In 1982 Prince Charles waded into architectural controversy, describing a proposed addition to the National Gallery as “monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much-loved and elegant friend.” The quote is honored today with the Carbuncle Cup, the dubious award for the worst building of the year. TreeHugger has covered it for years, because as I noted earlier “we keep talking about the importance of cities, and how we have to make them better.” That was in a post where I called Rafael Viñoly’s 20 Fenchurch Street in London, AKA the Walkie Talkie, a Carbuncle Cup candidate.
Lloyd Alter/ Left to right: Walkie Talkie, Cheesegrater and Gherkin/CC BY 2.0
City building is less about building and more about City, But buildings still matter. This one matters a lot, because it is so dominant and such a lesson of what can go wrong in city planning and building. As BD Online’s architecture critic and jury member Ike Ijeh explains,
So why is the Walkie Talkie so unpopular and why did it win? Its tumescent imperfections have been much discussed on these pages and elsewhere. Height, scale, context, form, environmental impact, public realm, its crimes read like a furious police charge sheet of bad architecture and if anything summarises what makes a building a Carbuncle, this is it.
But bad architecture alone is not to blame for the Walkie Talkie. Bad architects and bad architecture come and go but we are supposed to have a process in place that provides the ultimate check and balance against their worst excesses: the planning system. But here it failed woefully.
Shard to the left, Walkie Talkie to the right, and Tower Bridge/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0
That says it all. More on this building in related links below.