“Spontaneous unanimity has never been so effortlessly achieved as it was on this year’s judging panel.” Ouch.
That’s a quote from the judges behind this year’s Carbuncle Cup, a competition to name the worst building of the year in the UK run by the architectural magazine BDOnline. These judges, who range from architects to critics to historians, say that their decision to crown a winner (loser?) has never been easier.
The building is rarely known by its formal name, 20 Fenchurch Street. Instead, you might know it as the Walkie-Talkie — a nickname given to the structure for its hulking, awkward profile, long before the real perils of the design emerged. Or maybe you’ve heard it spoken of as the Death-Ray — a moniker that refers to the super-heated beam of sunlight that the building’s parabolically-shaped glass facade trains on cars, people, and buildings nearby, hot enough to melt plastic.
Or maybe you heard about 20 Fenchurch recently because of yet another problem with the building that emerged when passersby reported getting blown off their feet by gusts of wind focused by the shape of the building’s facade.
Yes, it’s been a very tough couple of years for 20 Fenchurch, which was designed by the architect Rafael Viñoly. What does he have to say for himself? Well, back when problems first emerged with his building, he responded by saying, “I knew this was going to happen. But there was a lack of tools or software that could be used to analyse the problem accurately.” It’s a shoddy workman that blames hi — you know what? Never mind.
Viñoly is a talented architect (see his phenomenal 432 Park in New York for reference) so what, exactly, happened? One judge, the architecture critic Ike Ijeh, explains in an essay that 20 Fenchurch is simply an utter failure of city planning:
The simple but unavoidable fact is that London will carry on building more and more Walkie Talkies until it establishes a coherent, strategic planning policy framework that guides the development of tall buildings, prioritises genuine high-quality high-rise architecture and encapsulates a clear vision for what the city is and how tall buildings can be progressed without harm to its all-important historic fabric and urban character.
Until that happens, London as a whole will suffer and the City of London in particular will continue to resemble an indignant teen who, banned from a sweet shop frequented by its younger peers, spends so much time with its nose longingly pressed up against the window of Canary Wharf and Dubai that it not only fogs up the glass but entirely addles its senses.
Keep in mind, the whole competition is a way for critics and advocates to draw peoples’ attention towards the heinous stuff being pushed through the planning process. Here in the US, where a major architecture critic can’t even talk about the logo on a building without inciting a Twitter war with Donald Trump, we’ve got our own problems.
This brings me to my real question: What building would you choose if this anti-competition came to your country? Please share your most hideous nominees below.
Pictures: AP Photo/Matt Dunham