first two responses basically suggested the whole waterfront complex.
And Julie asked why the Planning Minister had such a problem with the Minden Place car park.
She said: “At least Minden Place has an original design when it was built, is useful and still busy and not in view to arriving tourists.”
But he did say that an ugly building was one that lacked a number of things.
“Lack of delight”
He said it was a: “Lack of a lot of things, probably a lack of a combination of things, lack of effort, lack of ambition, laziness and a lack of proportion.”
But that most importantly it was a: “Lack of delight”, he said the “defining thing between a good building a great piece of architecture is delight”.
Mike also said there was “something awful about committee based buildings”, and that a prime example of this was the waterfront, he said it suffered “from opposing regulations”.
He praised the current Planning Minister, Senator Freddie Cohen, for sticking his neck out and giving permission for more challenging works.
He said you: “Get good buildings when people take a risk and that in particular includes the planners.
“There is a chance it could go wrong but that is part of the gamble when you have high ambitions, otherwise you do get bland buildings.”
So, if beauty and ugliness are equal in that they are in the eye of the beholder – what is St Helier’s ugliest building to your eyes?