Walkie Talkie: A Visit To 20 Fenchurch Street

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.

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  • Hamish McDougall

    Nice article. Just to clarify, the joint developers of the building are Land Securities and Canary Wharf Group.

    Hamish McDougall, Canary Wharf Group

    • MattFromLondonist

      Thanks Hamish. Text amended.

  • Vee

    If you thought the Shard was bad, well at least that building gets thinner towards the top, at least trying to minimise its impact. This Walkie Talkie actually get wider and fatter as it gets higher – the sheer nerve of the developer in designing it this way is purely so they can fit more space into their plot of land and make more money. Who cares about the impact on the rest of London, on how ugly the building looks, the impact on the River Thames and on the people of London? Bah, the politicians will support the developers who want to build rubbish ugly buildings like this because the developer has so much money.

    The owners are also connected to Canary Wharf so whatever the banking industry wants, the banking industry gets, and the rest of London can lump it. Where’s the mayor to defend the interests of Londoners and stop the city being subjected to ugly buildings? Stuck up a zipwire of course. Hee haw good old Boris eh. And when he isn’t stuck up a wire he’s supporting all his friends in the finance industry by supporting ugly buildings (see his over-ruling of the rejected planning to grant permission for hte Columbus Tower). Mark my words Boris will either be praising this building with a jolly good joke as helping to ‘boost London’ or else he’ll be hiding from the bashing its going to take from the public by getting one of his cronies to take the flak.

    Someone has got to get these developers under control. They’re now employing cool architects to help them get away with building fat-headed buildings by labelling them as stylish, when in fact the number one reason for making them fat headed is to fatten their profits and making the skyline even more uglier. They stick a roof garden on top to pretend its a building for everyone – but then they’re deliberately vague about exactly how much access the public will have to this garden. No doubt it they’ll be strictly limited access for the public whilst the finance boys can laud it in the sky. All due to ‘security issues’ with the the public, naturally, you understand?

    The Shard may be tall but it is at least elegant and respectful. This Walkie Talkie though is an outrage and it laughs in the face of objectors with its swollen head. Now watch the Land Securities (big property company) Publicity Machine go into overdrive to justify this joke of a building in the newspapers over the coming months/years.

    The Walkie Talkie. The building with more up top… so the developer can stuff more wad down below.

    • s

      your an idiot

    • http://twitter.com/Jenks6 Jenks

      “…the sheer nerve of the developer in designing it this way is purely so
      they can fit more space into their plot of land and make more money.”

      Actually, it’s shaped that way in large part to preserve the sight-line to St. Pauls.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jeane.trendhill Jeane Trend-Hill

    Sounds really cool.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=689832515 Terry Chisholm

    I don’t care for the design of it either. I find it very ugly. But I am a fan of the shard, gherkin, lloyds, cheese grater, and even the heron tower! This design is just really ugly. It’s that simple!

  • Peter Simmons

    And it will be flooded and trashed by sea level rise within 40 years along with all the City and most of London [Move to Highgate!] Economists don’t ‘do’ ecology.

    • MattFromLondonist

      Not very likely by any reputable climate change model.