Some buildings get no love whatsoever. Sometimes it is a matter of taking the time to appreciate a building for its hidden charms. Other times, it is just a pure visceral reaction. The Walkie-Talkie building (officially called 20 Fenchurch Street) in London, designed by architect Rafael Viñoly, is one of those buildings that people take an instant dislike. Feargus O'Sullivan reports in his recent CityLab article "London's Worst Building," that the building named "the ugliest British structure completed in the last 12 months" is not loved for a wide variety of reasons that go way beyond aesthetics.
Yours truly would like to say one thing straight away. The Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Walkie-Talkie building have one thing in common, the ability to melt cars. Whereas, the Disney Concert Hall's car melting ability comes from its metal cladding; the Walkie-Talkie building's "death ray" (blogger loves this phrase) is the product of its reflective glass. The Walkie-Talkie building successfully tested out its "death ray" before it was even finished. Even the sky garden came under critical fire "for falling short of promises to be a truly public space, and for feeling like 'an airport terminal.'" Some buildings get no love.
|How the Walkie-Talkie building is supposed work|
|The Walkie-Talkie building's car melting skills|
|The Walkie-Talkie Sky Garden|
|The strange neighbor|
|You can fry an egg on the sidewalk|
In front of the Walkie-Talkie building
In some ways, the garden is a perfect reflection of the direction Britain's capital is taking, in contemporary London, a 'public' garden can now mean a tiny embattled private space squeezed between luxury businesses, to which access is controlled by a phalanx of security.
Still reeling from the sharp sting of public criticism, London city planner may actually take action on the sky garden. The City of London Corporation is already considering a major overhaul of the sky garden to bring closer to what they originally approved. However, this may be a case of too little, too late when it comes to salvaging the building's tattered reputation. Even architect Rafael Viñoly has suffered from the howling criticism, although not quite as badly as the planners who let go through. Planners are not perfect, they need some love too.
|The Walkie-Talkie with the Gherkin Building|
While the phallic looking Gherkin building may engendered quite as many howling critics as the Walkie-Talkie building, no one is throwing in the towel on London architecture just yet. London is a treasure trove of stunning new and older buildings. The winners of this year's Royal Institute of British Architects best London buildings are evidence of this. Yet, for all its architectural glory, London is gaining a reputation for questionable architecture that seems more driven by private greed. Follies like the Walkie-Talkie speak volumes about developers who seem to prefer catering to the posh classes than creating something in the public good. Yet, this is frequently the story of architecture. However, for a city such as London, these monuments to ego and greed do more to damage the London brand than enhance it.