London's Walkie Talkie building is officially the worst

By City Monitor Staff

It’s that time of year again: architectural critics around the country have been holding their breath for the announcement of this year’s Carbuncle Cup winner. The award is given to the new(ish) building or project voted the worst by a panel of judges selected by Building Design magazine, including architects and architectural critics.

Today, it was announced that this year’s wooden spoon goes to 20 Fenchurch Street, also (un)affectionately known as the “Walkie Talkie”.

Its triumph comes as no surprise: besides being, in our opinion, very ugly, it also managed to literally melt parts of vehicles parked below it, thanks to the reflection when the sun shines directly onto the building (a permanent awning has since been installed to curb the glare). Oh, and the design has also created a wind tunnel around the base of the building.

In summary, as Thomas Lane, chairman of the judging panel, said: “It is a challenge finding anyone who has something positive to say about this building.” It was designed by Uraguayan architect Rafael Viñoly, and is actually a scaled down version of original designs which were changed so as not to block views of St Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower of London. 

Also on the list were the Whittle Building at Cambridge’s Peterhouse College:

Image: Arkracer at Wikimedia Commons.

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Southampton’s City Gateway building:

Waltham Forest’s prison-like YMCA; and Parliament House in Lambeth.

While the competition is inherently a little silly in nature, it has a serious side to it. A piece on the Building Design website today claims that the Walkie Talkie should “never have been built”, and blames not the architects so much as planning system itself:

How many architects have endured the familiar frustration of having minor planning applications refused on the grounds “overbearing scale” or “unacceptable detriment to local character”? And yet here we have the determining planning authority… concluding that the proposals would cause “significant visual harm” and still granting permission. Inconsistency has always been a woeful component of the planning process but the extent to which it corrodes the entire system, as disastrously demonstrated by the Walkie Talkie, is a scandal of MPs’ expenses proportions.

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