20 Fenchurch Street - The Walkie-Talkie, London

Image Above taken in October 2014

Architect Rafael Viñoly
Date Built
Under Construction
Fenchurch Street
The Uruguayan architect, Rafael Viñoly, is the designer of 20 Fenchurch Street.  His was the successful entry in a competition held by the British developer "Land Securities" in 2004. 

The brief was to create a, " ... high-performance, energy-efficient building to replace an obsolete office tower." (shown below)

The architect's website explains that the design, "  ... breaks with the perceived boundaries of common architectural expression for clear reasons: the floor plates widen at the top of the building instead of the bottom, adding incremental public space at ground level, providing extra leasable floor area on the valuable upper stories, and generating a large public Skygarden at the pinnacle of the building.


At street level the building will have a so-called "pocket park" that will provide, " ... a public gathering place and pedestrian paths through the site."  Public access will also be provided at the top of the building.  "The Skygarden tops the building with London’s first publicly accessible skyscraper observation deck—a dramatic, multistory space that features landscaping, cafés, and expansive, 360-degree views of the city. Accessed through a separate lobby and dedicated elevators, the Skygarden will be open to the public 365 days a year.


A variety of strategies have been employed to provide the occupants with views of the city while controlling the heating and cooling within the building.  "Vertical louvers provide sun shading on the east and west elevations, following the fanning form and organic curves of the building as they open out and wrap over the roof and Skygarden. The north and south elevations feature extensive glazing to maximize views. On the southern elevation, the concave form and horizontal elements help to provide shade. And on the northern elevation, a cable-structured curtain wall, hung from the roof louvers arching above, is defined by a large urban window spanning the three levels of the Skygarden.


It should be pointed out that the journey from design to building was not straightforward.  As Oliver Wainwright pointed out in an article in the Guardian on December 12, 2012, " First proposed in 2004, the design was criticised by both English Heritage and Unesco. The former declared it an "oppressive and overwhelming form" and a "brutally dominant expression of commercial floor space"; the latter threatened to add the Tower of London to the World Heritage in Danger list, because of the detrimental impact the skyscraper would have on its setting. It was bitterly contested by its neighbours over their right to light, and subjected to a public inquiry over heritage concerns. Yet, ever in thrall to the intoxicating cocktail of big business, star architects and a quirky nickname, the planners cheerfully beckoned the scheme through."

Wainwright adds that Vinoly's reaction to the criticism was, " "As Oscar Niemeyer used to say, 'You can like it or dislike it, but you're not going to forget it.'"

Another bump along the road arose when it became apparent that the curved southern aspect of the building was acting like a lens and focusing the suns rays on the streets below.  One person's complained that the finish on his Jaguar car had bubbled up and melt.  A headline in the Guardian in September of 2013 read, "Walkie Talkie developers build screen to stop 'death ray' - Shield is erected after shops in City of London complain of burning carpets and melted furniture."  The building became known as Walkie- Scorchie.  The solution to the problem will be a permanent brise soleil made of aluminium fins.  When I took the images below in September of 2014, it appeared that as a temporary measure the building was being, or had been,  swathed in netting.


Watching it grow ....

August, 2013

Image above taken on June 6, 2013

Below March 3, 2013

October 13, 2012

September 22, 2012

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