Monday, December 17, 2012

London and the Walkie Talkie

click photo to enlarge
A new building is appearing in the City of London at 20 Fenchurch Street and already the most eye-catching feature of its design is apparent. This 525 feet (160m) tall tower by the architect, Rafael Viñoly, flares outwards as it rises upwards, an unusual characteristic that has already earned it the nickname, the "Walkie Talkie". You can see it under construction on the left of my main photograph and on the right of the smaller one. This photograph gives an idea of what it will look like when it is completed in April 2014.

I've been fairly supportive of many of the new towers that have appeared in the City of London over the past twenty years or so. However, this building is one that I dislike for its shape and for the way it will intrude upon and overwhelm a location that has many fine and important buildings, including Tower Bridge. The developers must be aware of the disapprobation that the building has engendered because they plan to incorporate a three-level "sky garden" at the top with free access for the public. That has the potential to be visually interesting and very popular, but will do little to mitigate the intrusion of the massive building that will not only tower over its surroundings but will lean and loom over them too.

In some respects the idea of designing a building that offers more space than its footprint would usually allow is a clever and understandable one in an area where the price per square foot of property is so high. But it's not a new idea. The timber-framed "jettied" buildings of the Tudor period sought the same advantage. Moreover, though they didn't go anywhere near as high as the "Walkie Talkie" they did create dark, narrow streets and a sense of enclosure. This is already evident in parts of the City where tall, vertical buildings are adjacent to each other. It would only get worse if the idea encapsulated in this new building became a trend.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 183mm
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/250
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation:  -1.00 EV
Image Stabilisation: On