The Walkie-Talkie

I have got mildly fascinated by the Walkie-Talkie, or 20, Fenchurch Street as it is officially known. How was it that the City Fathers, normally rather conservative, breached all their own guidelines, to allow the construction of such an obviously bloated and inelegant monster, thereby allowing everyone else to build big and ugly in an upward competition, such that even the architects of many of the high-rise buildings are now complaining about the poor quality of the buildings other than those they have themselves designed ?

There is an interesting account of Tom Dyckhoff meeting John Prescott when he was deputy prime minister in Dyckhoff’s excellent The Age of Spectacle: Adventures in Architecture and the 21st. Century City, in which Prescott emerges as an evangelist for what he describes accurately as ‘a new wow factor…That’s WHAT IT IS ! It’s buildings that strike you and you say, ‘Bloody ‘ell’. This is indeed exactly what I say when I look at the Walkie-Talkie. How and why did someone think it was such a great idea to put up so many monster buildings when they already had Canary Wharf ? So, it was a product of Blairism, an embrace of the free market in design by the old left.

Peter Rees describes it as a fruit basket:-


4 thoughts on “The Walkie-Talkie

  1. segravefoulkespublishers says:

    “How and why did someone think it was such a great idea to put up so many monster buildings when they already had Canary Wharf ?” Because, if I recall correctly, the “City Fathers” were nose out of joint due to the spectacular growth of Canary Wharf (not, of course, in the City). Both avarice (all those business rates) and civic pride demanded bigger and better towers in the Square Mile.

  2. mauricedavies says:

    That’s v interesting. One of many New Labour architectural disasters, as so well described by Owen Hatherley in his Guide to the Ruins of New Britain. I’ve just spotted that in Slow Burn City Rowan Moore describes how the Walkie Talkie was supported by CABE and approved by a public enquiry; so many are culpable. Rather than a fruit basket, Moore compares it to a bloated retired boxer.

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