Have you heard of 20 Fenchurch Street, the “Building with more up top”? A quick straw poll of friends and colleagues suggests that this new London skyscraper has yet to work its way into the popular consciousness. It will, though.
Three things set it apart from any other tower in the city.
- It’s fatter at the top than the bottom, leaning out 13 metres at the top. The bulbous shape has earned it the nickname of the Walkie Talkie.
- It’s set apart from the main cluster of tall buildings in the City, and is closer to the Thames. So, despite being marginally shorter than the Gherkin, it looms over the river like it owns the place.
- It’ll have a public ‘Skygarden’ on the upper floors, offering hilltop-like views at the top of an office block. What’s more, the Skygarden will be free, as a condition of the planning consent. Expect countless articles in 2014 comparing the views between the Walkie Talkie and the Shard.
The tower reached its final floor height (38 storeys) several months ago, its naked core lurking over the City like a monstrous inedible biscuit. The final shape is only now beginning to emerge, as the steel floor plates climb towards the top. It’s a complex, curvy form, designed by architect Rafael Vinoly, that developers say couldn’t have been designed or built without modern 3D modelling software.
It hardly needs to be said, but the views from the top are pretty special. The main City cluster, with Lloyds, Willis, Gherkin, Heron, Tower 42 and the growing Cheesegrater, looks almost huggable from this perspective, while the other sides offer views of the West End, East End and across the river to the Shard. The Skygarden, due to open at the back end of 2014, is sure to be the hottest free ticket in town.
Most of the tower will be taken up with office space. Despite the ongoing economic doldrums, developers Land Securities and Canary Wharf Group have had some success in attracting tenants, with 19% of the space pre-let. The variable floor plates are an attraction, allowing different sized companies to snuggle in. The developers are also banking on an exodus from the estimated 10 million square feet of floorspace up for lease renewal elsewhere in the City between 2014 and 2016.
With its unique shape and unique views, everyone’s going to have an opinion on this building.