The Rafael Viñoly-designed skyscraper in London, nicknamed “Walkie Talkie”, has been named the worst building in the UK this year. The annual award, called The Carbuncle Cup, is named after a speech made by noted hater of modern architecture Prince Charles, who in the 80s called a proposed extension to London’s National Gallery a “monstrous carbuncle”. Proper British word, carbuncle. You can just hear it roll off of the lips of a disdainful Prince of Wales.
The Carbuncle Cup : the Oscars of Bad Urban Planning
Sadly, there is healthy competition for the distinction of worst addition to the city. London’s once realistically scaled and quite lovely skyline, anchored by St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Houses of Parliament, is in the process of being ruined by gimmick architecture. Tourists, if you haven’t been to the Big Smoke in ten years or so, you won’t recognise the place. It’s looking like Los Angeles with double-decker buses, and more NFL football.
The 160-metre tower is officially named 20 Fenchurch Street. It was announced as the winner of this year’s Cup by organisers Building Design magazine, with a judging panel chaired by Building Design editors and columnists, who didn’t mince words.
Ike Ijeh, the magazine’s architecture critic, delightfully called the Walkie Talkie “a gratuitous glass gargoyle graffitied onto the skyline of London,” while designer Eleanor Jolliffe described it as a “Bond villain tower, as it could melt your car with a solar beam from space”. While still under construction, its glass facade did melt nearby vehicles with a concentrated beam of reflected sunlight, earning it the nickname Walkie Scorchie. Cute. Deadly, costly, but cute. Earlier this year reports claimed that its weirdly curved facade is channelling gusts of wind strong enough to knock pedestrians over.
Uruguayan architect Viñoly admitted himself that his firm had “made a lot of mistakes” with the building. Don’t beat yourself up, Rafael; there is so much Dubai-level nicknamed nonsense going up in London these days (The Cheesegrater, The Can-of-Ham, The Gherkin – not just picnic necessities or sexual innuendos any more) that your skin tag-looking, exclamation point over nothing, people-toppling carbuncle will soon just blend right in.
A former ABC National, Dallas and Atlanta radio personality, Martina O'Boyle is now making movies and covering culture in London, Dublin, and as far in Europe as the cheapie flights will take her, for Pop Culture Beast.